THE year 2020 was a year of incalculable disasters for the whole world, but it was even more disastrous for Nigeria because it was the year all pretenses to governance ceased with the death of Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff who functioned as the actual president of Nigeria.
In this week’s column, I will bring together some of my published thoughts and predictions on Abba Kyari before and after his death.
People who follow my column know I have insisted time and again that Abba Kyari was Nigeria’s de facto president. For instance, in my February 22, 2020 column titled “The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,” I wrote:
“Premium Times’ February 17 unmasking of National Security Adviser BabaganaMonguno’s secret memo, which revealed that Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, exercises presidential powers on Buhari’s behalf, is only the official confirmation of what I have written in many columns and social media updates in the past two years.
“The truth is that Buhari has no cognitive, emotional, physical, not to mention intellectual, capacity to be president. And, since nature abhors a vacuum, Abba Kyari has filled the void that Buhari’s emptiness has created.
“Sometime in the midpoint of last year, a northern retired general told me Abba Kyari said in private that people who vilify him don’t realize that without him Nigeria would be rudderless and descend into chaos.
“He is probably right. When a man who fancies himself as ‘president’ is so wracked by dementia and cognitive decline that he can’t hold a meeting for more than 10 minutes, has lost the ability to follow conversations in a meeting, and has zero short-term memory, someone needs to act on his behalf.
“That Buhari is almost wholly emotionally and intellectually dependent on Abba Kyari is no secret in Aso Villa, but it came out in the open when Buhari himself publicly told his newly appointed ministers that Abba Kyari is the only way to him. In any case, most of the ministers were appointed by Abba Kyari.
“Kyari also made—and continues to make— some of the most consequential appointments of the last five years. For instance, he single handedly appointed INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu, DG of DSS Yusuf Magaji Bichi, and CJN Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, among others too numerous to mention.
“That was why Kyari could summon INEC chairman Yakubu to the Presidential Villa on October 26, 2018 to instruct him on how to conduct the forthcoming elections. As I wrote in my January 5, 2019 column titled, ‘INEC’s Troubling Missteps Amid Aso Rock’s Desperation,’ what happened on October 26, 2018 had no precedent.
“‘The Chief of Staff to the President is not a constitutionally recognized position,’ I wrote. ‘He has no legal powers to summon the INEC boss for a meeting’” Of course, I knew that Yakubu was beholden to Kyari because he owes his position to him.
“Kyari rode to his current cushy surrogate presidency through Mamman Daura, Buhari’s nephew, who has been Buhari’s link to the northern political mafia and to transnational financial transactions since 1983.”…
“In his surrogate presidency, Kyari is redefining the limits of audacious impunity and primitive acquisitiveness. For instance, in an unprecedented move in July 2016, he appointed himself a member of the NNPC Board and got insentient Buhari to sign off on it!
“When Air Vice Marshall Mukhtar Muhammed, Buhari’s close friend who died on October 1, 2017, read about Kyari’s appointment to the NNPC Board, he was concerned because there was no precedent for it. So he called Buhari to let him know that the optics of the appointment were bad, but he was shocked when Buhari told him it wasn’t true that he had appointed his Chief of Staff as a member of the NNPC Board, even though he actually signed off on the appointment.
“It turned out that Buhari didn’t know what he signed off on. Someone close to the late AVM Mukhtar Mohammed told me this story a few months after it happened. That was the moment I began to suspect that Buhari was held hostage by dementia. No one knows this more than Abba Kyari, who is taking advantage of it to the maximum.”
And in my April 18, 2020 article titled “Abba Kyari’s Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos,” I wrote the following, most of which is materializing:
“With Kyari’s death, Nigeria is now truly leaderless. Buhari is practically in the land of the living dead. He’s a breathing mannequin whose only reason for living is to prove he isn’t dead in order to justify the continuity of the rule in his name.
“Abba Kyari ruled the country on Buhari’s behalf. In my viral February 22, 2020 column titled, ‘The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,’ this line appeared: ‘Sometime in the midpoint of last year, a northern retired general told me Abba Kyari said in private that people who vilify him don’t realize that without him Nigeria would be rudderless and descend into chaos.’
“Now, he is gone, and the chaos he talked about would start in the coming days and weeks. Mamman Daura, Buhari’s nephew who introduced Kyari to Buhari, isn’t only old (he is now in his early 80’s) he is also now isolated from Buhari thanks to Kyari….
“There is a yawning, potentially disorienting power vacuum in the presidential villa now, which actually emerged really visibly since Kyari went out of circulation before his eventual death.
“Watch out for Aisha Buhari to assert herself more aggressively and to work to grab power in the fashion that Turai Yar’adua did. In fact, she already started this the moment Kyari took ill.
“One of the first things Aisha did was to cause Jalal Arabi, Permanent Secretary of the State House and Kyari’s dutiful protege, to be redeployed from the Villa.
“The remnants of the cabal will, of course, fight back. But the fight between Aisha and members of the cabal, who are merely Kyari’s proteges, would be a fight in the dark because Buhari who is supposed to intervene is an insentient being who’s barely aware he’s alive.
“The in-fighting will create noticeable cracks in the Buhari group that Osinbajo, Tinubu, and other interest groups would exploit to feather their nests and advance their interests. In other words, in the coming days and months, expect the cessation of any pretense to governance and an unprecedentedly factious, dog-eat-dog, recriminatory fight between competing power blocs.”
In 2021 journalists should not help in the cover-up of Buhari’s dementia
If Nigerian journalists do their job and properly attribute stories to Buhari’s spokesmen—and to ministers and heads of government agencies— instead of to “Buhari,” Buhari’s dementia-inspired physical and symbolic absence from governance would be dramatized, and perhaps Nigerians can appreciate the depth of his disaffiliation from the country.
Buhari NEVER says or does most of the things that are often attributed to him. He doesn’t even know about the deaths he is always quoted as condemning or being shocked about—or about the appointments he is often alleged to make or terminate.
For instance, according to Jaafar Jaafar, publisher of the Daily Nigerian, Buhari was made aware of Sam Nda-Isaiah’s death only when he read Femi Adesina’s press statement in the newspapers where Buhari was reported to have commiserated with Nda-Isaiah’s family!
Headline casters should adopt the universal journalistic practice of news attribution by attributing stories to people who actually originate them.
Examples: “Spokesman says Buhari condemned killings in Zamfara,” “Minister says Buhari fired NDDC board,” “Spokesman says Buhari shocked by kidnap of schoolchildren,” “Buhari’s Twitter handle says Nigeria will rebound,” etc.
Don’t attribute anything to Buhari unless you actually see him saying or doing it. Maybe a memo with his signature can be attributed to him. Note, however, that his signature is often manipulated or forged by dodgy aides.
That’s the only way to dramatize the absurdity of a “president” who never talks directly to citizens, who never grants interviews to journalists, who never addresses news conferences, who never gives live broadcasts even in momentous moments, who is perpetually babysat and mollycoddled like a toddler, and who physically and metaphorically picks his teeth while the country he supposedly presides over burns and falls apart.
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