16 August 2014, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – When the presidency deputised Diezani Alison-Madueke to the Petroleum Ministry, there was a loud buzz of disapproval. It was argued at the time that the young woman did not have the requisite credentials to manage Nigeria’s most important industry; at the time I humbly contributed that she would serve the country better as the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Well, the presidency thought otherwise and she became a negative reality in our lives. Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s leadership of the Petroleum Ministry has been marked with monumental corruption if the CBN is to be believed but beyond the corruption, she has run the ministry as a personal property, with secrecy, highhandedness and impunity.
About 48 hours after she assumed office as Petroleum Minister, she fired the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Barkindo Sanusi, a gentleman with a rich tapestry of industry experience that commenced years before the minister graduated from the university. The minister sacked Barkindo Sanusi and like the empress she was poised to become, refused to proffer any reasons for her action.
At the exit of Barkindo Sanusi, the minister brought in Shehu Ladan and sacked him one month after. Again she offered no reasons to the industry or the public for sacking the Group Managing Director of the NNPC she had recruited herself. Mrs. Alison-Madueke appointed Austin Oninwo to replace Shehu Ladan as Group MD of the NNPC. Oninwo served for a year and one month and got the boot from the minister; again no reasons. Oninwo was succeeded by Andy Yakubu. Last week the Petroleum Minister fired Yakubu and brought in Dawha Thlama, a gentleman who had served at the NNPC, served as managing director of the IDSL brought back to the NNPC as Executive Director of Exploration and Production. What is worrisome about this latest appointment is not so much that the appointee lacks the requisite experience to manage the NNPC but more in the motive and functionality of his appointment: the gentleman has only 3 months to serve as public servant before his mandatory retirement.
The NNPC is the official interface of Nigeria in oil and gas matters. By law and convention she negotiates and consummates oil and gas transactions with corporations, countries and regional blocs. An establishment that has the responsibilities of the NNPC ought to have stability both in policy and leadership. What happened to all the transactions that were commenced by Dawha Thlama’s predecessors? Is this game of séance at the NNPC Towers not a disincentive for the much sought after Foreign Direct Investment? Why would any corporation enter into any profitable negotiations with Mr. Thlama, knowing his batteries at the NNPC would run out in less than four months? What would this gentleman achieve in four months beyond paying salaries and pushing dead memos to the Petroleum Ministry?
Contemporary wisdom instructs me that it would be futile to call for the sack, resignation or dilution of “Naomi Campbell.” For reasons best known to the presidency, that body believes in “Miss Campbell” more than monkeys believe in the nutritional value of bananas. The point must be made that the Petroleum Ministry answers ultimately to Nigeria and Nigerians and not just the presidency which is a trustee of Nigerians. The Petroleum Minister must stop her personal misadventure with the fortunes of our country, sit with experienced stakeholders in the industry and select a fitting successor for Dawha Thlama who leaves in three months. Of course, statutorily it is the minister’s prerogative but this minister has displayed monumental incompetence in the business and since we must endure her as monkeys retain bananas in their menu, we must aid and guide her to manage our common patrimony the way it deserves.