In the early hours of today, the nation was taken by surprise as Presidential Media Adviser, Femi Adesina announced via his Twitter handle that the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari had passed on, and with his colleague, Garba Shehu confirming that the septuagenarian died of the coronavirus on Friday, speculations have been laid to rest about his whereabouts since he took ill.
The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020.
— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) April 17, 2020
Flown from Abuja to Lagos, days after he returned from a trip to Egypt and also, Germany during which he met with officials of Siemens in Munich on Nigeria’s electricity expansion programme, Mallam Kyari is reported to have died from complications related to COVID-19, at First Cardiology Consultants Hospital, Lagos where he has been receiving treatment. Although he is reputed by ‘those close to him’ as one of the most misunderstood figures in Nigerian politics today, not many Nigerians know the extent of his influence.
A former banker, journalist, lawyer, politician and one of the most powerful Chief of Staff in Nigeria’s political history; we bring you excerpts from our profile written of him by Alexander Onukuwe as one of the 100 Most Influential Nigerians in Politics 2019:
“Any combination of red cap, white danshiki and a pair of searching glasses is probably president Buhari’s chief of staff. Armed with decades of managerial experience in corporate offices at UBA, Unilever, and Mobil, scoops on Abba Kyari’s control of day-to-day activities in the Villa have become the stuff of which adventure novels are made. The Aso Rock House of Cards, if you wanted to have it made, has Abba Kyari as the frank enforcer who stays two steps ahead to undercut every opposition tactic.
No Chief of Staff has lasted as long as Kyari since 1999. In fact, his longevity and ubiquity in Villa photos has arguably brought the role into focus for the first time. Regular, physically imposing and unmissable, he is essentially the uncle ensuring noisy neighbours think twice before attempting to pick a fight with the aristocrat’s bashful kid. Kyari is nearly always present in the room when every governor visits the president, as though the weight of his spectacles enforce honesty and circumspection. And why not? Degrees in sociology and law with extensive years of practice prepared for him for a retirement spent in this kind of active service.
More than a few people, perhaps including the First Lady, suspect Nigeria’s truly run by Abba Kyari and not the elected man from Daura. Kyari’s hands-on approach in ordering the president’s schedule and being present in every Bayo Omoboriowo photograph are hard-to-ignore supporting arguments.
In reality, the president has found in Kyari the civilian reflection of a regimented, steely style that Buhari sees in himself. Kyari’s omnipresence, therefore, is the necessary canvass of broad strokes from which Buhari, the reformed democrat, draws motivation for manifestation. Kyari keeps Buhari’s visitors honest while giving the president confidence to be a man of a past era who can steer a democracy.
This explanation would not absolve Kyari of the accusation of being the actual president but until he is pictured signing official documents, admirers do not blush to extol him as an effective invisible hand.”
He has been laid to rest but his death will certainly have monumental implications on political calculations as well as the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency in the 3 years left before the end of its lifespan.
Last year, Abba Kyari was listed in our 100 Most Influential Nigerians in Politics; the media response to his death confirms how much influence he had over how the country was run.
Revisit our list to read this and other players in the political sphere https://t.co/bO4XElMqfx
— Y! Online (@YNaija) April 18, 2020
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.