By Owei Lakemfa

IN the last 10 days, our country has been forced to its knees by horrendous massacres such as the over 100 killed by bandits in Katsina, Sokoto and  Plateau states and the steep rise in COVID-19 casualties, including the infection of dozens of health workers.

Tragically, these have not been the focus in the country. Rather, the media have been clogged by heaps of eulogy on Malam Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, who died of COVID-19 on April 17. This has also given rise to sterile debates on whether he was a good man or if those who disagree with the uncritical offloading of these panegyrics have a right to air their views.

This diversion just won’t go away as government bent the rules in his case on how COVID-19 victims should be buried, and we are buffeted by international condolence messages about an unelected man who had no constitutional roles. These are, indeed, strange times when clearly intelligent persons choose to reduce governance to their personal relationship with the deceased.

Hitler was a warm lover who was also loved by millions of people. He even had deep love for his dogs: Blondi, Muckl and the two Blonda. But that did not stop him evolving and implementing a programme that sent millions of Jews to the gas chamber. President François Duvalier of Haiti was so loved by the populace that they affectionately called him Papa Doc. But this cannot be used to explain his tyranny and maintenance of a killer militia, the Tonton Macoute.

General Sani Abacha, like Kyari had friends. He also had a wife, but that did not stop him maintaining a killer squad which terrorised Nigerians and murdered perceived opponents like Mrs. Kudirat Abiola. Abacha so ingratiated himself on President Buhari that even while redistributing the “Abacha loot” Buhari insists that the kleptocrat never stole!

General Ibrahim Babangida has a charming personality and many friends across the country but he will be assessed as a dictator who annulled one of the best elections ever conducted in the country. The issue is not about Kyari having a string of academic qualifications, but how did he deploy his education?

Some of the most notorious ministers and government officials who rationalised military dictatorship and killings in our country, had Ph.Ds. That Kyari went to Cambridge does not show brilliance. In his generation, over 95 percent of Nigerians who went abroad to study were those who could not readily get admission into local universities.

In any case, high educational qualifications is no criteria for leadership in the country; if it were, the required qualification to run for the Presidency will not be school certificate, and President Buhari would have been no match for President Goodluck Jonathan who has a doctorate.

Kyari was praised for allegedly being ready to take a bullet for President Buhari. But was Buhari elected to appoint people who can take bullets for him? Should a patriot be loyal to an individual or to the country? If indeed Kyari was loyal to the President, it did not mean he was a patriot  because a patriot is a person who loves his country not an individual.

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Kyari’s clear usurpation of power in the Presidency was undemocratic and injurious to our collective interests. Our Constitution in Chapter 48 provides that the Government of the Federation shall be run by the President, Vice President and Ministers who are collectively charged with: “…determining the general direction of domestic and foreign policies of the Government of the Federation.”

So when President Buhari directed all Ministers to report to Kyari, a loyal and patriotic citizen should have guided the President aright rather than benefit from such perfidy. Also, the Buhari government is manifestly sectional and perpetually in breach of the Federal Character provision of the Constitution. Why did a claimed patriot endorse this infamy? In these, Kyari was simply a serial violator of the Nigerian Constitution who exercised power without responsibility.

There were claims that Kyari was a gatekeeper who stopped people from going directly to President Buhari to sign memos and contracts. Is that governance? I thought this government claimed that contracts are open and competitive; that they go through “due process”, including by the Bureau of Public Procurement before being awarded by the Federal Executive Council?

If this were true, why would there be a gateman vetting contracts to be signed? In any case, who was the gateman on memos and contracts Kyari had interests?

If Kyari were as intelligent and honest as some want us to believe, he should have directly or indirectly refuted specific and direct allegations made against him. There was the case of the fugitive, Abdulrasheed Maina accused of stealing billions of naira from pension funds. The Buhari government secretly brought Maina back into the country, provided him security, reinstated him into the Civil Service, paid the backlog of his salaries and even rewarded him with promotion.

A decent government should have resigned; however, that is not the focus here. When the scandal broke, the then Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, in the Executive Chamber of the Presidential Villa publicly and in the presence of the press, accused Kyari of being the mastermind and overruling her when she protested against the reinstatement of the fugitive. Until his demise, Kyari did not refute these weighty allegations.

On a popular radio station in Abuja, a police officer who was investigating a fraud case in which Kyari was mentioned as a major culprit, alleged that the latter misused the State Security Services to illegally detain him. Despite several invitations by the radio station, Kyari neither refuted the documented allegations against him nor sued.

The National Security Adviser, retired General Babagana Monguno, in documented memos made allegations in 2019 against Kyari bordering on acts subversive of  the country’s national security and superimposing his directives on that of the President. Kyari had no known response.

Kyari might well have been a good man but that is not a criterion for running government, otherwise we would have elected only the clergy into office not politicians who in most cases, are shifty.

Death is a price we pay for living; so to argue that we should speak no ill of the dead because we shall all die is a rather childish rant. In Africa, stories of wicked souls, like Bashorun Gaa, are used in didactic narrations. Three thousand years after his death, Christians annually, not only speak ill of Mr. Judas Iscariot, but also trash his effigy on the streets.

If Abba Kyari were crawling to heaven, by now, he would have gotten to Heaven’s Gate; therefore let him rest in peace, and also, let Nigerians have some peace.


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