By Segun Awoniyi
Cabals exist everywhere and at all levels of authority, tiers of government, organizational administration even at community levels. Bad commentaries and pouring invectives on the leadership at any level are to say the least, denigrating, demoralising and demotivating. A king or monarch without a “stonewall or bulwark’’ mounted by trusted servants, aides or officials is vulnerable to attacks and all kinds of assault.
Cabals hold sway at palaces as the king is naturally protected against direct assaults and verbal duels. Even when his majesty is seated, the Prime Minister and any other authorised spokesperson speaks on his behalf and takes the heat or backlashes.
To see the king and going by the set up at the palaces, one has to go through the several levels of gate-keeping authorities for clearance, security checks and approvals and that is why security breaches are a rarity at that level.
In big companies, conglomerates, organisations, associations and business empires because some level of politics is involved in decision-making and to give teeth to the executive orders, “cabals’’ in the form of Executive Management, Boards or Committees do exist. It is commonplace to hear at that level that the “MD/CEO says or approves so and so.’’
In governance, aides appointed by the helmsman and Chief Executive are trusted and tested, who must be of phlegmatic temperament and are willing and ready to carry out tasks to the letter with the appointor’s stamp of authority. The aide(s) must be disingenuous, plucky, calm, upbeat and well-informed about developments, ready to ward off any gale-force, fend off cooked up allegations, throw life-belt to floundering issues in consultation with his Principal.
Experientially, serving and past governors all have powerful aides with some of them later becoming governors, ministers and ambassadors. One of such is the Chief of Staff position. If the head of the cabal or kitchen cabinet had not mastered the state craft with a pedigree of astuteness, master-organizer/planner and tactician, he will stand no chance of being entrusted with power.
In Nigeria today, the man in the saddle and calls the shot at the nation’s seat of power is Abba Kyari,who was appointed to that office on August 27, 2015.
Alhaji Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Cambridge and the University of Warwick in Law and Sociology. He has worked with the New Nigeria Development Company, New Africa Holdings, African International Bank, United Bank for Africa, Unilever, and Mobil in various capacities over the years.
Kyari, a lawyer and public administrator par excellence is not a push-over and in the eye of the public and from people’s assessment, has a lot of political and administrative savvy, aversion to media publicity, pulling himself always by his bootstraps, unperturbed, giving little or no attention to the hubbub (noises or distractions) from the “market’’, still full of energy at his age, highly circumspect like his Principal.
Without being immodest, those giving Kyari bashing and calling him names such as the head of a cabal at Presidency are either ignorant of his duties and roles as the head of the presidential staff and the president’s closest aide or are mischievous. For the purpose of education, the word “cabal’’ (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) is suggestive of a “ small group of people who make secret plans, especially in order to have political power.’’
Such plans, inter alia, are political, administrative, economic, social, security etc for the smooth and effective coordination of the Presidency and governance.
The structure and organization of American Presidency is apposite. The presidency is really a group of organizations rather than an individual person. The President is the Chief of State as well as the Chief Executive Officer, representing the country in its relationship with other nations even as Chief diplomat as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
With the enormousness of his powers, duties, influence and relevance, the president, therefore, needs a “strong’’ aide in the capacity of the Chief of Staff to assist him in enhancing his capacity to deliver and discharge his gargantuan functions as president. There is no gainsaying that the President is expected to fill the position with somebody with political support, loyalty and acumen who, of course, is also sympathetic to his administration’s aims, objectives and policies.
In U.S. where we borrowed our model of presidency from, the White House consists of hundreds of people who are the president’s personal staff, trusted and loyal; most of whom are his friends or former employees. However in Nigeria, the sponsored hue and cry, huffing and campaign of calumny about Abba Kyari is probably as a result of his stature, enigmatic expressions and unwavering loyalty to Mr President.
He is passionate about the President to succeed, the wheel of governance to run smoothly devoid of the 2023 succession battle barely four months into Buhari’s second tenure. Kyari brands such distractions as a disservice to the electorate and Mr President. He is equally averse to the use of state resources by the President’s appointees to prosecute the 2023 polls, still more than three and a half years away.
Kyari’s forte is delivering next level good governance, bequeathing a legal of electoral reform and non-imposition of candidates or “anointing’’ a successor – wants a divine arrangement; zero tolerance for graft and malfeasance in government.
Observably since the return of Nigeria to full-blown democracy in 1999, Kyari, no doubts, has emerged the most powerful and effective Chief of Staff in Aso Rock. In politics anywhere in the world, it is trendy to hear of “demolition job’’, that is, opposition and some senior party leaders, who have an agenda to set out to do a “demolition job’’ either on the President and or the Chief of Staff.
The goal is simple: Get rid of the hard-wired CoS, the president’s master-shield and pare down or whittle down the president’s influence, powers, or the strong presidency, compromise and take advantage of its vulnerability as well as plant their own cabal to actualise the dream (2023).
Recounting our rich political history, the great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, by the strength of character of his “cabal’’ at that time (trusted aides) – Ex-Govs. Adekunle Ajasin, Bola Ige, Lateef Jakande, Ambrose Alli, Bisi Onabanjo, Profs. Banji Akintoye, Bamiro etc) was able to successfully implement the free and qualitative education in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, the first in Africa and even before our colonisers, Britain introduced free education.
A weak presidency with lily-livered aides is synonymous to a floundering presidency and government, while a strong presidency with men of courage and sangfroid will translate to a strong, effective and stable polity. A masquerade without the man behind the masquerader is nothing but a mere costume. Only the guilty and those that Prof. Wole Soyinka referred to as “corruption fighting back’’ and those positioning themselves so soon after the 2019 elections for the 2023 presidential race, are afraid of an uncompromising and imperturbable CoS Abba Kyari.
President Muhammadu Buhari should not push the panic button or allow himself to be stampeded into tinkering with the configuration at the power centre in the Presidency, else the “stonewall’’ will be broken down and flung open to those on the fray for rough and tumble of politics – ultimately to take over power with deftness in 2023 thereby destroying the gains and legacies of eight years of Buhari Presidency.
The sardonic comments about the person and office of the Chief of Staff are unsavoury and to say the least, a salutary experience in public service. The Office of the Chief of Staff is strategic and remains the fulcrum of the nation’s Presidency and only a trusted, tested and experienced administrator can fit into it.
Mr. Awoniyi, is a novelist and political commentator