Tobby Anumaka, Patron Okpoko Igbo, a Pan Igbo socio-cultural organization and Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of a seasoned diplomat, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as his Chief of Staff, describing it as a bold step and opportunity to unite the country. In this interview, he spoke on various issues.
The appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari has been applauded, what difference do you think it will make?
Before now, you will agree with me that the insinuation was that there was a clique or cabal that were running the country on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari. Even the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari attested to that when she said that her husband has been hijacked by a cabal in the Presidential Villa. There are three key issues the new Chief of Staff must draw the President’s attention to. They include the fear of Islamisation of the country, Fulani herdsmen/farmers clash and alleged nepotism. These are the key issues that are at the verge of dividing the country and I urge Gambari as a matter of urgent national importance to draw the President’s attention to them. Today in Nigeria, people of the Southern section of the country are wondering what happens to Nigeria after Buhari’s exit in 2023. President Buhari as a person is not a tribalist; he is a nationalist, but many Nigerians are yet to see this in Buhari. This is what late Abba Kyari failed to correct that made most Nigerians perceive him as more powerful than the President and even in charge of the day to day running of the country. Gambari is grounded in International relations and skillful in how to promote national interest and if he fails to correct this impression, I tell you the perception will be the same and it will be bad not only for APC, it will be bad for the nation in 2023. However, I was elated just as millions of Nigerians including Igbo when the news broke that Gambari is now the new Chief of Staff to the President.
Hope you took into cognizance that Gambari is to report to the President and not to Nigerians because the President has Advisers whose duty it is to draw his attention to the issues you highlighted?
Yes, you are right. But the unfortunate thing about being an adviser to a leader is that, he may take your advice or reject it, no matter how beautiful your advice is. Let me buttress what I mean further, do you remember that at the inception of the second term of the present administration, President Buhari ordered all his appointees and aids to take instruction from Abba Kyari. What does that tell you? It means that the President listens to him more than the advisers you are talking about. The office of the Chief of Staff in our type of democracy is strong and powerful because he is the first person to see the President in the morning and the last person he sees at night before he goes to bed. He has the ears and attention of the President. How do you undermine such individual? The beauty of it all is that if you get a loyal Chief of Staff as a leader who knows his job and he who feels the pulse of the people, you will have a good government and leader. That is why President Buhari is yet to recover from the shock of the death of Kyari. Abba Kyari was good on his job and his loyalty to Mr. President is not in doubt, but like I said earlier, the only mistake Kyari made was not alerting the President about the danger of the three issues I highlighted above which tend to divide the country.
As a staunch member of APC, do you agree with some people that there are plans to Islamise Nigeria by this government?
My brother, that can never happen because of the way Nigeria is structured. What I’m relaying is the perception of average uninformed Nigerian especially some of my brothers and sisters in the South-East and other geo political zones in the South and Middle Belt. That is why it is important to tell the President that appointments should be evenly spread to avoid suspicion. That the President should have meeting with leaders of herdsmen and farmers in Aso Rock and hear directly from both sides and there he will understand where their differences lie. There and then, President Buhari will either resolve the matter or set up a committee to resolve the matter, but a situation whereby the President goes about as if nothing is happening creates suspicion. These are some of the things Gambari must do to unite the country.
Were you expecting President Buhari to pick an Igbo as Abba Kyari’s replacement?
Yes, that was my expectation and I think that was the wish of most Ndigbo at least to restore their confidence in the APC-led government. Be that as it may, the choice of Gambari is welcomed nationally and internationally because he has what it takes to run that office. I have always admonished my Igbo brothers and sisters, that politics is give and take; if you sow, you reap and if you don’t sow, you won’t reap. I don’t want to recall how Igbo voted in 2015 and 2019 which is responsible for what we have got so far in terms of appointments. In spite of that, I’m appealing to President Buhari to consider Igbo in future appointments.
The nation is living in a dangerous period of Corronavirus pandemic, do you foresee Nigeria coming up with a cure of Covid-19 soon or we may have to live with it for a long time?
I want to commend President Muhammadu Buhari for mobilizing all the nation’s arsenal within his reach to prevent the spread or if possible, eradicate Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria. Mr. President has shown that the security and welfare of Nigerians are paramount to him and his government. I want to use this medium also to commend the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and all the health workers for being awake for our sake. May Almighty God continue to protect them and members of their family and their loved ones. To answer your question, I’m sure that very soon, a cure for Coronavirus will be discovered either through science or through local means. Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have set aside money as grants for researchers to come up with a vaccine that can cure the virus.