Insults mean nothing to me. They only fuel my resolve and strengthen my determination. They are like water off a duck’s back and neither can they deter me from speaking my mind on any pressing or burning issue, no matter how unpopular my position may be.
Those that do not have the prescence of mind or the discipline to read beyond three lines or that are so filled with hate and blighted by ignorance that it has beclouded their better judgement should not bother attempting to read this contribution.
For those that are interested in knowing the truth and in actually learning something about a man that was as maligned, misrepresented and misunderstood as I have been over the years, please go ahead and do me the honour of reading it. Whichever way, it takes absolutely nothing from me.
Yesterday, I paid tribute to my friend and brother, Mallam Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, who passed on after being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday, April 17, 2020. The tweet reads as follows: “I lost a friend of 40 years. We were at Cambridge together. We worked in my father’s law firm together. We remained close throughout right up until the end even though we disagreed politically. ABBA was a good man. A man of honour and a loyal friend. May his soul rest in peace.”
Sadly, it appears that some have a problem with my tribute and have lost all sense of decency and humanity. Someone DIED and you are now suggesting that it is wrong for those of us that knew him better than you to say a good word about him? This is an accomplished man who was a lawyer, a banker, a journalist, a businessman and a loyal friend before he even joined government in 2015. This is a man with children, a wife, an extended family and many dependants that he left behind. This is a man that has been a blessing to his community and that has been housing, feeding and paying for the education of thousands of students at University of Maiduguri and offering scholarships to so many young people since 2001.
All this, yet you say that those of us that knew him must not mourn him. Some even went as far as to ask how dare I say he was a “good man,” forgetting that if he had been anything less I would have been the first to expose and attack him. I forgive those that have attacked me for their ignorance and I stand by my words. If they do not like those words, they can simply go and jump in the lagoon. They like me when I attack government but they hate me when I say one good thing about a government official who I have known for over 40 years? What a joke! Yet the truth is that I do not care one way or the other and neither do I seek anyone’s approval or validation. I will attack anoyone that I believe has done wrong, whether in the ranks of government or the opposition, and I will commend those that I believe have done their best in either of the two.
The truth is that, when it comes to the gathering of information and acquisition of knowledge and what is really going on behind closed doors in this country, I know far more than virtually all of my traducers because I have access to people and places that most of them can only dream about. Yet, even if I didn’t, common decency alone should constrain them to at least let those of us that have a certain degree of decency and humanity left in our persona to express our condolences in peace and not choose our words for us or be subjected to vulgar abuse, intolerable rantings and long and uncontrollable diatribes from a clearly diseased mind.
To you I say the following. If you don’t like my views about Kyari, you can simply go to hell. I do not give a fig. I would, however, advise you to fear God and know that even He does not take pleasure in the death of those He created and only He can judge each and every one of us.
Yet, for the record, let us look at a few of the facts. A former Head of State would have been put under house arrest in 2018, a former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence would have been arrested in 2018, a former National Security Advisor and a well known online publisher would have still been in detention today and many MORE people would have been detained and killed had it not been for the efforts and moderating influence of this man whose untimely death some irresponsible people are celebrating today. I know all this and about each case because I was involved. Once that man gave his word on any issue he always honoured it to the point that even the reactionaries and hardliners in the government he served wanted to discredit him, implicate him, get rid of him and even kill him.
Let me give you two examples. He promised the governors of the East that he would get adequate funding for Enugu Airport and he did. He also promised to ensure that good progress would be made on the Second Niger Bridge and it was. I can tell you that, had it not been for his efforts and the efforts of particularly Governor Umahi of Ebonyi and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, it would have been next to impossible to get adequate funding for the two.
I can also tell you that when the police, with elements of the military, attacked and killed IPOB youths and literally burnt down half of Oraifite in Anambra State, the hometown of my friend and IPOB lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Abba, in collaboration with Umahi and Ugwuanyi, was instrumental in putting a stop to it. I know because I was involved and I asked them all to intervene. On that occassion, they saved lives and I can bear witness to that. So can Ejiofor.
There is so much more that I could add but I will go no further for now because it was not Abba’s desire or intention to be praised or publicly acknowledged for his good deeds. He neither craved public validation or acclaim.
People forget that the buck for the things the Federal Government does not stop at the desk of the President’s Chief of Staff but at the desk of the President. He takes full credit for the good things and he must also take the full blame for the bad. Abba was merely an official, albeit a very senior and influential one: he was not the leader of the cabal or the de facto President that many claimed that he was.
Despite that he was quite happy to be labelled as this government’s “Dark Angel” and “fall guy,” even though both tags were totally inaccurate and inappropriate, he was also quite prepared to take the blame for every evil under the sun simply because he was deeply loyal to the President. Never mind that much of the time he was fighting off those in the government who hated his guts and who saw him as a stumbling block to gaining unmerited favour with the President or to their thieving ways.
I know every single one of them and at the appropriate time I will expose them for what they are. Abba was far better than them: far more wholesome and far more decent. He was a gentleman who, though, in my view, was on the wrong side of the political divide, remained a gentleman nevertheless. I found it inexplicable and difficult to accept that a man that was as sophisticated, cosmopolitan, enlightened and intelligent as Abba was could work for a government and be Chief of Staff in a Presidency that was the most sectional and religiously biased in the history of Nigeria and I often told him this. We had many heated discussions and lively debates on this and other issues. His defence was that he believed in Buhari and that he chose to be loyal to him and I respected that. He often reminded me of the days in which I was at the Villa when I stood by President Olusegun Obasanjo, no matter what. He said that even though he was with Buhari throughout that time and was opposed to Obasanjo, we still remained friends and that we ought to remain friends now that the tables had turned and he and his principal were in power.
This was sound logic and it made sense. Only a fool does not appreciate the fact that true friendship transcends politics and that you take your friends, warts and all, even when, in your view, they may have made the wrong political choices. He felt that I made the wrong choice and chose the wrong path just as I felt that he did, but we never for one moment felt that our friendship should or would end because of that. After all, we were not just friends but we were brothers.
I have been in the frontline of the opposition and resistance since 2015 and no one has fought or risked as much against this government as I have done. I have been detained, maligned, insulted, subjected to psychological torture, misrepresented, falsely and wrongly accused, financially crippled and, worse of all, I have lost some members of my family and friends because of them. They have taken literally everything from me and have destroyed the country that I have always loved and seen as my own. All of this I have suffered without ever complaining or lamenting, leaving my fate and that of my family and loved ones to God.
I have nothing to gain and no reason to sugar-coat anyone in the Buhari administration, but let me tell you loudly and clearly that now that the man you all loved to hate and malign has gone, you will see the true meaning of tyranny and a totalitarian government because we will no longer have a moderate to run to when innocent men and women are being incarcerated, killed or tormented. We will no longer have anyone to complain to about the excesses and sheer brutality of some of the security and intelligence officials. We will no longer have someone to run to when terrible things are being done that even the President is not aware of.
Continue to celebrate his death because you are ignorant and uninformed. When the real monster arrives and rises up, that is when your eyes will clear and you will wish that the one you hated was still alive and in power.
Permit me to conclude this contribution with the following. Canelo Gypsy King, one of my numerous young friends on Facebook, wrote the following to me after seeing my interview on television about Abba. He was obviously very upset by my generous and charitable words about a man who he perceived as being pure evil and who he believed ought to have been categorised as an enemy of humanity and the tormentor-in-chief of the Nigerian people.
He wrote: “When Boko Haram members were killing men and children in thousands, raping women in large proportions, killing and shooting Biafra citizens, Shiites members and those who oppose his government, did Abba Kyari speak up? Did he call for the service chiefs to resign? Did he visit those who died? When Buhari deliberately and intentionally borrowed predatory loans from foreign nations to further plunge Nigerian into insurmountable debt, did Abba speak up? How about the billions of naira that were allocated to upgrade Aso Rock Clinic that went missing? Did he speak up?
“When Buhari failed to address the nation every month for years, did Abba speak up? Did he ever speak up when the nation was financially pillaged by these evil government officials? Do you know how many thousands of Nigerians are dying every month due to the wicked and heartless intentions of these beasts and Frankenstein monsters? Even, if he did not speak up, did he resign? Truth to be told whatever a man sows he shall reap.”
My response to him was as follows: “If only you knew how many lives he saved. If only you knew how he at least attempted to build bridges between Christians and Muslims and between northerners and southerners behind closed doors. If only you knew how hard he fought to ensure that the war against terror was properly waged. If only you knew the forces that opposed his moderate stand from within. If only you knew how much he was hated by some very key members of the Buhari administration who envied him and who felt that had it not been for him they could have pillaged the treasury far more than they were already doing and created even more enemies for the President than he already had.
“If only you knew that most of the rubbish being written in the media about him was being sponsored and spread to a gullible public by key members of the Buhari administrstion who were trying to discredit him and get the Presideht to fire him.”
Simply put, had it not been for him, many more lives would have been lost in the war against terror and many more people would have been killed by Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen. Some say he was the leader of the cabal. This is a cabal in which seasoned and skillful old war horses and elderly and ancient northern political veterans and warriors that were far older and more experienced than him are members of; a cabal that has been in existence and in power since the 1980s when he was still at university? This does not make sense. He was a powerful Chief of Staff but he was far from being head of the cabal or being de facto President. That much I can assure you.
If it had been any different, many of those that were still in office at the time of his death would not have been there anymore because he would have fired them long ago. God alone sees the heart and knows who is who. Let Him be the judge and let Him call each and every one of us to account for our deeds and misdeeds.
It is not for me or anyone else to judge Kyari and it is not for anyone else to judge me or to judge you. The only thing that is certain is the following: for our good deeds we shall be rewarded in the afterlife and for our bad ones we shall suffer. That applies to us all and, as the Bible says, “Let he that is free of sin throw the first stone.”
For my friend and adversary Abba, I only have this to say: “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice…How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! How are the mighty fallen and the weapons of war perished!” (2 Samuel 1 20:24).
You served your nation and your principal to the best of your ability and I am proud of the dignity and nobility you displayed throughout your life.
Rest in peace, my brother, and pray for Nigeria and those of us you left behind.
•Fani-Kayode is former Minister of Aviation