By OBINNA EZUGWU
Last week, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe propped up again; this time, as one of the front runners for the office of Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, a post left by the late Mallam Abba Kyari who died of Coronavirus Friday fortnight ago. The other front-runners on the long list of about 30 candidates that include serving ministers and governors were Adamu Adamu, accountant journalist and the President’s speech writer who serves as Minister of Education; Buba Marwa, former military governor of Lagos State; and Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service.
Adamu Adamu is said to be Buhari’s personal choice. Marwa is allegedly being fronted by Aisha, Buhari’s wife, while the ‘Aso Rock cabal,’ it’s been revealed, are backing one of their own, the 74-year-old Borno State born political strategist and power broker, Kingibe.
Few days ago, reports emerged that the old time politician had indeed been named as Kyari’s replacement. And although the report later turned out to be false, sources within the corridors of power say the choice is largely down to him and Adamu Adamu. Kingibe has over the years proved to be adept strategist, always making the best out of bad situations. And he may very well be the beneficiary of Kyari’s demise. But it’s a possibility that many say should worry Nigerians.
The late Abba Kyari was widely regarded as Nigeria’s defector president. And while there seems to be mixed interpretation of the kind of person he actually was, with respect to his role in the overly northern leaning policies and appointments of Buhari, observers say the likelihood of a Kingibe CoS represents far worse prospect.
“Babagana Kingibe is one, if not the most dangerous, evil, treacherous and demonic souls that I have ever known…” tweeted Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation Minister and critic of the Buhari government who has praised Kyari as a good man mostly misunderstood.
“Though he is a Kanuri he is one of the greatest defenders of northern hegemony that has ever lived and he has a deep hatred for the south even though he pretends to love the Yoruba particularly.”
Although not holding any office at the moment, Kingibe is said to be one of the key brains behind Buhari’s policies.
“As we speak, Kingibe is an employee of the Presidency and he is part of the cabal,” noted second republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed. His standing in the administration first came to limelight in July 16, 2016.
The country’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo was scheduled to lead a Nigerian delegation to the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) scheduled for Kigali, Rwanda and in his capacity as the second highest official in the country, was preparing to represent President Muhammadu Buhari at the event. But along the line, Kingibe showed up as part of the delegation and controversy ensued, who, between him and Osinbajo, should lead the presidential delegation to the AU summit.
Although it was obvious, and only constitutionally right that in the absence of the president, the vice president naturally steps into his shoes, Kingibe was said to have immediately assumed leadership of the delegation stirring a bit of controversy. However, after series of contemplations, words were sent to Buhari and in the end, Osibanjo was given the nod to speak for the president, as it would have been absurd to do otherwise. Nonetheless the episode helped to underline his influence in the administration.
He is said to be the brain behind most of the decisions of the president especially as it concerns state policy, and on one or two occasions, he has stepped in for the president. It was him who led a Nigerian team to the United States to seek the American government’s support in the areas of security and economy, and is, in fact, at the forefront of recent rapport between the US and Northern Nigeria.
Again, upon the death of HID Awolowo, it was still Kingibe who led presidential team on a condolence visit to the family of the Awolowos. Widely regarded as parochial and self-serving, a reputation he consolidated when he abandoned his joint mandate with the late Chief MKO Abiola to serve in the military regime of General Sani Abacha as Minister.
On June 12, 2018, became perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election adjudged to have been won by the late Abiola when he received the second highest national honour in the land, GCON, being the only one of the three awardees still alive, despite, having, in many people’s reckoning, betrayed the mandate when he conveniently defected to the General Sani Abacha military junta where he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Anticipated Presidential Run
Presidency has been a long time ambition of Kingibe who was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federal in 2007 by President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua but consequently sacked for disloyalty; an ambition for which he contested for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential ticket in 1992, losing to Abiola who later chose him as running mate.
Kingibe is said to be the so called Aso Rock Cabal’s choice for president in 2023, and being named CoS will put him in the picture and serve as springboard. Prior to the 2019 presidential election, his posters had flooded Abuja, causing a bit of a stir. But evidently, his eyes are set in 2023. A source close to the presidency had told our Correspondent at the time that the move was to put Kingibe in the picture for presidency ahead of 2023.
“Kingibe will not contest against Buhari in 2019, it’s certain,” the source had said “But 2023, yes, that’s a possibility and he is being prepared for that.”
It is understood that the choice of Kingibe was informed on his demonstrated ability to protect the interest of the North, having been the key policy strategist of the Buhari administration. Again, he comes from the North Eastern part of the country which has not produced a president since the first Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and has been subtly clamouring for power for sometimes.
Although the South West is bidding strongly for a return to power in 2023, the North is understandably interested in retaining it and would most likely opt for a candidate from the North East.
Born on June 25, 1945 to the family of Mustafa Shuwa and Ya Kingi Mallam, Kingibe grew up in Maiduguri, Borno State where he had his early education. In 1958, he got admission into the Borno Provincial Secondary School, but soon left for London in 1960 where he completed his secondary school education at Bishop Stortford College under a Borno Native Authority sponsored scholarship scheme. He took up further studies earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations at the University of Sussex.
Afterwards, he made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a doctorate degree in Switzerland before returning to Nigeria to take up employment as a Research and Planning Officer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
He later left the school to become the head of Features and Current Affairs Department at the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria. In 1972, he joined the Nigerian Foreign Service where he started work as a senior counselor and later became the head of the political desk at the Nigerian High Commission in London.
Following the 1976 coup that that brought Olusegun Obasanjo as head of state, Kingibe was appointed to the Supreme Military Headquarters as the Principal Political Secretary, from 1976 to 1979, during which time he was involved in the planning of the military’s transfer of power, states creation and national delimitation, local government reforms and the constitutional drafting committee of the Second Nigerian Republic.
In this role, he simultaneously served as the Principal Political Secretary in the Office of the President between 1976 and 1981, serving both General Olusegun Obasanjo and President Shehu Shagari. Kingibe later became the permanent secretary in charge of special services within the Cabinet Office, between 1981 and 1984.
He joined politics full time in the third republic and was made director of organization of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) which was then led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in 1988. He would fallout with Ya’Adua over alleged betrayal.
The PDM later joined Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1989. During the conduct of elections for national executive positions in the party, he was backed by the PDM faction of SDP to emerge the party’s chairman.
As SDP chairman, he was involved in the organization of party’s gubernatorial and presidential primaries in 1991 and 1992 respectively. After the cancellations of presidential elections in 1992 in which Shehu Yaradua was a candidate, he put himself forward as a presidential candidate but eventually lost in the primary election to Abiola who later selected him as running mate.
The duo won the electoral majority although the result was annulled by the then military president, Ibrahim Babangida. When General Sani Abacha took office as head of State in 1993, he was named Foreign Affairs Minister, a post he held until 1995.
He also served as Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Power and Steel, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Greece and Pakistan. In June 2007, he was appointed Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria by by Umaru Yar’Adua but was abruptly removed from office on September 8, 2008 after spreading rumors about the President’s ill-health.
In November 2017, Buhari appointed him to head a panel to “Review operational, technical and administrative structure” of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), in the aftermath of the $43 million of the agency found in a Lagos apartment.