Guest Columnist: ISSA AREMU
The bipartisan, national and global appreciation of the appointment of the scholar-diplomat of Professor Ibrahim Agboloa Gambari, CFR, as the 5th Chief of Staff (COS) in the current democratic dispensation indicates that he is eminently qualified to assist President Buhari in Nigeria’s stride for Nation- Building.
Of course there are few legitimate discordant, even strident voices about his choice. While the contrarians rightly seek for a perfect Villa’s Chief of Staff, they nonetheless get an excellent philosopher Chief of Staff to the bargain.
I agree with Vince Lombardi, that “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”.
Post humous praise trailed the death of the late Chief of Staff.
The exit of Mallam Abba Kyari definitely left a big vacuum at the Presidency. Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari has the singular responsibility to continue the good work of the late COS, of course with a quality control of the legacy of his predecessor.
As the Head of the Presidential aides and principal coordinator of the policy vision of the President, Professor Gambari brings to the Presidency impressive triple heritage of scholarship, statesmanship/ diplomacy and civil society/ private experiences spanning decades.
Again it is an unhelpful heat, not an illumination to agonize over a septuagenarian pushing papers for a septuagenarian President, which to me it’s a perfect match.
Please don’t get me wrong.
Having vigorously campaigned over the years for youth and women inclusiveness in governance certainly age does matter. More so that both the President and his Chief of Staff had for long “over employed” through ages.
However I nonetheless share the view of the late 20th century African song bird /legend Mariam Makaba, who once observed that ‘ Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. But age is other things, too. It is wisdom, if one has lived one’s life properly. It is experience and knowledge.”
I am as more interested in the age and the age of the ideas of public officers, young and old alike. The relevance of the timeliness of Professor Ibrahim Gambari’s impeccable historic and contemporary credentials cannot be over emphasized for a country begging for both memory and modernization.
Modest achievements of President Muhamadu Buhari in the critical three point agenda of Security, Anti- corruption and the repositioning the economy have been well documented.
But the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome known as COVID-19 in Wuhan, China December last year, had created new challenges for both lives and livelihoods in Nigeria and world wide. With confirmed 6,200 cases of infections and 192 deaths that include frontline health workers, high profile fathers and mothers, COVID19 tasks already depressed life expectancy of 53 years, (well bellow African average of 65 years)!
An African received wisdom puts it succinctly: “You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla” . Professor Gambari is expected to upscale the good work of the Presidential Task Force ( PTF) in coordinating and overseeing Nigeria’s multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread of the disease and gradually get the wheel of productivity rolling back.
The appointment of the -diplomat, statesman and non-state activist is definitely in the fullest of time of the second term of President Buhari.
The former United Nations Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa (1999-2005), former Chairman of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid (1990-1994) and on Peace-Keeping Operations (1990—1999) and Head of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (2005-2007) and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Cyprus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar and Special Representative in Angola is better positioned to mobilize important material and policy resources to contain the pandemic which has infected almost 5 million humans in all countries claiming over 300,000 lives
There must be all inclusive massive and sustained awareness of citizens . COVID 19 is a matter of life and death as President Buhari had repeatedly admonished in his national broadcasts. Professor Gambari, Founder/Chairman of the Board of Directors of Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development, a non-governmental think-tank on research, policy studies, brings his wealth of experience in advocacy, inclusivity, and training on the prevention and management of an attacking Virus for which there is no vaccine yet.
Citizens must be made to own the narratives on protocols and accept personal responsibilities with respect to personal and work place hygiene, physical and social distancing and gradual easing of movements. It’s time the National Orientation Agency ( NOA) complemented the efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) through grassroots advocacy in partnership with the states, civil societies, political parties and faith based organizations. COVID: 19 had triggered unprecedented economic challenges necessitating an urgent review of 2020 budget of 10.52 trillion naira, lower than 10.59 trillion naira approved in December by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The CBN under Godwin Emefiele had commendably initiated series of measures that could turn the current “tragedy into opportunities” for Nigeria ‘s development. Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed and Labour Minister Chris Igige had also commendably announced recovery plans to stimulate the economy and create jobs in all local governments.
Godliness is in the details!
Also in place is Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) a joint effort between the bankers’ committee and the private sector under the supervision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Nigeria needs urgently a quality control of these quantitative measures and initiatives with an eye on stemming the ever rising curve and worsening poverty and wealth obliteration.
The challenge is to work towards a new economic paradigm that must stress inclusion, diversification, productivity, equity, mass Decent jobs, smart work, poverty eradication and self reliance.
In the wake of total break down of the global supply chains, Nigeria must produce what it consumes starting with health and well care services and Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs).
Happily President Buhari had long proactively signed Executive Orders 003 and 005 which legitimize local patronage in procurements, to boost local production and create sustainable jobs out of the promised 100 million jobs in a decade.
It’s time for beneficiation and value addition. Product subsidy or not, NNPC must get refineries working and halt scandalous product imports with attendant black hole on diminishing foreign exchange. It is gratifying that President Buhari is committed to industrialization in a diversified economy.
The recent inauguration of the “Ajaokuta Presidential Project and Implementation Team” (APPIT) is a welcome development to reinvent iron and steel sector.
Revamping the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, “clearly presents a unique opportunity to make us West Africa’s largest fully integrated steel producer and most importantly accelerate our industrialization especially in steel related industries”. Given the enormous challenges before the administration, the public must give the necessary support to the new Chief of Staff in order for him to hit the ground running in making an urgent difference. Acrimony and suspicion among stakeholders must give way to constructive engagement and cooperation to protect lives and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Policy monologue must give way to policy dialogue. Transparency and consultation will remove doubts and inspire creative suggestions that would help President Buhari to ensure peace and stability, being necessary condition for growth and development.
As a Labour Delegate to 2014 National Conference, I bear witness that Professor Ibrahim Agboloa Gambari, was among the Eminent Elders who set the guidelines for consensus building which led to the success of that historic confab such that notwithstanding legitimate differences, the Confab built unprecedented National Solidarity and CONSENSUS for National Development on all critical issues as Industry, trade and investment, labour, religion, energy, political restructuring, devolution of power and Foreign policy among others without rancor and without acrimonious votes counting.
Gambari is a reputable advocate of the mantra; thinking global and acting local. President is AU anti- Corruption champion and now the Champion to coordinate the COVID-19 response in the sub-region. The remaining task on the continent is the total liberation of Western Sahara from Moroccan colonialism. Nigeria–Sahrawi Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) relations is long dated.
It was General Buhari as military Head of State Nigeria that recognized the SADR on 11 November 1984 with formal diplomatic relations were established same day.
A Sahrawi embassy was opened in Abuja in late 2000 by the Olusegun Obasanjo government. Paradoxically Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, is the president of Nigeria’s National Movement for the Liberation of Western Sahara.
As the former Chairman of the United Nations Committee Against Apartheid (1990-1994) which liberated Nelson Mandela, Nigeria under Buhari is better assisted to help to remove the last embarrassing vestige of internal colonialism in Western Sahara.
*Aremu is a Member of National Institute, Kuru Jos.