In naming Ibrahim Gambari as his new Chief of Staff, President Muhammadu Buhari has once again shown that he is not about to ditch a well-worn tradition of appointing old, experienced friends who would guarantee him plenty of loyalty, into sensitive positions in the federal bureaucracy.

At 75 years of age, Gambari would resume a most important gate-keeping role at the presidency, fully made.

Born in 1944, Gambari, from Kwara State, was Nigeria’s Minister for External Affairs during Buhari’s military regime which spanned 1984 to 1985.

Gambari rose from being a Professor at Ahmadu Bello University to becoming an international civil servant and first class diplomat.

The new CoS Gambari (middle) is a diplomat of repute (British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing)
The new CoS Gambari (middle) is a diplomat of repute (British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing)

He was Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations for nine years between 1990 and 1999 and defended some of the most atrocious and horrendous human rights violations perpetrated by then military dictators: General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) and General Sani Abacha.

Gambari was also Under Secretary-General of the United Nations from 2000 to 2007.

Much like the president, Gambari is an austere, sandal-wearing ascetic who despises the lavish lifestyle preferred by most in his position.

"He is nicknamed 'Salary mi to mi na,' which translates to 'my salary is enough for me' in Yoruba. He won't award you a contract if you don't earn it and he would get you an employment if you merit the position," one close friend of Nigeria's new Chief of Staff shares with this writer.

Gambari also comes into this role with attributes Buhari cherishes. Much like the roundly maligned Abba Kyari before him, Gambari has been a Buharist for as long as anyone can remember.

And when it comes to his kitchen cabinet or inner circle, the president prefers them old, loyal and with a steady pair of hands.

Gambari resumes as Chief of Staff at the FEC meeting of May 13, 2020 (Tolu Ogunlesi)
Gambari resumes as Chief of Staff at the FEC meeting of May 13, 2020 (Tolu Ogunlesi)

Gambari will offer Buhari those qualities and more. He shares in the president’s vision and again, like Kyari, would gladly take a bullet for the president if push comes to shove.

Unlike Kyari however, Gambari will be more outspoken and offer a few soundbites to the media when bullied. He has the capacity to give as good as he gets.

For all his imperfections, Kyari has perhaps redefined the role of a Chief of Staff (CoS) in Nigeria’s nascent democracy. Previous occupants of that office were not so recognisable and notorious.

Abdullahi Mohammed who served as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2008 wasn’t as powerful as Kyari would become, and only a few could pick him out in a crowd.

President Umaru Yar’Adua who succeeded Obasanjo, scrapped the office of Chief of Staff altogether and ruled without one until his passing in 2010.

Goodluck Jonathan had two to his name. Chief Mike Oghiadomhe served as Chief of Staff from 2010 to 2014; while Jones Arogbofa was Hand of the King from 2014 to 2015.

The role is an unspectacular, rigorous one, requiring someone with bags of energy and a decent health record. At 75, it remains to be seen if Gambari can cope with the many demands of his office.

Abba Kyari was Buhari's Chief of Staff from 2015 to 2020 [Bayo Omoboriowo]
Abba Kyari was Buhari's Chief of Staff from 2015 to 2020 [Bayo Omoboriowo]

The responsibilities of a Chief of Staff include “selecting key presidential staff and supervising them, structuring the staff system, controlling the flow of people to the Presidential Villa; managing the flow of information, protecting the interests of the president, negotiating with the National Assembly and other branches of government to implement the president’s agenda; and advising the president on various issues, including telling the president what they do not want him to hear,” The Nation writes.

Buhari’s pick for the position of CoS is therefore a safe, assured one. While some of us would have preferred a younger hire given the demands of the office, Buhari has gone for trust, loyalty, friendship and history once more, like he’s done since 2015.

For an office that demands that its occupant thinks like the president or acts like one, Gambari's qualities as he assumes this role, are more than enough for Buhari.

And that's good enough for the rest of us.

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Pulse Editor's Opinion is the opinion of an editor of Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the organization Pulse.