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News Updated: January 23, 2024

Former presidential spokesman, Adesina speaks on his strained relationship with Abba Kyari

By Adekunle Obas
January 23, 2024
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Former presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, has disclosed the behind-the-scenes dynamics that strained his relationship with the late Abba Kyari, the first Chief of Staff to former President Muhammadu Buhari.

In his new book, “Working with Buhari: Reflections of a Special Adviser, Media and Publicity (2015-2023),” Adesina revealed that the tension stemmed from Kyari's objection to Adesina's direct relationship with the president.

Adesina explained that, despite his efforts to foster an amicable working relationship, Kyari, who served as the chief administrative officer of the presidential villa, tended to be aloof.

The former presidential spokesman detailed three incidents that contributed to the strained relationship — Staff Appointments; Adesina had submitted a memo in June 2015 recommending the employment of individuals who had demonstrated loyalty to Buhari during the campaign.

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However, Kyari, as the Chief of Staff, delayed the approval and implementation of the memo for about a year, citing Adesina's direct approach to the President as the reason.

Speaking further, Adesina said Kyari obstructed the funding of the Media Department, leaving it without a budget line for five years.

The former Chief of Staff allegedly received a directive from the President to stop funding anything except security from his office.

“Exactly a week later, after the Jumat service, the NSA walked into my office, with his two hands in the air. I asked what the matter was. He told me he had received a memo from the President, directing that nothing, absolutely nothing, must be funded from his office, except security. In the light of that, the promise he had made me was no longer tenable.

“I thanked him and said I would meet the President. And I did. That very night, in the house. I remember that it was only myself and General Dambazau that were waiting to see him. He is a senior friend, and I told him the purpose of my visit.

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“He was quite surprised that over three months media and publicity was not being funded yet.

“He asked how we were doing it, and I said myself and Shehu were using goodwill. When I met the President and told him of my encounter with the NSA, he confirmed that he gave the directive, and explained why.”

The book quotes the former president as saying: “A lot was done through the office of the NSA, and there were no records. I do not want that. We will institute a probe into the activities of the office (it was eventually one), and you will see what happened there. I don't want the media funded from there again.

“Meet the Chief of Staff and let him design how we would be fundin media."

Adesina further narrates: “The next day, I went to see the COS in the office. I had just started talking, when he impatiently started to say: ‘No, no, no. Media is not funded from here. Media is not funded from here.’ He would not even give me a chance to talk. And lest I appear as someone just after funding, for what I would gain, I left his office and never went back to the President. For the first five years, the media did not receive one naira, till the SGF, Boss Mustapha, heard about it and designed a budget line from his office.
“Third encounter. A retired General, someone well respected in the country, had wanted to see the President.

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“Many times, he applied through the office of COS, which is the proper channel. He never got feedback. So he phoned and asked me to intervene since the issue he wanted to discuss was quite serious. I went the President, and mentioned the General, and why he needed to come see him.

“The President just said: ‘Tell SCOP to schedule him for 8:00 pm tomorrow in the house.’ I passed on the word and left for my office. I had not been seated for five minutes when my intercom rang. It was the COS who wanted me to come to his office.

“He started screaming as I entered: ‘Why did you get an appointment for Gen..? Why did you? You always go behind me to relate with the President. You have to stop it.’

“Remember the President's instructions to me the day I resumed work: ‘Do not let anybody stop you from seeing me. Anytime you need to see me, just come.’ I never abused that rain check but went to see the President only when it was totally necessary, throughout the eight years. And he was always gracious to me."

Despite these challenges, Adesina acknowledged Kyari's loyalty to Buhari but lamented the impact of their differences. Kyari passed away in 2019 due to complications from COVID-19.

Adesina expressed deep sadness at Kyari's demise, acknowledging the toll it took during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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