by Alexander O. Onukwue
In this week alone, there have been three public demonstrations about the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
The first two took place around the premises of Unity Fountain, Abuja, between praise singers of the Chief of Staff showing their solidarity, and another other group who expressed disenchantment with the strong man. Both groups had to be dispersed by officers of the Nigeria Police before their clash could escalate into a security situation.
The third demonstration was more spontaneous, more original, and more direct to Mr Kyari in person. It also required top-level intervention, by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to avoid descending into something that may have been ugly.
But commentators are hoping for a fourth and most decisive demonstration which must not even need to be public in nature; by the President himself.
Mr Kyari’s fame or infamy as a man of influence in Buhari’s villa has been one of the most discussed political topics of 2017 in Nigeria. He was in the mentions of the media more often than any other public official as being in charge of the close circle that guarded the President’s accessibility while he was twice away in London.
Kyari does not speak in public; his job does not require him to. He is that figure that must be captured by Bayo Omoboriowo and crew whenever someone has to seat in audience at the right hand side of the President. Usually dressed in white kaftan, a deep red cap and searching spectacles, the Chief’s reputation for being in stifling control of what affects the President is unprecedented in Nigerian democratic history. He does not have many public admirers but the few believe he has been living up precisely to the terms of reference of his appointment.
Nevertheless, President Buhari has been urged to reconsider the particulars of Kyari’s duty as it impacts the President’s ability to be in charge and aware of the country’s affairs. The release of statements by the spokespersons of the President, Mr Garba Shehu and Mr Femi Adesina, absolving Buhari of “awareness” of certain developments in government has led to several questions about the President’s capacity to govern effectively. Given that it is the Chief of Staff, Mr Kyari, who, theoretically, determines who and what comes to Buhari’s table, it is reasonable that much of that irritation at the President’s apparent detachedness from issues is directed to Mr Kyari.
The moment of not-so-light exchange between Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita and Mr Kyari should raise in the President a consciousness that his Chief of Staff is not a loved man, and perhaps he may not be in the overall best interest of the future of his Presidency. It may be time for him to demonstrate this to Kyari, either by letting him go or reviewing the particulars of his duty.
Then again, is the President even aware there was a clash at FEC yesterday?