How Abba Kyari battled me until death — Femi Adesina, a former presidential spokesperson


Former presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, has revealed the behind the scene intrigues that set him up against the late Abba Kyari, indicating that they had a strained relationship from the point he was appointed the first Chief of Staff (CoS) to former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Writing in his new book, “Working with Buhari: Reflections of a Special Adviser, Media and Publicity (2015-2023),” Adesina disclosed that Kyari objected to his direct relationship with the president even though he was merely obeying Buhari’s advice upon becoming his spokesman.

He wrote in the book that for five years until he died, Kyari, the chief administrative officer of the presidential villa, denied the office of the media the necessary operational funds which had existed under previous administrations.

He also informed that Kyari blocked his effort to employ personnel in the media unit despite the approval from the president.

The former presidential aide wrote: “But somehow, me and him did not quite hit it off. He was a somewhat aloof person, and I tried to give him due respect, and forge an amicable working relationship.

“He was not forthcoming, and I too had a tendency to be aloof, unless there was warmth from the other party, so we just worked at a distance.

“A lot was said about him and his style, and how it affected governance, but one thing you cannot deny Malam Abba (as he was usually called) was that he was fiercely loyal to the president.

“With me, anyone that loved Buhari, all his sins were forgiven. If they be as scarlet, they would be as white as snow. And if they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. God rest Malam Kyari’s soul, but there are three things he did, that extended the fissure between us.

“In June 2015, I had done a memo to the president, recommending some people to be taken on as staff in the Media Department. They had gone through the campaign and struggles with us and pedestaled themselves as dyed-in-the-wool Buharists. They were from different parts of the country.

“I explained that much to Mr. President the day I took the memo to him. He thanked me and said he would pass it to the SGF when he appointed one, so it would be on record. Fair enough.

“When a COS and SGF were appointed, the president directed the memo to the COS. Also in order. But Malam Kyari just sat on it for the next one year. He did not say anything on it.

“Eventually, my colleague, Garba Shehu, went to see him. And he confessed to Shehu that he shunned the memo because I had taken it directly to the president. But the June date on it was clear. He had not even been appointed then.

“The second had to do with funding of the Media Department. There was no budget line, and funds were usually provided by the office of the NSA, as needs arose. I had consulted with two of my predecessors, Dr. Reuben Abati, and Ima Niboro, who had briefed me.

“Media and Publicity is not cheap, not anywhere in the world, but it would amaze you that we operated for five years without a dime. After the NSA was appointed, I went to meet and brief him about how publicity was usually funded from his office. It was a Friday, and he promised that anything that would make me and the man we had come to serve succeed, he would do.

“Exactly a week later, after the Jumat service, the NSA walked into my office, with his two hands in the air. I asked what the matter was. He told me he had received a memo from the president, directing that nothing, absolutely nothing, must be funded from his office, except security. In the light of that, the promise he had made me was no longer tenable.

“I thanked him and said I would meet the president. And I did. That very night, in the house. I remember that it was only myself and General Dambazau that were waiting to see him. He is a senior friend, and I told him the purpose of my visit.

“He was quite surprised that over three months media and publicity was not being funded yet.

“He asked how we were doing it, and I said myself and Shehu were using goodwill.

“When I met the president and told him of my encounter with the NSA, he confirmed that he gave the directive, and explained why.”

The book quotes the former president as saying: “A lot was done through the office of the NSA, and there were no records. I do not want that. We will institute a probe into the activities of the office (it was eventually

done), and you will see what happened there. I don’t want the media funded from there again.

“Meet the Chief of Staff and let him design how we would be funding media.”

He said he then thanked Buhari and left.

Adesina further narrates: “The next day, I went to see the COS in the office. I had just started talking, when he impatiently started to say: ‘No, no, no. Media is not funded from here. Media is not funded from here.’ He would not even give me a chance to talk. And lest I appear as someone just after funding, for what I would gain, I left his office and never went back to the president. For the first five years, the media did not receive one naira, till the SGF, Boss Mustapha, heard about it and designed a budget line from his office.

“It was not up to what was required, but it was better than nothing.

“Third encounter. A retired General, someone well respected in the country, had wanted to see the president.

“Many times, he applied through the office of COS, which is the proper channel. He never got feedback. So he phoned and asked me to intervene since the issue he wanted to discuss was quite serious. I went

the President, and mentioned the General, and why he needed to come see him.

“The President just said: ‘Tell COS to schedule him for 8:00 pm tomorrow in the house.’ I passed on the word and left for my office. I had not been seated for five minutes when my intercom rang. It was the COS who wanted me to come to his office.

“He started screaming as I entered: ‘Why did you get an appointment for Gen..? Why did you? You always go behind me to relate with the president. You have to stop it.’

“Remember the president’s instructions to me the day I resumed work: ‘Do not let anybody stop you from seeing me. Anytime you need to see me, just come.’ I never abused that rain check but went to see the president only when it was totally necessary, throughout the eight years. And he was always gracious to me.

“But apparently, it became an issue with Malam Abba, so we were not quite chummy, but we were also not enemies.

“Sadly, when the dreaded Coronavirus came in 2019 and raged for most parts of the next two years, it claimed many worthy souls, Malam Abba was one of them. It touched me deeply.”

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