They were four. Suddenly, they became three when King Corona took the life of Abba Kyari, the powerful chief of staff and one of the most influential advisers to President Buhari.
The three are Mamman Daura, Buhari’s beloved nephew, Ismailia Isa Funtua, his in-law (Funtua’s son is married to the president’s daughter), and Babagana Kingibe, the I’m-for-any -government-that-takes-care-of-me political buccaneer from Borno State.
The undisputed head of the group, infamously dubbed the Aso Rock Cabal, is Daura who is a very smooth and notoriously quiet operator. He was Kyari’s mentor and through whom the late chief of staff knew his uncle.
Daura is so beloved of his uncle that he was given a very well-appointed mansion in the Villa to accommodate him and his family, including his grandchildren. And he is 80 now.
So why would an 80-year-old man be living with his uncle? Because his uncle wanted it so. Buhari has always relied on the advice and guidance of his nephew. And he is honest enough to know that he wouldn’t know what to do as president without Daura’s inputs.
Hence the conventional wisdom that Kyari was the de facto president, is so wrong. That appellation fits Daura far more squarely. He is and will continue to be the piper playing the tunes behind the scene, so long as his uncle is president. Or more appropriately, he pretends to be one.
Speculations about who will succeed Kyari as chief of staff are just specious. Whoever gets the job will have the unmistakable imprimatur of the cabal. And the person will be beholden to the three musketeers. They manage the president and run his administration.
Whoever is in any doubt about the reach and influence of the cabal over Buhari should ask his wife and First Lady, Aisha Buhari. She has publicly accused Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari of “hijacking” the presidency from her husband. Meaning that Buhari is just a president in name only. The powers of the office are being exercised by others, namely the cabal. Or put bluntly, by Mamman Daura and his acolytes.
And Aisha can cry for eternity, that won’t make her husband become a real president. Talk less of him discarding what he sees as the invaluable presence of his nephew near him. Kyari is dead, but long live the cabal.
If circumstances were to force Buhari to choose between his wife and his nephew, it’s highly probable that he would go for Daura.
That was why Buhari so cavalierly dismissed her complaint when she first aired it in her interview with the BBC Hausa service in 2016. He had categorized her as “belonging to the kitchen, my living room, and the other room”. In his nephew, he trusts. Absolutely.