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Before Buhari picks another chief of staff

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Muhammadu Buhari


As President Muhammadu Buhari shops for a replacement for his late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, analysts think he should look beyond his circle and go for an upright, incorruptible, realistic, resourceful, well-educated and non-controversial personality from any part of the country.

Although President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to receive condolence messages from friends and well wishers over last week’s death of his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, the race for the next occupant of the office have earnestly begun. Already, speculations are rife that the President would likely choose Kyari’s successor from among his key loyalists. Those being mentioned include the current Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation from 2007 to 2008 and former vice presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the June 12,1993 presidential elections, Babagana Kingibe; current Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; current Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; and former military governor of Lagos State, Buba Marwa.

Given the role of the Chief of Staff in the Presidency, expectations are high that it would not take long before the president announces his choice. But President Buhari has caught the image of a man who takes his time to make up his mind in matters of appointment since assuming office; hence Kyari’s replacement might not come as soon as expected.

Some political analysts, however, told The Guardian that they were not bothered about how soon the next Chief of Staff emerges, but about the president getting the right person for the job who would help him to effectively organise his itinerary. Many of them spoke against the backdrop of the controversies that trailed Kyari while in office.

A former president of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said the president should appoint a man who would be less controversial and who has the interest of the masses at heart to replace Kyari.

His words: “The next Chief of Staff should be a practical man who is ready to be in the shadow of his boss. The chief of staff is essentially a personal aide. During Obasanjo’s time, I knew there were two ways of getting to the president – through chief of staff or special assistant on domestic matters. Under this president, it became centralised, just the chief of staff. So, it’s too much burden on somebody who is not practical because he will make enemies for the president without the president knowing.

“As a matter of fact, to be a president or governor you are in prison. You are a prisoner of your own making. Remember it’s only the president that has the prerogative of appointing anybody as his personal staff. For that of chief of staff, he doesn’t even need the approval of the National Assembly unlike the ministers or number of special advisers. As a matter of fact, in him lies the conduit for reaching the president.

“But I think in the case of the last chief of staff, it became so difficult for anybody to bypass him; it was a problem. In people’s language, it was only what Kyari wanted the President to see that he saw.”

Uwazurike, therefore, said, “whoever is going to be there must be somebody who has the interest of the masses at heart and the president shouldn’t be a recluse. If he becomes a self-made prisoner and the bridging water is the chief of staff, he has only himself to blame. I’m sure he has to adjust. I have heard so many names mentioned. Some of them are continuation of the past; some of them are even more restrictive. But the person must be a practical and realistic man.”

To a public affairs analyst, Mr Jide Ojo, the president needs someone who is upright, resourceful, educated, diplomatic, a team player and an incorruptible person as chief of staff.

“I say this against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the person of the last occupant of that office. My own condition is that whether true or false, the president should stay away from appointing another controversial and divisive figure into that office. We need an efficient but not controversial chief of staff. We need someone who would not be a surrogate president; we do not need a de facto president. Two people were elected to that presidency – the president and the vice president. If the President does not have the capacity to govern as is expected of his exalted office, he should devolve more powers to the vice president. We don’t need a chief of staff that will be leading delegations to Germany and other countries as if he is an elected official. We need somebody who will help the president to organise his schedules and do all other chores that is expected of a chief of staff not one that everybody will be pointing accusing fingers to as the de facto president,” Ojo said.

Ojo, who recalled all other chiefs of staff the country has had, noted that nobody pointed accusing fingers to them as surrogate presidents during their time.

“For instance, up to five people openly accused the late chief of staff of holding the president to ransom including the wife of the president. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State was one of them. The current National Security Adviser about a month or thereabout, in a leaked memo, accused the immediate past chief of staff of impeding the fight against insurgency and holding meetings with the diplomatic community and service chiefs without the knowledge of the president and the NSA. We do not need that kind of chief of staff.

“So, it is in the enlightened best interest of the president to look for somebody who would be non-controversial and who will do his job professionally.”
Secretary-General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, on his part urged the president to “put nepotism aside and ensure that he appoints the right person to the position.”

He, however, took time to lampoon the administration for its perceived failings, alleging that the president does not take the advise of those he governs.
He said: “We have seen how incompetent this particular government is. This is a government that made every Nigerian to think they really had much to offer during their campaign. They promised Nigerians they were coming to fight corruption and so many other things but unfortunately the government came into power and became an incompetent government. It’s because of the incompetence that an appointee of the president became the de facto president whereby the President instructed that all his ministers should report to him. Where in the whole world have you seen ministers reporting to the chief of staff instead of the president?”

While accusing the Presidency of intransigence, Ezugwu said: “They don’t listen to the advise of the people they govern. For example, when they mooted the idea of inviting Chinese doctors to come and help us fight coronavirus, even the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) advised them against that but they still went ahead to do it. So, no matter what you advise on the next chief of staff, they will still go ahead to do what they want and tell the masses to go to hell.

“But all things being equal, we know that we have very competent hands in this country in all fields of endeavour; this is acknowledged all over the world. We have competent hands and they know them. The problem we have is leadership. The manipulation and the politics in this country are too much.

“The Chief of staff is an appointee of the president. There is nothing anyone of us will advise him and he will take. But if he wishes himself well for these few years he still has to serve Nigeria, he should put nepotism aside and ensure that he appoints the right person to the position.”

When the president unveils his choice in the weeks ahead, it will be clear whether he took the above views into consideration. What is very clear now is that the choice he would make, just like in other key appointments, would have far-reaching implications for his administration, either positively or negatively.


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