The Presidency is at the epicenter of the government. It supervises about a quarter of the national budget, yet with its complex internal workings, decision making process tend to slow down the pace of governance, if the office is not well managed.
Before the advent of the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the presidency was known as the cabinet office. It was he who renamed and restructured it and ultimately, the presidency continues to grow in importance with every new administration
Every administration rises and falls with the presidency arm of such government, depending on its effectiveness as the clearing house of the sitting president. As the nation’s chief Executive officer, the President’s members of staff occupy most of the key positions in the presidency. This group is popularly called the Kitchen Cabinet. Nowadays, a chief of staff, (COS) heads the group and he is the one who schedules the president’s appointments.
Every chief of staff (COS) is powerful and influential, but often less visible. Sometimes, seen yet hardly ever heard. Whoever holds this position must enjoy the president’s confidence as he shoulders enormous responsibilities. Even cabinet ministers must pass through the chief of staff to meet with the president, which shows how strategic the office has become to the operations of a leader.
In appointing a chief of staff, (COS), previously called Chief of Protocol in a former dispensation, a president must look out for some sterling qualities if his government is to function effectively. The candidate must have good inter-personal skills, seamless synergy with his team and people outside the presidency itself, capacity to work constantly under pressure, sound knowledge of modern administration, a keen eye for details, ability to get things done, e.t.c.
It is always a plus factor if a potential chief of staff has a degree in any of the humanities, especially psychology, long years of cognate experience in top management positions in government would be helpful. Most importantly, the COS must be a strong personality to be able to get the president to do things or take action quickly. In view of the growing clout of the COS, the president must make sure that his candidates has a good relational skills as aforementioned, otherwise, his government’s effectiveness is doomed.
The equivalent of the COS in corporate bodies is the Personal Assistant, PA to the chairman or CEO. An efficient PA or COS can make an otherwise ineffective principal, be the president of a country or corporation, succeed even beyond his competence. That’s how strategic this office truly is. The occupier makes the government tick, at least to some extent.
Since the presidency is the most powerful organ of the Nigerian state, this piece is a voyage of discovery for those who don’t know how strategic it is in the scheme of things.
Many times, we read media gossip about how frustrated ministers and other government officials become because the COS won’t allow them access to the president. The man is that powerful.
Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the COS was Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed (rtd), in President Goodluck Jonathan’s era, it was Chief Mike Igiadome and now, under President Mohammed Buhari, the incumbent COS is Abba Kyari. The names of these men may not ring a bell, but their actions have had far-reaching consequences on the programmes and performance of the government they served.