Abba Kyari: Footprints of A Dependable Ally, By Chinwe Ugwu

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There is an aphorism: “birds of the same feather flock together”; which could rightly be applied to the relationship that exists between President Muhammadu Buhari and his chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari.  President Buhari known for his integrity, humility, strict and principled lifestyle with a zero tolerance for corruption and undying patriotism for Nigeria, has indeed found a reliable confidant in Abba Kyari. Anyone, who has followed the President closely, knows that men and women of questionable character and dubious antecedents never find favour in his sight. To borrow from the words of Abraham Lincoln, Abba Kyari like PMB “walks slowly but never walks backward”.

In the trying days of this administration, when the President was away on medical grounds for several months, Abba Kyari’s leadership qualities were brought to the fore as he was able to hold the house together. The kind of divisions and power tussle that is often characteristic of the Presidential Villa during the absence of the Commander-in-Chief was never experienced because of the maturity displayed by the chief of staff. That his support made the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to also give a good account of himself and the administration is stating the obvious. The cohesion and trust that has been built between the President and his deputy is a direct offshoot of the enabling environment created by the chief of staff in the State House.

Due to his studiousness and near perfect mien, Abba Kyari received a horde of accolades from a cross section of Nigerians when he was appointed to the position of Chief of Staff to the President on 27 August 2015. The most shocking of these commendations came from one of the most vitriolic critics of Buhari and his administration, former minister of aviation in the Obasanjo administration, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. Although Fani-Kayode has never seen anything positive about President Buhari, he at least acknowledged the fact that Abba Kyari is a good man and his appointment well-thought out and fitting.
To the consternation of many, Fani-Kayode described Kyari as a good man. Congratulating the chief of staff on the appointment via a statement on his Facebook wall and a tweet from his official Twitter handle, the ex-spokesperson for the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign said: “Congrats to my friend and brother Abba Kyari, who has been appointed as Chief of Staff to President Buhari. Abba and I were at Cambridge University together in the mid-80s. On his return to Nigeria, he worked in my father’s law firm, Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo for many years, running the Kaduna office. I can assure you that he is one of the brightest minds in this country. He is a profoundly good man and I wish him well in his new assignment.”
If such glowing words could be said about the chief of staff by an unrepentant opponent of the administration, it means Abba Kyari certainly has something to prove.

Being a well-educated and experienced bureaucrat and politician, Abba Kyari’s advice and work ethics has been of immense significance to the success story of President Buhari. It is common knowledge that the president had promised Nigerians three basic things during his campaign: to tackle insecurity; to promote economic diversification; and to confront corruption head on. Working very closely with President Buhari in the last three years and eight months, Abba Kyari has provided the needed collaboration and assistance that has propelled this administration to attain unprecedented feats in the annals of the nation’s history. It is true that insurgency and other forms of insecurity may still exist around the country, but the fact remains that no administration has since 1999 tackled insecurity more than President Buhari. It is a fact that by May 2015, over 17 local government areas in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the North East region were comfortably in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents.
Today, the reverse is the case as Boko Haram has been degraded and all territories hitherto occupied by them effectively recovered by our gallant troops with the residents resettled on their lands. Of course, militancy, kidnapping and armed robbery have been dealt a deadly blow. In short, Boko Haram has incurred more losses in the last three years than what they suffered between 2010 and 2015.
The welfare of our military has received a better attention in the past three and half years than any other time in the history of the nation.  Today, monies meant for the purchase of arms and welfare of the military are no longer diverted to private pockets and shared to cronies.

This administration has made history as the first ever to give bailout funds to states that had backlog of salaries, allowances and pensions of public servants. Perhaps for the lack of accountability and transparency in some of the states, no governor is supposed to owe any workers salary in Nigeria. No wonder, President Buhari had openly told the electorate not to vote for any governor that is unable to pay salaries. Just recently, the government approved a N30,000 minimum wage for workers.
In the area of employment and job creation, this administration has made significant impact. The introduction of N-power and trader-moni have in no small measure created jobs for millions of jobless school leavers and boosted small scale enterprises amongst women and young populace. Agriculture has been given a major boost with the provision of loans and other incentives. It is gratifying to note that Nigeria is now exporting rice and other crops such as yams and no longer a dumping ground for substandard rice from across the globe. Although the economy had slumped into a recession at the early stage of this administration, through discipline and careful planning, the nation is out of the recession and the economy has picked up strongly.

The Buhari administration has also rolled out an economic reform programmes anchored on the development of infrastructure, which has been the bane of underdevelopment but has been identified as a major vehicle through which any sustainable economic development can be achieved. Hence, the government has placed premium placed on the three economically key sectors of power, works and housing to provide basic infrastructure and service needed to accelerate social and economic developments in the country. With just three years and eight months in the saddle, President Buhari is once more given Nigerians a semblance of what our road network should be.

There is a remarkable improvement going by the record of on-going and completed highway and bridge projects that cut across the 36 states and the FCT in the last three years. it is on record that abandoned projects like the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Bodo-Bonny Bridge have been brought back to life. Sections of Ilorin-Jebba, Sokoto to Jega, Sokoto-Ilela have been completed, while progress of works continues nationwide from Jada to Mayo Belwa, Enugu to Port Harcourt, Lagos to Otta, Ikorodu to Shagamu, Benin to Okene, Lokoja to Abuja, Kano to Maiduguri, Abuja – Kaduna, Kano to mention a few.
According to the minister power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, ‘‘the intervention on roads, as made clear by the ‘infrastructure’ Minister, does not stop on interstate highways. It has also entered 14 federal universities where unattended internal roads are now receiving attention. The universities include: University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Federal University Oye, Ekiti; University of Benin; Federal University, Lafia; Fed University, Otuoke Bayelsa; Bayero University Kano; Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO); University of Maiduguri; Federal University, Lokoja; Federal Polytechnic Bauchi; Federal University, Gashua; Kaduna Polytechnic; Federal College of Education Katsina; and University College Ibadan’’.

The chief of staff is the man behind the scene working tirelessly and conscientiously for the success of the Buhari administration. As Nigeria hopes to transmute into the Next Level with President Buhari on February 16, it is only pertinent that due recognition should be given to the chief handler of the president, who has done so well since august 2015. Of course, the president being the driver of the Change Agenda deserves commendation and ultimate reward; while the chief staff being the head conductor also needs encouragement to continue to remain focused despite myriad distractions; and assist President Muhammadu Buhari to land triumphantly and gallantry to the Next Level.

•Hon. Ugwu is the Executive Director of CREI and writes from Enugu.

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