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So sad! Northern cabal reduces Ibe Kachikwu, to ceremonial head

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· How Maikanti Baru reversed all the appointments made by Kachikwu and left him to find out from newspapers.

The sound of creek families warring with broken glass depicts the agony in the soul of Ibe Kachikwu. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is a troubled man. He suffers the affliction of the politicized technocrat, who, having gained position and power, loses both to internal wrangling and upheaval.

Ever since his appointment as head honcho of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) group’s board of directors, Kachikwu has been embroiled in a power tussle with the group’s Managing Director (MD), Maikanti Kacalla Baru.

As the impasse aggravates, the oil corporation rumbles under the grievous weight of that action and counteraction that symbolizes reciprocal struggle of discordant powers.
Sadly, Kachikwu has lost the bitter tussle for dominance and power to Baru, who happens to be the candidate of a northern cabal allegedly led by Nigeria’s first lady, Aisha Buhari. The cabal reportedly sought to seize control of the NNPC at the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s radical reforms of the oil corporation.
However, just when Kachikwu sought the support of President Buhari, the latter allegedly deserted him to throw his weight behind Baru. Consequently, Kachikwu has been reduced to an ordinary figure head; the northern cabal has effectively neutered him thus denying him appropriate command of the NNPC and influence in the decision-making process of the oil industry.

Prior to his emergence as NNPC chairman, the northern cabal had reportedly urged President Buhari to appoint Baru to head the corporation but Buhari refused their suggestion and went ahead to appoint Kachikwu. The latter was allegedly nominated for the position by Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, who convinced Buhari that appointing Kachikwu who hails from the oil-rich Niger Delta region would pacify Nigeria’s warring militants and douse tension in the delta area.

After his appointment, Kachikwu was “closely watched” by northerners including Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari; Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, Secretary General at the Finance Ministry, and Tajudeen Umar, a close confidante of Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano and former CBN governor.

After failing to get Baru appointd NNPC boss, the northern cabal hatched a devious plan to perpetrate hoarding in desperate bid to create artificial fuel scarcity and portray Kachikwu as incompetent. After that strategy failed to produce the intended results, the cabal enlisted the support of the first lady, Aisha Buhari, who used her position as the president’s wife to get Baru elected as NNPC boss last August.

Ever since Baru’s appointment as MD of the NNPC, he has been constantly at loggerheads. With the backing of Aisha Buhari and the powerful northern cabal, Baru has been causing his boss, Kachikwu, a nagging headache and sleepless nights.

According to “The lobbyists, mostly insiders who felt threatened, wanted Kachikwu out of the way. He is not completely out of the way yet since he’s still the junior minister and chairman of the NNPC Board. But let’s face it, the way things stand today, the man is just a piece of furniture. He’s not in charge.

If Kachikwu still has any illusions, the unilateral appointments made this week by the GMD, Maikanti Baru, should settle the matter. Baru reversed virtually all the appointments made by Kachikwu six months ago and left his boss to find out what had happened in his backyard from newspapers.

Kachikwu, who is supposed to be junior minister and chairman of the NNPC Board, had no idea of what was coming, when or why.

Baru may argue till the next super moon that he had only good intentions, but that’s the paving stone on the road to hell. How can he possibly defend making such large scale changes behind the back of his immediate boss and the board?

The clandestine way the changes were made has already invited needless suspicions of an ethnic agenda. Out of 108 appointments, for example, 31 (or nearly 34 per cent) are from the North West, his zone.

The South South comes second with 20; the North East and South West come next with 17 each; the North Central, 16, and the South East, 7.

In Nigeria’s ethnically charged math, Baru’s changes work out to 64 appointments for the North and 44 for the South. And he passed over the head of his Southern boss to get approval.

For an administration that has been frequently accused of favouring a section of the country, it should find these changes worrisome.

Insiders in Baru’s office have denied any ethnic motive. They have denied that this was partly vendetta against a few among whom Garbadeen Muhammad, former president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and Kachikwu appointee, is the poster victim.

But the question is, why were the changes done behind the back of the junior minister and the board? And why is the announcement coming 24 hours before the inauguration of the board?

I don’t know how much longer he is willing to put up with being kicked around, but this is clearly Kachikwu’s moment of truth.

If he can be moved to a largely ceremonial position without a reason; if NNPC’s pump price changes can be made without his knowledge, and if appointments can be made in a ministry that he supervises without his input, then he needs to ask himself if he still has a job.

The real elephant in the room is Buhari approving the changes before Kachikwu found out. It’s yet another sad chapter in the greasy tale of the NNPC, a beast that apparently consumes the reform and the reformer.

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