Seasoned Diplomat, Gambari, Becomes President’s Chief of Staff

Prof Ibrahim Gambari

•New presidential aide seeks dialogue, unity to tackle Nigeria’s challenges
•Emir of Ilorin hails appointment

Hammed Shittu in Ilorin and Peter Uzoho in Lagos

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, has been appointed the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, replacing Mallam Abba Kyari, who died last month of COVID-19.
THISDAY gathered that Gambari, who was Buhari’s Foreign minister and confidant as military Head of State in 1984, met with the president about 8.00 a.m. yesterday at the State House in Abuja.
The new Chief of Staff, presidential sources said yesterday, would be unveiled today during the Federal Executive Council meeting.

Gambari, as foreign minister, played a key role in quelling the diplomatic uproar generated by the failed attempt to forcefully remove the former Minister of Transport, Mallam Umaru Dikko, from the United Kingdom by the Buhari military government in 1984.

A scholar and seasoned diplomat, the new principal aide to the president was once Nigeria’s United Nations Permanent Representative and was later appointed by former United Nations Secretary -General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and the chairperson of the African Union Commission, as Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur in 2010.

He also served as Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Issues for the UN Secretary-General. Prior to that, he served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Department of Political Affairs (DPA).
The new chief of staff, an Ilorin prince, was born on November 24, 1944.
His brother, Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, was the first to congratulate him yesterday even as official announcement was awaited.

He praised the president for the appointment.
In a statement in Ilorin by his media aide, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, the monarch described the appointment as a great honour to the entire people of Ilorin Emirate and residents of the state at large.

He said the choice of the former diplomat would be justified by his outstanding contributions, administrative experience, scholarship and excellence, which he would inject into the Buhari-led government towards ensuring good governance, democratic dividends as well as shared prosperity in the nation.

While congratulating Gambari on the new appointment, the monarch wished him a successful tenure in office even as he expressed confidence in his ability to justify the confidence reposed in him by Buhari.
The Emir said: “He will surely bring to fore his wealth of experience as an academic, former minister, former diplomat, former University Chancellor, prince of the renowned Alimi Dynasty, family man and community leader of high repute.”

Gambari is the Wambai of Ilorin Emirate.

Meanwhile, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) has also lauded Buhari for the appointment.
The union, in a statement issued in Ilorin last night by its National President, Alhaji Aliyu Uthman, described the appointment as a well-deserved one considering the wealth of experience of Gambari.
The statement also described him as one of the nation’s most resourceful and stainless diplomats.

Gambari Seeks Dialogue, Unity to Tackle Nigeria’s Challenges

Meanwhile, the new chief of staff has emphasised the need for the restoration of unity and peace through national dialogue as the dominant condition for the development of the country.
Gambari said the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put the whole world into crisis, should be an ample opportunity for Nigeria to unite and find solution to its challenges.
The diplomat spoke at the Fourth Webinar Series of the Emmanuel Chapel on COVID-19 pandemic, with the theme: “Unity and Faith; Peace and Progress.”

He said Nigeria needed a common ground to be able to win its battles.
The session was aimed at identifying the main religious and socio-cultural challenges that had hindered Nigeria’s cohesiveness as a people, as exposed by the divisive comments and responses from Nigerians since the emergence of COVID-19, and to encourage and interface dialogue in search of solutions.

He said: “I think a number of world leaders have regarded this COVID-19 as a war. I think our own president said this is not a joke; certainly it’s not a joke. If you take the analogy of a war, you don’t win a war except by understanding the enemy; and two, you don’t win a war except you are united and you mobilise your entire resources.

“So, I think this COVID-19 is an opportunity for us to unite, or how do we mobilise our resources, human and material, governmental, religious, civil society to in effect remove all the obstacles that prevent us from mobilising our resources to fight the common enemy or to promote a common national agenda.
“And to me, what is very dear to my heart is really how to achieve a common ground and how to have a common understanding of what it is that needs to be done and the nature of the enemy.

“So, for me, therefore, it is about dialogue; and I feel very strongly that in our country and in many times in conflict situations that I have been privileged to try to mediate, people don’t talk to each other, they talk at each other.”
He noted that there was a need for the people of the country to understand and manage their differences to enable them come together to form a common front.

According to him, “When you talk at each other instead of to each other, then the opportunity to have a common ground to build a common understanding becomes even more difficult.”
He said everybody had a role to play to achieve the desired cohesion in the country, pointing out that leadership was critical in driving peace and unity in the country.

Gambari recalled that the unity and understanding shown by the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello during the struggle for independence gave them victory.
He said such feat was possible because they agreed to understand and manage their differences, saying that kind of understanding was what Nigeria needed at the moment to make progress.

He narrated: “There was a story during the period of the early years of the nationalist movement that the Northern leader, Ahmadu Bello, who was the Sardauna of Sokoto was meeting with Chief Awolowo, and they were having a meeting with Dr. Azikiwe, and Azikiwe made a point that: ‘let us forget our differences, let us build this nation, Nigeria, let us fight together for independence.’

“But Sardauna was supposed to reply. He said: ‘No, let us not forget our differences, let us understand our differences, then let us, out of those differences, whether it’s ethnic, religious, let’s forge a common ground.’

“And if you look at the history of the country, I am glad that history is being restored in our curriculum. It was unfortunate that it was omitted. Out of that, they formed a common consensus and a common ground; it was through the common ground that they got independence. It was through a common ground that they settled for a federal structure of our country which remains till today.”

Gambari maintained that differences among people would always remain, hence the need for wanting to make peace with friends; saying: “You make peace with people whom you have differences with: ideological differences, political differences, economic differences and philosophical differences.”