Malam Abba Kyari And The Deification After

Pendulum By Dele Momodu, Email:


 Fellow Nigerians, it has been a week of mourning and jubilation in Nigeria, depending on which side of the divide you are, since the sudden, devastating and unbelievable departure to the eternal beyond of the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Abba Kyari. The deluge of reactions to his death was neither surprising nor unexpected. What shocked and surprised me was the manner some never known friends of the departed suddenly swamped on all of us and began to write copious words of oleaginous hagiographies in honour of the sadly departed Malam Abba Kyari.

I was not surprised to read the fulsome praise ventilated by his Godfathers, President Muhammadu Buhari and Malam Mamman Daura. It was only to be expected. They trusted and believed in him and his capacity. On account of this they elevated him and his position as Chief of Staff to the President to almost a position of de facto Deputy President, if not President himself. They obviously had their reasons for doing so. He clearly did not disappoint either of them. He took the flak for the President from all flanks silently and effectively, as all proper acolytes and loyalists would do.

However, my surprise came from his old time friends. Some of them have been close personal friends of Kyari for more than 40 years. In a partiparticular case we heard the gushing story of how this Northerner, perceived as a Northern jingoist and irredentist had been best man to a Southern Christian, with a friendship that had endured for so long. Indeed, in their early days the bond of their friendship could be seen by them posing for a picture in the same snazzy pants. Another story of a relationship with the late Abba Kyari was equally compelling and was just as profusely fawning. They had met at Cambridge University and both had worked together. Their friendship was such that whenever one needed to call in political favours he had gone to Abba Kyari for help. Abba Kyari had obliged unquestioningly regardless of whether this had to do with ameliorating the lot of people in the South or not. Those who raised their voices in defence of Abba Kyari and eulogised him were united and spoke with one voice. Here was a patriot, a philanthropist, aa pillar of the administration who had been much maligned when he was alive but who was in reality responsible of any direction or achievement that a government perceived as lacking purpose and capacity had been successful with. Perhaps no higher tribute could be paid to this late administrator than that of Malam Mamman Daura when he said this of Kyari “In point of intellect, he stood above all Ministers and Special Advisers in this government. But personally, he was modest, ever willing to learn, ever willing to help others.”.

There are those who would say that this pours scorn and derision on the Ministers and Special Advisers in this government seeing as the government is perceived as having been lacklustre to date. However, I choose to take the view that Malam Daura was simply extolling the virtues of this late scion of the Northern establishment, this noble, eminent and indefatigable elite of the Northern intelligentsia, Malam Abba Kyari and saying without any inhibitions and reservations that he was a cut above the rest and simply the best. I say this because there are within the ranks of the Ministers and Special Advisers in this government intelligent and capable hands, proven leaders of men who have accomplished and achieved so much in their chosen careers and in government. Some have even risen to the pinnacle of their professions. I believe that Malam Mamman Daura is gracious enough to recognise the worth and abilities of these men and women but was merely saying that Malam Kyari was a top dog.

The unexpected was how some critics, obviously angry and frustrated people, descended mercilessly on the dead man and tore him to shreds. As for me and my house, I will never partake in such wicked misadventures. My attitude has always been to let the dead Rest in Peace, no matter our disagreements in the past. Fortunately, I have no personal disagreements with Abba Kyari and any problems that I have with this government is with the government as a collective. Occasions will arise when an assessment of his person and his role in this government will arise, but the event of his passing can never be the appropriate time for such assessment or critical scrutiny. The immediate period and aftermath of his death cannot be the time when scurrilous, scandalous and offensive write-ups about the man and his position in the government of President Buhari will suddenly start to surface. To me it smirks not only of crass insensitivity, but also great cowardice to read some of the gross character assassination and spate of irresponsible vitriol that has been directed at the eminent and irrepressible personage called Malam Abba Kyari. Whatever view you hold of him and his role in this Government for almost 5 years, one thing you can say is that he was a colossus who was larger than life in this Government. At this time, one can only thank him for his service to his Fatherland. Only history can tell and judge the quality of that service. On this note, please permit me to add my personal condolences to the overflow and pray for the repose of his soul.

I was not close to Malam Abba Kyari. You would have known for long if I was. It is not in my character to hide my friends when they are alive. I will lift them high for everyone to see. I may be abused and pillorised for this, but better to stand up for your friends when they are alive than to eulogise them to high heavens when they have gone. Those on earth will only be amused and the heavens will certainly pay no heed. Better to praise a man to his face than when he is on his back and six feet under. No one can kill you for showing off your friends. Indeed, they will envy those friends for having a staunch ally like you. The lesson in this for all of us is that no one knows when the end would come. We should always do what we can when we can.

The last time I remember seeing Abba Kyari was in Abeokuta at the celebrated wedding of then Governor Amosun’s daughter and Abike Dabiri’s son. Malam Abba Kyari was in company of then Minister of Interior, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau. I exchanged pleasantries with both of them and they were very warm to me despite my sometimes discomforting criticism of their government. Mr Kyari had a childlike innocence on his face that appeared disarming. So, I’m not doubting that he may have been a good man behind the facade of power-thirsty man. As I wrote when he took Ill, it cannot be his fault that he wielded so much power. The power was donated to him by his boss. The only problem was he could have managed his image better. The seemingly subjugation and total annihilation of the office of the Vice President could have been better handled with tact and diplomacy. The same result could have been assured without the sort of brinksmanship demonstrated by the Presidency. The vile hatred many had and still have for him in death partly stemmed from the perceived persecution of Professor Yemi Osinbajo. This may not even have been true, because Professor Osinbajo was magnanimous and generous in his tribute to this later stalwart of their administration.

What attracted me to Abba Kyari was his academic prowess. I have serious soft spot for cerebral people. For me, quality education usually makes the difference in human conduct. It is remarkable that he had already demonstrated his outstanding literary and academic qualities by rising to become the Editor of the redoubtable and impressive New Nigerian newspaper. It was only natural and inevitable that he would proceed to such distinguished and famous Universities such as Warwick and Cambridge. I expected that the leadership skills acquired from those premier Universities would make all the difference in his assignment in both the private and public sectors. He clearly distinguished himself on both accounts, rising to be Managing Director of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and its Vice Chairman, as well as latterly, before his demise, Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria. This sheer intelligence and craftsmanship would have been visible to keen watchers of the shenanigans in the State House, but unfortunately not to the teeming mass of Nigerians. Anyway, he has gone to rest peacefully and that is all that is important in the end as we must all make this supreme sacrifice and pay this final price.

In my view, what happened to Kyari was the lack of concerted and consistent public relations to highlight and showcase his efforts and achievements. I read in some of the tributes that he just couldn’t be bothered about what people felt or said about him. Wow, I wish I was that tolerant and kind about this. My policy is simple and straightforward. In this era of the internet, and in particular Google and social media platforms, practically every good, bad and ugly of your person are captured and recorded against you. I can’t afford such. I have found myself in certain situations at foreign airports where the internet and Google saved me from imminent disgrace and likely deportation back to my country of embarkation. No one should ever ignore issues that have to deal with public perception.
May God forgive us all our sins…

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