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Gbajabiamila…racing to beat Kyari, Gambari’s records as President’s Chief Of Staff



Barely four days after he was sworn into office, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on June 2, this year, appointed former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as his Chief of Staff.

Barely four days after he was sworn into office, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on June 2, this year, appointed former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as his Chief of Staff. The Office of the Chief of Staff in any democratic setting is responsible for directing, managing and overseeing all policy development, daily operations and staff activities for the president.

This office coordinates and communicates with all departments and agencies of the administration. The staff of this office assists in that effort by organising the affairs of the Chief of Staff. This office is the primary coordinator of activities that seek to explain and promote the president’s policies.

In the United States for instance, this office communicates the president’s policies to the American public. The office also informs the president about the public’s concerns and interests by analysing and responding to the president’s mails, e-mails and telephone calls received over the Comment Line. In addition, the department performs individual casework and assists individuals seeking help from the Federal Government, oversees the White House Volunteer Programme, prepares presidential messages and proclamations and acknowledges gifts given to the First Family.

Thus, whoever is appointed as the Chief of Staff is usually seen as a trusted ally of the president, which Gbajabiamila actually is, having been in the inner caucus of Tinubu’s political family for over three decades. Unlike the late Abba Kyari and Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who both held sway as Chiefs of Staff to former president Muhammadu Buhari, Gbajabiamila was active in the political arena before his appointment and seems to be at home with his roles in the Presidency. However, looking back to the Kyari and Gambari days as Chiefs of Staff, the tasks before Gbajabiamila appear to be huge and analysts are closely watching to see how he would address them.

Kyari, a Kanuri from Borno State, was first appointed as Buhari’s Chief of Staff on August 27, 2015. The appointment was renewed after Buhari won re-election for a second term on July 7, 2019. His office served as the engine room, providing routine checks and balances, and serving as a gatekeeper of some sort to the president. He was an influential figure within the Buhari administration and wielded so much power. No wonder he made quite a handful of political enemies, who even wished him dead.

Alas, Kyari contracted the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and died on Friday, April 17, 2020, in a hospital in Lagos State. The remains of the late Kyari, a lawyer, journalist, banker and alumnus of both the University of Warwick and University of Cambridge were interred at the Gudu cemetery, Apo, Abuja, in a solemn funeral amidst tears from family members and admirers.

Before his sudden demise, Kyari would many of the time stop by to exchange banters with the State House correspondents and even acknowledge greetings from staffers he encountered along the corridor as he made his way to and fro Buhari’s office. He was always visible. He could not be missed in what became his uniform – a white agbada and wine coloured Kanuri traditional cap to match. He won’t be caught in any other attire or a different colour.

Writing about Kyari’s persona, a former State House correspondent, Lekan Adetayo, who covered the Presidential Villa for many years, said: “Despite being advanced in age, this presidential aide covers this distance as many times as possible in a day, crisscrossing his office and the president’s office, apparently because he does not want to leave anything to chance.”

In all of the short trips, Adetayo said, “Kyari was always accompanied by at least two security aides, one in front apparently to be sure no harm is coming near him from the front and the other in the rear to ensure that enemies contemplating coming from the rear are warded off. You will never see him release those closely clutched office files that may contain the nation’s top secrets to any of his aides.”

Kyari carried a tough and strict demeanour. These attributes notwithstanding, he found time to acknowledge greetings and sometimes cracked jokes with journalists whenever he found them at the corridor in front of the Press Gallery while on his way either to his office or the President’s office.

Sometimes he would be the first to draw the attention of journalists in the Villa by jokingly announcing “breaking news, breaking news” especially whenever he had a positive or favourable approval from his principal.

But once he noticed that newsmen tried to jokingly turn the encounter on the narrow corridor to an interview session, he quickly left the scene.

After Kyari’s death, Buhari appointed Gambari as his Chief of Staff. Gambari was received at the Presidential Villa by senior Presidency officials including the former Director of Protocol, Alhaji Yakubu Ahmed, now an Ambassador in Doha, Qatar; the former Permanent Secretary, State House, Mallam Tijani Umar and the former Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who ushered him into the Aso Chambers of the State House, Abuja.

Shortly after being presented at the Presidential Villa, Gambari told journalists that he would be reporting directly to the President in the course of carrying out his official duties.

“I thank the President of the Federal Republic for giving me the opportunity to serve him and of course, the country,” Gambari said.

On what Nigerians should expect from him as Chief of Staff, he said: “We have not started; I’ll have to find out. I don’t report directly to the nation. I report to the President.”

On what he would offer the President, Gambari said “my loyalty, competence and support,” adding that his guiding principle as Chief of Staff would be “to serve the President to the best of my ability.”

Gambari was almost every time, curiously too, sandwiched by suited security aides attached to him from the Department of State Services (DSS) as he walked through the corridor to see the president and back to his office. He acknowledged compliments without uttering a word, with his countenance always looking like a senior military officer inspecting a guard of honour mounted by troops. Villa staffers would, without prompting, give way along the corridor anytime Gambari passed by. However, whether Gambari acquitted himself well in the office is left to conjecture.

Now, Gbajabiamila is in the saddle and has started creating his own impressions. Currently, there is this perception among observers within the seat of power that he is the head of the new cabal. There are even talks that he played a major role in the selection of members of Tinubu’s cabinet. While these remain in the realm of speculation, whether he will leave a positive or negative impression in the minds of Presidency watchers and Villa officials would be seen in due course.

However, many Nigerians who have institutional knowledge of the workings of the office of Chief of Staff to the President in a democratic setting said no two persons are alike in style, adding that the characteristics of Gbajabiamila as Chief of Staff were still unfolding.

Analysing the days of Kyari, Gambari and the few months of Gbajabiamila in office, Chesa Chesa, said: “From the viewpoint of a correspondent, one would say that Abba Kyari was quite powerful and seen to be powerful. It was obvious. And despite that, he was very friendly, he related well even though he brooked no frivolities. Ambassador Gambari on the other hand was quite friendly too, but the circumstances of his arrival made him take a little while to get used to the Villa unlike his predecessor who stayed quite long.

“Nonetheless, he also exhibited friendliness towards other staff members; probably because there were things he could not take on before the government left.

“Gbajabiamila has started well. He is a known ally of the president. While it might appear too early to judge, he has taken a few steps and if he continues in that trajectory it will be good. But one cannot really conclude for now; it’s just about two months, but with those few steps things might just go down well for the government.”

For Mrs. Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, the office of the Chief of Staff is a sensitive one that requires the assistance of some experts to acquit oneself well.

“Abba Kyari had the ears of Mr. President and his principal had confidence in him. The President allowed him free hand to operate. The way things ought to be done was strictly adhered to. You will see him always interfacing with the president; he was strict but approachable.

“For Prof. Gambari, I really did not understand his style. But he had two aides that were seconded to his office and those people did very well by projecting the president’s work. Under him, they had a lot of media interaction. It was courtesy of those aides. But honestly I don’t think I truly understood his style.

“He had no relationship with the media. The only time he had interaction was the day of his farewell. But I will give it to his aides who worked with him; they tried.

“As for Gbajabiamila, the advice I have for him is to carry the media along. I want him to retain that interaction we used to have with ministers. Particularly, I will advise that he works with the Minister of Information so that there will be synergy of purpose,” she said.

A veteran, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, also said: “The current Chief of Staff, having been a seasoned politician, having been a Speaker of the House of Representatives, he appears to be a man of the people. He has that disposition that tells staffers that he relates cordially.

“I remember Abba Kyari. He used to exhibit a friendly disposition towards staff members. Coming from the background of journalism, he tried to associate with everybody. Sometimes he may crack jokes with you, but then he is serious with his job.

“When he (Kyari) left, there was a diplomat and professor as his successor, Prof. Gambari. He was someone that looked withdrawn. He looked strict and shrewd in his role and disposition to duty.

“Many times he would crisscross the corridor as he goes to see the president and returns to his office without uttering a word to anybody when he passed by.

“People may say that Gbajabiamila has started very well. But what many do not know yet is whether he would continue the way he has started. Currently, he is friendly with everybody. If he continues like this, it’s going to be a plus to the government.”


Coups: Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso alliance won’t weaken ECOWAS resolve for democracy — Tinubu



President Bola Tinubu on Sunday said the Sahel Alliance by Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso which are under military dictatorship would not lessen the resolve of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to uphold its primary objective.

President Tinubu also said that the regional bloc will re-engage member countries under military rule based on realistic and short transition plans that would deliver democracy and good governance.

He said the new approach will help to achieve a quicker return to constitutional democracy in some of the West African Countries.

Speaking in his opening address at the 64th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Nigerian President, who said that there is no place for military rule in Africa, explained that the objective of the ECOWAS in insisting for democracy is to prioritise good governance for West Africans, as it catalyzes socioeconomic transformation and development.

He told heads of state that, “It is important that we also review some development in our sub-region, including the move by some of our members under Military rule to float an Alliance of Sahel States.

“This phantom, push back-alliance appears intended to divert attention from our mutual quest for democracy and good governance that will impact the life of our people.

“We refuse to be detracted from pursuing the collective dreams, aspirations and the noble path of ECOWAS integration as laid out in our institutional and legal frameworks.”

Recall that in September 2023, Mali’s Assimi Goita, who seized power in a military coup in 2020, explained that the “Liptako-Gourma Charter” forms the building block for an “Alliance of Sahel States to establish a collective defence and mutual assistance framework for our populations.”

This is coming on the heels of months of diplomatic row in the wake of the coup d’état in Niger that overthrew the Mohamed Bazoum-led government in Republic of Niger that attracted anger, sanctions and even the threat of military intervention from the ECOWAS.

But in his address at the Extraordinary Session in Abuja, the regional body Chairman maintained that the sanctions on the countries that overthrew the democratically elected leaders were meant to protect the fundamental liberties of the citizens.

According to him, “While the imposition of punitive sanctions may pose challenges, it is important to underscore that the struggle to protect the fundamental liberties of our Community Citizens must be upheld and respected.

“To this end, I would like to reiterate the imperative of re-engaging with the countries under military rule on the basis of realistic and short transition plans that can deliver democracy and good governance.

“On our part, we should be prepared to provide them with technical and material support to ensure the achievement of these strategic goals.

“We must pay attention to protect the institution and protect democracy I wish to underscore the fact that we stand against the unconstitutional change of government in our sub-region and we will continue to do so.”

He reiterated that Military rule is an aberration that subverts the popular will of the people hence it no longer has a place in Africa.

He said, “The message must go out loud and clear military rule has become an aberration that subverts the popular will of the people. It no longer has any place in Africa.

“Our people must be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice without let or hindrance. For democracy to endure in our sub-region, we must improve on good government and respect human rights and the rule of law.”

However, he said member states must “improve on good government and respect human rights and the rule of law” for democracy to endure in the sub-region.

Tinubu also commended his Liberian counterpart, George Weah, for conceding defeat at the just-concluded presidential elections and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition of power.

“By conceding defeat and congratulating his opponent, President Weah has left a legacy to be emulated by politicians in our region and beyond.

“On behalf of Members of the Authority, I express gratitude for his significant contributions to the Organization and wish him the very best in all his future endeavours,” said the President.

He assured the Sierra Leonean President, Julius Bio and Guinea Bissau’s Umaro Embalo of the bloc’s support in preserving democracy.

Tinubu said, “On the recent disturbances in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, let me express my solidarity with the People and Government of Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

“I wish also to underscore our unequivocal stance against any form of unconstitutional change of government in our sub-region.

“I therefore urge all of us to stand strong and united in solidarity with the People and Governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau in the face of these unfortunate incidents.”

On his part, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, lamented that while the Niger Junta continues to hold Bazoum and his family hostage, they are also interfering with the flow of humanitarian support to vulnerable populations.

“The military authorities have unfortunately shown little remorse as they hold onto their untenable positions, holding not only Mohamed Bazoum, his family and members of his government hostage but also the people of Niger.

“And in line with the provisions of our community texts, they granted humanitarian access to medical and humanitarian goods for the sake of the people

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2024 Budget: Group asks FG to increase budget to education sector



The Executive Director of the FlexiSAF, Amina Abubakar, has called on the federal government and the National Assembly to increase the budgetary allocation to the education sector and implement it’s policy of free basic education for all.

She made the call after embarking on a walk tagged “Walk for Education 3.0” to draw the attention of critical stakeholders to the need to improve education in the country.

According to her, despite the United Nations’ goal for education, Nigeria remains one of the countries with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, adding that Nigeria still has more than 10 million children out there who can’t afford education.

” We have more than 10 million children out of school which is one of the highest in the world and UNESCO recommended at least 23% of the budget be set aside for education but right now only 8.2 percent is been set aside and even with that no proper implementation, no teachers in school, poor learning environment.

” If the government promises free and quality education let it be so because in the communities, parents are asked to bring a lot of money they can’t afford so they keep the children out of school the objective is to raise resources to send these children back to school. We want to empower young people.

“We are pushing for the National Assembly to increase the budget for education. Right now the state of education in Nigeria is nothing to write home about, it is a state of emergency, and 2030 is seven years away we have spent 8 years since the declaration by the United Nations in 2015 globally we only made 15% progress so we want the National Assembly to increase so we can achieve the set goal. The federal government must increase the budget.

“So today our target is that we want the government to implement free education for all. The government says education is free, basic education is free. But a lot of children are not in school because it is not free,” she said.

She further stated that the target of the organization was to ensure that at least 600 children get back to school.

“After we achieve that, part of our future plans is to make this work bigger, even more strategic. The more we get embedded into the space, build our capacity, we would make it more and more big,” she said.

She called for support from the government and other relevant stakeholders to achieve their objective.

“I want to reiterate the theme for this year, which is “2030 and the horizon. We are trying to better each and every year. Kindly come to our tables to make a commitment to help children go back to school. As you can see the children you have seen here are from our accelerated learning program. It is a non formal learning programme that helps kids in the community.

“The children don’t have to go to school everyday for long hours so we have community acceptability. Instead of learning for nine years, these over aged children they learn in three years. So you may be wondering what kind of expertise does this FlexiSAF Foundation have that they are giving education meant for nine years in three years. What kind of madness is that? I am telling you, it is not madness. It true. In fact it is a nationally approved accelerated education curriculum. It is also called accelrated basic education. Instead of learning in nine years these children learn in three years.

“What you saw here they learnt in less than 12 months and this girl is speaking English to you and everything. So please do well to encourage FlexiSAF foundation. The Foundation was established in 2018 and so far we have supported more than 5000 children and with your support we can do more.

We even feed this children as you can see them. We don’t believe we can do this work alone. Everybody has to come together. We have together to speak with one voice.

Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr Kashifu Inuwa, said digital infrastructure was necessary to get quality education.

“So at NITDA we have part of our strategic roadmap and action plan. We have a pillar to include inclusive access to digital infrastructure and services. And for the past four years we have implemented more than 1200 projects in unserved and underserved communities mostly in the education system; secondary schools and higher institutions.

“So we will do more and also we have a target of implementing the national literacy framework to achieve 95% digital literacy by 2030. So, we want to work with foundations like to define our initiative for quality and inclusive access to education through digital infrastructure. From next year we are coming up with the new initiative; learning centres will be deployed three per state. Our target is public schools where they don’t have infrastructure,” he said.

The Special Adviser to the Minister of State for Education Mrs. Claris Ojani urged the legislative arm of Government to and implement that will enable children leave the streets and acquire basic education.

She pledged the support of the Federal Government to the initial by FlexiSAF

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Kwara Gov receives VP Kashim Shettima in Ilorin hails peace harmony in Kwara



Kwara State Governor and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Saturday received Vice President Kashim Shettima (GCON) in Ilorin, the state capital, amid a rousing welcome by several APC leaders and people of the state.

Vice President Shettima was received by the Governor at the Tunde Idiagbon Airport, joined by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi; Speaker Kwara House of Assembly Rt Hon Yakubu Salihu Danladi; Sen Salihu Mustapha (Kwara Central); Sen. Sadiq Umar (North); some members of the state executive council; and CEO KAM Holdings Nigeria Alhaji Kamaru Yusuf.

The Vice President touched down at the airport at exactly 3p.m., accompanied by his Special Assistant on Political Matters Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed; and top APC chieftain Dr. Isia’q Modibbo Kawu; among others.

Shettima headed to the Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, where he commissioned the institution’s Nursing Science Complex, which has been named after him.

The Vice President then delivered the university’s 13th convocation lecture that was themed ‘Addressing Nigeria’s Food Security Challenges Through Hi-Tech Approach: The Role of Nigerian Universities’.

Other dignitaries at the occasion included the Inspector General of Police IGP Kayode Egbetokun, who has just received his doctoral degree from the institution; founder of the University Chief AbdulRaheem Oladimeji (OFR); and Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. Noah Yusuf.

Shettima, in his lecture, said Nigeria’s reliance on oil since the early 70s and the neglect of the agricultural sector are responsible for what has today become a national security challenge in the form of food insecurity.

He said the challenge assumed a disturbing proportion as a result of policy inconsistencies, mismanagement of resources, corruption, climate change, insurgencies, and natural disasters, among others.

He said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu understands the nexus between food production and national security, and has declared a state of emergency on food security alongside a policy commitment to improve productivity by injecting more funds in the sector.

Tertiary institutions are playing critical roles in assisting the Federal Government to promote food security in Nigeria through research and the integration of agricultural study in their curriculum, the vice president said.

He said no appreciable progress can be made in agricultural production without mechanization, calling for increased and efficient use of modern technology to maximise yield.

The Vice President described Governor AbdulRazaq as a prudent leader and commended him for various agricultural initiatives the administration has introduced to boost food production in the state.

Speaking about the cultural composition of Ilorin, which he said exemplifies a spirit of brotherhood, Shettima said Nigeria has a lot to learn from the ancient city, calling on all indigenes of Ilorin to continue to be tolerant and supportive of one another.


Rafiu Ajakaye

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor

December 9, 2023

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