The newly appointed Chief of Staff to the President (CoS), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, yesterday declared he was picked for the job because President Muhammadu Buhari needs his competence and loyalty to succeed.
Asked what Nigerians should expect from him as Chief of Staff, Gambari told reporters at the Presidential Villa in Abuja: “We have not started. I’ll have to find out. I don’t report directly to the nation, I report to the president.”
He said he would be offering his “loyalty, competence and support” to the president, adding that as the chief of staff, his guiding principle would be “to serve the president to the best of my ability.”
Buhari formerly announced Gambari as the chief of staff shortly before the commencement of the resumed Federal Executive Council (FEC). During the session, a moment of silence was observed in honour of some deceased members of FEC at various times including a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the late Chief Richard Akinjide and the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari.
Gambari, Nigeria’s former permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) arrived at the Villa at 10:40 a.m. and was received by senior presidency officials including the director of protocol, Alhaji Yakubu Ahmed and the permanent secretary, State House, Mallam Tijani Umar.
Also present were the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs (Office of the Vice President) Amb. Abdullahi Gwari and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Reactions, meanwhile, have been trailing the appointment of Gambari, with the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu saying: “At this time when the entire world is combating the coronavirus pandemic and the economic consequences thereof, Prof. Gambari’s expertise and international reputation will help Nigeria galvanise national, regional and international efforts and resources to contain this viral menace and advance Nigeria’s interests on other important matters.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in a statement affirmed: “Indeed, Prof. Gambari ticks all the boxes as a round peg in a round hole. The APC is confident that Gambari, a prince of Ilorin Emirate, will bring to bear his scholarly intellect, international network, professional and administrative experience in ensuring the smooth running of the office of the president and support the government to provide good governance and successfully deliver the Next Level programmes for the benefit of Nigerians.”
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said he had no doubt that the “appointment is a major win for the presidency and the nation as a whole, especially coming at a time when Nigeria is confronting a major challenge with global outlook.”
He added: “The choice of Prof. Gambari as successor to the late Mallam Abba Kyari is commendable. Gambari is not just an academic or a diplomat; he is a fine gentleman, a decent Nigerian who epitomises the Nigerian dream.”
On his part, Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said: “The appointment is clearly fit for purpose and is deserving for our own Prof. Gambari whose record of service as a diplomat and global statesman is unblemished.”
AbdulRazaq, who is the governor of Gambari’s home state, prayed to God to protect the CoS on the “delicate national assignment.”
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello noted: “Just as the late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari played a prominent role in the success of the Buhari administration, your coming in to fill the vacuum will further add more colour to the administration’s achievements.”
Bello’s Yobe State counterpart, Mai Mala Buni said he was optimistic that Gambari would deploy his wealth of experience to bring good governance to bear on the Buhari administration.
According to a former national secretary of the Labour Party and constitutional lawyer, Dr Kayode Ajulo, “Prof. Gambari is a core technocrat with robust wealth of experience. We expect nothing else than those lofty ideas on good governance as being promoted by the UN and the Prof. Gambari-Albright Commission.” He further prayed that the “appointment comes with the much-needed additional expertise and sanity in the country’s seat of power.”
The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) also praised the choice of the new CoS, saying: “YCE is convinced that the appointment of Prof. Gambari is indicative of President Buhari’s determination to run a people-centered progressive administration that will command the respect of the international community.”
The Joint Action Committee of Northern Youths Association (JACOM) noted: “We have no doubt in our minds that his huge experience as a seasoned diplomat, his wisdom and guidance, will help the administration strive to much greater heights in delivering the dividends of democracy to ordinary Nigerians, especially the teeming youth of this great country.”
But the opposition group, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), said it was welcoming the appointment with caution. “We shall watch him closely as he resumes duty at the Presidential Villa. We shall hold him responsible for all his actions and judge him by them,” the coalition said.
Explaining its cautious stance, CUPP said it “is not unaware of the fact that Prof. Gambari is a die-hard agent of the late military dictator, Sani Abacha, and did everything on earth to defend the numerous atrocities of the Abacha regime while serving as General Abacha’s UN representative, including supporting the evil execution of the late activist, Ken Saro Wiwa, and the annulment of June 12 election.”
It added: “In the meantime, the CUPP is calling on Prof. Gambari to use the experience he has garnered on the global stage for years to assist the country and to pull out his boss, the president, from the deep pit of incompetence where he has sunk.
“We remind him that with his new appointment, he has been placed in a strategic position to help re-direct the nation from the path of destruction which his boss has been moving it to.”
Also, a former deputy national publicity secretary of the APC, Timi Frank, urged Gambari not to toe what he termed “the usual path of Villa cabal.”
“I urge you on behalf of Nigerians to bring your wealth of experience and fatherly disposition to unite the country as you carry on your duties as the chief of staff to the president.
“It is a fact that you are not the president but I believe you can influence people-oriented policies in order to ameliorate the hardship in the country. Be the people’s chief of staff.”