I thank my friend who sent this to me.
In my country, those who read you believe you are right only if you write what they want to read.
If the point you make is different from theirs, they will say you have been bribed to write what you just wrote. If you are the type they know cannot be bribed to say anything, then they say you are just stupid.
I do not know Mr. Abba Kyari beyond what those who write stories about everybody in high political office say and whose accounts usually become the public perception of their subject matter.
When, at about 10pm on April 17, 2020, just two days ago, an innocuous post came to say Mr. Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, had died, my feeling was the usual ‘ooh! May his soul rest in peace’. But then something pushed me to investigate the veracity of the information before believing it. So, I combed Google and later, Wikipedia which said he died on April 17, 2020. I read through the entire profile and I did not see a date of birth. I got all I needed already since he was confirmed dead, and on April 17, 2020. So promptly updated is Wikipedia that it has been my companion for knowing what the truth on a few issues is. I screenshot the page and forwarded it to my friend as evidence that the guy had died.
April 17, 2020, 10pm
Then I started combing to find Abba Kyari’s date of birth. Nothing revealed any date. In fact, the best believable guess had one thing or the other in Abba Kyari’s resume to belie its correctness. I then concluded that the Abba Kyari man must be one person, probably younger than me, who has successfully hidden his date of birth from the world. Then I shifted to thinking of what would make a person so perfect in hiding his age. And for what benefit!
Then I slept off at about midnight after reading Femi Adesina’s Press Release on Abba Kyari’s passing.
The following day the media went all out, everyone mentioning either his age or his date of birth and all using one of three different information. Later, President Buhari’s message was out to, carefully, include 67 years as the deceased’s age.
When, later, I went back to Wikipedia to check, it had been updated using PMB’s version of the unknown information. By then so many things had changed on the page. Even his photograph which was not there had now been posted and his date of birth had been included. Waoh!!!
April 18, 2020, 3pm
It is good to have an account of who anybody is by what those who know him closely say. A gentleman, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs has, a good account. Please enjoy it.
TRIBUTE TO KYARI: THE BEST MAN
Geoffrey Onyeama April 19, 2020.
I first met Abba Kyari in 1977 at Warwick University in England. I had gone there to do law as a second first degree. He had come to do a degree in sociology. I had a pending application to do Law at Cambridge and when the result of that application came and it was positive, I left Warwick during the second semester.
But my five months at Warwick was enough to build a strong friendship with Abba that lasted till his passing. Almost 43 years!
There was a small group of Nigerians at Warwick then, which included former President Yakubu Gowon (who was doing a PhD in Political Science) ; Senator Osereihmi Osunbor (former Senator and Governor); Sitonye Roy Wakama (former Deputy Inspector General of Police) and the lawyer, Desmond Guobadia.
There were a few other Nigerians.
Abba was quite skinny in those days! We became friends very quickly and a life-long bond was formed.
Abba was very simple and humble. He was also very friendly with everyone. He had very little interest in material things. We had a common interest in politics and I believe it was our socialist political values that cemented our friendship because we were always discussing politics and how to salvage Nigeria right up to his passing.
Abba was also surprisingly sociable for someone who was so self-effacing and we
had a lot of enjoyable and memorable experiences at parties and discotheques! Abba also had a very good sense of humour belied by his often-stern visage.
When I left Warwick University for Cambridge, Abba came to Cambridge to introduce me to his friends there as he had studied in the city for his Advanced levels. After graduating from Warwick University, Abba went up to Cambridge to study law. We kept in touch throughout the last 43 years. We ended up together in Lagos in 1982 to attend Law School for a year. When I left Nigeria in 1985 to work in Geneva for 30 years Abba came to Geneva often to stay with me and whenever I was in Nigeria, he made it a point of coming to see me wherever I was.
When I got married in Owo to my wife from Idoani, Ondo State, Abba was my Best-Man. The officiating Vicar was somewhat perplexed because I was a Roman Catholic Igbo, marrying an Anglican Yoruba in an Anglican church with a Muslim Kanuri/Shuwa Arab Best-Man from Borno State!
The officiating Catholic priest in Geneva, Switzerland, two years later, during the baptism of our first son, was equally perplexed when a Muslim Abba Kyari and a Muslim Muni Attah-Sonibare were the Godfather and Godmother respectively! Abba was a Pan-Nigerian, global citizen, who recognized no boundaries between peoples, be they racial, ethnic, religious, class or political. He made friends with everyone.
Abba was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Absolutely incorruptible! I remember after he got married to his wonderful wife, Kulu, he told me how he showed her his first paycheck so she would know that he was not wealthy and would not steal!
It broke my heart to see all the false allegations against him on issues of corruption. He showed me the safe in his office where he put any unsolicited gift.
I remember asking him about the rumours making the rounds that he was making money from the fine imposed on MTN. He immediately showed me the memorandum setting up the Committee to deal with the issue and he was not even a member. He also showed me how he had been able to block attempts by many influential and powerful persons to make a lot of money at the expense of the country. He knew that fighting corruption with such single mindedness and fearlessness would see him at the receiving end of the venom of very powerful forces but was undeterred and preferred to ignore all the defamation against him.
Abba was loyal to a fault. He decided he was going to protect his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, at all costs and would take any number of bullets for him. And he did!
Since he became Chief of Staff to the President, Abba never rested. He worked day and night, seven days a week. He was a hard taskmaster who did not suffer fools gladly. A very demanding boss. He gave a lot of himself and expected his subordinates and colleagues to do the same.
He was very intelligent, very well-read and had a wide and varied professional experience. He held strong opinions and did not yield position easily. But once he believed in someone or a cause, he would fight with everything he had.
Abba believed completely in the Nigerian project and believed completely in President Muhammadu Buhari. During the last five years he gave every second of his life for the success of both. His health suffered as a result, but it was a sacrifice and investment he was happy to make. Nigerians will look back in years to come and see that he was truly the Best Man.
Rest in Peace my brother.