Saturday, 18 April 2020

Nigeria: We come to bury Abba Kyari, not to praise him


Mark Anthony: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;

Shakespeare – Julius Ceasar Act 3 Scene 2. [Poetry Foundation]
A disambiguation of similarities
Overnight, I read that the Chief of Staff to the Nigerian President, Abba Kyari, had passed on. Now, I was neither shocked nor moved by the news of his death, I did not know him. It was only recently that I realised there were many unrelated prominent Abba Kyaris in Nigeria. [The Guardian]
The one I was familiar with was a Brigadier Abba Kyari who was the governor of North Central State with the capital of Kaduna from 1967 to 1975, during Yakubu Gowon’s regime.
Being such a prominent member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, with an extensive portfolio bordering on a megalomaniacal abuse of power, his loss to the government would be hard felt and as one would expect, hagiographies would be posted with reckless abandon to the praise of the man. One even dared suggest he sacrificed his life to the country. The jury would never reach a favourable decision on that assertion.
The hubris of prominence
Abba Kyari had succumbed to the Coronavirus having returned from Germany a few weeks before, he had underlying conditions that would have made him susceptible to the virus if he contracted it. Whether he quarantined himself after returning to Nigeria is unknown, but in a political setting of patronage and neopatrimonialism, I can imagine that courtesy calls and visits would have greeted his return from abroad.
In acknowledging his overarching influence in the federal government, I tweeted, “His Grand Eminence Cardinal Richelieu has departed the Court of Buhari II. All flags in the empire and dominions at half-mast.” [Twitter] There are ways in which one can say he is an unfortunate victim of systems he implemented, for in other times, he probably would have rushed abroad for medical attention, but borders were closed for medical tourism, he had to face the realities of Nigeria, albeit in a private hospital.
One of the legacies of his alleged abuse of office was out of an apparent power tussle with an erstwhile Minister of Health, he transferred procurement authority from the Ministry of Health to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in October 2018 and never reversed this edict even after a new minister was installed. Invariably, this would have hampered the Nigerian preparation for a pandemic virus as the one which took his life. [Punch]
Being honest to the dead
Now, I will not at any time speak ill of the dead, but that does not mean we should deny the truth of the dead also. The truth can be spoken without it coming across as ill or the lack of sympathy. What would do the most injustice to the memory of the dead is to lie about their lives and craft falsehoods to beatify their passing, quite undeservedly. In speaking of the dead, honesty must always be the best policy or one must keep their counsel in silence.
As we were taking in the news, some people posted anecdotes of meeting Abba Kyari, his friendship, his concern, his humour, his courtesy and much else featured in their recollections. In a way, outside of his official capacity, he seemed to be a likeable everyday human being. I would concede that even the evillest people to the public quite likely has private relationships and engagements that paint a different story of who they are.
Every Caesar has a Mark Anthony
In my view, I think those anecdotes are necessary, for as the person is dead, the book of accounting is closed and trial balance is done of all accounts of who they are, what they did, how they operated, who they affected, and it all comes together in a simple biography of the person, exemplifying a broad spectrum of humanity from virtue to villainy, from good to bad, from nice to nasty.
In that vein, I would recall the oratory of Mark Anthony at the execution of Julius Caesar, for there would always be a Mark Anthony of our times to eulogise a contemporary Julius Caesar and they will only ask for you to lend them your ears, you have every right to lend your ears or close your ears, but we must allow Mark Anthony the stage to speak, not so much about the ambition of Caesar, but the humanity of the Caesar he knew.
Abba Kyari was interred earlier today, but it would appear the essential social distancing rule was not adhered to at the graveside, I hate to think this folly might presage the death of some of the attendees and others they might come in contact with. It is as if they did not realise that the man in the coffin was proof that the Coronavirus should not be trifled with. May Allah grant repose to the soul of Abba Kyari, his deeds in his lifetime, however, are for the record of history.

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