Monday, May 4, 2020 10:10 am
Aisha, the eldest daughter of Malam Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, has written a moving tribute to her father.
In the tribute published on the backpage of ThisDay newspaper on Monday, Aisha revealed the passionate relationship between the late Chief of Staff who died on 17 April and his children as well as his five- year work as aide to President Muhammadu Buhari.
She also revealed that the deceased was particularly keen about the education of his children, revealing how his ( Abba Kyari’s) father took him to the UK at the age of nine for schooling.
Oddly, Aisha revealed that despite all his education and top positions he occupied, Kyari, who was appointed Buhari’s Chief of Staff after a ten- year career break, never learnt how to drive.
“Not many people reach the top of their career in the private sector, take a ten-year break and return at the top of the public sector in one lifetime.
“He was pretty fortunate and spectacular. Was he, really? This may sound odd but my beloved daddy couldn’t drive a car! He never learnt how to drive for a day in his entire life.
On his work as Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Aisha said: “My dad was highly principled. For nearly five years as Chief of Staff, he was the first to arrive and last to leave the office – seven days a week; and demanded the same from his staff. He had impeccable moral authority and the capacity to always focus on the greater public good over individual gain.
“Businessmen and politicians have been known to leave his office in shame or tears after having had their bribes refused. He was passionate about protecting poor Nigerians. He would say ‘any policy that does not benefit the vast majority of Nigerians – many of whom are poor – should not be considered a policy of government.’ For example, when increases in electricity tariffs were suggested, he sat through planning meetings – weekend after weekend – to ensure tariff increases were segregated and that the poorest Nigerians were protected.
“My dad was terribly misunderstood and arguably mischievously misrepresented. Even his age was never gotten right from the day he became Chief of staff till the day he died. My dad died at the age of 67. He was often mistaken for the late Brigadier Abba Kyari who was indeed in his 80’s.
“At this time of mourning, I should be holding things together for my family as I know my dad would expect me to, but I have instead found myself having to defend his memory against vile and malicious comments that have left me questioning the very humanity that should unite us all in difficult times.
“One of the books I found on his bookshelf by author Chris Whipple is ‘The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.” Like a huge part of Nigeria’s 1999 constitutional democracy, the concept of the ‘office of the Chief of Staff to the President,’ was also copied from the office of the President of the United States.
“A central theme of that book is that Chiefs of Staff are mostly never liked for numerous reasons: mainly due to access granted to the President and the lack of it. James A. Baker III, President Ronald Reagan’s long-serving Chief of Staff said: ‘The chief of staff usually walks around with a target painted on his front and on his back. Your job literally is to catch the javelins that are intended for the old man.’
“True to that statement, my dad as Chief of Staff was an accomplished javelin catcher. But he was also much more than that. He was also a lightning conductor, bomb-proof and bullet-proof vest combined. For many Nigerians, if waves from the Atlantic Ocean claimed an inch of Victoria Island, they were sent by Abba Kyari or if a child fell off his bicycle, it was Abba Kyari!
“My dad was fiercely loyal to his boss and refused to entertain ‘business as usual.’ He wanted to do the right thing. This meant he stepped on the toes of several people and in their fightback would smear his name in the media in the hopes that he would be pushed out of their way! Clearly, they had no knowledge or any understanding of the man. He usually knew exactly from whom the attacks came but that never got in his way of pursuing what he considered to be the right path.
“Like many others, I tried unsuccessfully to get him to respond to the more preposterous and spurious allegations but he never did. He refused to take on the character assassins. The only time he came close to responding was when I got personally attacked and he felt the need to defend me. You could attack him but not his family! He was ready to fight!
“For clarity, my dad was more than capable of defending himself. The reason he didn’t is that it would have distracted him from his primary assignment of serving his principal and by extension, his country.
“His passion was to help his principal modernise Nigeria’s infrastructure and grow the agricultural sector. In his office, hanging on the wall, are large framed renderings of the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano and Lagos-Ibadan Expressways; after decades of these projects being under development, he wanted to have them finally completed.
“With the President’s backing, he successfully fought to revive and build 34 existing and new fertiliser blending plants all across Nigeria – except in the northeast, where he was from, due to concerns of urea (a component of fertiliser) being supplied to terrorists to be used as bombs.
“My dad was a Shuwa-Arab man from Borno State and he saw far beyond religious and tribal divides. Most of his best friends were not even from the Northern part of the country nor were they Muslims. He had friends from all parts of the world and from different walks of life. His network was vast and wide; the tributes written since his passing can attest to that. He always dreamed and truly believed in one Nigeria.
“In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari said “Mallam Abba Kyari was the very best of us” and he truly was. Geoffrey Onyema, one of my dad’s best friends said in his tribute “Nigerians will look back in years to come and see that he was truly the Best Man”. No lies there, he truly was THE BEST MAN!
“When all is said and done, Daddy has only gone to meet his maker at the appointed time as we all shall. In the last two weeks, people have told me to be strong but it certainly feels like my source of strength is gone. Losing a father is hard, but having it happen on the world stage with everybody having a say and offering their opinion(some kind, others not) has been a completely different emotional rollercoaster. But I guess, he didn’t just belong to us his family. He belonged to Nigeria as well. This is something he often apologised for.
“Now to my dearest daddy, although you have gone the way of all flesh ahead of the rest of us, please take this message: Ammui, Nurudeen, Ibrahim, Zainab and I will do everything in our power to live by your example and carry on your legacy for as long as we live. I love you and miss you with every atom of my being.
“May Allah grant you the highest station in Jannah.
Read more here: My Daddy, My Best Friend