OPINION: A Chief of Staff in times like these…By Bolanle Bolawole


So many “quotable quotes” played on my mind as I fixed my heart on writing this piece. The first was John Donne’s “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!” It is not as much as for the sake of the one who dies that Donne thinks like this as it is a reflection of Donne’s own personality and an understanding that death, as they say, is a debt that everyone will pay. The same bell waits to toll for thee as no one will escape death!

Next was William Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances…” Shakespeare spoke through Jacques in “As you like it” Men play their part and then exit because that is the way God has ordained it. Importantly, exit creates a vacuum for someone else to fill. Imagine if no one had died since Creation – from Adam and Eve up till now!

Then I remembered Shakespeare again but this time through Antonio in “Julius Caesar” “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar”! I have always known that, like the coin or currency, everyone has two sides without which we are not complete. And what turns its back to one faces another. We saw this play out when Abacha died, and also when Yar’Adua died. We have seen it at play again in the last few days reading the epitaphs that have been hewn, so to say, on the grave of Malam Abba Kyari.

Hebrews 9: 27says “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” No matter what any one of us may say, think or do, the arguments (if there will be any!) will not be joined on this side of immortality; neither will judgment be entered here on Earth by a Walter Onnoghen or Tanko Muhammad. Judgment, the final judgment, the judgment that matters most, the judgment you can be certain does not and will not miscarry justice, the judgment that will serve the cause of justice in all material particular, will be entered in Heaven – and by Baba God Himself!

I admit, therefore, that it is futile and vain glorious to approbate and reprobate here. If we do at all, we are only being human. Nothing can be added and nothing can be subtracted from a person who is dead. It is a closed chapter; a done deal. The only thing that can be done – and should be done –after “dust to dust”, is to fill the vacuum and life goes on! Mother taught me: No one dies and the world grinds to a halt! Life must go on! May the soul of the departed rest in peace!

S. Silverman asked whether the dead do actually rest in peace! Of course, they do – but that is another story for another day! These are no ordinary times, though. We live in “interesting” times; apologies, Dr. Tai Solarin! The notes of warning Tai and others sounded went unheeded. Like Prof. Ayodele Awojobi and many other patriots, frustration must have harried Tai to an untimely grave.

Not only are these times “interesting”, they are also dire and dangerous! Is it Coronavirus that we should speak about or the collapse of the economy starring us in the face? A virus runs rampage, cowering even super-power nations, bending them over like bulrush. And as the saying goes, if gold rusts, what will silver do? Everyone is helpless but some are more helpless – and hopeless -than the others, apologies George Orwell. As always, Nigeria should be perching precariously at one of the lowest rungs of the ladder.

Rather than be considerate in these hard times and give us a respite, our home-grown problems of religious fundamentalism that bred Boko Haram; murderous herdsmen, bandits of all hues and nationalities, kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, and our army of unemployed and un-employable youths milling around like a time-bomb waiting to explode, escalate by the day.

Hunger strut the land like a colossus which, quoting Antonio again, may yet prove “the unkindest cut of all” Truly, Nigeria and Nigerians, in Chinua Achebe’s words, are “No longer at ease”

Our over-dependence on crude oil, like the “rentier State” that we truly are (a landlord that depends solely on rents from his tenants for survival), exposes our nakedness as crude oil prices crash in the international market and there are even no customers asking us “what are you selling there?” Google says “In current Political Science and International Relations theory, a rentier state is a state which derives all or a substantial portion of its national revenues from the rent of indigenous resources to external clients”

Tell me if the cap fits! In what ways, then, are we better than the Ipodo (Lagos) sex-workers bemoaning their fate as lockdown locks in prospective customers?

But in all of this gloom, I see a silver lining on the horizon, akin to the one Elijah saw in 1 Kings 18: 41 that made him declare to King Ahab: “…there is a sound of abundance of rain”! And the rain did fall – torrential rainfall against all expectations and against the run of play, as soccer analysts would describe it – putting an end to three-and-half-years of crippling and grinding drought.

Nigeria’s drought has been longer than Biblical Israel’s but I see the lines falling in nice places for this country if the right decision is made with the next Chief of Staff. Conversely, I see a descent into the abyss of hopelessness and a precipice of no return if the wrong decision is made. Many permutations inform political appointments – personal, group, religious, ethnic, class prejudices and interests. Usually, they merge on one side of the divide with powerful backers and promoters in tow. We have seen that play out again and again. Standing alone – and lonely like an orphan, often with weight-less and voice-less promoters – is the national interest.

My wish – and prayer – is that the national interest, though a perennial under-dog, will have the upper hand this time around! How that will happen, I leave in the hands of God and to men and women of conscience who truly and genuinely have the love and interest of this country at heart. Many names have been touted as the likely in-coming Chief of Staff; among them Baba-Gana Kingibe, Boss Mustapha, Hamid Ali, Adamu Adamu, Nasir el-Rufai, Ibikunle Amosun, and Mohammed Buba Marwa.

All these and other names I know; some very well, some faintly. I will not run down any. Those doing so are free to express their views since I am also exercising the same liberty here. I will, however, toe the line of looking out for the Chief of Staff that these times demand and that Buhari, in the twilight of his political career, deserves. I seek for a Chief of Staff that will serve Nigeria and all Nigerians. A fresh breath and a new lease of life!

We need a Chief of Staff that is not coming into office with bags and baggage; not one whose mindset and affiliations the people already know. We need a Chief of Staff that will unite the Presidency itself and, next, the country as a whole. We have seen the Presidency function as a house divided, with all manner of demeaning intrigues and in-fighting that embarrassed the nation ad nauseam. Buhari, though taciturn, must himself have felt embarrassed many times over.

If anyone caught in the web of those shenanigans or any of the actors steps into Kyari’s shoes, the same beat of a “Fuji House of Commotion” is bound to continue. We have never before seen this country so divided; now we need someone who can leverage on the Chief of Staff’s office that Buhari and Kyari have invested with so much power and influence to give the entire country a sense of belonging and rays of hope of a better tomorrow.

We need someone that has built– and can still build – bridges across the length and breadth of this vast, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. We need someone with a track record of performance in and out of public office. We need someone with demonstrable gender sensitivity and requisite cognate experience and exposure in the right places – military, political, economic, diplomatic – and who commands respect and acceptance from the various strata of our society – the youths especially – because all these various segments must work together for Buhari to stand any chance of effectively managing this country post-Coronavirus.

The most appropriate man for the job, in my view, is Marwa. The legacies left behind by this man in old Borno state and later in Lagos State where he was military administrator have stood the test of time. For example: The tri-cycle he introduced into Lagos is, to this day, still known and called “Keke Marwa”!

Need I say more?

Mr Bolawole, a former editor of Punch newspaper, is an author, Public Relations specialist, and columnist.

E-mail: [email protected] 0807 552 5533

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