The Nation’s version of it came in by 2.53 am from someone the popular press might not be off tangent in calling a cub Kaduna Mafia member in so far as he is educated beyond paper qualifications, has traversed academia, journalism and technocracy, has ‘retired’, lives in Kaduna and is a Muslim. But the night of April 23rd to 24th, 2020 was not a working night. So, Candido’s stuff didn’t make it to my eyes before 7 am.
It was interesting reading Candido again, (Candido should be the proper nickname for Mallam Mamman Daura). Even if he didn’t create the column, he came to personify it in terms of journalism as a disciplinary practice through educated surveillance of the public sphere.
I cannot remember when last he wrote. No one has contradicted the strong suspicion that he must have crafted the president’s tribute to Mallam Abba Kyari but that cannot be credited to him but to the president in whose name it was issued. Presidents do not have to write much of what they issue or are issued in their name even if a particular president has gone to what, by common sense, is the most reputable centre of learning in the world.
Although Candido didn’t add much to the existing narratives about Abba Kyari, both his and the president’s tribute to immediate past Chief of Staff are still interesting but more for what they didn’t say than what they said. And that is how meaning emerges anyway. Both tributes were to Abba Kyari but Abba Kyari as a signifier of a tendency, what for want of a better name, is the Kaduna Mafia. But that is not in the mystified sense of it but in the sense of the mafia as a tendency keen on power and influence for the advertised reason of a correctional intervention. In other words, the Mafia is like every other tendency that can be mapped in Nigeria – Ikenne Mafia, Langtang Mafia, Ohafia Mafia, Okija Mafia and whatever mafia can be imagined. Every mafia in the sense we use it in Nigeria wants power but the Kaduna Mafia appears to have outflanked its competitors to acquire preponderance of power in popular estimation.
With that has come all the mystification to the point that the historically hopeless electoral deficit of the Kaduna Mafia, for example, has disappeared. Instead, there is so much emphasis on it in terms of a ‘cabal’, a unitary and homogeneous image of the mafia as if there can be any government without a cabal or a Kitchen cabinet. The mafia’s mismanagement of the Buhari Presidency with particular reference to the lopsidedness in composition of government has worsened things for them. It leaves hagiographers and superficial script managers with circuitous recollections and reliance on say-so that do not and cannot add up.
The plight of such hagiographers is made worse by a Kaduna Mafia that set out on a mission of state interventionism which is just about the only distinction between them and the rest but ends up with a Buhari regime that has gone farthest in implementing neoliberalism than any other Nigerian regime. It is a reality that is beyond understanding.
Sadly, no tribute writers have brought this to the fore in such a systematic manner. Instead, the network cultivated by an organised manager of power as an Abba Kyari is so mesmerized by him as to be incapable of going beyond what met the eye. The other side of the tribute writers – the critics – has been unable to go beyond the hackneyed notion of Kyari usurping presidential powers or guiding power. But guiding power is what a Chief of Staff is all about. Even a Chief of Staff unskilled in the mobilisation of power will, over time, become powerful because s/he has access far above any other person. Any other Chief of Staff to a Buhari will be no less powerful in every sense of it because Buhari is not a usual president. He is the last card of a power group that lacks popularity or social rootedness to bid for power and win in a credible election. They have no history of winning elections, losing out very badly to the oligarchy in 1978 and subsequently. Buhari is the only one of that tendency that has got the image and national stature to win anything called an election in the crisis thrown up by the PDP’s inability to follow its own consensus. In so far as Abba Kyari came from this same canvass and was groomed in its ways, he was bound to be a shareholder in the day-to-day management of power even if he were not the Chief of Staff. So, he could not be a usurper.
It is the fate of every such ideologue in government to exercise power in all such circumstances, including the power to get the president, a minister or a governor to change his gown for the day because, from tendency viewpoint, the dress sense of the signifier of a tendency must capture the spirit of everyday. That is why all ideologues in government end up with stories of how powerful they are even about things they had no hands in.
One of the problems the mafia faces now is getting a replacement for Kyari. It is all very easy to bring in Prof Tijani Bande or Adamu Adamu or Mohammed Haruna but except Adamu Adamu or Babagana Kingibe, all others will take time to master the Buhari persona and how to, instinctively, reflect tendency orientation in policies. Kingibe would do this very well and probably better than Kyari but with an age difference of just a few years between him and the president as well as near same national name, wouldn’t there be two presidents? With Abba Kyari, this did not arise because he did not have the Buhari stature.
Adamu Adamu would not have to learn mastering the Buhari persona. He has got a Bachelors in that already. But has he got the Cambridge inspired self-confidence that, together with tendency grooming and cultural resources referents, steeled Kyari to construct the office and manage it in a manner considered satisfactory to the tendency even as others were grumbling? That he managed it to the satisfaction of the tendency is what Candido’s tribute is all about since, subject to correction, he wrote his and the president’s own tributes. And if the tendency is, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19, returning to statist ideology it professes, is Adamu Adamu going to provide the intellectual leadership for that as Chief of Staff? This must be a key point to ponder upon because the tragedy of a Buhari regime that ran the worst neoliberal framework is just too odd to contemplate and a reversal must be something important vis-à-vis the next COS.
Something in Candido’s tribute to Kyari tends to confirm the hypothesis that he will decide the next COS since he listed the qualities that kept Kyari there and made him ‘the best of us’. Whether even Candido can still find a replica of such names as Ibrahim Tahir, Candido himself, Mahmud Tukur, Adamu Ciroma, Turi Muhammadu appears to be the problem. These are still the best of the intellectual wing of the Arewa Establishment in its heydays. But its heydays were not the time it got power. Of course, the Mafia was in power when Buhari swept into national leadership in December 1983 but it was in the context of contending and clashing tendencies in the larger military establishment. Then they lost out amidst charges of inflexibility on matters of national importance. They got another opportunity in 2015, with about three solid years left to run. The death of Abba Kyari might, therefore, be their worst nightmare because Cambridge and such schools are not so much about its certificate but the necessary “arrogance” to put a model on the table. And you don’t produce that ‘arrogance’ casually.
The problem with such “arrogance” or such grooming too is how it makes ‘the best of us’ aliens and hated figures. The Kaduna Mafia is our best example. Made up of the most educated and most modern northern elite, it has been unable to access power in any serious sense. Adamu Ciroma remained a permanent political figure but he never became president. In Sierra Leone a few years ago, Kandeh Yumkella could not win the presidential election. That must be a part of the tragedy in Africa that ‘the best of us’ are not the ones the people want, however it is that the people decided or were made to decide so.
So, Candido, the remaining intellectual rock of the Kaduna Mafia and the group have a lot of brain cracking to do in fishing for Kyari’s replacement. This is more so on the two key points that the tendency just has to redeem itself in the remaining time left: redressing exclusionary practices of power and upturning its romance with neoliberalism.