By Kelechi James
Nigerians woke on Saturday to the sad news of the demise of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Abba Kyari, who died late on Friday at the First Cardiologist Hospital, Lagos.
A media aide to President Buhari, Garba Shehu broke the news of Kyari’s death on his twitter handle in the early hours of Saturday.
News Snow learnt that the late Kyari, who died of complications arising from the COVID-19 on Thursday, fell into coma on Tuesday and was placed on life support machine in a private clinic in Lagos. He had tested positive for coronavirus in March after a trip to Germany and Egypt.
Kyari had acted as the gatekeeper to 77-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari. After his re-election last year, Buhari ordered ministers to channel all communications through him.
Kyari had underlying health problems including diabetes. His age was not officially disclosed, although two presidency aides said he was 70. Reuters reported on March 24 that he had contracted the disease.
“The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020,” presidency spokesman Garba Shehu said in a tweet.
Nigeria has 493 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Kyari travelled to Germany in early March with a delegation of other Nigerian officials for meetings with Siemens AG.
He attended meetings with senior government officials upon his return to Nigeria before he was diagnosed as having contracted the new coronavirus.
Buhari, whose public pronouncements are rare, himself has undisclosed medical ailments and spent five months in London for treatments in 2017. Kyari’s death might leave a potential opening for a rethink of policy at the heart of government.
According to Reuters, analysts said the government’s statist approach since Buhari took office in 2015 was in large part influenced by his chief of staff, a former executive at the United Bank for Africa Plc.
Antony Goldman, head of Nigeria-focused PM Consulting, said Kyari was “the central figure in driving forward” government policies on agricultural reform, investment in infrastructure and power.
“Kyari was very close to Buhari and arguably the most powerful man within the administration,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, vice president of Teneo Intelligence in a note.
“Kyari’s death removes the centre of gravity from Buhari’s inner circle and might provide an opening for more reform-minded elements such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo,” he said.
Kyari’s death could be very significant because he showed “an immense ability to wield power in the context of a largely absent president”, said Clement Nwankwo, director of the Abuja-based Policy and legal Advocacy Centre think-tank.
Reacting to Kyari’s death, President Buhari said his late chief of staff was opposed to corrupt elements.
In his tribute in honour of Kyari, Buhari said: “In political life, Abba never sought elective office for himself. Rather, he set himself against the view and conduct of two generations of Nigeria’s political establishment – who saw corruption as an entitlement and its practice a by-product of possessing political office.”
Buhari said the late Kyari was in his 20s when they first met. He also revealed that his late aide was 67 years old as of the time of his death and they were friends for 42 years.
In her reaction, Buhari’s wife, Aisha, on her verified Instagram page offered her condolences to Kyari and others who have died from Coronavirus.
She wished that Allah forgives Kyari of his shortcomings even as she prayed for an end to COVID-19 pandemic.
“From God Almighty, we came and to Him we shall return.
“I condole with Mrs. Kulu Abba Kyari and the entire family of Late Malam Abba Kyari over the death of their husband and father.
“I pray that Allah (SWT) will forgive his shortcomings, grant him Al-Jannatul Firdausi and give the family the fortitude and patience to bear the loss, Ameen.
“While wishing all those infected a speedy recovery, I pray for an end to COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Also condoling Nigerians on Kyari’s death, former President Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, and Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, expressed shock on the passage of the late chief of staff to the president.
In his tweet on Saturday, Atiku wrote, “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. I am saddened by the death of Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. May Allah SWT comfort his family, forgive his sins and grant him AlJannah Firdaus. Ameen.”
Jonathan prayed that “Allah” strengthens his family and friends during this moment of grief.
Lawan said death is inevitable and it only comes at an appointed time while praying for God to comfort Kyari’s family.
Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, described the departed CoS as a “truly good man, profoundly faithful and loyal to our country”.
Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said he was “deeply saddened by the news” while expressing condolences to his family.
Also reacting to Kyari’s death, the United States Government through its mission in Nigeria extended condolences to the family of late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
The US mission in Nigeria via a message on its social media page described him as ‘dedicated son and civil servant’.
“On the passing of the Presidential Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria wishes to express sincerest condolences to his family and to the government of Nigeria,”
“We mourn with Nigeria at the loss of this dedicated son and public servant.” the statement read.
On the passing of the Presidential Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria wishes to express sincerest condolences to his family and to the government of Nigeria. We mourn with Nigeria at the loss of this dedicated son and public servant.”
The national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, described the late official as a man of many accomplishments.
“I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Malam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President. He was an extremely able, loyal and talented man who dedicated his considerable skills to the success of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Whatever someone will try to say about Mallam Kyari, the words will prove insufficient. His influence in government and throughout the land was substantial and profound. He will surely be missed.
“My deepest condolences go to President Buhari, the people of Nigeria and especially the family of Mallam Kyari over this tragic loss. May Almighty Allah comfort the president and the Kyari family at this difficult moment.”
“This death came at a time the government is working assiduously to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. We must not allow the passing away of Mallam Kyari and the other Nigerians who have lost their lives to this terrible disease to be in vain,” the statement read in parts.
The former Lagos governor stated that Nigerians must use this moment to strengthen our resolve in fighting the pandemic.
“Let us rededicate ourselves to obeying the public health measures such as physical distancing so that we may defeat the contagion and not fall to it.”
“While we must maintain spatial distance from one another we must yet come closer in the spirit of brotherly compassion and national purpose in order to defeat the threat we now face. “Mallam Kyari was a man of accomplishment,” he said.
He then concluded that the best way to honour the departed is by doing all we can to defeat the virus so that we safeguard the health of the nation.
Barely two months that Nigeria recorded its index case, 493 persons have contracted the disease.
While 17 have died, 151 persons recovered and have been discharged.
By Kelechi James