The Presidency on Saturday morning announced the death of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Abba Kyari, after battling with coronavirus in a hospital said to be in Lagos.
Kyari was a powerful force in the President Buhari’s government and as the Chief of Staff, he wielded enormous power and was also a power broker in the North. However, not many people know he was a boradroom guru, rising to very high positions in banks and other multinational companies.
A Kanuri from Borno State, not much is known about his early life. In 1980, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Warwick, and also received a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of Cambridge both in the United Kingdom. In 1983, he was called to the Nigerian Bar after attending the Nigerian Law School.
In 1984, he obtained a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Cambridge. He later attended the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland and participated in the Programme for Management Development at the Harvard Business School in 1992 and 1994, respectively.
Kyari worked for the law firm Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo for some time after his return to Nigeria and from 1988 to 1990, he was Editor with the New Africa Holdings Limited Kaduna.
In 1990, he served as a Commissioner for Forestry and Animal Resources in Borno State.
From 1990 to 1995, Kyari was the secretary to the board of African International Bank Limited, a subsidiary of Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
Kyari was an executive director in charge of management services at the United Bank for Africa, and was later appointed the chief executive officer. In 2002, he was appointed a board director of Unilever Nigeria, and later served on the board of Exxon Mobil Nigeria.
In August 2015, Kyari was appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Kyari was an influential figure within the Buhari administration. During the administration’s first term, he worked mainly behind the scenes to implement the president’s agenda. In 2019 with Buhari’s re-election for a second term, he ordered his cabinet to channel all requests through Kyari’s office, further enhancing his influence within government circles, and being labelled as the de facto head of government.
In 2017, following a leaked memo, Kyari became embroiled in a public argument with the Head of Civil Service, Winnifred Oyo-Ita who was later removed from office and arrested. In 2020, in another leaked memo, Babagana Monguno, the National Security Adviser, accused Kyari of meddling in matters of national security.
Kyari was married to the sister-in-law of Alhaji Ibrahim Tahir, another influential northern politician and had four children.
On March 24, 2020, it was made public that Kyari tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23, following an official trip to Germany nine days before.