Brigadier General Abba Kyari came into national limelight with his appointment as the Governor of North Central State (what is today Kaduna and Katsina States), carved out from the old Northern Region following the creation of 12 states during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. He was of the rank of a Colonel when he was appointed in 1967 and remained in that role as the first military Governor of the State until July 1974. Like all the governors who served under that regime, he held the position for seven years and was reputed to have implemented a masterplan for the development of the city of Kaduna. Curiously, but not surprisingly, the plan was not followed by his successors who failed to appreciate his wisdom and foresight.
The contemporaries of the late General and those who had the privilege of coming in close contact with him in his life time, especially after his retirement from public service, remember him as a wise elder statesman, a fine military officer and a patriot who always put Nigeria first. As a serving military officer in political office, he recognised the aberration military in active politics was and cautiously argued for a return to civilian rule which became a possibility in 1979 when the Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo handed over to a democratically elected President Shehu Shagari.
After his retirement, he was deeply involved in building bridges across national divides as part of his belief in a united Nigeria. In the course of one of those efforts, he led the Northern delegates to the 1994 National Constitutional Conference, and was appointed Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the conference. He was also an astute boardroom player in the nation’s corporate world and served in various capacities in a number of companies. He served on boards of directors of First Bank of Nigeria, Standard Alliance Insurance and Merchant Bank of Commerce. Kyari also became Chairman of Gamah Flour Mills and of Alif Engineering and Construction before he finally retired to a quiet, crisis-free life in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Abba Kyari was born in 1938. He attended Borno Middle School and the elite Barewa College, Zaria. In 1959 he enlisted in the Nigerian Army as an officer cadet. He attended the 12th Regular Officers’ Training School, Teshie, Accra, Ghana from March 1959 to September 1959. Kyari also attended the British Army’s Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot from October 1959 to March 1960. He served as a platoon commander and later as transport officer in the Nigerian Army’s 1 Brigade Transport Company. By July he was a Major in the artillery branch.
Major Kyari was given command of the Nigerian Army’s 5th Battalion in September 1966 following the January coup and July counter-coup, which was based in the Northern provinces of the country. Kyari later became Commander of 1 Brigade at Kaduna and was subsequently second-in-command and then commander of the Nigerian Army’s artillery.
During the outbreak of violence against the Igbo people in Northern and Central Nigeria in 1966, Abba Kyari assisted Igbo soldiers, his comrades-in-arms, in escaping from Kaduna, a testimony to his belief in the oneness of the country and the futility of discrimination on the basis of tribe or ethnic affiliation. He is survived by nine children, among whom is Abubakar Kyari the current Senator representing Borno North Senatorial district. He is also known to have many adopted children as well as grand and great grandchildren. Kyari died on November 25, 2018 at the age of 80 and was buried in Abuja in accordance with Muslim rites. May his soul rest in peace.
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