Unbundling Abba Kyari, by Mustapha Sabo Bukar

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The late Malam Abba Kyari.

 join millions of Nigerians to mourn late Abba Kyari (AK). Though I have never met AK at personal level, my respect and adoration for him was enormous even before his shocking demise. The closet I was to meeting him was through his writings, which were often insightful, analytical, and most importantly, nationalistic in content. May Allah bless his soul.

It will be a herculean task to unbundle such a misunderstood and introverted personality. However I believe much of AK’s early adulthood was influenced by the great minds in the Kaduna – Zaria axis. I want to assume that late Dr. Ibrahim Tahir had had significant ideological influence on Abba. In a tribute to Tahir, AK described him as a scholar of international repute, deep in his discipline of study and vast in Quran/Islam/Classic Arabic. Tahir and the circle of intellectuals around him had profound influence on AK’s passion for intellectualism. From the on-set, Abba seemed to have decided his friends and associates are people of serious minds.

Abba’s career might have been influenced by those he referred to as “Young Turks” in the office of the Premier of Northern Region, such people as Mallam Adamu Chiroma, Ahmed Joda, Mallam Mamman Daura, to mention but a few. Dedicated and upright public Servants that have not soiled their hands with public resources. I want to assume that to deconstruct the essential Abba Kyari, it is important to factor in the critical role played by these intellectuals and public servants in shaping his perception and perspective of life.

AK’s successes in life can be attributed to his widely acknowledged intelligence. He was a learning person. His position, age and busy schedule have not inhibited him from continuously seeking for knowledge, the knowledge that he applied and made him a better manager of people. Kung Fu Tsu (Confucius) the Chinese philosopher once said, “The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” AK acquired knowledge vastly and deeply. His friends and associates have testified to his love for books and learning. Back home, in Borno, his folks called him “Abba Nasara”, that is Kanuri for “ Abba the Whiteman”.

Abba also applied knowledge to good purpose at work and in his life. He refused to be ignorant of the circumstances of his country and aspirations of its people. He strongly believed in the Nigerian project and it should be self-reliant, especially in food production. Many saw his hands in the successes achieved in the rice revolution of the Buhari administration. A contribution amply acknowledged by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. Those close to AK testified to his commitment to the completion of the second Niger bridge, stabilizing fuel supply and price, adequate power supply, etc.

President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has no doubt lost a friend and a loyal confidant. A friend for over 42 years. Despite the pecuniary attraction in PDP, AK will have nothing to do with its prebendal politics and self-serving policies that lead to unbridled expropriation of Nigeria’s commonwealth and deepened its underdevelopment. Given his humanistic philosophical disposition and patriotism, there is a sense that AK was the “true north” of the political compass of the APC. An APC chieftain once described Abba as the party’s ideologue who operated behind the scene. It was this unflinching commitment to a cause that made Abba Kyari to pitch his camp with Buhari when he persistently took shots at the presidency in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. His unalloyed faith, trust, friendship and loyalty to PMB endured till his last day.

Mallam Abba Kyari’s careers was largely in the private sector where he excelled. In a tribute, a senior government officer described him as a little suspicious of civil servants. Who in his senses wouldn’t be suspicious of the civil/public service as presently constituted? The civil service is in a bad shape and surprisingly PMB did not show interest to make it a relevant institution of government. It is reeling from an endemic chronic multiple infection of fraud, corruption and inefficiency that combine to make it a burden on Nigerians. It has since ceased to be a civil service guided by integrity, loyalty, selflessness and check and balances. I have worked up to thirty-five years (35 years) and retired from the service. Am I proud of the institution. Kai!

I believe AK’s principal is even more skeptical of the public service. It was this skepticism that informed Abba Kyari’s “meddling” in high-stake institutions, policies, programmes and strategies of the PMB administration. Critics of the administration, and those who for whatever reason malign him and his principal, had queried Abba Kyari’s “intrusion” in the NNPC, CBN, Agriculture, etc. Indeed, not a few critics had viewed his trip to Germany to sign deals with Siemens relating improving electricity infrastructure and supply in Nigeria as the height of Abba Kyari’s undue “meddling” beyond his call of duty. Why not the Minister of Power? Why not technocrats with cognate experience and expertise in the field?

The answer isn’t as perplexing as it seems. It should be noted that, besides Abba’s insightful knowledge of the economy and experience in business dealings, he was his Principal’s eye on these commanding heights of Nigeria’s economy. Besides, given allegations of monumental of corruption associated with these institutions and processes, as well as the resolve of PMB to drain the swamp, Abba Kyari’s skepticism, which he shared with his principal, his loyalty and patriotism, driving his knowledge, experience and expertise, put him in good stead to guarantee that not only would “the right things” be done, things would be done “right”. That was Abba Kyari’s mission. The quiet man from Borno had a passion for loyalty and service to others and his country till he returned to Allah on 17 April 2020.

AK was a “blue-blood in a way and  had an aristocratic background but choose the path of humility and service to the nation in a different way. His grandfather was a title holder in the Palace of Emir of Dikwa (now Bama). The office of District Head is held by his junior brother after he declined to accept the title. “Chima” was a title in precolonial Borno. “Chima Kura” and “Chima Gana“ control fiefs for the Shehu in precolonial Borno. AK no doubt carries the integrity and calmness of his upbringing.

In the last three weeks Borno State, and indeed Nigeria, had lost some of its illustrious sons. These include Mallam Abba Kyari, the quintessential public servant, His Royal Highness the Emir of Bama, Kyari Ibn Umar El-Kanemi, a member in the National Committee against polio, my Ya’a (senior brother) and senior in Government College Maiduguri and the first civilian Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Mohammed Goni, who was incorruptible and whose record in the development of the state remains a testament to date. May Allah forgive their souls and reward them with Al Jannah Firdous. Ameen.

M. B. Sabo writes from Efab Estate, Mbora, Abuja and can be reached at bukarmustaphasabo@yahoo.com

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