It was an evening of accolades, advice and emotion as colleagues and staff in the Office of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari bade farewell to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs/International Relations, in the office of the Chief of Staff, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, who was recently appointed the director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, set the tone for the evening at the event held in his conference room when he described the erstwhile aide on international relations as “a patriot, intelligent and consummate gentleman.”
“I met him for the first time in this office after my appointment as Chief of Staff.
“I do not think his elevation will deny us the opportunity of still working together. During his stay here, he distinguished himself as a patriot and he brought his wealth of experience in working with international organisations to bear on his work.
“At any given time, even at late hours, Abubakar was always ready to give his best. He was committed,” the Chief of Staff said.
On his part, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said it was regrettable that the new DG of NIA had been maligned by a section of the media following his appointment.
“Ahmed Rufai Abubakar is a perfect fit who is most qualified for the job. He has occupied various top public offices in the agency in the course of which he received several awards. He left voluntarily to go to the United Nations as a director.
“When he retired, he was appointed as a senior adviser in the Multinational Joint Task Force regional coalition of countries for the fight against Boko Haram and other trans-border security threats in the region. There is no doubt at all as to Mr. Abubakar’s qualifications for the job and that is what is most important,’’ he said.
Also, the State Chief of Protocol, Amb. Lawal Kazaure, advised the former presidential aide to surround himself with the “right advisers.”
“Do not have people who tell you what you want to hear around you but those who will tell you the truth dispassionately,” Kazaure said, urging other staff members to continually pray for the new DG.
Permanent Secretary, State House, Jalal Arabi, said the civil service has gained richly from Abubakar’s wealth of experience: “Hardwork was Ahmed Rufai Abubakar’s middle name during his period at the State House. Please, I want you to be guided by your conscience and philosophy in your new assignment.”
Corroborating the permanent secretray’s view, Fola Oyeyinka, a presidential aide in the Office of the Chief of Staff, noted that colleagues would always have fond memories of the new intelligence chief as a generous and witty gentleman.
“We worked together in the ‘Chief of Staff’s Little Office’ and I recall He would always share his lunch and food with us. Our ‘little office’ loss is Nigeria’s gain and we wish the new DG the very best in his new role,” he said.
On her part, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, SSAP on Diaspora, said she had looked forward to consummating their work plans for 2018 before the new appointment.
“When he was appointed, I got a text message from someone who said a Yoruba man was removed from office and now a northerner has been appointed in his place, what kind of thing is this?
“I replied: If it is this Rufai that I know and have worked with, honestly, he is the best person for the job and I really don’t care where he comes from, and that ended the conversation,” she said.
Mrs. Bumi Badejo, who recently retired as a director in the Office of the Chief of Staff, said career civil servants that worked with Abubakar would fondly remember him as a witty, humble and intelligent gentleman.
“He wold correct you nicely without raising a word. He is a wordsmith,” she said.
A steward, Sule, recounted that his over two-year stint with his principal was devoid of rancour, query or any ill-feeling. Sule jokingly told his former boss: “I will not forget your kindness to us. Please do not forget us in your new office.”
Responding, the new NIA DG said: ‘‘I am emotion-laden for so many reasons and I thank you for what you have said about me. The best I could have done in my life is to serve the President and the nation.’’
On January 10, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of Abubakar as the substantive DG for the NIA