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Professor Gambari: Buhari Resurrects An Old Political Powerhouse With Controversial Antecedents

By Tamunotonye Inioribo @Tonyebarcanista

Since the demise of President Muhammadu Buhari’s long time ally and friend, Alhaji Abba Kyari in April, the position of Chief of Staff to the President has remained vacant. Alhaji Abba Kyari, the former occupant of the office was regarded as a very powerful figure in the government of President Buhari since he first assumed office in August 2015. He was so powerful to the extent that several political players, observers and commentators argued that he (Kyari) was more powerful than even the Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president when he was in office. Due to the level of influence that Alhaji Kyari possessed, the office of the Chief of Staff to the President became the second most desired position by politicians after the office of the President, and even more than the position of vice president.

At the demise of Alhaji Abba Kyari in April as a result of complications from Covid-19 disease, over thirty-five powerful public servants were reported to be lobbying to be appointed into the vacant Chief of Staff position. Those reported to be jostling for the position include, the secretary to the government of the federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, a former secretary to the government of the federation, Ambassador Babangana Kingibe, the current governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir Elrufai, his Ekiti state counterpart, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the minister of transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of works, Mr Babatunde Fashola SAN, the minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, a former Ogun state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, a former military administrator of Lagos state, brigadier general Buba Marwa (rtd), the comptroller general of Nigeria Custom Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (RTS) and several others. 

However, from the reports filtering today, it appears that President Muhammadu Buhari has settled for Professor Ibrahim Gambari, an old powerhouse, a political veteran, retired ambassador and controversial personality as his choice for the vacant position of Chief of Staff to the President. Although there is yet to be an official announcement by the spokespeople of the president, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari  confirmed the appointment and further appreciated the President for appointing his kinsman.

Professor Gambari, And Old Political Powerhouse With Controversial Antecedents Old Powerhouse.

The new ‘Chief of Staff’ is an old powerhouse who first became the minister in charge of the federal ministry of exterior (now foreign affairs)  under the military regime of major general Muhammadu Buhari in the year 1984. He held the position until 1985 when the general Buhari military regime was toppled by the General Ibrahim Babangida junta. 

In 1990, General Ibrahim Babangida appointed him as Nigeria’s permanent representative and ambassador to the United Nations. He held the position all through the life of the General Babangida’s military regime. He also retained his position during the  administration of Chief Ernest Shonekan Interim National Government, General Sani Abacha military regime, General Abdulsallam Abubakar military regime and briefly during the administration of president Olusegun Obasanjo. In total, he served under four military heads of state, one interim national head of government and one civilian president between 1984 and October 1999.

… Controversial Antecedents

During his time in government, Professor Gambari made a name as an hard-line and controversial individual that supported annulment of a free and fair election and abuse of human rights.

When the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election that was adjudged to be first and only free and fair election in Nigeria’s history, which was presumed to have been won by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, a  businessman and candidate of Social Democratic Party, which resulted in national unrest and drew condemnation from local and international civil society organisations and sociopolitical groups like Nationall Democratic Coalition (NADECO), National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and others, Professor Gambari threw caution into the wind by supporting the annulment of credible process and defending the action of general Babangida regime before the United Nations and International Community. He also defended the arrest and incarceration of Chief Abiola by the military regime of general Sani Abacha same year.

In the year 1995 when the general Sani Abacha military regime executed Ogoni environmentalist and writer, Mr Ken Saro Wiwa, and eight other human right activists which drew condemnation from local and international communities, and even earned Nigeria suspension from several organizations and sanctions by countries, Professor Gambari, who was the Nigeria Permanent Representative to the United Nations, defended the gruesome action before the United Nations.

It is also an irony that Professor Gambari, who supported the truncation of the democratic government of President Shehu Shagari in December 1983 by major general Muhammadu Buhari administration, would now be a beneficiary of a democratic administration by his new portfolio.

Gambari’s Appointment Altering 2023 Presidential Permutation?

One important fact about key political and government appointments in Nigeria is that the appointer or the political caucus of the appointer usually have a well detailed role that the appointee will play by exploiting the influence of his office to actualise a set objective in the next political cycle. 

With the appointment of Professor Ibrahim Gambari’s appointment as Chief of Staff, I can safely postulate that the powerful political caucus that is currently dictating the direction of Nigeria politics and consisting of old political powerhouses including President Buhari, and popularly known as the “presidential cabal”, may be preparing to field one of their own at the 2023 Presidential election. I postulate this because the final tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari will terminate in May 29, 2023, and he will be ineligible to run for a third term due to constitutional restrictions. The members of the presidential caucus will want to remain in control in the next political dispensation after the president leaves office, and to achieve this, they will have to present a candidate from amongst the caucuses to succeed President Buhari. The Chief of Staff Professor Gambari, a member of the president’s caucus, will have a critical role to play to actualise the agenda due to the enormous influence at his disposal. 

The implication of this is that the permutations of presidential hopefuls within the All Progressive Congress (APC) such as the national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the incumbent governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Kaduna and Kano states, Nasir Elrufai and Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje respectively, the chief whip of the senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, a former Imo state governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha and a former Zamfara state governor, Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima will been altered. 

Written by Tamunotonye Inioribo || I can be reached at tonyebarcanista@gmail.com

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