There is almost no Nigerian that does not have a word of complaint to make every now and then about Nigeria’s power crisis. Even the elites who can afford to run 24/7 generators are faced with the humongous expense to fuel them. Any government that means business, must have tackling power at the frontline of its agenda. No investor finds a country without adequate power supply – at the minimum – attractive. Nigeria does not even deliver adequate.
On the 22nd of July, 2019, Nigeria signed a six-year power deal with Germany’s Siemens. The deal targets producing at least 25,000 Megawatts of electricity by 2025; an over 300% increase from our current production. This is a feat, that once met would result in a turn-around for Nigeria. It is estimated that only 40% of Nigerians are connected to the power grid – that is bad enough. Worse, all of these negligible 40% are not even assured of consistent stable power supply.
This country has witnessed several fraudulent attempts to fix the sector. Most of the moves ended up as blank cheques to corrupt leaders and their cronies.
The deal with Siemens – delivered through government-to-government contracts – is easily Nigeria’s most transparent roadmap to fixing its power supply deficit. By the very nature of the deal, corruption is eliminated as there are no middle-men.
The details of the deal, when it was first signed in July 2019, were not spelt out. It was only an agreement to make power happen. Fleshing out the nitty-gritty was what took Mallam Abba Kyari, the President’s Chief of Staff, and the Minister of Power, Mr. Mamman Saleh, on the President’s instructions, to Germany to meet with the Siemens delegation led by its Global Chief Executive, Mr Joe Kaeser.
Mallam Abba was only doing his work: being the President’s foreman when it most mattered. Unfortunately, he returned with the Coronavirus – at a time when Germany and the UK were not yet designated high-risk countries. Consequently, he had spent over a week in Nigeria before he exhibited symptoms of an infection.
Whether he is running high-level errands in Germany, sending out memos to appointees and staff of the President, calling them to duty, or simply taking the heat for his principal, Mallam Abba’s sin for those who detest him is doing his job, with the utmost loyalty and dedication to President Buhari.
And he doesn’t quiver at the critics or their vile words. He maintains, like his principal, a sanctimonious silence while focusing on his assignment. I can bet that he is in fact working from where he is in isolation – it was not surprising that his doctors said he is responding well to treatment, but needs to sleep and rest more. The life of a workaholic indeed.
Those who today act like they are more concerned than even the President about the whereabouts and well-being of Mallam Abba Kyari, do so not out of love, but mostly out of the transfer of a deeply-seated hatred against the President Buhari administration.
“Where is our Chief of Staff?” rants a certain lady in a video that has gone viral on the internet. And I am compelled to ask, when did he become “Our Chief of Staff”? This unusual affection is obviously suspicious.
Then there are those who have taken the hate a notch higher, and have claimed that he is vegetable. A deranged blogger claimed that there was a death in Aso Rock – knowing fully well that Mallam Abba was treating the coronavirus.
Another Twitter user, Keith Richard, an obvious pseudonym, claimed Mallam Abba was in a certain hospital in St. John’s Wood – wherever that is. He topped his claim with the icing, saying that his source saw him personally. How delusional!
Mallam Abba, the new found darling of social media users, is simply enjoying the attention of being the President’s right hand man.
President Buhari is known for being immune to the noise-making and chaotic rants. He stays focused to those values he has and the proposal he presented to deliver to Nigerians, who voted en-masse for him, re-electing him for a second term. He shows no bother to the vulgar thrown at him. Perhaps this is why their fiery darts of hate have found Mallam Abba Kyari, his trusted ally and wing-man as a good-looking target.
It is not unexpected. He is the Chief of Staff to the President. That is why Chris Whipple, describes this office as the Gatekeeper: the one who takes the heat for the president, and brings the President’s “No” to those who the President cannot tell that to. He corners the President’s enemies for himself.
The President Buhari administration has an assignment towards the nation. One earned over the ballot – through the overwhelming votes of millions of Nigerians. Mallam Abba Kyari has the duty to manage the President’s affairs and ensure his principal meets the targets he has set for himself. He does a yeoman’s job. And it involves getting in the way of people, stepping on fat, boisterous toes, inconveniencing some and unseating vested unproductive interests. For some, these are sins, but for Nigeria, this is service.
Mohammed T. Abiodun, a writer and collector of historical texts, writes from Abuja.