Enter the new Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Agboola Gambari



Many, if not all, have not seen the appointment of Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari coming.

But, today, Gambari occupies the office that became vacant as a result of the death of the late Abba Kyari about a month ago.

The new Chief of Staff arrived Presidential Villa at 10:40am and was received by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Tijani Umar; Director of Protocol, Mr Yakubu Ahmed; and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, among others.

Gambari, 76-year-old, is a former Minister of External Affairs when Buhari was the Head of State in 1984.

His appointment was announced shortly before the start of the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha.

The confirmation of the appointment came after a day’s speculation as to whether he was indeed the new Chief of Staff, as the Presidency played a waiting game of silence that came to an end on Wednesday.

Expectedly, many have taken their turn to congratulate Gambari on what they described as his deserved appointment. In his message of congratulation, the National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, lauded the appointment of Gambari, saying his intellect and experience had prepared him for the job.

“Prof. Gambari will work competently and with dedication to help President Buhari advance his policy and governance priorities just as he did in the past when he served as Minister of External Affairs in the 1980’s,” Tinubu said.

“At this time when the entire world is combating the coronavirus pandemic and the economic consequences thereof, Prof. Gambari’s expertise and international reputation will help Nigeria galvanise national, regional and international efforts and resources to contain this viral menace and to advance Nigeria’s interests on other important matters.”

Of course, before this appointment was announced, names of people, some considered very close to Buhari, were touted to replace the late president’s right hand man, confidante and friend of more than 40 years.

But, Buhari, as he often does, kept his plan regarding Abba Kyari’s successor very deep in his heart and when he decided to reveal it, many were surprised. Some were disappointed and angry. Still, some are happy and rejoicing. That’s the way it often is with every appointment in this clime.

To Buhari, rightly so, who becomes appointed as his Chief of Staff is his sole responsibility to handle, not that of Nigerians, including those working in the Villa. The occupant of the office, just as Gambari rightly observed, works for and report only to the president-his appointee.

Of course, too, loyalty and wise counselling, which are some of the attributes that made the late Abba Kyari to be trusted by the president. The Chief of Staff needs to be powerful to successfully discharge his obligations to his boss.

This is not saying, however, that Gambari shall strive to be another Kyari. Far from that. Gambari must remain whom and what he reprents. In truth, there won’t be another Kyari, no matter how the president valued him and enjoyed working with him and tries to find another.

The simple truth is that this office means something different for every Chief of Staff. It’s a role where the title is the same but responsibilities widely vary based on the person in the role and for whom they work.

Arguably, no other title in the political arena carries so much variety in actual responsibilities, not just across governments but also within the same one.

However, while it’s true that the Chief of Staff remains loyal, and reports only, to the president, he should, extensively, consider himself working for the country.

After all, he is the chief adviser to the president and what would his advice count for other than for the peace, welfare of the people and good governance of Nigeria?

Thus, Nigerians would, maybe rightly so, hold the Chief of Staff accountable for the good or otherwise governance of the country and the success or lack of it of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration come 2023.

No doubt, Nigeria, like other countries, have competing interests all seeking to gain upper hand in the process of governance and, therefore, having a firm grasp of the political issues and understanding the president’s policies and stance on issues will help Gambari to help the president.

And, at the risk of comparing Kyari and Gambari, the new Chief of Staff must always be on the same page with Buhari or, else, they risk misrepresenting the administration’s agenda.

Of course, we all should wish Gambari succeeds because his success will go a long way making the president, his administration and Nigeria to succeed. Gambari should, therefore, support and believe in the president’s agenda as his position often calls for crusading to implement the president’s causes and ideas.

Naturally, if he, as the Chief of Staff, doesn’t agree with the president’s stance on issues, he will have a hard time advocating and promoting the president’s ideals.

The Chief of Staff is required to keep the president’s schedule on track and manage the overwhelming flow of information that enters the president’s office on a daily basis. Unfortunately, since the death of Kyari, situations abounded where information leaked, including those of the president’s speech and even the appointment of Gambari.

Clearly, on this front, the new Chief of Staff will have a herculean task of blocking the leakages and he must do so.

No doubt, the role of the Chief of Staff is multitasking, requires being able to organise many activities and making sure that everything goes smoothly.

But, in the end, the role of Gambari as the person who gives life to and pushes the president’s agenda and policies, is truly about making sure that everything goes smoothly throughout the president’s administration and making sure that the welfare, peace and security of Nigerians are assured through his wise and informed counsel to the president.

Luckily, Gambari is blessed with bundles of experience, intellectualism and political acumen to provide needed counsel and advices to the president.

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