Between President Yar’adua and Alhaji Kingibe

by Sheyi Oriade

Just when it seemed that the president had little fight left in him, he launches a pre-emptive strike against one of his most senior political appointees. Alhaji Baba Kingibe must still be reeling from the after effects of the surprise knockout punch dealt to him by the president. In ordinary circumstances, his dismissal from the government ought not to have attracted much comment or reaction, since political appointees in the executive arm of the government serve entirely at the pleasure of the president. And the right to hire and fire individuals is an integral, if not routine part of the president’s function.

But the instance of the dismissal of Alhaji Kingibe from his influential position leaves one with the impression that there was nothing routine about it. The surprise of the abruptness of his dismissal is matched only by the surprise of his appointment to the position in the first instance. An appointment, which it is understood, the president was advised against making by his predecessor. As it happens this advice went unheeded; perhaps because the president was keen to establish a reputation for independent mindedness and action during the early days of his tenure. With hindsight it turns out that his predecessor counsel was correct.

Quite what Alhaji Kingibe might have done to merit such a decisive kick up his fundament, is likely be the subject of conjecture for some time to come. Traditionally, holders of the office of Secretary to the Federal Government (SFGN) keep their heads down, get on with their job and avoid controversy; but Alhaji Kingibe is of an entirely different order.

He is a fiercely ambitious and intelligent man and one of the genuine big beasts in the Nigerian political jungle. And so he must have viewed his position as SFGN and its unfettered access to the seat of power as an opportunity to mark territory after the manner of big beast.

Ever since his ran with the late Chief MKO Abiola on the ticket of the defunct SDP, he seems to have formed the idea that it is his destiny to one day become president of Nigeria. That much is evident from his political posturings. Posturings which seem to have distracted him from focusing on his day job as SFGN.

There is no doubt that he considers himself, in comparison to others and possibly the president included, an ‘alpha male’ in Nigerian politics. It is easy to see how he may have arrived at such a conclusion, seeing that the Nigerian political landscape is one in which political midgets abound, and over whom he towers with ease. Or at least, in his estimation he does.

In fairness to Alhaji Kingibe, he is a bright and articulate man. During his stint as the AU’s Special Representative in Darfur, he displayed a mastery of his brief often impressing others with his presentational skills. And just last year at the ‘This Day’s’ ‘Nigeria Meets the World’ forum in New York, he gave a good account of himself as he lectured with erudition, Dr. Henry Kissinger, on some of the key issues affecting Africa, after the renowned diplomat got himself muddled on the subject.

However, in spite of his positive personal traits, he suffers from the twin defects of a loyalty deficit and an overpowering sense of ambition; defects of which, make him a difficult man to do business with. But now that the president has come to see him for what he really is and has dispensed with his services, maybe the benefits of more productive governance will percolate through to the people; particularly, if Alhaji Kingibe was a cog in the wheel of progress.

By his sacking of Alhaji Kingibe it seems that the president issued an unequivocal statement of intent and warning to other over ambitious politicians within his government. The message being, that henceforth, it is going to have to be the president’s way or the highway for those who are disloyal.

Alhaji Kingibe let his ambitions get the better of him. He should have realised that with the recent retirement of key military chiefs (an action he must have been privy to) by the president, the president demonstrated his willingness to wield the axe where and when necessary. And so he ought to have been more mindful of his actions. In the present climate, one imagines that there will be more axing and more heads to roll.

It is often advocated in politics, that it is advisable to keep one’s ‘enemies’ within sight in order to keep a close eye on them. But in the case of Alhaji Kingibe it may be best to dispatch him on another foreign adventure where he can put his proven talents to better use on behalf of the nation.

That way at least the president can rest assured that he (Kingibe) is out of mischief’s way, thereby allowing him (the president) to rest secure in the knowledge that where Alhaji Kingibe is concerned ‘out of sight is out of mind’.

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