I had no personal relationship with Abba Kyari, a lawyer trained at Cambridge University in England, who amassed more power than any of his predecessors as the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
So, after his death last year, I reached out to a close friend of his to make sense of all that had been written and said about him.
Was he a victim of blind loyalty, as his friends claimed, or a villain, as popularly believed, who took advantage of the manifest handicaps of Buhari for narrow political gains?
His friend, a power broker in his own right, who had just written a moving tribute to him, gave an unambiguous answer. Kyari, he said, was a good man who, sadly, opted to be servile to a sadist.
If Kyari was such a positive influence, why was he unable to moderate the toxic policies of the government, I probed further.
He was likened to a man who went for a dinner with the devil, leaving his long spoon behind. A damning charge against Buhari, as reflected in my article on April 22, 2020 titled, “Abba Kyari, victim of blind loyalty?”
His friend said: “If you knew Abba, you will understand what I am talking about. The man just couldn’t do anything against the wishes of his boss even if he felt otherwise.
“Take this to the bank, he never did anything without the clearance or directive of the president. The man did nothing that Buhari didn’t ask him to do. He never did anything without the president’s say so or approval.
“The truth is that Buhari is just inherently wicked but Abba was ready to take the bullet for him and he finally did.”
Buhari came back to power in 2015 with an agenda deleterious to the common good. A man with a long list of grudges, he is up to no good. Contrary to the belief in some quarters that he is a puppet, he is, indeed, the puppeteer – a man on top of his game, effectively in charge.
His interview on Arise Television on June 10, another defining moment in this nightmare, confirmed my worst fears. Strategic in its timing and import, the interview was meant to send a clear message to those who challenge his Fulani supremacist agenda, particularly the “troublesome” Igbos.
His acute intellectual vacuity on parade notwithstanding, what came through, most forcefully, is that Buhari does not care a hoot about public opinion and his pathological hatred and frightening disdain for Ndigbo.
The interview provided a window into the dark recesses of his soul. On display was his single-minded determination to consolidate an overt Fulani supremacist agenda clothed in an illusory Northern superiority complex.
His ethnocentric prattle was as benumbing as his nepotistic gobbledygook was frightening, evidenced in his prioritisation of cows over citizens.
This was the reason he told his Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, to dig up a phantom First Republic gazette which purportedly delineated cattle routes and grazing areas across the country.
When the matter has to do with the welfare of cows, Buhari is eloquent and bubbly, just as when discussing the good of his kith and kin in Niger Republic, where his father came from.
On some other issues, he waffles, playing to the hilt his reputation as a Teflon president who never takes responsibility for anything.
But when the issue has to do with his bête noire – Ndigbo – he becomes melancholic. Asked in the interview how the problem in the South East, which he largely created, will be resolved, he immediately adorned his genocidal apparel.
“I was encouraged by what I heard, nobody told me,” he replied.
“Two statements from the South South. One by elderly people. They said, this time around, there will be no access to the sea. I am sure you will understand what they mean. Again, the youths made the same statement. That encouraged me.”
Buhari was happy that Ndigbo are isolated and encircled once again, reminiscent of the Civil War days.
But he wasn’t done with his genocidal taunt.
“So, that IPOB, it is just like a dot in a circle. If they want to exit, there will be no access to anywhere and the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses, having property,” Buhari said.
“I think IPOB doesn’t know what they are talking about. In any case, we said we will talk to them in the language they will understand. We will organise the police and the military to pursue them. That is what we can do and we will do it.”
Buhari’s apologists say he was talking about IPOB and not the Igbos. How disingenuous. The truth remains that in his warped mind, every Igbo is IPOB. And none should be spared in his genocidal onslaught.
I doubt if Buhari ever discussed with any South South leader as he claimed. My guess is that he was simply hallucinating. But assuming he did, what actually was he discussing with them to elicit such a weighty pledge? And what did he promise in return? Since he has less than two years in office, do we take it that these purported negotiations signal effective preparation by the Buhari regime for another ruthless scorched-earth assault against Alaigbo before May 29, 2023? Time will tell!
But while he gloats thinking that he insulted Ndigbo by describing the South East as a dot in a circle, he only manifests his ignorance.
Singapore, a far smaller dot, is one of the greatest success stories in history. Its economic development is the stuff legends are made of, so much so that it is the only Asian country with a higher per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than the United States.
Ndigbo are proud to be the dot in the Nigerian circle. And what a productive, significant dot that space is. Why shouldn’t I be proud when this dot, which has the highest literacy rate and per capital income within the circle called Nigeria, is my heritage?
The only thing stopping this dot, the land of the rising sun, from replicating the Singaporean miracle is that the circle where it is hedged in is ruled by medieval emperors who flaunt brawn as a leadership skill in the age of knowledge.
I don’t know what Buhari intends to achieve by making that sacrilegious comment. But if it is to cow Ndigbo into submission, he has failed, because, rather than being cowed, even those hitherto indifferent are now daring the bully in Aso Rock.
In the last one week, the refrain in the dot has been: Buhari, do your worst.
What else can be worse than the ongoing carnage? The fact that he sees nothing wrong in joining his Northern brethren to remind Ndigbo that they have properties and businesses up north is, indeed, a new low.
Yet, these are the same people who turn around to accuse Ndigbo of all manner of atrocities without any evidence.
Between May and October 1966, more than 30,000 Easterners were massacred in the North. Between October 1966 and June 1967, over 100,000 more were murdered. Pregnant women were killed, and babies pulled out of their wombs and murdered.
Ndigbo are not reputed for such bestiality. So, on what basis are Northerners giving Ndigbo quit notice?
If the killings of the 1960s were a revenge for the January 15, 1966 coup as claimed, what about the pogrom in Jos on June 22, 1945, the first reported genocide against Ndigbo in the North? Did Nzeogwu lead a band of idealistic young military officers to execute a coup then?
What about the mass killings in Kano in 1953, the second recorded genocide in Nigeria. What precipitated it against the Igbos?
So, what charge will Buhari and other Northern elders baying for Igbo blood bring against them this time? Ndigbo are peace loving. They do not conspire to murder their hosts or guests.
Since this herders/farmers conflict engineered by Buhari started, there has not been any premeditated killing of Northerners by Ndigbo. Instead, it is the same Fulani herdsmen that are butchering Ndigbo within their dot in the circle, while Buhari looks away.
Throughout Nigeria’s chequered history, there has never been any incident of lorry loads of corpses of Northerners murdered in Alaigbo parceled back to the North for burial as it is always the case with Ndigbo living in the North.
So, what is this noise about Ndigbo all about? Why is Buhari, whose first cousins from the Sahel have chased away – literally, from his home state of Katsina – vehemently determined to annihilate Ndigbo?
Why would a president who eviscerates governors for not providing security for their people exhume a dead grazing route gazette rather than support Governor Samuel Ortom’s anti-open grazing law, Benue State’s antidote to the menace of herdsmen?
Why would Buhari admonish Benue people to live in peace with their neighbours (their killers) rather than prosecute the terrorists he acknowledges are not Nigerians?
Why is he up in arms against Southern governors for banning open grazing? Why has he not sent soldiers to kill and maim Northerners on the streets as he is doing in the South East since – to borrow his logic – every Northerner ought to be a bandit, the same way all Igbos are IPOB?
Security personnel have been killed in greater numbers in the North than in the South East. And security facilities and other national infrastructure have been attacked in the North.
So, why does Buhari, a tough cookie when dealing with Ndigbo, become a jelly, conciliatory and even apologetic, when confronted with the atrocities of Fulani bandits?
Nigeria has a president who values his affinity with “first cousins” in a foreign country than with fellow citizens – the reason he is arrogantly deploying Nigeria’s scarce resources to develop infrastructure in Niger Republic. This is perhaps the biggest tragedy that has befallen Nigeria since independence in 1960.
It is only in a Buhari enclave this malady can happen with impunity. In any other country, such a president would have been kicked out.
Imagine an Olusegun Obasanjo plunging Nigeria into debt to develop Benin Republic since many Yorubas have first cousins there, or a President Barack Obama deploying U.S. wealth in Kenya because it is his biological father’s country.
Buhari is Nigeria’s biggest existential threat. But one thing is certain. Nigerians generally, and Ndigbo in particular, will outlive his malevolence.