Ibe Kachikwu’s letter: Why Buhari should act now and fast

Making the round on the social media and the conventional media since Tuesday was the leaked memo written by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, to his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari. Revealing as it is, the memo exposed the undercurrent of power play in government and the negative implication to the politic.

Outlining his grievance against his subordinate to the President in the memo, Kachikwu complained of insubordination by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru, to his office and flagrant disregard to the government policy of transparency in the award of contract estimated at $25bn single handedly by the NNPC boss without reference to the board.

“The legal and procedural requirement is that all contracts above $20m would need to be reviewed and approved by the board of the NNPC; Mr President, in over one year of Mr Baru’s tenure, no contract has been run through the board,” Kachikwu said in the memo.

On record, Kachikwu is the chairman of the board of the oil giant and ought to oversee major actions of all the parastatals under his watch and the minister of state in charge of the petroleum industry. However, in reality, it is not so. Those who are under his supervision have surreptitiously created another route of reporting to their overall superior boss, who happens to be the President or some powerful people within the Presidency.

In military terms, this could be termed indiscipline and subjected to a summary dismissal of the culprit and God help such a subordinate if the act of indiscipline is linked to a coup d’état, the outcome would be an outright execution.

But this is not a military rule and as such the NNPC big shot could be pardoned for his misdemeanour and perhaps hailed for knowing his way round the corridors of power.

Even, under the military rule, history told of some junior officers who flagrantly disobeyed lawful orders of the late Brig. Gen. Femi Ogundipe who was the most senior military officer shortly after the second military coup of 1966 and heaven did not fall. We were told that Ogundipe, who was able to quickly pick up the signal, ran for his dear life before it became too late for him in the grave.

Such is the favour often conferred on some people either due to the side of the geography they come from or the power behind their throne.

Kachikwu’s memo exposes the underbelly of the dysfunctional political system we are operating and the deception of the theory of strong leader vs strong institution.

Without prejudice to the other side of the story, would Baru have had the gut to make such far-reaching changes in such an organisation in another realm without running it through with his board chairman, even if it is by the way of information before making it public?

Would such a condition have been possible in a private sector company where the line of duties and functions of each board and management members are well-spelt out?

We are aware that the President is a retired military man and understands very clearly the line of authority and the implications of a subordinate disregarding his superior to carry out an action that could bring his office to ridicule.

I am also aware that those around Buhari should understand the enormous damage the leaked memo could do to the image of our President and the tripod his government agenda stands upon if not properly managed.

To prove to the whole world that the ongoing fight against corruption is not a fluke, to reassure Nigerians that tribalism is not a consideration in the appointment and sustaining of some key figures in this government and to rebuild confidence in the already distrusting populace who are with the perspective that in Nigeria some animals are more equal than the other, President Buhari should stamp his authority on the issue on the ground without fear or favour.

Whoever is found to be culpable in all the allegations contained in the memo should be rigorously investigated and made to face the full wrath of the law.

Anything short of this will further provide the critics of the government the right weapon to cut it down to size.

Nigeria cannot afford the divisive tendency which is playing out in the petroleum industry, which is very pivotal to the economy of the country. It is an issue like this that is fuelling agitations for the restructuring of the country across the geopolitical divide.

The President must nip this cancerous issue in the bud before it spreads and causes incalculable damage to the nation’s fragile stability.

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