A retired diplomat, Ibrahim Gambari, has been appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, according to presidential sources and the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari.
The appointment has not been officially announced by the president.
Gambari, 75, who was the first United Nation’s Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa, is said to be “awaiting an official letter of confirmation” as the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, according to multiple sources.
In a statement by his aide, Abdulazeez Arowona, the Ilorin emir thanked President Muhammadu Buhari “for appointing Professor Ibrahim Gambari as his new Chief of Staff.”
The emir described the appointment as a “great honour to the entire people of Ilorin Emirate and Kwarans at large.”
The diplomat, Gambari, is from Ilorin.
An aide to Gambari also told newsmen that “we are awaiting the official letter of confirmation,” after confirming his principal had been notified.
Gambari, from Kwara State, north-central Nigeria, is replacing Abba Kyari, the powerful presidential aide who died, aged 67, last month following COVID-19 complications.
Femi Adesina, a spokesperson for Buhari, did not answer calls placed to get an official comment for this report.
Gambari was also not picking calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Sources familiar with the development told newsmen that Gambari had been vetted for the role and he would be officially announced barring any change.
The Chief of Staff is the Nigerian president’s gate-keeper and topmost executive aide. The office became enormously influential like never before with late Kyari, empowered by Buhari to coordinate virtually all aspects of governance.
Gambari was the external affairs minister (1984-1985) under Buhari’s spell as a military head of state.
In 2008, Gambari resigned as the head of a committee organising peace talks between Nigeria’s government under late Umaru Yar’Adua and the Niger Delta militants, following opposition from the oil-rich region.
He was Nigeria’s envoy to the UN in 1995 when Ogoni leader, writer and activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others, were hanged by the junta of late kleptocrat Sani Abacha after leading protests against international oil companies, most notably Shell.
Niger Delta leaders and the militant group MEND rejected Gambari’s headship of the proposed peace talks, saying he had defended Abacha’s actions against international condemnation at the time of the execution of Sar-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists.
After his role advising the UN’s Secretary-General on Africa, he held another senior role at the global body, becoming the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs in 2005.
“In that period, he also operated as UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Cyprus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar,” reads a biography of the diplomat on the UN website. “On 22 May 2007, the Secretary-General entrusted him with the Good Offices Mandate on Myanmar. He was also appointed in 2007 by the Secretary-General as Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Iraq Compact and Other Issues, positions he held until 2009.”
He had earlier served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission to Angola, from September 2002 to February 2003, while advising the Secretary-General on Africa.
In January 2010, he resumed another role as the head of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, which became the world’s largest peacekeeping mission. Gambari left that role in July 2012.
Before joining the UN secretariat in 1999, he had served as Nigeria’s external affairs minister and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and he was twice a president of the UN Security Council.
Gambari is also a scholar. He became a professor at Ahmadu Bello University in 1983 and holds a PhD from Columbia University, New York.
He is currently chairman of Abuja-based thinktank, Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development, which he founded.