This country lost yet another eminent statesman with the death in Abuja on Sunday last week, November 25, of retired Brigadier Abba Kyari. He died after a brief illness at the age of 80. He is best remembered as the former military governor of North Central State, which comprised today’s Katsina and Kaduna States.
Abba Kyari was born in 1938. He attended Borno Middle School and the elite Barewa College, Zaria. In 1959 he enlisted into the Nigerian Army as an officer cadet. He attended the 12th Regular Officers’ Training School, Teshie, Accra, Ghana from March 1959 to September 1959. Kyari also attended the British Army’s Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot from October 1959 to March 1960. He served as a platoon commander and later as transport officer in the Nigerian Army’s 1 Brigade Transport Company. By July he was a Major in the artillery branch.
Major Kyari was given command of the Nigerian Army’s 5th Battalion in September 1966 following the January coup and July counter-coup. He later became Commander of 1 Brigade at Kaduna and was subsequently second-in-command and then commander of the Nigerian Army’s artillery corps. When violence broke out in the North as a fall-out of political events of that year, Major Abba Kyari achieved heroic status by assisting many of his military colleagues as well as civilians to escape back to Eastern Nigeria. He was a patriot and man of peace who rose above the passions of the moment in that troubled period.
In 1967, when General Yakubu Gowon created twelve states in the country, six of them out of the Northern region, the then Colonel Abba Kyari was appointed the first military Governor of North Central State. He served in that capacity until the overthrow of the Gowon regime in July 1975. The late Brigadier’s wisdom and foresight were widely praised when he implemented a masterplan for the development of the city of Kaduna. Deviation from this master plan by subsequent administrations is widely blamed for the problems that came to beset the city.
As a serving military officer in political office, Abba Kyari recognized early the aberration of military rule. He was among the senior officers that encouraged an orderly return to civilian rule, which was finally accomplished when the Murtala /Obasanjo administration ushered in the Second Republic in October 1979. After his retirement, he was deeply involved in building bridges across national divides as part of his belief in a united Nigeria. In the course of one of those efforts, he led the Northern delegates to the 1994 National Constitutional Conferenc, and was appointed Chairman of the conference’s National Defence Committee.
Abba Kyari was also an astute boardroom player in the nation’s corporate world and served in various capacities in a number of companies. He served on boards of directors of First Bank of Nigeria, Standard Alliance Insurance and Merchant Bank of Commerce. Kyari also became Chairman of Gamah Flour Mills and of Alif Engineering and Construction before he finally retired to a quiet, crisis-free life in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
In his message to the family as well as to the governments and people of Kaduna, Katsina and Borno states, President Muhammadu Buhari said, “We are extremely saddened by the news of General Abba Kyari’s passing away, an officer and a gentleman for whom we have a lot of respect.” President Buhari prayed God to accept his soul and grant fortitude to the family and friends he left behind to bear the loss. Though he had several adopted children, Abba Kyari is survived by nine children, among whom is Abubakar Kyari, the current Senator representing Borno North Senatorial district. He also has many grandchildren and great grand children. He has since been buried in Abuja in accordance with Muslim rites. May his soul rest in peace.