By Philip Agbese
The news of the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari to replace late Patriot Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Muhammadu Buhari excited me greatly. It has silenced hitherto agitated voices and what I consider, unhealthy speculations by those scheming to use the vacancy to manipulate and hijack the Buhari Presidency.
I have known Prof. Gambari for almost two decades now and his life has inspired me in several ways. He is a thorough- breed academic, scholar, retired diplomat who once served our country as External Affairs Minister. He parades among other notable credentials, record of the longest serving Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, under five different Heads of State and Presidents of Nigeria.
His experience and international clout cast no veil on his capacity to deliver on his new mandate as Chief of Staff to the President. It’s a position known to us as one of the most powerful and influential offices in the Presidency.
By my assessment and popular opinions, Professor Gambari, no doubt, is a perfect match and replacement for the demised CoS. A patriotic and loyal Nigerian, Gambari is expected to be a unifying factor and bridge between the Presidency/governance and Nigerians. It is a role which no one doubts that he has the personage and possesses the competence to excel.
But in Nigeria, we sometimes experiment politics from impossible angles ennobled by destructive intents. There are the perpetual power monks, the sharks in the corridors of power, detractors, sabs and a flurry of competing interests who may be a clog in the wheel of progress others who may strive to make his job difficult to rubbish the Presidency.
Until Abba Kyari occupied the office, many Nigerians underestimated the power and influence of the office of CoS to the President and its centrality in the functioning of a vibrant Presidency. So, all eyes are on Prof. Gambari.
There is no gainsaying that Professor Gambari is conversant with the policy thrust of the Buhari Presidency and its heightened interest on the battle against corruption and his determination to end Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria by whatever means. Gambari is aware that it is President Buhari’s unfading desire to improve the living conditions of Nigerians and leave the nation better than he met it.
Both the Presidency and Nigerians expect the new CoS, like his predecessor, to adopt these ideals as his working document and hold them very sacrosanct day and night. The political vampires and saboteurs who are desperate to frustrate President Buhari in order to cast his Presidency in the light of failure would certainly descend on the new CoS, Gambari voraciously. Let me presume he is aware of the banana peels strawn on the path of the office he occupies.
Those who have pathological hatred for President Buhari and his administration would employ all antics to frustrate him. They would attempt to negatively influence or twist Gambari to achieve their demonic plots to cripple the administration. It behooves on the new CoS to invoke his Solomonic wisdom to navigate his path through the muddy waters of power play in Nigeria.
Therefore, the new CoS must necessarily be vigilant at all times to deflate and wade off these unhealthy influences. I have known Professor Gambari for many years and believe in him as a personality who will deliver on the mandate. He has excelled on all assignments and this one will not be different.
Gambari parades a basketful of impeccable credentials. A recipient of the third highest national honour, Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR), in 2002, Professor Gambari has several honourary degrees (honoris causa) from prestigious universities, home and abroad.
Professor Gambari is a man whose entire life epitomizes laurels in various endeavours of life. In 2012, former President Jacob Zuma personally conferred on Gambari, South Africa’s highest national honour, the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo, award to non-citizens.
It is my conviction that a man very learned and exposed is not honed for failure anywhere he is obligated to render public service. Myself, like many other Nigerians, expect nothing less from Professor Gambari than for him to actively deploy his wealth of experience to assist President Buhari to deliver to Nigerians his cardinal promises towards achieving the change that he promised. Gambari must position himself as a pillar for Buhari to actualize his vision in the #NextLevel.
In President Buhari’s post humous tribute, he said something, I still consider very instructive and germane which, I wish to remind Professor Gambari to adopt as his operational principle.
The President wrote in the tribute that; “In political life, Abba never sought elective office for himself. 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 by-product of possessing political office. He secured instead satisfaction and his reward solely and only from the improvement of the governance of this great country.”
By my interpretation of Mr. President’s mindset, he expects the occupant of the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President to overcome the foibles enunciated by these two generations of the political class in Nigeria. Gambari must effectively triumph over them. He must not allow political sycophants any inch close to the President including those within, but are mentally and philosophically estranged from the philosophy of the administration because they don’t believe in Mr. President and his agenda for Nigeria.
But most importantly, I think Professor Gambari must develop the instant capacity and cognition to identify and detach from those who see national security as an opportunity to make money. Our country is assailed by instigated insecurities.
President Buhari has fought them to a standstill. The President is uncompromisingly concerned about ending Boko Haram insurgency and ISWAP terrorism in the Northeast and allied insurgencies everywhere in the country. He wants to recover back Nigeria from armed criminalities for Nigerians.
A few days ago, I read a news story from some national dailies on the ongoing clearance operations in the Northeast, where the COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai relocated mid-April 2020, personally leading Nigerian troops in the final onslaught against insurgency.
The news report captured contents of a recent video released by the factional leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, lamenting profusely and pathetically about the overwhelming heat in the battle in the hands of troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole. In the 1:22 seconds audio, the Boko Haram leader who spoke in Kanuri, sought the protection of Allah against the “devilish act” of Nigerian military, bemoaning the difficulties confronting them in this Holy month of Ramadan.
Analyzing the video clip, a human rights lawyer and conflict analyst, Bulama Bukarti, said “this is the first time we heard Shekau cry in this way.” He explained further that, “The Shekau we are used to is a bombastic, ruthless gangster that ridicules, mocks and chortles at his victims…It suggests that the group is under immense pressure that threatens its existence.”
We cannot afford to reverse the gains on insurgency. Some disgruntled Nigerians and political merchants may attempt to use the Office of Gambari to reverse the gains of counter-insurgency. Therefore, I pray Professor Gambari to be extraordinarily vigilant to effectively checkmate these forces.
He must avoid those who still think that change is impossible and will stop at nothing to compromise the system. He should never carve into the satanic plots of enemies within who have not been able to achieve their selfish aim of compromising the integrity of the President.
The CoS must be firm, resolute, bold and always prepared to say ‘no‘ to the businessmen around the corridors of power who still think the Buhari presidency will be business as usual. Of necessity too is that Gambari must strive to shun myopic interests who would willfully set out on a mission and agenda to destroy the principles which Buhari has built throughout his entire life and career as a public officer.
The new Chief of Staff, as one of the closest aides to Mr. President should watch and avoid the banana peels which his predecessor, Kyari defeated until his death. As a tested and trusted patriot, I implore Gambari to consider as supreme the interests which Mr. President was voted in all his dealings.
Finally, Professor Gambari should not forget that the successes of the Buhari administration on the war against corruption and insurgency is not negotiable and must be sustained. Therefore, he should fence out all the external agents who would willfully set out on a mission to mislead Mr. President through fictitious groups and fraudulent individuals that will be cloned as public interest activists to offer misleading counsels to Mr. President.
I am sure, Gambari will deliver without hassles. One can only wait to commend President Buhari for his wisdom in the choice of Gambari at the end of the day.
Agbese wrote from the United Kingdom.