To say I was shocked by Abba Kyari’s death would be to tell a lie. Being 81 years old, an asthmatic patient who routinely had “breathing problems” that necessitated periodic trips to London hospitals — in addition to being a diabetic who was older than 65—it would have been nothing short of miraculous if he survived COVID-19.
In spite of who he was, especially the last five years of his life on earth, as a Muslim, I won’t speak ill of him in death. But I won’t write undeserving and deodorizing posthumous extolments of him, either. That would be as bad as, or even worse than, celebrating his death.
With Kyari’s death, Nigeria is now truly leaderless. Buhari is practically in the land of the living dead. He’s a breathing mannequin whose only reason for living is to prove he isn’t dead in order to justify the continuity of the rule in his name.
Abba Kyari ruled the country on Buhari’s behalf.
In my viral February 22, 2020, column titled, “The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,” this line appeared: “Sometime in the midpoint of last year, a northern retired general told me Abba Kyari said in private that people who vilify him don’t realize that without him Nigeria would be rudderless and descend into chaos.”
Now, he is gone, and the chaos he talked about would start in the coming days and weeks. Mamman Daura, Buhari’s nephew who introduced Kyari to Buhari, isn’t only old (he is now in his early 80’s) he is also now isolated from Buhari thanks to Kyari.
Babagana Kingibe who has been acting on Kyari’s behalf and who will probably formally replace him, doesn’t quite know Buhari in the same way that Abba Kyari did.
There is a yawning, potentially disorienting power vacuum in the presidential villa now, which actually emerged really visibly since Kyari went out of circulation before his eventual death.
Watch out for Aisha Buhari to assert herself more aggressively and to work to grab power in the fashion that Turai Yar’adua did. In fact, she already started this the moment Kyari took ill.
One of the first things Aisha did was to cause Jalal Arabi, permanent secretary of the State House and Kyari’s dutiful protege, to be redeployed from the Villa. The remnants of the cabal will, of course, fight back.
But the fight between Aisha and members of the cabal who are merely Kyari’s proteges, would be a fight in the dark because Buhari who is supposed to intervene is an insentient being who’s barely aware he’s alive.
The in-fighting will create noticeable cracks in the Buhari group that Osinbajo, Tinubu, and other interest groups would exploit to feather their nests and advance their interests.
In other words, in the coming days and months, expect the cessation of any pretense to governance and an unprecedentedly factious, dog-eat-dog, recriminatory fight between competing power blocs.