On the red cap

Yesterday a man was buried.

Abba Kyari was, to many, the de facto president of Nigeria. Since his demise became public knowledge, there has been a deluge of praise for him, as well as criticism of course, which will always accompany the death of an influential figure. But something happened yesterday. There was a concerted effort to blackmail those criticising the late Mr Kyari, in some cases by implying that those criticising him would die soon. Like WTF? In a century's time, not one person who is my agemate will be alive. Heck, in half a century, most of us will be dead, so those blackmail merchants miss the point.

Let's look briefly at Abba Kyari's role. The Chief of Staff, to my knowledge, functions to organise the life of his principal. There is a reason why the role is not mentioned in the Constitution, so for Abba Kyari to have become, by many accounts, the most powerful man in Nigeria was an aberration.

One of the things we tend to miss in this country, or to conflate, is holding opposing views. Saying that Abba Kyari was a good man, and that he was a bad leader/politician, are in no way contradictory, which brings me to something I noticed. I noticed is that pretty much everyone who spoke glowingly of the late Abba Kyari either knew him personally, or benefited from him, and therein lies one of the problems.

In a country of 150 million people, not everyone could have met him to ascertain his goodness as a man. But, if he had been a good leader/politician, everyone could have benefitted from him.

So what is Mr Kyari's legacy?

He completely obliterated the VP and reduced him to a placeholder within the government. He stepped on toes and enabled a repressive state which is an anathema to the consensus required for democratic governance. He shaped the policies of this government, and what have they delivered?

Big government policies everywhere, and consistent growth averaging less than population growth, which means that under his watch all Nigerians, including you reading this, got poorer. Heck, his border closure policy led to higher inflation, and under his watch the trade sector, our second biggest employer of labour, has been in recession for two years. Based on statements made by the CBN governor each time he met with the man, the CBN's interventionist stance, and refusal to pursue policies that would have let the economy breath, it's clear who was calling the shots of a regime that created arbitrage opportunities which were ruthlessly exploited by people in and around the centres of power.

That tinge of "some animals are more equal than others" was Abba Kyari's legacy, and it showed in the shameful sight of his close associates completely disregarding social distancing guidelines at his funeral yesterday. As an individual, his final destination is left only for God Almighty to decide. As to his personal bonhomie, that's for those who knew him as an individual. I was only ever in a room with him once, and he did not say a word in that event. But in the final analysis, "some animals are more equal than others." That, is Abba Kyari's legacy.



Using big data to understand West Africa one country (or is it region?) at a time.

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Cheta Nwanze

Using big data to understand West Africa one country (or is it region?) at a time.