Sometimes, the pen is reluctant to write, not because there is nothing to say – for there is always something to say – but because of the relationship one has with the subject of discussion. This is natural. Our default setting as animals is to support ours and care less about others.
Civilization contrarily makes the painful demand that we abide by the rules even if it could be against the personal interest of “ourselves or of parents and close relatives.” The few times we answer such a call, we do so with an understandable reluctance, for the body is more a slave of nature than a servant of the intellect.
It is with such reluctance that I will ever write on my friend, Abba Kyari. I knew him first in The Buhari Organization in 2002 and we have since maintained a cordial relationship. If there is anything of public interest in my discourse, Abba will surely engage and even contribute to assuage the public demand I would raise. Abba is the ONLY person in this government that I can reach out to on the plight of victims of one atrocity or another.
Abba will answer the call or return it whenever he can but would never neglect it. He will text message and engage in long Whatsapp chat on any matter of public interest despite his tight schedule. And if there is a matter that requires my contribution, he will call me. You may have a different opinion of him but to me, I cannot have a better friend in the corridors of power than him. Only Amina Az-Zubair could match him.
I do not know about his response to appointment and contract seekers. However, on community matters that are the only basis of our association, Abba is unbeatable. He will not only answer the call, listen and promise but also take immediate action, mostly by linking up with the head of the relevant department instantly. For example, his effort in making sure that the victims of Mambilla get the required relief materials timely was exemplary just as was his material support for the 2012 Jos flood victims. Many sent in their donations, but none was even halfway to his.
Today, this Abba is under public scrutiny on a contract deal in the Presidency. It is one of the hazards of public office which officials in this country can easily slip into. The facts are already there in the public domain. The latest is that VOA Hausa Service has taken it to the grassroots level in its program ciki da gaskiya.
Having gone through the submissions of the complainants that include the brutal handling and detention of a DSP, it is with sadness that I foresee the fall of Abba as we all saw that of Femi Adeosun. On fighting corruption, the government has invested so much political capital, made so many claims and now demanding reward in 2019. When push comes to shove, it must be ready to sacrifice any official in such a glaring matter than add oxygen to the fire of its opponents.
By his nature, the President is deliberate on issues that relate to his appointees and close associates because he is born shy and kind-hearted. As I once said in the early days of the administration, every appointee must understand that he will be on his own as the President will never come to the defence of anyone found wanting. He will rather leave the matter to linger until public pressure pulls down the curtain in the face of the affected official. In the extreme, like in the case of Babachir, he would reluctantly submit to the verdict of a constitutional body. I believe, the conscience of Abba will not allow the matter to reach that extent before doing the needful.
The effort of the Presidency to protect Abba will only worsen the matter. Silence in a glaring case like this one, is golden, as in the case of Adeosun. If it must say anything, the Presidency must be straight and honest, otherwise, at every turn of the spin, the doctors will be damaging the image of the President more severely than protecting his subordinate. Any candid friend of Abba and the President would rather advise the former to follow Adeosun’s hard but honorable steps and exit quietly, voluntarily, quickly. Sometimes we are forced by circumstance to respond decisively regardless of the outcome, so long as the choice we make is honourable. Abba is at that station, where Kemi was, and so was Brutus in Julius Caesar:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
The exit of Abba will create a serious vacuum: the absence of a strong lieutenant close to the President. On all occasions when Abba came under public criticism as one of those preventing the President from performing, I have always said that a strong person like him is needed close to the shy principal, someone who can block the thousands of schemes that would rather destroy the presidency in few months.
Buhari will always need an Idiagbon or a Salihijo close to him. It is the law of power. We may find Abba guilty of a corrupt practice, whose purpose may still be in the interest of the regime, odd as it sounds, yes, but we cannot dismiss his competence in shielding the President on many fronts. This point must be noted when appointing the next Chief of Staff; otherwise, my assertion on the vulnerability of the President will be proven right
Yes. If Abba would go, his absence will be felt by the President. Friends like me will lose him in that position too. Two days ago, I received a distress call from some victims. I would have rushed to forward the complaint to Abba as usual perchance the victims find some respite. Instead, I sadly replied that there is nothing I could do. Such vulnerable communities will certainly lose a listening ear up there too. May God be with them in their dark, lonely days.
The reader may not be impressed with my submission today. If he understands my veneration for Abba, he would forgive the mild tone of its composition. Rather than tread the inglorious path of manufacturing excuses that has become common among apologetics of this government, I preferred to express the melancholy of bidding farewell the ear that chose to listen and the heart that was always ready to share in the sorrow of victims who only very few of their own were ready to sympathize with. My pen may not be strong to defend the wrong committed by the man who embodies that listening ear and that sympathetic heart, but, surely, neither is it be found wanting in celebrating his good effort.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
17 September 2018