The new Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, is gradually acclimatising and keying into the politics of the presidency.
Gambari is not new to Buhari and governance, being at a time the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) and Minister of External Affairs under Buhari’s government.
As soon as he resumed on May 13, 2020, his first official assignment was the first virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by the president. So far, he has worked with Mr. President on two virtual meetings of the federal cabinet.
Shortly after the first e-cabinet meeting, Prof. Gambari paid a courtesy call on the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd.) He was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Malam Tijani Umar.
Sources in the presidency said the visit was a good sign that Monguno and Gambari would work together for the good of the country.
A source said, “This shows that the two personalities are ready to work together for the good of the country. There will be a good working relationship between them. You will recall that the previous experience was not good.”
It would be recalled that the NSA had alleged undue interference by the late CoS, Abba Kyari, in matters of national security.
A day after his resumption, Gambari was part of a quarterly meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). He was on ground when President Buhari received the Malagasy native formulation against COVID-19 from President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau.
On May 19, Prof. Gambari received the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. A day earlier, he had coordinated the meeting of President Buhari with Lt. Gen. TY Danjuma (Rtd) who last visited the State House about three years ago, over security matters in his home state of Taraba.
Role in sack of TCN MD
The presidential approval on the sack of a former Managing Director (MD) of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Usman Gur Mohammed, was reportedly communicated via a memo from Prof. Gambari.
A Special Assistant to the President, Sabi’u Yusuf, had in a letter referenced PRES/65-I/COS/3/750 addressed to Gambari, conveyed Buhari’s approval of an earlier memo on the matter. Gambari responded to the Minister of Power in a letter referenced SH/COS/03/A/2779 which he personally signed, conveying the president’s response.
Meanwhile, a media report indicated that Buhari had directed Gambari to cancel all appointments and approvals made by the late Kyari.
Sources in the presidency said the attitude of Gambari, an indigene of Kwara State, who was still understudying the new office, towards his aides and other staff could not be accurately assessed at this period of physical distancing.
However, one of the sources said the new CoS was a very cheerful personality as he exchanged pleasantries and mingled freely.
Many Nigerians expect to see a higher level of service from the diplomat whose appointment remains a huge surprise to pundits who had already tipped other perceived close allies of President Buhari for the job.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International Nigeria (TIN), in an interview, advised Gambari to handle his job with necessary skill, capacity and experience that would enable him perform.
A member of the National Caucus of the ruling APC, Chief Sam Nkire, urged the new CoS to study his new environment and use the experience to navigate through challenges.