Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who holds the additional portfolio of chairman of the board of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), stunned everyone when on or around October 3, 2017 a letter purportedly written by him to President Muhammadu Buhari was published in various news media.
The allegations contained in the letter dated August 30, 2017 against NNPC MD Dr Maikanti Baru, to which the president had not reacted until it was leaked were grievous-massive organizational changes and appointments without board approval; award of contracts totaling in excess of $25billion also without board approval whereas the MD’s authority limit was $20million; and humiliation, sidelining and character defamation of the minister by the MD, including deployment of ethnic/regional allegations against him. Any possibility that the presidency, government or Kachikwu himself would deny the genuineness of the letter was quashed by a subsequent statement issued by the minister of state’s spokesman complaining on his behalf about the leakage of what was described as a confidential official communication by Kachikwu to the President. The practical effect of this statement was to categorically affirm the authenticity of the letter removing any chance of plausible deniability!
My first instinct when I read Kachikwu’s now verified letter was to wonder about his seeming naivety-what did he expect? Anyone who is not engaged in self-delusion about Nigeria under Buhari would acknowledge the reality of (in Buhari’s own words) a “97% and 5%”-a privileged Fulani (and occasionally Kanuri, Hausa or Northern) power elite who are automatically invested with authority; and a separate category of the rest who are encouraged to reconcile themselves to their inferior political status. Any objective analysis of power and appointments since May 2015 makes it abundantly clear that the South-South and South-East, who mostly voted for PDP in the last elections are the least favoured within the “5 percenters” with the South-West and Middle-Belt Northerners marginally higher! High officials of the ruling APC including the chairman have confirmed this trend, urging people in the South-East to vote APC in order to end their marginalization!
The purpose of the series of manipulations that commenced with the president’s decision to hold on to the substantive petroleum portfolio, while appointing Kachikwu as minister of state and (initially) NNPC managing director; then saw Kachikwu shifted out of the NNPC MD position in favour of Dr. Baru, a Fulani from Bauchi state in the North-East with Kachikwu now Chairman of NNPC board; with Buhari’s powerful Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari installed on the NNPC board; all had a clear intendment-to repose real power over the oil and gas sector in the hands of Buhari and his now notorious cabal of Abba Kyari, Mamman Daura, Ismaila Isa Funtua and others. Once Kachikwu accepted his stripping of executive authority over NNPC, I assumed he understood the new political reality, so I was initially bemused that he was now complaining about a very predictable anomaly of a subordinate who possessed greater power than him.
However once I got over my initial bemusement, I turned to Kachikwu’s courage instead! Dr Ibe Kachikwu is a very intelligent and strategically-minded person. He holds a doctorate degree in law from Harvard University and was a multiple prize winner throughout his legal education. His career in the oil industry has been similarly meteoric seeing him climb rapidly to the top in institutions such as Texaco and Exxon Mobil. You don’t achieve all Kachikwu has done in the last four decades by being naïve! I am sure Ibe Kachikwu understood that by challenging Baru’s impunities at NNPC, he was probably challenging not just Baru, but probably Abba Kyari and the “cabal”, and maybe the president himself! I’m certain Kachikwu recognized the possibility that all the egregious actions of the NNPC MD, which were above Baru’s authority, may have been approved by Buhari vide his status as substantive minister of petroleum, and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In substance therefore, there was and remains a strong possibility that Baru’s actions were done on behalf of Abba Kyari, Buhari and the cabal! So in the end, Kachikwu’s actions were an act of commendable courage.
The focus is now on President Buhari to see how he will treat this grave assault on his anti-corruption credentials. It is important to note that incident-by-incident, the credibility of Buhari’s anti-corruption rhetoric has come under greater erosion-from his dismissal of the allegations against his army chief who bought one or more property in Dubai; the uninvestigated allegations against Minister of Interior, General Dambazau; the unreleased report of the corruption investigations against suspended SGF David BabachirLawal and NIA DG Ayo Oke; the dismissal of the case against APC politician Timipre Silva over his ownership of as much as 43 houses; and now the shocking allegations of over $25billion contracts awarded irregularly at the NNPC within a relatively short period!
The equivalent in recent history of Kachikwu-an incumbent minister and chairman of NNPC board, blowing the whistle on massive corruption and abuse of office at Nigeria’s biggest cash cow are the allegations of a missing $20bn made by former CBN governor and now Emir of Kano SanusiLamido against former President Jonathan! Kachikwu’s allegations in fact are larger in terms of amount, gravity and credibility than Sanusi’s accusations which contributed to the destruction of Jonathan’s regime! Another shocking dimension of Kachikwu’s letter is the confirmation therein that there are several ministers in government who are unable to secure access to see the president! That the country’s minister of state for petroleum is in such a position is simply bewildering!!!
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