President Buhari, Professor Gambari and Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo
President Buhari, Professor Gambari and Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo

Buhari, Gambari, Emir Jokolo and the Social Reconstruction of Aso Rock

NEWS DIGEST – When Professor Gambari was named Chief of Staff to President Buhari, what came through my mind was the group put together by the 19th Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo, who had been ADC to Buhari on numerous occasions; as Governor of the North East State in the 70’s and as Military Head of State between 1984-85. After the 2019 elections and the declaration that Buhari won the election, Jokolo put together a group of former staff of Dodan Barracks when Buhari was military Head of State to pay a courtesy call to president Buhari.

Interestingly Professor Gambari who was Buhari’s foreign Affairs Minister was part of the group that joined Buhari in Aso Villa alongside former staff of Dodan Barracks. It was interesting note that there are people that had been part of Buhari’s cabinet between 1984-85 but were not part of the delegation, it could have been for many different reasons, but that Gambari, seen there within this group, tells a lot about his relationship with the Dodan Barracks staff and in particular with the personality that led the delegation to meet with President Buhari.

Whatever informed that visit by the group must be something with a very deep meaning, symbolic not only of loyalty, but commitment and total support to the cause of the President, irrespective of what it might be. In the video of the visit aired on NTA, one could see how excited Mr Buhari was as he went around shaking hands with the people that were seated, one after the other. It very clear from the outset that group meant business and was on a mission to support their former boss.

Emir Jokolo spoke at length on behalf of the group and why they had visited the president saying “you must listen to wise counsel” as he explained their mission. President Buhari, emotional, responded and thanked the group for the visit and called on them to continue such interaction. The visit definitely couldn’t have been just to shake hands and bring back old memories, it was much more than that in meaning; it was no more than an ‘unofficial advisory council’ to the President. It was a visit of solidarity to a former Commander in Chief by his former staff saying ‘we are here for you and you can rely on us’.

And as providence would have it, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari passed away, providence again made it possible now for Gambari, a member of the former Dodan Barracks delegation to Buhari to emerge as a replacement for Kyari. It was an appointment that many did not see coming. Gambari’s name never featured in the list of those expected to replace Kyari, many never thought about it. However, when it was announced, no one could have doubted his capacity and ability to run the office.

Many had thought that it was difficult to find a match for Kyari, in terms of education and hard work, but here was, Gambari, matching Kyari one on one in terms University education; Kyari is said have attended Cambridge university for his Bachelors and Masters in Economics, while Gambari on the other hand had his Bachelors in Political Science from the London School of Economics and A Masters and PhD from Columbia University in the United States. He had a career in the Academia in the U.S, Singapore and Nigeria and rose to become a Professor of Political Science and International Relations and another stunning diplomatic career with United Nations that spanned almost about two decades.

Within his stay in the UN, Gamabari had not only been a representative of Nigeria in the General Assembly, but also headed several important diplomatic missions of the UN as special envoy of the United Nations. As such a comparison of the capacity and experience and qualification between Gambari and Kyari will make clear that Gambari, in fact is the perfect choice made by President Buhari if merit and qualification are to be considered, even above Kyari of Blessed memory that is seen to have handled the position well.

This well said. However, in local politics and partisan politics one’s qualification and experience may sometimes not be sufficient to guarantee success and the environment upon which one operates most at times determines one’s effort at surmounting challenges, difficulties and accomplishing one’s task.

It is specifically for this reason that we find it difficult to begin the celebration of Gambari’s appointment. Aso Rock, before Kyari’s demise, has become a theatre of some sort with all kinds of drama playing out. This has led to a myth of what many call ‘the cabal’ for which Kyari was part of, and that it was in charge of Aso Rock as far as many were concerned.

Any staff of the presidential villa that is not or does not enjoy the support of this group will not have his assignment easy, to the extent that even the wife of the President at some point complained about the reality of such myth, that a cabal actually existed. While all these are not uncommon in corridors of power, the claims that the group has tremendous influence on the President makes it a problem for people working around him that unknown may get caught up in such power game.

Though Gamabari has known and had a relationship with the President for quite a long time, but that many that had been part of the old game under Kyari are still around makes the terrain still a dangerous one. It takes time for one to assert himself in such an environment, with so many mischief makers hovering around that consist of many aides and administrative staff of the villa. It is for such reason that one hears all kinds of things, real and imaginary about happenings in Aso Villa and sometimes one just wonders.

Gambari, for certain is not familiar with such terrain [partisan politics], it does not happen this way in the United Nations, though he has come face to face with international politics and negotiated many peace terms on behalf of the UN on many conflicts and crises that have affected mankind, these were always according certain principles and obligations and not on the wishes of individuals. Sometimes no matter what one tries to do to live by certain principles or ethics, in dealing with politicians you find yourself incapable, simply for not being able to satisfy individuals or groups.

Certainly, the new Chief of Staff is not naïve nor is the President that appointed him, for sure before his appointment Buhari’s powerful nephew that is said to have nominated Kyari must have been consulted and an agreement reached on how thing will go. Mamman Daura can never be  under estimated anywhere near President Buhari, but then Mamman for sure will have to understand that the times have changed and there is the need to fix things and get the system up and running not only in Aso Rock but in the country, where things are said to be moving very slowly under Kyari.

President Buhari’s wife, Aisha will atleast have to see the need for her husband to succeed by giving her support and cooperation to the new Chief of Staff . Adamu Adamu, another key official, remains a stabilizing factor for Gambari, Adamu will not have difficulty in dealing with Gambari, his unyielding support to Gambari will no doubt lessen Gambari’s burden.  President Buhari himself must provide Gambari the free hand needed to run the office and must also be on the part of those who want the country to make progress and must in this regard keep his mind wide open to his Chief of Staff and protect him if need be from influential officials and family members. The constructivists will demand a social reconstruction in Aso Rock, new norms and practices that will define the new era and the new Sheriff in town.

Gamabari will also at this point have to fall back on his constituency for guidance, support and protection, should he be overpowered by forces or circumstances beyond his capabilities. This constituency is his group, association; the former Dodan Barracks staff association that he had been part of; the group that had visited the President after he won the elections for the second term in office; the group that sought audience with him to advice and to stand in solidarity with him.

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This group has an obligation to Gambari; to stand by him through thick and thin and to intercede if need be between him and the President and other parties not only in times of trouble but now from the very beginning so as to lay for him a solid foundation. Such responsibility no doubt fall on the 19th Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo who has had a long working relationship with President Buhari, and under whose ability and leadership the former Dodan Barracks staff organized themselves and visited the president. As recalled, the president during the visit thanked Jokolo for bringing the group together and organizing the visit. Jokolo’s foresight is indeed commendable. This group now has a responsibility for one of them and as they say ‘it is all for one and one for all’.