From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, has described his boss as someone who rewards loyalty and who does not ‘use and dump’ his subordinates like regular politicians in the country.
Gambari said this at a reception held in the Presidential Villa to celebrate his 78th birthday, Thursday while responding to tributes paid to him by the State House leadership and his staff.
The Chief of Staff recalled how, along with Buhari, the nation’s then-military Head of State, he was overthrown in the military coup in August 1985. He also recalled how, after Buhari had been elected to serve the country’s second term as President, the same man had appointed him as the Chief of Staff.
Gambari said: “When I came on board, I said my job is simple – to give loyalty, competence and support and that’s why even when Mr. President sees me and calls Chief of Staff, I say yes sir; but the emphasis is on ‘Staff’ not on ‘Chief’ because there is only one Chief and that’s the President and our duty is to support him loyally and competently.
“When I was offered this job by the President, he brought out a picture that was taken in June 1985, it was at the OAU Summit. The then Head of State was sitting in the middle, and his then Chief Press Secretary, Wada Maida, to his right.
“And he said: ‘do you remember this picture? I said ‘No sir, but I remember the ocassion’. He said: ‘well, you were my Foreign Minister, we were kicked out of government in 1985, 35 years later, I find the opportunity to bring you back’.
“He said ‘we were interrupted then and I am bringing you back now to let you continue where we stopped’. I thanked him very much and I said can I have hold this picture so that I can make a copy? He said no, I kept mine, go and find yours.
“There are three reasons why I put that picture in front of my office. First, to return to the important point of departure; to show the kind of person our President is. He doesn’t forget those who have worked with him, who have served him loyally and in whom he has confidence. Some other people use and dump, not him.”
In a goodwill remark, Deputy Chief of Staff (Vice-President), Ade Ipaye, described Gambari as a renown diplomat with a large image and heart, who has “entirely fulfilled his promise” of running a joint administration of the presidency.
Describing his boss as a teacher, Ipaye said he had looked forward to working with Gambari, and learning from him, and “I have since not been disappointed for once”.
The State House Permanent Secretary, Tijani Umar, praised Gambari for keeping his promise to ensure a united presidency that crossed the offices of the President and the Vice-President without rival camps.
He described the Chief of Staff as a teacher and mentor, who has been quite approachable and responsive to concerns of the staff of the State House.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, noted that while others have their offices defining them, Gambari had defined himself before his appointment as Chief of Staff.
“He already had value before coming here, and was not coming to get value. He is now adding value to the Presidency. We have worked seamlessly together since your arrival here, and I appreciate that.
“I remember how, when you assumed office and at our first meeting, you simply asked me to see you as a senior uncle. You look good at 78 and we pray for God to give you more years in good health”, Adesina said.
There were also eulogies from Gambari’s staff, with the Senior Special Assistant on Administration and Operations, Ibrahim Dikko, thanking the chief of staff for “putting together a youthful team to work with and still giving us freedom of expression, and trusting us to deliver”.