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Rejoining With Buhari And Co. On Abba Kyari’s Record By G. Ugo Nwokeji


I do not gloat when someone dies, even if they were the most reprehensible in my world during their lifetime. I remember clearly the stunned face of the Nigerian compatriotic who broke the news of Sani Abacha’s death to me in Toronto, Canada, in 1998 when they saw I did not break out in jubilation. I felt incredibly relieved for Nigeria, but I was not gloating for Sani Abacha's death. Abacha, like the recently-deceased Chief of Staff to the President Muhammadu Buhari, left behind loved ones, who no matter how strongly we may have felt against the deceased in their lifetime, did not share those negative sentiments and may have seen Abacha, like the family and loved ones of Kyari, as a paragon of virtue, no matter how misguided they may have been. Most of us human beings are actually that way, but hypocrisy – another common human disease – blinds people from taking this fact to account when the deceased is someone else. Another reason it is pointless to gloat is that the deceased is dead, anyway, and we ourselves are all going to die one day.

Any commentary should therefore not be on the dead per se, but to the living (relatives, close friends, trusted associates, etc.) who can possibly find comfort in adulations of the dead or feel the jarring discomfort of criticism and who can learn any lessons from the true evaluation of the deceased’s career – their real contributions, good and bad. Many posthumous adulations for Kyari have their place in the public domain, and we have got them aplenty.

I would not doubt or challenge his principal’s and friend’s personality assessments of Kyari, for they know that best and they are eminently entitled to them. But if such assessments veer off to public policy, they become fair game. If his friends say that Kyari was intelligent, generous, amiable, kind, loyal, well-read and nice, who am I to doubt that? Those individual qualities are admirable, but they matter little from a public policy point of view. But if Kyari’s friends tell us that he believed in the Nigerian project or that

he did all that was in power to promote good governance, which is also their entitlement, but here we are obliged to consult the evidence before us. Some of these eulogies, such as those by Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and former Obasanjo-era Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode, contain confessions that have enlightened us how far and wide Kyari reach got, revealing how his quiet work behind the scenes, through his apparent vast network of friends throughout Nigeria and even within the opposition, may have helped propped up Buhari’s inept, corrupt and unjust regime. As a public figure, Kyari’s career – specifically as Buhari's Chief of Staff – must be properly situated by those who may do so. For my part, I did not plan to comment on Kyari’s death until I read Buhari’s Kyari eulogy. But what else do you do when the President of your country so brazenly places the facts upside-down?

Any person with Kyari’s legacy does not in any way deserve that kind eulogy. As de facto President, Kyari was essential responsible for handpicking the nation’s principal officers across the jurisdiction of the federal executive arm and even the judiciary, as well as influencing who was imposed on Nigerians in the states as their governors, as the newly imposed Imo state Governor Hope Uzodinma himself has confessed in his own eulogy. Uzodinma came fourth in the 2019 Imo governorship election, but Kyari, used the Supreme Court to declare Uzodinma as the governor. As the Uzodinma case and Kyari’s well-known role in choosing judges, heads of the National Assembly, the military and the rest of the security infrastructure, and of the federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) show, Kyari commanded the bad governance that has plagued Nigeria in the past four years. There cannot be anything to write home of the career of such a person, from the governance perspective.

Buhari's eulogy went beyond glowing attestations of the Kyari’s apparent good nature and “loyalty” that the eulogies of the deceased have tended to emphasize. It is Buhari’s brazen mischaracterization of the contributions of his late chief of staff that rankles me most. That eulogy was not simply an exercise in the routine hagiography

you would expect from a grieving President for his just-deceased loyal chief of staff, but it was also a pack of shameless lies. Buhari may truly and accurately believe that Abba Kyari was loyal and cut for the role Buhari and Kyari's godfather Lawal Daura recruited him to play. Buhari may, albeit in delusion, also believe that Kyari was the brightest star in the sky, but to cast Kyari's role as patriotic work performed for the well-being and progress of corporate Nigeria, as Buhari did, is a capital lie. That has never been in the agenda of the morally bankrupt, corrupt, depredating and parasitic regime for which Kyari served literally as the gatekeeper.

To the Buhari Presidency, Kyari was apparently exemplary. By declaring that "Mallam Abba Kyari was the very best of us," I take it to mean that by "us" Buhari is referring to the lazy and soulless cabal that Kyari spearheaded and not Nigerians as a whole. That characterization of Kyari reveals how delusional and morally bankrupt Buhari and his cabal, including the actual author of the ludicrous eulogy, are and how low their standards are – morally, economically, socially, and in terms of security of lives and property in a Nigeria that has known no peace since Buhari and Kyari ascended into power in 2015. Under Kyari, who has been the de facto President for some time, Nigeria has descended across virtually all indices. Such is the legacy of the best amongst Buhari’s cast.

Economic growth has been on decline, Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world. This regime seems to derive pleasure in impoverishing Nigerians. I have heard some of the regime supporters, some of whom have connections in very high quarters, and who themselves have actually personally done well under this economy, outrageously contend that the suffering is good, that Nigerians have had it too easy! Their idea of the economy is micromanaging things, locking everything up and given their friends the keys. Their idea of economic growth is not how more wealth would be created from free and honest enterprise, but by extraction and giving away the proceeds to themselves and their cronies. They have increased taxes on commodities that harm the

everyday hardworking and downtrodden Nigerians, on things like high tariffs in GSM recharge card and on any transfer or payment done through the banks – no matter how small the amount – beyond the normal bank service fees. In an era when other nations are positioning themselves in the new economy, the regime has shortsightedly fixated itself with and expended enormous resources on exploration of all the plains and deserts of Nigeria for petroleum! That sums up this regime’s understanding of the economy. The last time I checked the price of oil was $15 a barrel. On the other hand, Morocco has boldly embarked on the construction of the world’s largest solar facility, a project that Nigeria would have been better- placed to execute, both from the resource and environmental perspective. The Buhari/Kyari regime has been bereft of ideas largely because its tendency to make appointments based on nepotism or tribalism rather than merit.

Nigeria has never been more insecure at any time in its history. Boko Haram, which antedated the Buhari-Kyari regime, has gained a new lease of life and become even bolder, until two weeks ago when Chadian forces come into Nigerian territory to peg them back. Kyari was already on his death bed when this happened, so his legacy could not even have included the modest role, albeit a humiliating one, in the form of any support the Nigerians could have given the Chadians. Evidently, uncountable billions of dollars that have been allocated to this effort has ended up in private pockets, as have much of the funds allocate helping internally displaced persons due to this insurgency.

There was a time when a person was virtually free from armed robbery attack or kidnapping once they crossed from southern to northern Nigeria. That era vanished under the Buhari-Kyari regime. Apart from the Boko Haram menace, which was largely localized in the northeast prior to this regime, the entire north is now a theater of violent rampage from all kinds of marauders. Since the Buhari- Kyari came to power, kidnapping and armed robbery are now most rampant in the north of Nigeria. The major highway from the nation’s capital Abuja to Kaduna is filled with roaming bandits, so

much so that only those who are ignorant of the situation or those on a suicide mission would try to drive through that road. Even rail travel on the route which most have resorted to, have since become hazardous for the same reason. The northern political and military elite who have homes in Kaduna now prefer to travel home incognito, where they stay in hotels instead of their homes, lest they get kidnapped.

As if all of this is not enough, the Buhari-Kyari regime allowed Fulani cattle herders to rampage of violent massacre throughout the country, particularly in the Middle Belt. The scale, frequency, violence and impunity of the massacres, pillage and destruction are unprecedented in Nigeria. The security forces are apparently ordered to stand down and look the other way, and the perpetrators of these massacres basically go unpunished. What kind of moral compass would allow a regime to let this in a country? The regime’s loyalty to herdsmen evidently surpasses their commitment to the first role of a government – safeguarding lives and property, to say nothing of the damage these massacres, displacement and destruction does to the economy. The Buhari-Kyari regime retained the ineffective military chiefs who have run the most inept operations, not only beyond their expiry dates but also beyond their mandatory retirement ages or service years. There could possibly have a case for retention on account of extraordinary service and effectiveness, but there is none here. Apparently, these service chiefs have done a great job in the eyes of the Buhari-Kyari regime, which speaks volumes about their standards and moral compass.
One element of President Buhari’s eulogy that reads absolutely like a joke casts Kyari as a paragon of anticorruption. "Rather, he set himself against the view and conduct of two generations of Nigeria's political establishment - who saw corruption as an entitlement and its practice a byproduct of possessing political office," the eulogy reads. This effort to set him up as an anticorruption saint flies in the face of credible reports, such as how people paid him huge amounts of money for their names to be put forward as ministers, CEOs and board members of the federal departments and agencies.

Under his watch, many millions of dollars were allocated to state house clinic every year, amounts significantly in excess of those allocated to all the 16 federal teaching hospitals across the country. Yet First Lady Aisha Buhari is on record as having complained openly that she could not be given even paracetamol there in that facility. How else do you define crude and soulless thievery?

Like the rest of Buhari’s eulogy, the attempt to paint an anticorruption portrait is counterproductive. It draws attention to one of the weakest sides of the Buhari-Kyari regime and against spotlights the moral universe of a regime that deliberately claims the opposite of what it practices, of a cabal that uses anticorruption as a weapon to hound or coopt the opposition, while allowing their own to indulge in it – the moral compass of a group that is either too oblivious to realize or too unashamed to advertise that selective anticorruption is the mother of corrupt. In his effort to defend his earlier laudatory reminiscences for Kyari, Fani-Kayode revealed that Kyari had been “housing, feeding and paying for the education of thousands of students at University of Maiduguri and offering scholarships to so many young people since 2001.” Where did he get all the money? Stories like this lend credence to allegations like the N500 million MTN bribe allegation, in which Kyari was alleged to have taken the huge bribe to facilitate government’s reduction of the $5 billion it had earlier fined the telecommunications giant. If anticorruption was a serious concern to the regime, it would have tried seriously to cleanse itself. Kyari may have been nice and generous to those he had ties with, but he certainly did not set himself against the corrupt political establishment, he teamed up with them, but with the most reactionary, backward and hypocritical wing of that establishment.

Abba Kyari’s name will forever be associated with by far the most undemocratic civilian administration in Nigerian history. That is why I use the term “regime” deliberately to refer to this administration. The regime has made it a routine to intimidate its it critics, lock them up beyond statutorily allowed periods and pointedly ignore court orders, to the extent that the country has not

seen since military era. Its stranglehold on the Supreme Court is unprecedented, and it was achieved through strong-arm tactics. On the eve of the election that the unpopular regime was poised to lose, the Chief Justice of the Federation was unceremoniously removed and a lackey foisted on the Court. They were so desperate that the CJ was removed just as he was to inaugurate the Election Petition Panel that was to be the final court to decide all electoral matters. The ostensible reason was that the existence of apparent irregularities in the asset declaration of the CJ. Meanwhile, if Buhari actually declared his assets, Nigerians do not know; no one has seen it. Kyari supervised all of this, both the shady asset declaration of Buhari and the hypocritical change in the CJ, which represented egregious subversion of the separation of powers, a key pillar of modern democracies. The brazen theft of the election that followed, of which the aforementioned judicial declaration of fourth- placed Uzodinma as Imo state governor and which the usurper has openly credited to Kyari is a non-violent example, belongs to some of the most sordid chapters of Nigerian history. This is part of Kyari’s legacy.

Finally, the Buhari-Kyari regime has been the most unjust regime in Nigerian history. It is routine for the regime to allocate the lion share of resources to the North and the least to the Southeast. Two pieces of data has emerged recently to remind us how brazenly tribalistic the regime has been and how petty tribal hatred has driven the cabal’s rule and distribution of national resources. The distribution of the current COVID-19 relief money mirrors the pattern. Of the N298b in the fund, N245.2b representing 82.3 percent has gone to the north, while only N52.7b representing 17.7 percent went to the south. Of the latter amount, only N3.3b representing only 1.1 percent of the total amount will go the Southeast, the most shortchanged among the six geopolitical zones of the country. These are the figures being circulated, and the regime has not disowned it. Not one mile of the railway network to be built with the $28 billion loan passes through the Southeast, the one region so excluded, while Buhari’s Northwest gets the lion share. The entire Southeast which is home to such important cities that include Aba, Abakiliki, Awka, Enugu, Nnewi, Onitsha, Owerri and Umuahia will be off the network.

It is true that the Buhari-Kyari regime did not invent the pattern of lopsided distribution of the Nigerian national resources, but it has been the most brazen and mean-spirited in this pursuit. The regime’s favoritism for the aforementioned Fulani herdsmen is unlike anything Nigeria has known. It is not that the communities cannot defend themselves, but the regime disarms and punishes them severely anytime they prepare for or repel the marauders. While the Buhari-Kyari regime has left the Fulani herdsmen to carry on their violence, it has violently suppressed unarmed peaceful separatist agitators in the Southeast. Such a stack contrast! One group can decide any time and any community they want to attack, kill, maim, rape and depredate in the country with the tacit support of the regime, but another cannot even speak out against this and other injustices without being massacred by the regime’s security forces, the same forces that stand down when the former group descend on Nigerian communities. Anyone who has any influence in this regime that condones and commits the above injustices, no less than the person who spearheads it, like Kyari did, cannot be described, as Buhari has done, as "a true Nigerian patriot" who ensured that "all those representing and serving our country" had equal access and who "made clear in his person and his practice, always, that every Nigerian - regardless of faith, family, fortune or frailty - was heard and treated respectfully and the same."

Buhari is bound to praise Kyari in the above terms not only because the work Kyari did for him fitted Buhari’s narrow agenda but also because signing Kyari’s praises from the rooftops affirms his regime, but what do we make of Onyeama’s praises? Did Onyeama, who has revealed how close friends he and Kyari were friends from 1977 until the end and who has apparently personally benefitted from that relationship (as evident in his current position as foreign minister), draw the attention of his powerful friend to how morally unjust and developmentally counter-productive it was to

indulge in the kind of nepotism the Buhari-Kyari regime practiced? If Onyeama did, Nigerians would like to know what Kyari’s response was. Did Onyeama lack the courage to ask his friend? Did the obscenely discriminatory or exclusionary distribution of Nigerian national resources all go down well with Onyeama? Where is his moral compass?

Onyeama concluded his tribute in part as follows: “Nigerians will look back in years to come and see that [Kyari] was truly the Best Man.” Is Onyeama’s dire prognosis really about the future of Nigeria, for the Nigeria of Buhari-Kyari is a dead-end, or for the future of his own position, in the event that a new capo, who has not been friends with Onyeama for 43 years, decides to relieve him of his privileged position in the regime? It is hard to make sense of how anyone should be part of a regime that shows continuous and consistent bias against and even hatred for certain parts of the country, a region he belongs to. Such discrimination is not only a moral outrage, it is anti-progress as well. Those who indulge in that style of governance are actually undermining the stability of the country as a whole, even though they are too myopic to realize that. National development works at optimum when all sectors, sections and parts of a country are factored into planning and distribution of resources, so that distribution is governed by the drive for maximum economic and social impact and not by sentimental and tribal calculus.

Everything in the above narrative screams “fiction” at Buhari’s claim that Kyari’s “true focus was always the development of infrastructure and the assurance of security for the people of this nation he served so faithfully." Buhari does not even seem to have got the age of his late chief of staff right, a person he described as being 68 years old at the time of death, notwithstanding that in announcing Kyari's death The Guardian (UK) of April 18 it was reported Kyari to have been "like Buhari ... in his 70s." Whose version would you choose between The Guardian, a storied and principled news organization with a longstanding commitment to accuracy, and the Buhari Presidency, a regime that has turned cooking and spreading misinformation into an art form? Anyway, evidence is scarce that Buhari reads or fully comprehends the documents he signs, but that does not absolve him of blame. He appointed the person or persons who authored the egregious eulogy or the person who appointed them, which could have been Kyari himself. Buhari gave us Abba Kyari, even if Kyari came via Buhari's nephew, the faceless Mamman Daura.

A true and accurate epitaph of Kyari would read something like: “Here is Abba Kyari, a man whose nominal boss, and numerous friends and associates describe as one of the best humans that blessed the earth, but whose public service record is that of man who wasthe most divisive, mean-spirited, nepotistic, inept, corrupt and ruled the oppressive regime his country had ever seen.”

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