Learning Sound Principles of Friendship from the Life and Time of Abba Kyari

By Chima Osuji | Ilorin

It is no longer news that Mallam Abba Kyari OON, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, has passed on and interred in line Islamic rites. Prior to his demise, many Nigerians, especially the politically conscious, had a “single story” of the Borno-born Nigerian statesman. Regardless of your knowledge and bias for, or against the former presidential gatekeeper, there are certain sterling qualities and exemplary virtues he possessed in his life-time which the devil himself can attest to. 

This piece is basically an observatory on the principles the late CoS upheld which are of universal applicability. For the purpose of this article, I have identified only three I consider to be most striking and worthy of emulation.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Late Mallam Abba Kyari

The first principle is loyalty. Until his death, Mallam Kyari was regarded as the most loyal and trusted appointee and associate of Muhammadu Buhari. From the way events played out at the presidency during his term as CoS, you just might be tempted to conclude that he was closer to Mr. President, more than the First Lady—Aisha Buhari. Unlike Jonathan Goodluck whose wife was obviously the de facto President, Mrs Buhari’s level of influence on PMB was nothing compared to Kyari’s. The several alarms raised by the First Lady on the purported hijack of the presidency by the so-called cabal, confirms her insignificant grip on the state of affairs in Aso Rock.

In fact, Kyari’s appointment as Chief of Staff was renewed with increased power in spite of public outcries and stiff opposition. Under PMB’s second coming as President, constitutionally recognised ministers were made to route their requests to the President through the Chief of Staff. In applying common sense here, it takes a high level display of loyalty to merit such privilege and power such as that enjoyed by the late CoS. Truth is, Kyari has succeeded in demystifying the myth associated with the permanency of interest in politics over the transience of allies and adversaries. For Kyari, it was “friendship first” over interest. Or put it differently, his interest was to serve the personal interest of his friend and principal. Such an attribute is obviously in short supply in not just politics but in every sphere of interpersonal and inter-group relations.

The second principle that characterised Kyari’s life and time was integrity. Despite the populist view of his alleged high-handed approach, there is yet a single case of corruption leveled against him. A cursory look at his rich CV alone speaks volumes of his sophisticated elitist status which commanded respect from within and outside his small circle of friends. In fact, being a close associate of Buhari for 42 years goes to show the depth of the President’s knowledge of him, strong enough to land him a sensitive job at the Presidential Villa.

The third principle that defined Kyari’s life was consistency. Working in the Presidency as a domestic staff alone brings not only prestige but vulnerabilities. Let alone being privileged to serve in a highly exalted office of the Chief of Staff to the President. Such an influential position will definitely come with unique challenges which are, in most cases, capable of corrupting one’s manners and principles. In Kyari’s case, he chose to serve and protect the interest of his longtime friend without fear or favour. He resisted several overtures designed to make him compromise his love for, and devotion to his principal. Rather, he was circumspect of virtually everything that evolved around the President and maintained a policy of political distancing from highly influential power brokers. This didn’t go down well with the other side.

Therefore, regardless of the leadership style Kyari deployed in dealing with his colleagues and political associates, the fact remains that he was unarguably a loyal and trusted friend—a quality that endeared him to the heart of Muhammadu Buhari. The question as to where his loyalty ought to lie—Buhari or the Nigerian people—is self explanatory. Was he a very bad person? I don’t know but a politically exposed person is always a target for conspiracies and campaigns of calumny. Was he saintly? Certainly not. The judgment is left for the Creator to decide how well we’ve all led our lives here on Earth.

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Chima Osuji is a legal practitioner and Legal Adviser/Column Editor at Campus Focus Newspaper. He tweets at @Osujichima47

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