Mamman Daura, President Buhari’s nephew, in his tribute to his uncle, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari who died of Coronavirus few days ago revealed some untold stories about the late COS.
Mamman described Kyari as an intelligent man who was recommended as running mate to Olusegun Obasanjo after Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
“These times coincided with the country’s return to democracy and Malam Abba was among those enthusiastically espousing the cause of General Obasanjo.
“On his selection as PDP candidate, a group of women and youths in the PDP lobbied Obasanjo to pick Malam Abba as his vice presidential running mate. After heated debates, Obasanjo eventually picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“In the 2003 elections, Malam Abba was in opposite camps with President Obasanjo. General Muhammadu Buhari had declared his intention the previous year to contest the presidency and Malam Abba joined his team and worked wholeheartedly in all the campaigns through the drudgery and injustices of the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections without losing hope or sight of the ultimate goal.
He further revealed that the late Kyari stood firmly behind Buhari and his “perseverance paid off” in 2015, when Buhari won the presidential election.
“To his great surprise, the president appointed Malam Abba as the chief of staff. Fortified by the rigours of a Cambridge education and varied experience in banking, industry, investment and journalism, Malam Abba set himself the task of defining the role, functions and status of the chief of staff. He started by consulting previous incumbents of the position he could reach as a way of educating himself of the challenges ahead of him.”
President Buhari’s nephew also recalled how Kyari lived a very simple life and never took up the flamboyance people in his class were known for.
“He lived a fairly simple life and habitually wore a red cap, white clothing and black shoes. He had to be forced by his friends to change the cap and he wore the shoes to the ground before buying a new pair.
“Malam Abba Kyari was a man blessed with mountainous gifts and uncommon attributes of intelligence, diligence, hard work, loyalty to friends and worthy causes.
“I first set eyes on Malam Abba about 47 years ago. I was at my desk at the New Nigerian newspapers office scribbling something or other when the gate messenger brought a sheet of paper with a name ‘Abba Kyari Chima’ wanting to see the editor.
“When he came in he looked winsome and slightly diffident. After pleasantries I wanted to know his reason for coming to New Nigerian. He said he read and liked an editorial in the paper a few days earlier headed: ‘Solution looking for a Problem’ and he resolved to work with us. After swift enquiry, I was told there were no vacancies in the newsroom nor in sub-editing. But a lowly position existed as proof reader as someone had just left.
“I was about to apologise to him that what was available was beneath his station. Malam Abba quickly said: “I will take it.” After formalities he was enrolled as a staff of New Nigerian.
“By ‘taking it’ he was taking a sizeable cut from his previous teaching job’s pay as the salary scales in the New Nigerian where Malam Abba and I worked were historic in their frugality. You couldn’t get fat on the wages of the New Nigerian in the mid -70s.”
Daura also disclosed that Kyari who helped revive the United Bank for Africa (UBA) before becoming its chief executive officer, was greatly influenced by some Indian professors.
“When Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie assembled a team of investors and managers to help revive the collapsing UBA, Malam Abba was persuaded to join the group and after weeks of diligence the group acquired UBA and Malam Abba joined the bank as a Senior executive.
“Needless to relate, he eventually became the bank’s chief executive and on retirement was persuaded to remain as non-executive vice-chairman.
“Malam Abba was at odds with many senior members of the government on economic policies. Many Nigerian elites tend to lean towards the Bretton Woods one-size-fits-all solutions long discredited and demonstrably failed in so many so-called third World countries. Malam Abba tended to look inward for solutions and was not an ideologue.
“He was heavily influenced by two Nobel laureates, the great West Indian economist, Professor Arthur Lewis and the eminent Indian Professor Amartya Sen, the latter Malam Abba frequently called to exchange views. Despite holding firm views, his advice to the president was dispassionate, even-handed and did not hide unpleasant facts, in the best traditions of public service. In point of intellect, he stood above all ministers and special advisers in this government.”
Daura further revealed that Abba Kyari donated his house in Maiduguri, Borno state to internally displaced persons (IDPs) since he was no longer living there. The President’s nephew said 75 persons were also being taken care of by the ex-chief of staff, alongside his children.
“Few people knew that over ten years ago, he turned his house in Maiduguri (since he no longer resided there) into accommodation for IDPs. At some stage there were 75 people whom Malam Abba was feeding, clothing and looking after; in addition to their children’s education.”