Ladi Peter Thompson
Like many great men before him, Abba Kyari may yet tower greater in death than his stature did in this life. His death much more than his life could yet be the catalyst that will catapult Nigeria from the pits into the greatest of heights. To reap the positive lessons of his legacy we must move past the oily accolades of religious patronage and the sanctimonious extirpations of the opposition.
There are no doubts that our president Muhammadu Buhari was one of the greatest beneficiaries of his fierce loyalty and many believe that this faithful COS would gladly have taken a bullet for his boss on any given day. The events of his passage confirm this position because Abba Kyari probably contacted the virus in the course of duty while representing his boss. Abba Kyari was a consummate and skillful politician but he was also a deep thinker, a master strategist and defender of our national dynamic. He represented a factor that helped to keep Nigeria going against all odds and should be honored for this reason.
As a deep thinker and wise counsellor there were many things that he knew and ruminated upon that he probably never told his boss but the occasion and circumstances of his death make it needful for some of those issues to be aired. From all the private accounts of his close friends, Abba Kyari was basically a good man, a privileged son of northern Nigeria gifted with an intelligence quota that was far above average. If the truth be told Abba Kyari was not an evil man instead he was a victim of a system that was put into place before he was born. Just that he discovered the system, studied the system and played the system as most intelligent persons would in his shoes. Even if he had not died of the virus sickness there are certain eventualities that would have unfolded but he did not live to voice the obvious.
To ground this discourse on concrete reality, it can be said openly that nobody would be surprised if the metropolis of Kano becomes the next global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the weeks ahead. In his death and conduct of his burial there is a message to the president and Nigerians by extension that must not be ignored. The mass gathering at his burial despite the warnings about self-distancing would have confirmed his ruminations that Nigeria was from the beginning a product of toxic tensions and religious sentiments put into place to keep us divided. A close friend to the Christian portion of the Baikie family and former student of St. Paul’s Wusasa, his intelligent mind could not have missed the inflections and nuances of the salient religious divides of the northernization agenda as he matured. With the privilege of a Warwick education, Cambridge experience and Harvard exposure, Abba Kyari knew that he was one of those born to rule and uphold the dynamic tensions that define Nigeria.
Like the elites, he understood the misuse of religion and the glamorization of illiteracy and would not have been surprised at the conduct of his own burial knowing that the same mentality sponsored Yari, an ex-state governor to blame a meningitis epidemic on sins against the state religion. It would be obvious to him that some people, in turn would have no problem introducing a spin when the harvest comes in to blame the south for what’s ahead. This is the status quo and the power of the Nigerian system, and we often forget that youths in certain northern states went on rampage during a moon eclipse because they earnestly believed that the “infidel” were responsible! We must make it clear that Abba Kyari did not do anything other Nigerians would have done if they were in his shoes! If at all we need to hold Abba Kyari responsible for anything, it might be the sin of omission.
You can’t beat the system except you are the number one and its public knowledge that the COS had the ears of our president.You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to see that Buharis’s greatest legacy would have been that of a reformer like General George Washington in the history of the United States. With sound counsel beside him, Buhari could have tackled the toxic system and he could have repaired our fractured leadership selection process to restore the leadership mantle to men of innovation and de-militarized skills.
Presented with this unique opportunity the masses believed that Buhari possessed the courage, wisdom and discipline required to tear down the walls of religious and cultural divisions and become the father of modern Nigeria. Imagine the brilliance of an Abba Kyari representing the North working with the visionary genius of an Osinbajo, representing the South working together in trust, cooperation and progress, under the disciplinary stature of Muhammadu Buhari to repair the errors of history? Add an Aisha Buhari into that mix hovering in the background to restore the dignity of womanhood and protect the girl child’s rights.
No doubt, just four to six years would have been enough to quantum leap Nigeria into a foremost nation with a first class healthcare system. Kyari, however, chose to serve the “masters of the game” and preferred to be one of the “men in the shadows” propping up the system. In the days ahead we will discover that the almajiri is not the Nigerian problem, just as the teeming muscles of the youth population are not the problem at all. The tragedy of Abba Kyari’s burial message is that it may have come too late for Nigeria to learn that a nation divided against itself will pay dearly when the voice of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptive voices grow louder in the days ahead.
Thompson, a Strategic Thought Consultant, writes from Lagos