Abba Kyari, CFR, OON! Remember him? Kyari was the Chief of Staff (CoS) to former President Muhammadu Buhari. Born on September 23, 1952, he served in that prestigious position between August 2015 and April 2020.
While in office, little was actually known about Kyari in the public realm. Unfortunately too, his name actually symbolized an uncanny error of namesake. The Borno State-born lawyer and banker shared a name with somebody who once had a favourable public perception, until Satan smiled; and the ‘super cop’ lost it!
Kyari died on April 17, 2020, following complications from COVID-19.
In the case of the former President Buhari’s top aide, there’s no doubt that the man saw it all and had it all! However, going by media reports after his demise, Kyari was a highly misunderstood and misrepresented person. As a matter of fact, everything about him was misrepresented in the Nigerian space, even beyond. Even his friends and acquaintances who posthumously were trying to outshine one another in their tributes to the dead did not help matters. It was Geoffrey Onyeama who tried to bail him out. However, had he put together, say, a beautiful piece to set the record straight while his friend was alive, Kyari would have secured respite from the deluge of negative impressions hanging on his neck at the time. Had he and others alike done at least one quarter of what they did after his death, maybe the depiction would have been different.
From observation, Kyari died with his brilliance unacknowledged in Nigeria’s sociopolitical space; and that was painful. He had a trumpet but he refused to blow it. He refused to announce his achievements to the world and he paid dearly for it. That he allowed “false allegations” and “all the defamations” to have their way while his sojourn on earth lasted was not a sign of strength, more so as his silence was misconstrued for consent. Wherever the late legal luminary is now chanced to wander, he’s most likely to be regretting his inability to dispute some negative comments when opportunities presented themselves. After all, there’s no repentance in the grave!
In human organizations, madness and humanity go hand-in-hand. While what happened to the late CoS was an unforgivable error, that the Nigerian press also failed to do some digging deep into his life to avoid misinforming the public is no longer news; and it’s something that should make the Fourth Estate sad. Kyari was so erroneously portrayed that, even if the angels had seen him, they’d just have condemned him to hellfire. The more reason the media owes it a duty to watch it and do a thorough job before putting pen to paper. It’s not a bad thing to paint a man black. It’s also not that it’s wrong to be black; only that the media has to be sure that what it is putting out for public consumption constantly swims in the river of truth. This is because the masses depend on what it pushes out to them. But if it is writing errors, they become errors that are ‘very errorian’; and that becomes a problem! Abba Kyari was a victim during his time. Who knows whose turn it will be tomorrow? Unfortunately, many Nigerians who have also heard that Kyari was a bad man might have even died; and they went away with that sad impression!
Kyari’s final journey from Mother Earth has taught us many lessons. A couple who tied the nuptial knot in the presence of only the priest and the matchmaker will not be crucified for not inviting more people as guests. Likewise, a man who’s also vowed that it’s the president who must preside at his wedding reception can now see that nature has its way of enforcing its laws. Indeed, that only few people attended Kyari’s internment in an age of COVID-19 rage did not make it less of a burial. After all, he who buried his father with only 8 people present at his graveside has buried his father; and the man has gone! Most importantly, if we have less of ‘owambe’ fanfares accompanying social functions, maybe the make-it-by-force struggles which now define our world will become subdued.
Like the Abba Kyari in all of us, people say, ‘let me not talk about what I am doing or my achievements’. But what’s wrong with it, especially, when what they are doing is right? Since nobody will do it for them, why don’t they blow it for the future to judge them right or wrong? Why not blow the trumpet so that issues can be put in proper perspectives, even after they are long gone?
Without doubt, those who remember Abba Kyari from their personal perspectives will read meanings to this write-up. Those who didn’t know him might be wondering why it’s so important for yours sincerely to bring him back while perception-compliant Nigerians will understand that this intervention is about ‘one blowing one’s trumpet’, especially when one’s trumpet is good and enhanced, and it’s in one’s hand. Take it or leave it, we live in a society that doesn’t help anybody! Even when one has lofty goals and objectives, it still gives one sandbags that constrain one.
A Yoruba proverb says: ‘Bi omode ba subu, a wo iwaju. Bi agba ba subu, a wo ehin wo’ (Upon falling, a youngster looks ahead (for help), an elder looks back (for the cause). Well, the problem with looking down is that it is deliberate. It is also decisive to look up because changing position to look down is a big trouble. In our fated clime, everybody is just following trends. But nothing is as frustrating as trends. Contrary to thoughts that nothing seems to be working, the truth is that Nigerian society is loaded but no one knows the direction in which things are tilting. When circumstances take their toll, they reduce a perfect man to a man of yesterday. Of course, such a situation cannot but saddle one with sober reflections. But the reality of sober reflections is that they tell one the truth about oneself. They reduce one to one’s original self even as they don’t give room for falsehood. Instead, they make something that’s so big become so small which, in any case, is not a crime.
Beyond partisan considerations, government and governance in a democracy are the products of the consent of the governed. However, democracy is like dictatorship; it also has its inconsistencies. For instance, I have argued elsewhere that former President Olusegun Obasanjo would always want to take Nigerians through how many sheep and cows he left behind when he was relinquishing power to his choice of successor in 1979. He would want to entertain us with how he met not only a treasury riddled with the bullets of debts but also task our tolerance with the miracle of debt forgiveness during his second coming. Unfortunately, the former president has never for once made the mistake of either telling Nigerians the shape of the burden of debt he handed over to the former President Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1979, or the size of the estacodes and accompanying expenses the taxpaying Nigerians had to carry on behalf of our debt-cancellation seekers who practically turned the airspace into their offices, post 1999. This is in addition to the hymns of the loots repatriation without the accompanying stanzas of their judicious use. That’s how successive leaders have been faring in office; and it’s a shame!
Abba Kyari attempted to be different but, again, this is Nigeria!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, continue to rest Abba Kyari’s soul!
*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)