Alhaji Mamman Daura, former Editor of the New Nigerian newspaper, has described Malam Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari as “a man of uncommon attributes”.
In a tribute to the deceased, one of his Reporters in the New Nigerian, Mamman described Kyari as “a man blessed with mountainous gifts”.
“Kyari was blessed with uncommon attributes of intelligence, diligence, hard work, loyalty to friends and worthy causes. One could exhaust superlatives to do him full justice,” Mamman said in the tribute made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Friday in Abuja.
Recalling how he employed Kyari as a Reporter in the New Nigerian, Mamman said that he was surprised when the deceased accepted the only job available – Proof Reader – when he appeared before him while he was Editor of the Kaduna-based newspaper.
“I first set eyes on Kyari about 47 years ago. I was at my desk at the New Nigerian newspapers office when the gate messenger brought a paper with a name “Abba Kyari Chima” wanting to see the Editor.
“When he came in, he looked winsome and slightly diffident. After pleasantries, I wanted to know his reason for coming to New Nigerian. He said he read and liked an Editorial in the paper a few days earlier headed: “Solution looking for a Problem”, and had resolved to work with us.
“After swift enquiry, I was told there were no vacancies in the Newsroom nor in Sub-Editing. But a lowly position existed as proof reader as someone had just left. I was about to apologise to him that what was available was beneath him, but he quickly said: “I will take it.”
“After formalities, he was enrolled as a staff of New Nigerian.
“By `taking it’, he was taking a sizeable cut from his previous teaching job’s pay as the salary scales in the New Nigerian where Malam Abba and I worked were historic in their frugality. You couldn’t get fat on the wages of the New Nigerian in the mid-70s.
“Within weeks, Kyari had moved to the Newsroom and was an articulate member at the daily editorial conferences. Moreover, he and I became firm friends ever since. If I recall correctly, we both left the services of New Nigerian within a short time of each other.”
Mamman also described Kyari as “someone constantly striving to improve himself”, declaring that he was fortified for success as Chief of Staff by the rigours of a Cambridge education and varied experiences in Banking, industry, investment and journalism.
“He set himself the task of defining the role, functions and status of the Chief of Staff. He started by consulting previous incumbents of the position he could reach as a way of educating himself of the challenges ahead of him.”
Opining that all future Chiefs of Staff would be judged by the benchmark of Kyari, Mamman said that the deceased assembled a team of very competent staff who worked incredibly long hours to analyse, itemize and disaggregate knotty problems and advise the President.
“Kyari was an exacting taskmaster and his staff were relieved if he traveled outside the country, but they valued, respected, and even liked him,” he said.
Mamman said that Kyari was at odds with many senior members of the government on economic policies.
“Many Nigerian elites tend to lean towards the Bretton Woods one-size-fits-all solutions long discredited and demonstrably failed in so many so-called Third World countries.
“Kyari tended to look inward for solutions and was not an ideologue. He was heavily influenced by two Nobel Laureates, the great West Indian Economist, Professor Arthur Lewis and the eminent Indian Professor Amartya Sen, the latter he frequently called to exchange views.
“Despite holding firm views, his advice to the President was dispassionate, even-handed and did not hide unpleasant facts, in the best traditions of public service.
“In point of intellect, he stood above all Ministers and Special Advisers in this government. But personally, he was modest, ever willing to learn, ever willing to help others.”
Mamman also recalled that Kyari worked enthusiastically while espousing the cause of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and almost became his running mate in 1999 before the job was given to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
He also recalled Kyari’s deep commitment to Buhari’s presidential intention, “working wholeheartedly in all the campaigns through the drudgery and injustices of the 2003, 2007 and 2007 elections without losing hope or sight of the ultimate goal.
“Such perseverance paid off in 2015 when Buhari, who contested the polls on the platform of APC, won the Presidential elections and, to his (Kyari)’s great surprise, the President appointed him as the Chief of Staff.”
He disclosed that Kyari, about 10 years ago, turned his house in Maiduguri into an accommodation for IDPs which, at some stage, housed 75 people that he fed, clothed and sponsored their children’s education.
“Later, the numbers got larger, but Kyari never said a word to anybody about this,” he said, adding that the lawyer had left many orphans behind.
Mamman said that Kyari lived a fairly simple life and would habitually wear his shoes to the ground before buying a new pair.
“For us, he will always be remembered with sadness in our hearts and tears in our eyes,” Mamman concluded.
NAN recalls that 67-year-old Kyari died on Friday, April 17, about three weeks after he tested positive to the Coronavirus pandemic that has so far killed 28 Nigerians.