Death came calling for President Muhammadu Buhari’s powerful Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, on Friday, after weeks of battling the deadly coronavirus which has claimed thousands of lives across the globe.
Mr Kyari’s death was announced by the presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in the early hours of Saturday.
Mr Kyari tested positive for coronavirus and subsequently moved to a private medical facility in Lagos for treatment.
In a March 29 statement, Mr Kyari said his health was improving and urged Nigerians to remain calm about his situation and keep a hygienic lifestyle to avoid contracting the virus.
Mr Kyari, from Borno State, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Warwick in 1980 before bagging a degree in Law from University of Cambridge. He was called to the Nigerian Bar after attending the Nigerian Law School in 1983.
He returned to University of Cambridge where he obtained a master’s degree in Law in 1984.
He also attended the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, and participated in the Programme for Management Development at the Harvard Business School, in 1992 and 1994, respectively.
After his return to Nigeria, he worked at the Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo law firm, for a few years before becoming the Editor of New Africa Holdings Limited Kaduna between 1988 to 1990.
Immediately after he left his job as an editor in 1990, he was appointed Commissioner for Forestry and Animal Resources in Borno State.
He also served as the secretary to the board of African International Bank Limited, a subsidiary of Bank of Credit and Commerce International till 1995.
He later became the executive director in charge of management services at the United Bank for Africa, and was later appointed the chief executive officer. By 2002, he became a board director of Unilever Nigeria, and later served on the board of Exxon Mobil Nigeria until he was appointed by Mr Buhari.
He also served as Honorary Member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Investment in Nigeria between 2000 and 2005.
In August 2015, Mr Buhari appointed Mr Kyari as the Chief of Staff.
Powerful but controversial
His time in office was marred by different controversies even as many believed he worked mainly behind the scenes to implement the president’s agenda. At some point, he was seen as the de-facto president of Nigeria.
He was known to be one of the ‘cabal’ who always had the ears of the president alongside Mamman Daura, the president’s nephew. He often shared the blame and the credit attributed to Mr Buhari.
The wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, once accused him and others of hijacking the government.
In 2016, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, in a memo accused Mr Kyari and a sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, of being clueless.
“You appear to have neither a political adviser nor a minder of your politics. The two officials whose titles may enable them function as such generally alienate those that contributed to our success. The SGF is not only inexperienced in public service but is lacking in humility, insensitive and rude to virtually most of the party leaders, ministers and governors.
“The Chief of Staff is totally clueless about the APC and its internal politics at best as he was neither part of its formation nor a participant in the primaries, campaigns and elections. In summary, neither of them has the personality, experience and the reach to manage your politics, nationally or even regionally,” the governor wrote then.
Mr Kyari was also allegedly enmeshed in the MTN N500 million bribery scandal. While the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), fined the company $5 billion for a security related infraction, Mr Kyari was accused of collecting N500 million bribe to help cut down the fine. He denied the allegations.
Recently, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, accused Mr Kyari of ‘jumping’ into the affairs of the security of the nation. He warned all service chiefs to desist from taking further directives from the Chief of Staff without President Buhari’s knowledge.
“Chief of staff to the President is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country. As such, unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers are a violation of the Constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr President.
“Such acts and continued meddlesomeness by the chief of staff have not only ruptured our security and defence efforts, but have slowed down any meaningful gain that Mr. President has sought to achieve,” he said.
In 2017, the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, accused Mr Kyari of blocking him from seeing the president over matters relating to the ministry.
His daughter was also ‘secretly’ appointed as an assistant vice president at the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). Nigerians were riled that the position was never publicly advertised.
The most trending controversy was perhaps how Mr Kyari reportedly influenced the President to ‘discard’ Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s request for approval for funds to continue his role in resolving the deadly farmers-herdsmen crisis.
Mr Kyari was said to have approached the president with a similar proposal after ‘rubbishing’ Mr Osinbajo’s request before the president.
He was also allegedly involved in scrapping of the Economic Management Team (EMT) which Mr Osinbajo headed and this was replaced with the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).
Mr Buhari further strengthened the position of his ally when he warned that only memos that go through the late chief of staff would get his (Buhari) attention.
Mr Kyari was buried at a military cemetery in Abuja on Saturday.