President Muhammadu Buhari has tapped a former Under United Nations Secretary as his Chief of Staff, it was learnt on Tuesday.
Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, 75, is expected to assume office today as replacement for the late Mallam Abba Kyari, who served in the post since 2015 until April 17 when he died from Coronavirus complications.
It was learnt that the President picked Gambari, who was Minister of External (Foreign) Affairs during his time as Military Head of State between January 1984 and August 1985 because he is apolitical.
The President, according to sources had a breakfast session with the renowned diplomat yesterday where he offered him the appointment.
He was reportedly picked from a list of 14 others screened for the position, which is the clearing house in the office of the President.
Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina neither confirmed nor denied the appointment of Gambari. There was also no official communication.
Adesina said yesterday when contacted: “An announcement will be made during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting tomorrow (today).”
A virtual FEC will hold on Wednesday, the first after weeks of partial lockdown of the State House since mid-March – over the outbreak of Coronavirus.
It was learnt that the President opted for Gambari because of his patience and reputation as an international bureaucrat.
Another factor which informed the President’s position was Gambari’s unofficial advisory role since 2015 without asking for any favour.
It was gathered that the President listed his expectations when he met with Gambari.
A highly-placed source said: “The appointment was sealed at an early morning meeting between the President and Gambari.
“The meeting had barely ended when many foreign embassies got the hint and they became excited about the President’s choice.”
Some of the qualities the President outlined for his new Chief of Staff are:
- rich experience in bureaucracy and diplomacy
- absolute loyalty;
- sharing the same vision and principle with Buhari on the Next Level Agenda;
- longstanding relationship with the President;
- being incorruptible;
- being apolitical;
- less controversial; and
- a man of peace
A top source, who spoke in confidence said: “Out of the list of about 14 candidates available to the President, Gambari is the least exposed to the vagaries of Nigerian politics. He is a diplomat and an international bureaucrat.
“The appointment was made to pick an apolitical fellow and to correct the mistake of the past where the Office of the Chief of Staff is exposed to politics and pressure from politicians.
“To move forward, the President wants to restrict his Chief of Staff to bureaucratic schedule and not political manoeuvres in order to fast-track the implementation of the goals of his administration.
“The manner of jostling for the Office of the Chief of Staff since the death of the former occupant of the office actually suggested that those who have political ambitions were desperate for it.
“The international profile of Gambari played a significant role in his appointment. Buhari is looking at global politics after the post-COVID-19 pandemic and opted for an experienced hand in Gambari whose mileage can add credibility to his government and attract goodwill
“Bilateral and multilateral relations will take the centre stage after the Coronavirus pandemic and he needs a respected international bureaucrat to assist his government to reach out to the world.”
The source added: “Although some ministers are very close to the President, he avoided appointing any of them because upgrading a minister will not help the system.”
Among those considered, according to sources are: Ambassador Babagana Kingibe; Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu; Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hamid Ali; Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha; Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties, Ya’u Shehu Darazo; a former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Gen. Buba Marwa; and the immediate past Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi
Others are Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Sarki Mukhtar Abba; the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; and a former Governor of Kano State, Sen. Ibrahim Shekarau.
Gambari will become the nation’s fifth Chief of Staff since 1999.
He will be the second office holder from Ilorin to occupy the Office of the Chief of Staff after Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed.
In the last 21 years, Nigeria has had four Chiefs of Staff. These are: Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed — 1999-2008; Mike Oghiadomhe — 2010-2014; Gen. Jones Arogbofa — 2014-2015; and Mallam Abba Kyari -2015 – April 17, 2020.
Although ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua scrapped the Office of Chief of Staff in 2008, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan reintroduced it in 2010.
The responsibilities of Chief of Staff are “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 to hear.”
Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, yesterday thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing Professor Gambari.
Sulu-Gambari in a statement by his Media Aide, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona described the appointment as great honour to the entire people of Ilorin Emirate and Kwarans at large.
He said: “The choice of the former diplomat would be justified by outstanding contributions, administrative experience, scholarship and excellence which he would inject into the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government towards ensuring good governance, democratic dividends as well as shared prosperity in the nation.
”While congratulating Professor Gambari on the new appointment, the monarch wished him a successful tenure in office even as he expressed confidence in his ability to justify the confidence reposed in him by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“He will surely bring to fore his wealth of experience as an academician, former Minister, former Diplomat, former University Chancellor, Prince of the renowned Alimi dynasty, family man and community leader of high repute.
“Professor Ibrahim Gambari is the Wambai of Ilorin Emirate.”