In the corridors of power, in any part of the world, a lot of things happen. In the quest for power and relevance, a lot of lobbying and power play takes places. Everyone jostles for Mr Presidents attention and curry his favour. It is common place to anyone with some measure of political clout pulling strings to be one of the untouchables in his government that he cannot toy with, because he needs them around him. They are the president’s eyes and ears. They see things he cannot see from inside his oval office in Aso Villa. They shield him from those they suspect might be out to take advantage of him. And within the ruling government in Nigeria today, the scenario is not any different. The president muhammadu Buhari has several people around him all jostling for his attention and favour, that is to be expected however not everyone in the corridors of power can be his favorites. There are some people who he never and does not joke with. They are close to him like his skin. He gives them all the attention they need and they are just 5 of them who are all northerners, 3 are not holding any offices while 2 are part of his kitchen cabinet. Chronicled below by City People Society Editor, TAYO FAJORIN OYEDIJI are the 5 men President Buhari does not joke with.
One major power broker in the Presidency is President Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura. He is immensely close to the President, hence, has inputs in many of Buhari’s major decisions including appointments.Although he holds no political office in this dispensation, Daura is often seen with the President and travels with him. He is believed to have considerable inputs in the choice of those who emerged as ministers, especially those from the North. Daura’s influence in government did not start today. He and Buhari belonged to a group called “Kaduna Mafia” which was a group of young Northern Nigerian intellectuals, civil servants, business tycoons and military officers residing or conducting business in the former Northern capital city of Kaduna during the end of the First Republic.The group was said to have thrived on a network of power alliances among northern aristocrats and government sympathisers who favoured the group’s pro-northern and Islamic bent. Daura wields so much influence on Buhari. He is the son of Buhari’s elder brother, but since Daura is three years older, the president is “awkwardly” his uncle.Daura, often described by associates as “extremely intelligent and brilliant”, was a journalist and an industrialist, serving as head of the African International Bank and also chairman of the board of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).He was editor of New Nigerian in the 1970s.
In the book, Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria, John Paden, an American professor, offers a historical insight into the significant role Daura played in the formative years of his “uncle”. According to Paden, it was Daura, along with Waziri al-Hassan (Buhari’s foster father), that encouraged Buhari, a reluctant student in his early years, “to settle down and take his studies seriously”.It was also Daura that “strongly encouraged” Buhari to join the military in 1961. Daura, Paden wrote, would become a “life-long inspiration and confidant to Buhari” who guided him all through his formative year where he went on to become military head of state in the final years of his career.
ISMAILA ISA FUNTUA
Northern billionaire and businessman ,Ismaila Isa Funtua is the chairman of Bulet International Construction Company, which was involved in the development of the new capital in Abuja in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and a close friend of Buhari. He is said to be a personal friend of the President, hence he has Buhari’s ears on national issues, including appointments.Ever since Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua commenced his working career at the Katsina Native Authority many decades ago, he has remained as constant as the northern star in the polity.In his public and private endeavours, the Manchester University-trained administrator has been indisputably remarkable.His feats as a businessman, media patron and administrator distinguished him as an exceptional statesman, whose image has been profitable to Nigeria’s developmental trajectory.Although Funtua, like Daura, does not hold political office, he has much influence on the President even more than those who are holding offices.He has been part of Buhari’s delegation on some of his foreign trips, including his official visit to the United States in July 2015. Funtua was the Minister of Water Resources in the defunct Second Republic. He established Democrat Newspapers. He was born in Funtua, Katsina State. He was a pioneer student of the Federal Training Centre, Kaduna. He trained as an administrative officer at the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University ,ABU, Zaria and also as an administrator at the Manchester University in the UK. He was the Monitor General of the Course 9 of the prestigious National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru. Funtua served the Katsina Native Authority for seven years as Administrative Officer. He ater served in various ministries in the defunct Northern Region before his secondment by the Northern Region government as the Personnel Manager of the 10,500 strong United Nigerian Textile Company, Kaduna. From there he became a successful entrepreneur. Funtua is the founder of Bulet International Nigeria Limited (the largest wholly owned indigenous construction company) which built most of the iconic public buildings in Abuja. He is the founding Managing Director of the New Africa Holdings (publishers of the defunct Democrat newspapers). Funtua was elected Vice President to the late MKO Abiola as President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, where he declined to succeed MKO as President. He later became the President of the NPAN. Funtua, who was the youngest minister in the Shagari administration, is a life patron of the NPAN, a staunch defender of a free press and free speech, philanthropist, humanist, chairman and director of many successful companies.
The Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari is another power broker. The elderly man has the ears of the President, no doubt. He plans Buhari’s schedule -who to see and who he should not see. He also plans his movement in case he will be going out of the seat of power.Apart from the traditional roles of a Chief of Staff, Buhari made it mandatory that ministers must go through Kyari if they desired any contact with him. This is in clear departure from what was obtainable in the recent past when ministers had unfettered access to their principal, the President.Known for his bluntness, Buhari handed down the instruction on November 5, 2015 while declaring open a retreat organised by the Presidency for the then ministers-designate. “In addition, all communications and appointments from you (ministers) to the Presidency should be routed through the Office of the Chief of Staff as is normal in this Presidential System,” he had said.As he walks a distance of about 100 metres from his office to the President’s office at intervals, Kyari always hold tenaciously to office files that may contain national secrets. He does not release his documents to anybody, including his security aides.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation is the official title of the political appointee responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes in the hierarchy of Nigerian government and this is what Boss Mustapha does. He is a native of Adamawa State.He attended Hong Secondary School, in Hong Adamawa state and North East College of Arts and Sciences Maiduguri Borno state where he made his WASC and HSC in 1976.Mustapha got his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1979 and was called to bar in 1980.He also did the compulsory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC – Directorate of Legal of legal Services at the Army Headquarters from 1980 to 1981 and was in charge of review of Court Marshall Proceedings.After his NYSC, he joined Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as an Executive Director in charge of Administration, leaving in 1983 to join the prestigious law firm Messrs Onagoruwa & Co in Lagos.Later, he was appointment the MD Principal Counsel in the firm Messrs Mustapha & Associates, his legal interests and expertise included privatization commercialization and Liberalization of Public Companies/Corporate and Government Parastatals.He was also involved in preparation of varied and miscellaneous banking documents such as Debentures, Guarantees, Mortgages, Bonds and Loan Syndications.Mustapha also served as a member of Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), serving meritoriously from 2000 to 2007.He was appointed Principal Partner of the law firm, Adroit Lex.His law practice and the burning desire to serve the larger society made him to venture into politics at various times.He was member Federal Republic of Nigeria Constituent Assembly (1988-1989), Chairman People’s Solidarity Party-Gongola State (1989-1990), state chairman, Social Democratic Party-Gongola State (1990-1991); he was even a gubernatorial candidate for SDP in Adamawa state in 1991.Mustapha was the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria from 2010 to 2013. In 2007, he again played a prominent role, serving as the Deputy Director General of the party’s Presidential campaign Organization.He was a member of NCC and Secretary APC Presidential Campaign Organization Mobilization (2015) and member, APC Transition Committee (2015). He is also a member, APC Board of Trustees.In addition to the NBA, the MD is a member of various professional bodies including African Bar Association (ABA), Commonwealth Lawyers Association, International Bar Association (IBA) and Human Rights Institute (HRI). Mr. Mustapha’s accomplishments go beyond politics hence his closeness with Mr President.
Another strong man in this administration is the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura. He was appointed by Buhari in July, 2015. He has a clear mandate to reorganise the DSS which is believed to have been dragged into the murky waters of politics ahead of the 2015 general elections. However under him, officials of DSS were stripped of their constitutional roles of protecting the President. Daura who has a good relationship with the Buhari, joins the President oftentimes for the Friday Jumat services that always hold inside the mosque close to the President’s office.
–TAYO FAJORIN OYEDIJI