Thoughts on the Baru-Kachikwu war

The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru PHOTO: TWITTER/NNPC


Sir: “I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation, every possession, a duty” – Nelson Rockefeller. I am not a historian but I wish I were. But my knowledge of history as it concerns Ibe Kachikwu is not faint. When he became GMD and then oil minister, Nigerians celebrated his emergence owing to his background in that sector. Today many people are using the brush to tar his image for speaking out against the GMD of NNPC for perceived insubordination and more.

I am not an oil Czar, but I wish I were one to understand the power dynamics and policies in the oil and gas sector. Especially in the light of the political drama between Minister of State, Petroleum and Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru. Process drives every organisation and any organisation without one in Nigeria had better go to a lodge in Siberia and be forgotten. There is something out-rightly wrong with the power dynamics in NNPC.

I might not have bothered to pen this essay until I saw staffers from PENGASSAN and NUPENG on network news, on NTA, on a solidarity visit to the GMD of NNPC singing solidarity songs, holding hands. In the middle of an investigation? The GMD from that farcical display by these comrades on solidarity, was portrayed as being more Simon-pure than the Minister of State. This is dangerous for cohesion and growth of the polity. It is easy to follow: if the minister of state controlled the bacon, the visitors might have gone to him and not the GMD.

We never celebrate people in this country. Empowerment to win is a novel concept in other lands but not in Nigeria. He wrote that memo, not for self but on behalf of the Board of the NNPC whose members must have put pressure on him to act, Tenders Board of the NNPC regardless. Do you think, Kachikwu, a seasoned lawyer, does not know the rules/ or what the Act of the NNPC stipulates? Unfortunately, some board members, as is the case with Nigerians, may recant behind him, leaving the minister out in the open to dry. Wouldn’t he have read that memo to them before he forwarded it. How come none of the board members is saying anything? And who leaked a private memo to black-ball the minister?‬

The issue of insubordination is vintage Nigerian especially in a country where tribe, ethnicity and religion guide our loyalty to people and country. Who do you think Baru would be more loyal to? Kachikwu, a Christian southerner? Or the president, a Muslim northerner? You bet!‬ The sooner we understand the systematic problems we face in this country, the better. And restructuring cannot correct this but strong leadership.

It flies in the face of reason to have the GMD belittle the NNPC Board as having no power whatsoever. Why then do we have a board set up by government? Not even advisory. I blame Kachikwu for not being able to read the political situation of the country well enough. He overestimated the willingness of people to work with him without building relationships.

I voted for this president. No regrets, but it appears he has lost traction and is no more in charge of the administration. He made Kachikwu minister of state, without transferring power to him. He gave him a portfolio without coaching him on the political and cultural aspect of Nigeria that will be challenging for any professional. The president talks less to his team and sets only a basic expectation, the reason two very important personages could launder their dirt in public. How can a president not talk much and expect to succeed?

All told, Kachikwu, despite flaws expounded by experts in his letter, the language used was one seeking for unity of purpose in the oil and gas sector and not a separating tool.‪ He didn’t dissipate energy engaging in the wasteful anachronism and the silly clericalism of divisive twaddle but sought to elicit expectations against which they will be held accountable.‬
‪Simon Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.



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