Even though he does not any official position in the Muhammadu Buhari led administration, Nigerian Times can authoritatively reveal that Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and one-time Secretary to the Federal Government, is the man running Nigeria from behind the scenes along with Abba Kyari, the president’s chief of staff.
This paper learnt from sources in the highest reaches of government that even though President Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, is said to wield influence and can get the president to do basically almost anything he wants, his clout ends when it comes to matters of state policy.
Here, Nigerian Times learnt is where Kingibe exerts much influence. The President, who is said to be spending less and less time in office on account of ill-health, reportedly leans on Kingibe for direction.
A source within the Presidency informed this paper that such is the President’s reliance on the former SGF that Kingibe has taken up permanent residency within the Villa. He is said to be lodged at one of the guest houses close to President Buhari’s residence.
“The President cannot do without Ambassador Kingibe these days. He relies on him for practically every matter related to the running of government. He believes that Kingibe having straddled government in various capacities as minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to Greece and Pakistan, and SGF, is immensely experienced and can be called upon to share his rich knowledge of governance,” our source said.
The president’s faith in Kingibe, this paper confirmed, is resolute. Recently, Kingibe was head of Nigerian team, which visited the United States to seek the American government support in key areas such as security, the economy, banking sector, war on corruption and the insurgency ravaging the northeast of Nigeria.
Nigerian Times learnt that the recent visit of American Secretary of State, John Kerry, to Nigeria was undertaken partly in fulfilment of the promise made by President Barack Obama to the Kingibe team that his government would assist Nigeria in any way it can in the areas it has sought its help.
Only last month during the AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda, there was a bit of conflict over who was Nigeria’s official representative to the summit. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was widely reported, and rightly so, to be official leader of Nigeria’s delegation to the event. He had promptly been accredited and accord the respect due him in that capacity. Organisers thought that was the end of matter when Kingibe dramatically turned up claiming to be leader of the Nigerian team to the summit.
It was an awkward moment for Nigeria but the matter was eventually resolved in favour of the Vice President. It emerged later that Kingibe was President Buhari’s preferred choice for the job.
Nigerian Times sources say the Vice President and his aides are not happy with Kingibe’s larger than life presence at the Villa and his overweening influence with President Buhari. Our source say that rather than chafe quietly over the development, the Vice President’s office is fighting back.
Nigerian Times checks revealed that it was through the VP’s office that the Emergency Powers Bill, where president Buhari is seeking sweeping powers to reflate the economy, was leaked to the media.
Sources say that stung and embarrassed by the development particularly by the negative reaction to the bill, the Presidency quickly issued a stating declaring that President Buhari was yet to see a copy of the bill.
“That denial by the Vice President’s office was instigated by Kingibe. He felt it was deliberately done to embarrass the President and he wanted them to be the ones to repair the damage,” our source said.
At the attrition war rages, President Buhari, the man on whom the expectations of Nigerians hang, is insulated from it all. Sources say as far as he is concerned, Kingibe is more than capable of delivering the goods. The snag however, a presidential source said, is that Kingibe like the President is battling some health challenge as is Abba Kyari, the President’s Chief of Staff, another individual that enjoys the utmost confidence of the president.