EXCLUSIVE: Gambari’s son leads new cabal as Farouk Gumel disappears from Aso Rock
Bolaji Gambari has only been at the Presidential Villa for 150 days, but his portfolio of duties has already become the stuff of envy.
Mr. Gambari has found himself authorising administrative regulations and fixing top secret executive briefings barely five months after President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his father, Ibrahim Gambari, as the chief of staff.
It would be considered an excellent list of responsibilities for Mr. Gambari, but for the fact that he has been deemed as patently unqualified for such roles.
“He has no official role and has not taken an official oath to be privy to the highly classified documents we have seen with him recently,” a senior administration official told Peoples Gazette.
Another official told Peoples Gazette that Mr. Gambari quickly moved to consolidate power when his father started indicating that he could not attend to most of the daily requirements of his office as chief of staff to the president and would require the support of someone younger and trustworthy.
This prompted Farouk Gumel, a protégé of the late chief of staff Abba Kyari, to quietly leave Aso Rock. Mr. Gumel has been away from the country for several weeks, even though he has not resigned or been asked to leave by the president, sources said.
Mr. Gumel did not return calls and messages seeking comments from the Gazette.
Replacing a cabal
When Mr. Gumel held sway at the State House as Mr. Kyari’s foreman, his notoriety was unmistakable, according to multiple sources who related with him.
Although he is described as knowledgeable in political economy, most say they remember him as hopelessly brash and shy. “When you hear of the State House cabal doing something, the brain behind it is most likely Farouk Gumel,” an official said. “He was a cabal inside the cabal.”
Before he succumbed to coronavirus on April 17, Mr. Kyari used Mr. Gumel to execute most of his administrative manoeuvres, Aso Rock sources said. Mr. Gumel was involved in drafting controversial policies for Mr. Kyari, including the ruga and fertiliser affairs that were later rescinded after both turned out disastrous for the administration.
Several corruption allegations out of the State House under Mr. Kyari’s supervision mentioned Mr. Gumel, although he strongly denied wrongdoing.
Now that Mr. Gumel has quietly gone underground, with multiple State House officials saying he is hibernating away in Europe, Bolaji Gambari has now consolidated power, our sources said.
No true lawyer
Aso Rock insiders said when Mr. Gambari arrived in Abuja following his appointment as the chief of staff, his son came in with him. Bolaji quickly told the State House officials in charge of their arrival, led by the permanent secretary, to book two suites at Transcorp Hilton.
“Even though we hinted that it was his father that was appointed and not him,” a source said. “He refused to respect our decision and successfully insisted that two suites must be booked.”
Mr. Gambari would clock 76 next month, and he had long retired in his Ilorin hometown following decades as a top United Nations diplomat.
President Buhari considered him for the job to help stabilise a rudderless State House. But State House sources said he has been largely unable to play that role due to his increasingly fragile health.
On the day that he came he came with his son and he went to the perm sec to ask them to reserve two rooms at Hilton and they said it was his father that was appointed and they had nothing to do with him.
“Bolaji has taken over affairs of the State House with his own clique,” a source said. “He claimed to have experience because he’s a lawyer, but we know that no true lawyer would suddenly leave his work without notice.”
Bolaji Gambari claimed he was a senior official at the Nigerian offices of Thorgood, a white-shoe law firm headquartered in New York.
But he has suddenly abandoned the job to establish himself as a major force for presidential influence, sources said.
“Anytime there is a file, his father would say it should go to his son Bolaji because Bolaji would know what to do.” a source said. “But he has started using the power his father delegated to him to take care of his own personal businesses.”
But Mr. Gambari’s cabal exploits have been a bewildering blend of confidence and ignorance with real ramification for Nigerian lives, the Gazette understands.
Last month, he blocked the appointment of Debo Lukanmbi, a senior official at Chevron Nigeria Limited in Lagos, for undisclosed reasons, sources said.
Mr. Lukanmbi had been appointed as a technical adviser to the president who would continue further discussions with Siemens and other energy providers. Messrs. Kyari and Gumel were previously in charge of the discussion, and the former chief of staff was believed to have contracted coronavirus during a March trip to Germany as part of the negotiation.
Mr. Lukanmbi was issued an appointment letter and set to resume work at the State House when Bolaji Gambari called him to stay back in Lagos, sources said.
“He also banned him from calling him during the day and said he should only call in the morning,” a source said. “But even then he would not answer calls.”
Mr. Lukanmbi ultimately gave up on the government role and returned to Chevron where he has been the chief of staff to the MD. Although Mr. Lukanmbi has yet to fully learn why he was blocked from the role, sources said it could be because Mr. Gambari found it lucrative and was pushing to have his own person in charge rather than an independent and highly-experienced professional like Mr. Lukanmbi.
“It is now clear to us here that the president has only replaced one cabal with another,” our sources said. “If care is not taken, Debo will not be only competent expert that Nigerians will be deprived of having because of some people’s selfish agenda.”
Bolaji Gambari, Ibrahim Gambari and presidential spokespersons Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu all declined multiple requests seeking comments about how Mr. Lukanmbi’s matter was handled and the role of Bolaji at the State House.
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