I sat transfixed on my chair, as the hall erupted into a rapturous mood, when the recipient of this particular award, bowed his head twice before the cream of dignitaries staring at him. And a voice vibrating in stillness, howled; “I dedicate this award to President Muhammadu Buhari for giving me the opportunity to contribute my quota in serving my country and to my team.”
The noticeably adorable simplicity, humility and frankness were potent tools to disarm the most hardened of hearts and strike instant admiration.
The awardee was Nigeria’s Minister of state for Petroleum Resources’ and Chairman Board of Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), the effervescent and perpetually fabulous Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu. In the short poetic remarks, the feeling of fulfillment and recognition of team work assailed my senses. I felt in Dr. Kachikwu, the exhibition of the assets of positive leadership traits and inclination, quite rare with our people- Nigerians in such exalted positions of authority.
I strayed into The Dorchester, from North of Westminster City that Friday evening, where I am a resident migrant to spend the weekend with an old acquaintance. That was when I had clues of the celebrations packaged by Nigerians, who operate the London-based online tabloid, The Nigerian. My host also intimated me that the programme advertisement also indicated some awards to eminent Nigerians and public institutions which have distinguished themselves in public service back in my home country.
The revelations instantly arouse my interest and resurrected the “Naija” instincts in me. I remember we do freely gatecrash at events. So, I promised myself to experience the ceremony, even though I was not invited. “I don’t think, any Nigerian in a foreign land, can send away another countryman from an occasion simply because he has no IV card,” I assured myself.
At the venue, I met warm, friendly and hospitable organizers. But I sat in the hall a loner, because I could hardly identify a face I knew closely. But the fraternity of Naija sustained me, anyhow.
Of all the array of personalities recognized and feted with awards, Dr. Kachikwu’s mien and humility fascinated me most. I have never met him. But I have read much about him online about his efforts to sanitize the operations of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
I have not been in Nigerian since his appointment to manage NNPC, Nigeria’s state-owned oil company, and his later elevation as Minister of State for Petroleum to deputize President Muhammadu Buhari who retained the Petroleum portfolio as Minister. But encountering Dr. Kachikwu online gave me an impression that he must have been a pretty focused man and good for the job.
I could still remember vividly how management of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector had been in total ruins, with successive administrations until the Buhari Presidency. We are a country blessed with abundant oil resources, but embarrassed with scarcity of petroleum products frequently. Crude oil revenues were reportedly missing or remained unaccounted most times.
Nigeria’s oil and gas sector was surrendered by a ravenous and rapacious cabal, which left a supposedly rich nation impoverished by choice. It heightened militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region; the source of this crude oil, after years of neglect and demeaned us as people and the worth of our country in the estimation of sane nations.
My thoughts stretched far, half concentrated on the event and also, thinking about the fate that had befallen my country. I knew President Buhari’s retention of the Portfolio of Petroleum minister was an expressed intention and determination to cleanse the management of NNPC and the oil and gas sector from its opaqueness. But presidential schedules are quite tight sometimes and it was expected that President Buhari would appoint a capable hand to oversee the day to day administration of this all important sector of the economy. And Dr. Kachikwu berthed on the scene.
The appointment of Dr. Kachikwu, though a Niger Deltan was understandably devoid of the usual resounding applauses that greeted such appointees. President Buhari had hit the oil cabal below the belt, by opting for the choice of an assistant with a track record of excellence in the management of international oil business, outside the nominees of the cabal that had caged the oil and gas sector and chained Nigeria’s economy in perpetual stagnation. It was an unnerving experience.
And quite impressively, in the last two years, the narrative of the management of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria has changed considerably. I learnt Dr. Kachikwu has launched reforms and innovations that have ensured transparency and accountability in the management of Nigeria’s oil resources and accountability for proceeds of crude oil sales, hitherto alien to operations of NNPC.
I have heard that scarcity of petroleum products has ended in our dear country; I understand, pricing for petroleum products have been stabilized’. I am informed our moribund refineries have been revitalized and efforts have intensified to make them function to full capacity; while modular refineries are in the offing.
What has gladdened my heart the more is that from a zero point, Nigeria’s foreign reserve has risen to over $31 billion in less than two years. Nigeria has been economically reinvented despite the sharp drop in the prices of crude oil in the international market, which nosedived to as low $28 dollars per barrel and in an economy deeply plunged in recession.
Fortified with these facts, I was thrilled at the Westminster City celebration by The Nigerian raised for me a platform to experience this man firsthand. And in his persona, I saw a radiating spirit of a man with a deep -fathomed appetite to further serve his country; a leader who perceives this opportunity as rendering service to humanity, as against the general norm of personal enrichment and selfishness, peculiar to most of our privileged people.
And in Dr. Kachikwu’s administration of the oil and gas industry, those who have keenly monitored him speak of a Minister who is not tied to the strings of ethnicity or party affiliations. There were testimonies that he operates on the tenets of merit, honesty and competence in his interface with all Nigerians who besiege him as the helmsman of the oil industry, the country’s main cash cow. He exuded every each the portrait of a de-tribalized President Buhari, which perhaps, accounted for his choice to serve in this sensitive sector, to say the least.
The forum was beneficial to me in a number of ways, as it effortlessly served me great lessons about my country. In Dr. Kachikwu’s performance, it was easy to gauge the performance of the Buhari Presidency and how the nation has fared under his stewardship.
And it was glaring that it took the President some bit of care, to wittingly dodge the implanted vicious cabal in the oil and gas sector to engage an impartial Dr. Kachikwu from the private sector. He is immune from the weird entanglements of the oil cabal in the country, which explains why he has made the difference.
Today, Nigerian can proudly boast of a nation, whose oil wealth is not mindlessly squandered by a few elite and the political class, but devoted to the service of all Nigerians. It has rebirthed development across the country. The people of the Niger Delta region have mellowed on their restiveness and militancy because a committed and focused son and brother, Dr. Kachikwu has shown promise to teleguide the Buhari Presidency to solve the endemic problems of underdevelopment, impoverishment and the degradation of the ecosystem as a result of years of neglect of the region from exploration of its natural resources.
I departed the venue of the celebrations, more elated, after attending the symposium lecture, which dwelt extensively on the economic prospects of Nigeria in the age of fading oil wealth. It was really incisive, insightful and instructive.
What the lecture canvassed ardently was something akin to saying Dr.Kachikwu’s win in the management of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector is a celebration of the Buhari Presidency’s triumph in the prudent management of Nigeria’s resources and the anti- corruption war which has earned him unreserved international recognition and accolades.
Dr. Kachikwu struck me as a leader who pleasantly invades the mind of every personality that comes in contact with him. He is certainly a fulfilled man; a sense of fulfillment that buds from the expression of satisfaction with his service by a country and humanity he is rendering selfless and transparent leadership, like his boss, President Buhari.
*Owolabi, PhD, is a University teacher and contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.