• Thursday, June 13, 2024
businessday logo


Resilience (forging ahead)


In commemoration of the first one hundred days of the appointment of Professor (Ambassador) Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Commander-In-Chief, Armed Forces of Nigeria, Resilience Television will on Friday August 21st 2020 devote prime time to a documentary on the President’s Chief adviser and ally.

Much of it is already well known to the public, especially the international community, courtesy of the website of the United Nations where he served as Under-Secretary-General.

“Ibrahim Gambari is an indigene of Kwara state in Nigeria. Gambari was the pioneer Chancellor of his state’s University Kwara State University [KWASU] in Ilorin. Professor Gambari attended King’s College, Lagos and bagged his first degree from the London School of Economics, specialising in International Relations. He obtained his Masters and Doctoral degree in Political Science/International Relations from Columbia University, New York, USA.

Over the years, Gambari has had an illustrious career spanning academia, government and international diplomacy. He has held numerous leadership positions (both national and international) and gathered experiences that ratify his competency. Gambari was appointed Chairman of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid in 1990, a position he held till 1994. He was also the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations in 1990 serving there for 9 years.

We are not privy to what advice Professor Gambari has been giving to Mr. President. Depending on the tradition and culture of the country, case studies reflect huge differences regarding the obligation of the Chief of Staff to the President to document and disclose his advice

Between 1999 and 2005, he served the United Nations as it’s first Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General in Africa. At about the same time, Gambari was the Resident Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission to Angola. He operated as the head of the UN Department of Political Affairs between 2005 and 2007. Professor Gambari also served as a one-time Minister for External Affairs (1984-1985), joining the African Union at the time as a national delegate.

Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari has received several academic and national honours including the “Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” (CFR) and the “Order of the Champion of the Oliver R. Tambo” (OCORT) of South Africa.”

Following the formal announcement of his appointment on May 17, 2020, Professor Gambari was very clear about his job description:

“I shall provide the President with advice, making sure the machinery of government runs smoothly. It is about the President and not the Chief of Staff.

I expect to be a loyal and dedicated man in terms of my priority to the President. The Chief of staff is not to be the head but to serve the President and carry out duties appropriately.”

That statement, for reasons which are not entirely clear, reminded many of what General Yakubu “Jack” Gowon who was Military Head of State of Nigeria (1966 to 1975) was alleged to have said:

“There are no bad rulers. There are only bad advisers.”

The very cerebral Secretary to the Government of the Federation (1972 to 1975) Mr. Charles O. to Lawson who attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford University promptly delivered a heavily nuanced response:

“Some leaders deserve the type of advice they get.”

As for General Olusegun Obasanjo who was Military Head of State (1976 to 1979) and civilian President (1999 to 2007), he was as combative and blunt as ever.

When swearing-in his advisers, he did not mince words:

“You are free to give me advice but I am not obliged to accept it.”

We are not privy to what advice Professor Gambari has been giving to Mr. President. Depending on the tradition and culture of the country, case studies reflect huge differences regarding the obligation of the Chief of Staff to the President to document and disclose his advice. President Donald Trump of the United States of America has been vehemently adamant that it is covered by “Executive Privilege” along with his tax returns; his college transcripts and scores; military service/exemption; medical records etc.

Anyway, what is beyond doubt is that Professor Gambari’s credentials and temperament are formidable.

From the front page of “The Tribune” newspaper of 25th May, 2020

“Gambari: Why Buhari Made A Right Choice”

“It is heart-warming to have such a quintessential gentleman, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, offering his services to Nigeria in the capacity of Chief of Staff to the President. Those that had the opportunity to encounter and relate with him while he served in diplomatic capacity can attest to his open-heartedness, impeccable character and integrity. This is a man that served the Nigerian nation for the most part of his life, who never compromised the interest and welfare of the Nigerian community in the United States of America. Having had the privilege of coming across and relating with him at close quarter on several occasions gives me the confidence to attest to his pedigree, capacity and ability to function optimally in his new office.

As a diplomat, Professor Gambari’s wealth of experience in Nigeria and offshore, gives him the credentials for the task ahead. Beyond his sterling performance as a diplomat, I was thrilled by his outstanding performances in two of the many assignments he was given while serving outside Nigeria. The first was when he served at the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid (1990) and the other, his service at the Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur (2010). The apartheid assignment made him to work closely with many African governments in the coordination of UN policy to eradicate apartheid.

Despite the weight that comes with his multifarious assignments, he believes that privilege comes with responsibility. He once said in an interview in an African newspaper that, “I regard myself as a teacher by training and diplomat by accident, long accident, but nonetheless accident! In many ways, I have been privileged and with privilege come a lot of responsibilities.”

With his responsibilities as Chief of Staff to the President, I am wishing Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari a successful tenure in office, and as you have always done, may you do well in your new assignment.” – Bukola Adetula

We also have the benefit of his perception, perspectives and vision in his own words:

“If we are to succeed in nation-building, we must have a leadership that is committed to the rule of law and has a demonstrable sense of fair play and democratic tolerance; a leadership with ability and integrity; above all else, we must have a leadership that can see beyond the ostentatious pomp of office. We must have leaders who have a vision for a Nigeria which is better than the one they inherited; leaders who will lead by deeds and not by words; achievers, not deceivers.

Leadership is not everything, but it is an extremely important factor. Unless we have leaders with ability, integrity, commitment, and vision, we cannot succeed at nation-building.

In today’s world, skills, industriousness, productivity, and competitiveness are the determinant factors of national greatness. Not even the possession of the nuclear bomb is enough to make a nation great without reference to the industriousness and creativity of its citizens.”