Ibrahim Gambari, ex-UN envoy, scholar is Buhari’s new CoS

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has announced the name of his new Chief of Staff, and he is Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, CFR, OCORT, a former external affairs minister between 1984 and 1985.

A tweet post by the presidency at 122:25pm stated that:

“Ibrahim Gambari is the new Chief of Staff to President @MBuhari. He succeeds Abba Kyari, who passed away on April 17, 2020.”

Gambari, 75, is one of Nigeria’s longest-serving diplomats.

Born on 24th  November, 1944 in Ilorin, Kwara State, he attended King’s College in Lagos and proceeded to London School of Economics where he bagged a degree in Economics (B.Sc) in 1968.

He later obtained masters and doctorate degrees in Political Science and International Relations at the Columbia University, New York in the United States between 1968 and 1974.

Gambari commenced his teaching career in 1969 at the Queen’s College, City University of New York, and became an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York where he lectured for three years – 1974 to 1977.

On his return to Nigeria, he taught at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1977 to 1980 as a Senior Lecturer where he rose to become an Associate Professor and later, a full Professor.

Between 1986 and 1989, Gambari was a visiting lecturer at prestigious universities within the Washington District – Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Howard University and Georgetown University.
He was also a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, US and a Resident Scholar with the Rockefeller Foundation Centre in Bellagio, Italy.


Life as a Diplomat

Before his appointment at the United Nations by the late Kofi Anan,  Gambari served the Nigerian government in different capacities. He was a Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and thereafter became Minister of External Affairs from 1984 to 1985.

The UN Office of Africa says he, “worked closely with regional leaders, institutions and governments, particularly within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the economic and political development of the sub-region.”

For nine years, Amb. Gambari represented Nigeria as an envoy and Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1990 to 1999.

He was the Chairman of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid (1990-1994) during which he worked closely with African governments to coordinate UN policy to eradicate apartheid.

After joining the UN, he became the first Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa, a position he occupied from 1999 to 2005.

In that capacity, he worked closely with heads of government, key policymakers as well as institutions in the continent to develop the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Amb. Gambari was also Head of the UN Department of Political Affairs from 2005-2007.

According to his profile hosted on the UN website, he served as UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Cyprus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

He was actively involved in the UN and AU Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) from January 2010 to July 2012.

He served as the Joint Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chairperson of the African Union Commission, as well as head of the UN and AU mission in Darfur before he retired.

The UN described Gambari’s tenure as such that engaged the world’s largest international peacekeeping mission in the history of UNAMID.

On retirement, he became the Founder and Chairman of Savannah Center for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD).

The Non-Governmental Organisation engages in government policy dialogue to foster peace, democracy and national development.

Amb. Gambari has bagged several awards as a result of his outstanding contributions to developments and humanitarian issues.

Some of the awards include a national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR), he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut (2002) and Farleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey (2006).

Others include Honorary Doctorate of Public Service, Chatham University (May 2008) and Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt), University of Ibadan, Nigeria (November 2011).

He has also received the Special Recognition for International Development and Diplomacy Award conferred by the Africa-America Institute (September 2007), the Distinguished (Foreign) Service Award by the Federal Government of Nigeria (April 2008), the International House Harry Edmonds Award for Lifetime Achievement, New York (May 2009) and the Campaign Against Genocide Medal by the Republic of Rwanda (July 2010) among others.

Amb. Gambari also received South Africa’s highest national honour conferred on non-citizens, the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo, which was reportedly conferred to him personally by former President Jacob Zuma on 26th October, 2012.

He was appointed as the first Chancellor, Kwara State University, Ilorin (KWASU) in March 2013.

He is also the current Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Bayero University, Kano (BUK).

Despite Gambari multiple achievements, , certain blemish has  reportedly tainted his record.



    For example, he was accused to have played a vital role seeking legitimacy in the international community for the despotic regime of the late General Sanni Abacha.

    As Nigerian Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Gambari vigorously defended the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by Abacha’s government, describing the late activist and  his group as “common criminals.”

    In an article first published in 2005 and titled “Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and June 12: The Unegraced Collaborator,” Omoyele Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporter detailed the allegation.

    Sowore quoted Gambari, saying “Nigerians do not need democracy as democracy is no food…”

    Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected]. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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