BY MIKE OZEKHOME
My reaction to the appointment of Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari is that this is one good choice of an appointment made by President Muhammadu Buhari. I don’t care that Buhari could not still look beyond his perennially blurred sectional binoculars, as usual, regarding key government appointments. The reasons are that I personally know Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari. He is a decent gentleman and a fine trust-worthy Nigerian patriot. We worked closely together at the 2014 National Conference.
He had also warmly received my group in New York, USA, in 1990, as Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations during an American Embassy (political section)- sponsored human rights tour. At the 2014 National Conference, Gambari and my humble self, together with few other selected creme-de-creme Elderstatesmen and women at the Conference, belonged to a select Committee that worked assiduously to harmonise seemingly irreconcilable and volatile political, ethnic, gender and religious differences between the many varied and heterogeneous tendencies at the Conference.
I found him very detrabilised, diplomatic, warm, brilliant, accommodating and having a deep grasp and knowledge of the multi-faceted problems besetting Nigeria, including the NATIONAL QUESTION. We worked very hard together and resolved knotty national issues and arrived at acceptable common grounds amongst the 492 delegates of the National Conference. To me, this is an opportunity for this former senior lecturer, professor at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and diplomatic Czar to push for the implementation of some of the most urgent recommendations out of the over 600 well thought out recommendations contained in the National Conference report, but which this government had surprisingly shoved into the cold archives of historical oblivion.
My personal humble quick piece of advice to Prof Gambari: your appointment is favourably viewed in many circles, notwithstanding that you are over 75 years old, perhaps, as a compromise middle ground for some urgently needed national re-direction and intellectual intervention and moderation in the poor governance style of this rather clueless government, know it now that this government has enthroned more hardship, poverty, insecurity, corruption, sectionalism, clannishness, favouritism, hypocricy, nepotism and prebendalism, more than any government in Nigeria since Lord Lugard’s forced amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates to found Nigeria on January 1, 1914.
As an experienced brilliant Academic, Ambassador and former UN Under Secretary on African Affairs, you must shun the allure and glamour of power and its intoxitating effect. Many before you drank from power’s poisoned chalice and regretted it, albeit too late. Run away from the hawks and cabal in Aso Villa and keep far, very far away, from them. If you don’t know them, ask outspoken Mrs Aisha Buhari. She does. She even publicly identified some of them. These are people who deliberately use their positions to make the lives of Nigerians one of a torturous hell on earth. Many, millions of Nigerians have since then been turned in to “the living dead”, or “walking corpses” (apologies, Ayi Kwei Armah, his epic novel, “The beautiful ones are not yet born”). Prof, please, in your own interest and in the larger interest of Nigeria, speed far away from Aso Villa power merchants. Run fast away from politicians, politics, sheer power play, muscle-flexing and official grand standing. Focus squarely on your job as the urbane, suave, humble, very well educated, well travelled and highly cultivated technocrat that many know you for. Don’t wrestle with, or kowtow to, the power players in Aso Villa. You will lose out. They will beat you to it. They will make a mincemeat and ruination of your glittering credentials. They know the ‘corner-corner’ of the Villa more than you. Some of them have been there, either directly or indirectly through proxies, for over 50 years! You are no match for them and their nightly schemings like witches and wizards in a coven. You are certainly an uncircumcised neophyte in high-wired Aso Rock politics. Simply do your job, with focus on posterity and future judgement by history. Look immediately into the sorry plight of beleaguered Nigerians that are in slavish doldrums and in a state of complete nadir and on ground zero. Upgrade the office of the Chief of
Staff from its present polluted and politicised nature and remake it into a respectable one that takes after its counterpart in America from where it was borrowed. Don’t make yourself a human god or deity to be hero-worshipped, deified and canonized. You will have thousands who will readily fawn, flatter, grovel, cringe, boot lick and toady at your feet. Shun them. Keep them afar. They are power lepers, who are inebriated by its all-consuming aphrodisiac effect. Professor, you are not a politician. You have worked with 4 Secretaries-General and 7 Heads of State in Nigeria. You are an Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR). So, what more do you want? So, leave politics to politicians. Don’t make yourself a super minister, or make your table a clearing one for ministers and other obsequious government appointees. They will tell you that you are the new Sheriff-in-town, the new powerhouse, the new Louis XIV of France. Reject these false appellations. Don’t dorn the borrowed robes. They are false robes of perfidy, treachery and grand duplicity. Simply thank them and tell them to go and continue with their normal jobs and carry out their constitutional duties, unhindered, undisturbed, unmolested. Prof, listen to me very carefully: those close to wealth and vainglorious lucre will attempt to bribe you. They will tell you it is not bribe but ‘appreciation’ for your allegedly ‘wonderful performance’. Thank them, but reject the Greek gift. It is dirty. It is a dangerous trap, a looming nose and albatross on your neck.
They are simply setting you up. At the appropriate time, they will show you a mirror and tell you to look at yourself in it. They will then unearth and untie the hidden bound files. They will open the pandora box to show you your concealed skeletons. At that time, it will be too late for you to back-pedal. You will then be led slavishly by the nose thereafter. Because, you have no option, as you would have lost your character, integrity and honour. Sprint and hasten away from politics and the 2023 seers, calculators, estimators and statisticians. Just tell them you are not interested in politics at all. Tell them you are simply a servant of the people. Be loyal, of course, to your appointer. Loyalty and fidelity surely pay. That was probably why President Buhari still sought you out and appointed you his Chief of Staff, nearly 37 years after he appointed you his minister of External Affairs at just 39, in 1984. But, wherever and whenever your appointer’s directives or interests clash with your personal convictions, conscience and the national interest, reject them. Throw in the towel and resign immediately. Nigerians, and more importantly, Almighty God, will hail and bless you for it. In such a situation, run, run, run!!!
As Catherine Pulsifer once put it, “your character defines who you are by the actions you take”. Finally, sir, in the famous words of former American President, Woodrow Wilson, “if you lose your wealth, you lost nothing; if you lose your health, you have lost something; but if you lose your character, you have lost everything”. Prof, from the power jingosts and tin gods in Aso Villa, take a run as if Lucifer himself is pursuing you. Prof, RUN,