Based on their antecedents as some of Buhari’s closest associates, these four Nigerians following are the probable candidates for Kyari’s replacement. According to government officials, any of these associates could land the top job.
ISMAILA ISA FUNTUA
A former President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua, who is a member of the so-called cabal, is eminently qualified. He has been a public administrator, newspaper publisher and successful businessman. He was also a Minister in the Second Republic (1979-1983). Born in 1942, he fits the President’s known preference for older figures.
An Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), he was at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies where he was Monitor General of Course Nine. He will likely have the full backing of another member of the unofficial kitchen cabinet -Mamman Daura.
In an interview with Arise Television, Funtua said: “I’m not a member of any cabal, I’m cabal myself. What is cabal? In short, I think it means kitchen cabinet, people that you trust. People you believe will not deceive you, that they can do things in the interest of the country.”
However, his emergence may be stoutly resisted by the First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Buhari. Some may also raise eyebrows that Funtua is, like the President, from Katsina State and an in-law to the President because his son is married to Buhari’s daughter.
Ambassador Babagana Kingibe was born on June 25, 1945 in Borno. In 1960, he got a government scholarship to complete his Ordinary Levels and Advanced Levels at Bishop’s Stortford College, United Kingdom. In 1965, he received his bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Sussex.
In 1965, he returned to Nigeria and was employed as a researcher at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria.
He was appointed the Ambassador to Greece, Cyprus and later Pakistan between 1981 and 1985. In 1986, Kingibe became a permanent secretary in the presidency of General Ibrahim Babangida.
Kingibe also served from October 2002 to September 2006 as the Special Envoy of the African Union to Sudan and subsequently Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and head of the African Union Mission in Sudan.
In June 2007, he was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali, was born in Dass, Bauchi State on January 15, 1955.
Ali was commissioned in 1977 after he received his training at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. He attended Sam Houston State University, Texas from 1984 to 1988 and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Criminology, and an educational certificate from the Nigeria Defence Academy.
After retirement, he became secretary of the apex northern sociopolitical group, Arewa Consultative Forum.
Ali is an All Progressives Congress member. He supported Buhari’s presidential bids from 2003 to 2019. On 27 August, 2015, Buhari appointed him the CG of Customs.
Nasir El Rufai
He is relatively young, charismatic, brilliant, brutally frank and courageous. He has been a political follower of President Buhari since the CPC was founded just before the 2011 election. He is the President’s confidant who is not afraid of criticism. He is believed to have lobbied for the office before the 2019 elections. Despite being governor of Kaduna State, 60-year-old El-Rufai is said to be interested.
At the moment, he too, like Kyari before his demise, is battling the dreaded Covid-19. Major baggage for him may be the distrust of the cabal and the Northern traditional and religious elite. A presidential hopeful, his penchant for controversy might be his Achilles Heel.