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Nigeria: 10 things about Abubakar Kyari, acting chair of APC

By Ben Ezeamalu

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Posted on July 20, 2023 10:28

Abubakar Kyari, acting chair of Nigeria’s ruling APC
Abubakar Kyari, acting chair of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Replacing the embattled Abdullahi Adamu, Kyari will be tasked with uniting the deeply fractured ruling party, the All Progressives Congress.

In a hastily convened meeting by Nigeria’s ruling party on 17 July, an acting national chairman emerged.

Abubakar Kyari, the former deputy national chairman (north) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), replaces the embattled Abdullahi Adamu, who had been the party chairman since 2022. Adamu had since fallen out of favour with key members of the party, including President Bola Tinubu.

In his inaugural address to journalists as the acting national chairman of the APC, Kyari, 60, said both Adamu and Iyiola Omisore, the national secretary, resigned from their posts “voluntarily”.

“With this development, and according to the constitution of the APC, it is now upon me, Senator Kyari, as the deputy national chairman [north], to assume [the role of] acting chairman of the APC,” he said.

Here are 10 key things to know about Kyari and his political ascent.

1. Son of a general

The son of a brigadier-general, Kyari is the eldest of nine siblings. His father, Abba Kyari, served as the military administrator of the north-central state between 1967 and 1975.

The elder Kyari survived a mutiny by his battalion in the days before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war; he fled to Kano after the soldiers murdered his second-in-command.

In his later years, he led the northern delegates to the 1994 National Constitutional Conference where he headed the national defence committee of the conference. He was also appointed to the board of several banks and companies.

One of the most vicious opponents of former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s unsuccessful third-term ambition, the elder Kyari died in November 2018.

2. Barewa College alumni

Like his father, Abubakar Abba Kyari attended the prestigious Barewa College, Zaria, between 1974 and 1979 for his secondary education. The school is noted for the large number of the northern elites that passed through it; five of them became Nigeria’s heads of state.

Though their junior, Kyari was in Barewa College at the same time as the late Nigerian president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and the former Kaduna governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1986 from the University of Tennessee in the US, and a master’s degree in business administration three years later from Webster University of St. Louis Missouri.

3. A founding father

Kyari’s political journey took off in 1996 when he became a founding member of the United Nigeria Congress (UNC) which later morphed into the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP).

As a member of the UNCP, he contested and won election into the House of Representatives during the transition programme of Sani Abacha. The programme was, however, aborted after the sudden death of the dictator.

Abacha’s successor, Abdulsalami Abubakar, organised fresh democratic elections in 1999 in which Kyari participated and also won a seat in the House of Representatives. This time he was a member of the All Peoples Party.

After four years in the legislature, Kyari moved to the executive arm where he served as a commissioner in his home state of Borno over the next eight years, including Water Resources, Education, Home Affairs and Information, and then Works.

4. A ‘nearly’ governor

During the tumultuous years of picking a successor to Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, Kyari was widely believed to be among the most qualified.

But the governor decided to anoint his cousin, Fannami Gubio, to succeed him, a move which angered key party members and support groups. Gubio was assassinated a few months before the election.

Again, Kyari was touted as a possible replacement for the murdered Gubio, but it was Kashim Shettima (the current vice president) who emerged.

In May 2012, a few weeks before Shettima’s first year in office, a federal lawmaker from the state incurred the wrath of the governor. Abdul Mshelia, a member of the House of Representatives addressed chief of staff Kyari as ‘His Excellency’ during a courtesy visit to Government House.

Shettima: “Honourable Abdul, it is still surprising that you cannot pronounce or mention in full the correct names of your own governor, not to even express yourself in simple sentences.”

5. Loyal to the game

Kyari is widely seen as a strong party man. It was that quality that endeared him to Governor Ali Modu Sheriff who retained him as a cabinet member throughout his eight years in office, one of the few to be accorded that honour.

After losing out in the power play of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in Borno, Kyari was rewarded with the position of chief of staff to the governor after Shettima went on to win the election.

Kyari belongs to the class of Nigerian politicians who have never defected to the opposition party since 1999.

After his emergence as the APC deputy national chairman (north) at the party’s convention in 2022, he resigned his membership in the Senate.

6. Shettima’s man

After serving as Governor Shettima’s chief of staff in his first four years in office, the governor rewarded Kyari with the APC’s senatorial ticket for Borno North in 2015.

The governor’s move infuriated some top party members, including his secretary to the state government and the women leader in the state, Fatima Kakinna.

After receiving the blessing of the governor and principal, Kyari resigned from his position as the chief of staff. He secured the senatorial ticket and launched his campaign with the distribution of over 70 cars to key members.

Shettima played the same card ahead of the 2019 general election by backing Kyari again.

Kyari was reportedly gunning for the Borno governorship ticket of his party. But after failing at the primaries, he headed back to the senatorial position where, with Shettima’s backing, he secured the party’s ticket.

This time, Kakinna headed to court and challenged Kyari’s nomination up to the Supreme Court where the judges confirmed the latter as the party’s candidate.

7. Chibok girls scandal

Kyari was an integral part of the Borno State government that was blamed for their shoddy handling of the Chibok girls incident.

On 14 April 2014, Boko Haram terrorists abducted 276 girls from a government secondary school in Chibok, a town in the southern part of Borno.

Critics blamed the Borno government for ignoring the security advice of the body conducting examinations for the students. According to the body, the government refused to relocate the students from Chibok to safer places like Maiduguri, the state capital.

The incident triggered social media campaigns across the world to retrieve the teenagers from the terrorists, launching the popular #BringBackOurGirls movement.

8. Senatorial run

Kyari hinged his campaign for senate in 2014 on the need to restructure the system of education in northern Nigeria. He called for the reorganisation of the learning process in the region.

“Literacy, simply put, is the ability to read and write. And here in my area, we have children who can read and write in Arabic scripts,” Kyari said while declaring his intention to run for Senate.

“When you ask them to write their names in Arabic, they do it without any difficulty. But they cannot read or write in English. Do you call such a child illiterate? Certainly not.”

As a senator, Kyari led the charge against the decision of the University of Maiduguri to hike its fees by over 400%, from N25,000 ($32) to N129,000 ($166).

“Half of the men in northeast Nigeria have received no education at all, and this figure rises to over 61% for women,” Kyari said while sponsoring a motion against the increment, during plenary. “Borno State has the highest number of people that don’t have access to education due to the Boko Haram crisis in particular.”

The senate then directed the university management to reverse the increment.

In his first outing as a senator, Kyari sponsored or co-sponsored at least four bills, including the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions Prohibition Bill which proposes a 14-year jail term for offenders.

Between 2019 and 2021, Kyari sponsored three bills in the Senate, including the Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill.

9. ‘The displaced senator’

During the years when Boko Haram laid a siege on northeast Nigeria, Kyari was one of the federal lawmakers who hardly lived in their constituencies.

In 2015, he was elected mostly by votes cast in internally displaced camps. Nearly all the local governments in his district were under the control of Boko Haram.

There are nine local governments in Kyari’s Borno North senatorial district – Abadam, Gubio, Guzamala, Kukawa, Magumeri, Marte, Mobbar, Monguno and Nganzai.

“I still remain a displaced senator because my entire constituency has been displaced by Boko Haram,” Kyari said during a town hall meeting on security in Maiduguri.

10. Not to be mistaken for…

Abba Kyari is a popular name in Borno. There was Abba Kyari, who was the chief of staff of former President Muhammadu Buhari before his death from Covid-19 complications in 2020.

Then there is the police officer, Abba Kyari, the once celebrated ‘super cop’ who is now languishing in detention, facing trial before a federal court for illicit dealing in cocaine.

Although all three Kyaris hail from Borno State in Nigeria’s north-east, they are not relatives.

Abba Kyari, the APC acting national chairperson, hails from the Mobbar local government area, near the border with Niger.

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