How Abba Kyari almost became Obasanjo’s Vice-President —Mamman Daura
A nephew and confidant of the President, Mamman Daura, has revealed that during the run-up to the 1999 Presidential election, Abba Kyari was among those considered for the position of running mate to Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who was the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Daura said this in a tribute to Kyari, the late chief of staff to the President, Maj.Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
He wrote, “These times coincided with the country’s return to democracy and Malam Abba was among those enthusiastically espousing the cause of General Obasanjo. On his selection as PDP candidate, a group of women and youths in the PDP lobbied Obasanjo to pick Malam Abba as his Vice Presidential running mate. After heated debates, Obasanjo eventually picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
Daura said he first met the late Kyari in the mid 1970s when he (Daura) was the editor of the now defunct New Nigerian Newspaper.
He recalled that Kyari had read an article in the newspaper and then applied to work at the company.
Daura recalled, “I first set eyes on Malam Abba about 47 years ago. I was at my desk at the New Nigerian newspapers office scribbling something or other when the gate messenger brought a sheet of 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 he resolved to work with us.
“After swift enquiry, I was told there were no vacancies in the newsroom or 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 his station. Malam Abba quickly said: ‘I will take it.’ After formalities, he was enrolled as a staffer of New Nigerian.”
Daura said Kyari was a diligent and principled worker despite the little salary he was paid.
The President’s nephew said within weeks, Kyari had been moved to the newsroom and their relationship became stronger.
He narrated how he and Kyari left the newspaper almost at the same time, adding that Kyari soon left the country to pursue his dream.
Daura added, “After New Nigerian, Malam Abba worked at NNDC and Zamfara Textiles – a state-sponsored investment company and a private manufacturing outfit – valuable experience in later life – and soon grew out of those jobs.
“Constantly striving to improve himself he went to Warwick University in England -where General Gowon also attended after leaving Nigeria as Head of State – and acquired an Honours Degree in Sociology and thence to the world-famous Cambridge University where he graduated in Law before returning to Nigeria.”
He said due to Kyari’s successful track record, he was again called upon by industrialist, Isa Funtua, to head a new newspaper, ‘The Democrat’.
Daura stated, “When a group of sponsors including Malam Ahmed Joda, Mr. Philip Asiodu and Malam Isma’ila Isa Funtua floated a new newspaper, The Democrat, Malam Abba was nominated and unanimously accepted as its editor. His previous experience in the New Nigerian and his quality education enabled him to run the newspaper with aplomb.
“Malam Abba served as company secretary with the burgeoning African International Bank. But as I said Malam Abba grew out of every job he held hitherto.”
The President’s nephew said when United Bank for Africa was on the brink of collapse in the mid 1990s, again, Kyari was approached by business tycoon, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, and others to revive it.
Daura said, “And when Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie assembled a team of investors and managers to help revive the collapsing UBA, Malam Abba was persuaded to join the group and after weeks of diligence the group acquired UBA and Malam Abba joined the bank as a senior executive. Needless to relate, he eventually became the bank’s chief executive and on retirement was persuaded to remain as non-executive vice-chairman.”
Attesting to Kyari’s intelligence, Daura described the deceased as one who was more intelligent than all of the President’s advisers and ministers.
He said Kyari never allowed his personal beliefs to interfere with his job as the President’s number one adviser.
Daura said the deceased was also a philanthropist having converted his home in Borno to an Internally Displaced Persons’ camp of sorts.
He wrote, “Few people knew that over 10 years ago, he turned his house in Maiduguri (since he no longer resided there) into accommodation for IDPs. At some stage, there were 75 people whom Malam Abba was feeding, clothing and looking after; in addition to their children’s education. Later, the numbers got larger. Malam Abba never said a word to anybody about this. Amma and her siblings are not the only orphans Malam Abba left!
“He lived a fairly simple life and habitually wore a red cap, white clothing and black shoes. He had to be forced by his friends to change the cap and he wore the shoes to the ground before buying a new pair!”