THEWILL EDITORIAL: Will This Old Wine Really Taste Better?

Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari,

BEVERLY HILLS, June 09, (THEWILL) – Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari may have chosen to hit the ground running as the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari with just a few weeks into his appointment and assumption of office without much fanfare.

Feelers from the grapevine on the new thinking at the Presidency, which, of course, is manifesting in the recent actions being taken by the President, might just be pointing to the smooth operating style of the 75-year-old retired diplomat.

Apparently proving cynics wrong that the pace of government actions might not necessarily switch to the fast lane with his appointment, some critical recommendations which Nigerians had considered long overdue are now being tabled before President Buhari for authorization.

There is no doubt that the tested and seasoned diplomat, with no known political ambition, is already proving to Nigerians that the office of the Chief of Staff to the President is not necessarily meant to be occupied by political jobbers, friends of the President or a candidate of the ruling ‘cabal.’

His emergence as the man for the top job had, in fact, defied all political permutations as the President appeared to have gone all out for a man “after his heart,” instead of allowing the ‘cabal’ to decide for him.

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Coming with excellent service records at both national and international levels, spanning about four decades, Gambari, a professor of Political Science and former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, is surely a perfect fit for the top job.

Before his appointment early last month, the pioneer Chancellor of the Kwara State University was the Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Issues for the Secretary – General of the United Nations. He was also Nigeria’s Minister of External Affairs from 1984 – 85 during the military regime of Buhari.

The former Deputy Secretary – General of the United Nations for Political Affairs was also a Permanent Representative of Nigeria at the United Nations. He was appointed by the Chairperson, African Union Commission as Joint African Union – United Nations Special Representative for Darfur in January 2010.

The Kwara State – born international civil servant who has been described as a ‘systems and process’ man is therefore bringing his clout and network at the international community to bear on his very important job as President Buhari’s top aide.

But the task before Prof. Gambari, who was also a member of the National Conference, which made some 600 recommendations for Nigeria to move forward, is very daunting at this point in Nigeria’s chequered political history.

The Chief of Staff is coming at a time of great division among Nigerians over alleged marginalisation and lopsided appointments into federal government positions as well as infrastructure deficit, economic and security challenges facing the country.

We really believe that Gambari’s proven experience over the years would be helpful to the Buhari Administration in the areas of well thought-out ideas and pragmatic decisions to be recommended to his boss in order to address some of the current agitations and challenges.

We want to believe that the new Chief of Staff will up his ante in order to shame critics who say he is too old for the job. It is worthy to note that Gambari, as Minister for External Affairs, used his clout to douse the diplomatic uproar that followed the attempted kidnap, by the Buhari military junta in 1984, of Alhaji Umaru Dikko, the Minister for Transport under the just toppled Shehu Shagari’s regime, from the United Kingdom.

As the Nigerian Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Gambari also helped to scale down international sanctions against the country for the execution of rights activist, Ken Saro Wiwa, by the Sanni Abacha military junta.

Now, with the various challenges facing the Buhari Administration, we have no doubt that the new Chief of Staff would surely want to live to expectations to enable him stand tall at the end of his service to his fatherland.

The actions taken on the issue of the 150 leaked memos allegedly signed off by the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari without the President’s consent, as well as the blockade of the loopholes that led to the alleged ‘gross abuse’ of office and apparent hijack of the presidential powers by the late Kyari and the cabal, are just some of the smart moves credited to the new CGS.

Also, the renewed push for the retirement of the country’s service chiefs to make way for a new team as well as the search for a replacement for the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, are some other bold moves by the new CGS, though Nigerians have been clamouring for all these before now.

Prof. Gambari is also believed to be the brain behind the recent nomination of former Minister for Finance and the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, as candidate for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, by President Buhari, as a way of assuaging the South East zone and giving the country a brighter chance during the election for the post.

But more actions and assistance are still needed from this erudite scholar to help his master achieve the set goals and objectives of his Administration. As a member of the 2014 National Conference, we expect Gambari to diplomatically counsel President Buhari on the need to implement some of the recommendations as a way of calming frayed nerves in the polity instead of just dumping the documents to the dustbin of history.

This becomes very necessary in view of the CGS’s comment at the

80th birthday of the former Minister of Defence, retired General Domkat Bali, in Abuja.

At the ceremony, Gambari was quoted as saying that “Most of the problems confronting Nigeria were results of the structure,” adding, “If a structure is not working, we have a responsibility to make adjustment to that structure.”

According to Gambari, “We have serious reasons to be worried as a country. Our country is not in good shape. The countries we were at par with at independence are far ahead of us in terms of national cohesion and physical infrastructure. So we must identify and analyse the problems that are bedevilling us.”

Now that the erudite professor has found himself in the corridors of power, once again, we want to believe that he has no reason not to walk his talk, more so, as he is now the President’s right hand man.

Though some criticisms have trailed his appointment, especially from some of his professional colleagues, we believe that no man is infallible and those issues raised against him are part of what really makes him human.

We have no doubt that what Gambari makes out of his current assignment will surely be written for or against him for the rest of his life given his age now. For sure, Nigerians are patiently waiting to see how this old wine will taste.