By Emma Amaize
INSIDERS, particularly workers, watching the power play between the workstations of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director, GMD, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in the last six months, at the NNPC Towers, Abuja, had diagnosed that it was only a matter of time for things to explode.
In fact, when the powers that be at the corporation started taking more than a passing interest in the workers that stopped at the Minister’s work floor and the deeper reason of them by-passing, it was palpable that matters could run out of control.
Not unanticipated: By and large, the developments were not totally unexpected. Some have described it as a personality problem between Kachikwu, the former GMD of NNPC and Dr. Maikanti Baru, the incumbent GMD, his successor.
Unmistakably, when President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubled as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, relieved Dr. Kachikwu of his NNPC GMD portfolio, last year, albeit retaining him as Minister of State for Petroleum with Chairman, NNPC Board of Directors as pacifier, it was apparent to even the dumb that “power has changed hands.”
What was indistinguishable is the extent he would cope with the ‘ambuscade’ or whether he would suffocate. In Nigeria, a junior minister plays a subservient role to the senior minister. So when it concerns petroleum and the President himself is the key Minister of Petroleum, the whys and wherefores for certain happenings are bald-faced.
Before now: Discoveries showed that as GMD and Minister of State, Petroleum, Kachikwu was reporting directly to Buhari not only as his senior minister, but also as President. There was no other go-between as he is the junior minister.
Existing order: Probably due to the circumstances of Baru’s appointment designed to cut Kachikwu’s growing influence at the time, the enablers did not see any need for the GMD to pass through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, as the latter, who is President could not be reached through another channel with the correct knob.
And since the senior minister did not kick against the modus- operandi of side-tracking his junior minister, the rebellion not just blossomed but grew wings.
Way out: A federal bureaucrat familiar with the problematic told this reporter, weekend: “It is not a difficult matter to resolve. The question is that there is no structure, no defined line of communication between the NNPC, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Minister of Petroleum, who is the President.
“Some people saw the lacunae and they took advantage of it to achieve their ambition. Now that it has reached a roasting point and the President had invited Kachikwu to listen first-hand to him and Dr. Baru also met with the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to debrief him, the solution is at the corner. The President should have done this earlier than now.
“He (Buhari) should clearly spell out the structure, supervisory power and line of communication. He should neither entertain nor condone a breach of the guidelines to be rolled out. The guidelines will show if he was tacitly in support of the strange happenings all along or not.
“I can tell you that once this is done, the disagreement will fizzle out, each officer will know his boundary. Even if it is ego at play, the new rules will check it. Indeed, this should be done at other ministries and agencies where such unhealthy rivalry exists, but providentially it has not ballooned like the present case,” he added.