The minister of petroleum, that is Muhammadu Buhari, at the beginning of the week ordered the incorporation of the new Nigerian National Petroleum Company, Limited as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
Given his background as a petroleum minister under General Olusegun Obasanjo in the seventies, Buhari’s seeming speed in driving the reforms in the sector could be understandable.
While his efforts as minister have not been universally applauded, especially with discontent in the Niger Delta over the allocation to the oil-producing communities in the PIA, his overall interest in moving the industry is especially interesting.
Buhari’s personal interest in the sector has been underlined by what many see as his personal touch in the nomination of members of the board of the NNPC as was announced last Sunday.
What was personally strategic for Buhari was that he used the opportunity to recognize some individuals who had historic relationships with him.
Senator Margery Okadigbo, the widow of Senator Chuba Okadigbo was appointed to represent the Southeast.
Understandably, the appointment has been universally welcomed given the role the nominee’s late husband played in Buhari’s political life. Few would forget that Chuba Okadigbo was Buhari’s first presidential running mate.
However, this correspondent is in no position to imagine how Okadigbo would have fared as the vice-president of the Buhari of today.
The claim that Okadigbo’s death was quickened by tear gas fumes he inhaled during the public demonstrations against the outcome of the 2003 election is also something that is touching.
Even more, as a former senator, Margery Okadigbo has also gotten the experience for her role on the board.
Another personal touch of Buhari in the new NNPC board is the appointment of Barrister Constance Marshall Harry, a daughter of the late political giant, Marshall Harry.
Marshall Harry was the national vice chairman South-South of the former All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and a personal friend of Buhari.
He was reportedly among the people who influenced Buhari to run for the 2003 presidential election and worked as a strategic member of the inner Buhari team ahead of the 2003 election.
Marshall Harry, who was an influential political figure in Rivers State was killed in what was generally described as a political assassination just before the 2003 election.
The import of the nomination of his daughter as a board member of the new NNPC is beyond the fact of Buhari rewarding the family of a deceased friend and political ally.
The import has to be also situated within the political permutations in Rivers State. The position for the South-South in the outgoing board was held by Senator Magnus Abe, a bitter political rival of the leader of the mainstream tendency within the All Progressives Congress, APC in the state.
The speculation was that Abe had been projected to that board by political enemies of Amaechi who were determined to use Abe to silence him.
It was not a surprise that the Amaechi camp expressed subdued joy at the news of the exit of Abe from a position they felt he may have used to empower himself in his fight for space with Amaechi in Rivers.
The nominee for Southwest as was last time remains Senator Pius Akinyelure, generally acclaimed as best friend of the national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu.
Given that the other nominees representing the Northern geopolitical zones are largely unknown it was being suggested that they may well be people personally chosen by the president.
However, what is turning out to be the more outstanding issue from the nominations is the appointment of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as chairman of the board of the NNPC.
It is an appointment some from the Southeast, including Osita Okechukwu, director-general of the Voice of Nigeria, VON have applauded. Okechukwu was quoted by GreenWhiteGreen GWG to have said that the appointments from the Southeast show that Buhari really does not hate Ndigbo as had been insinuated.
Okechukwu is in a position to sing that song, given the fact that Okadigbo whose wife was appointed to represent the Southeast was his former political leader. It was following Okadigbo’s death that Okechukwu and a few Ndigbo like the late journalist, Chuks Ehirim became disciples of Buhari.
It is, however, instructive that Buhari’s appointment of Araraume is now facing what many see as indirect attacks from his home state with the state government alleged to be fanning a move to withdraw the appointment.
It is not surprising, but shocking given the background of insinuations that Ndigbo have been their worst enemies, denying one another political opportunities to catch cruise.
The fight against Araraume may have arisen from his refusal to withdraw from the Imo North Senatorial by-election in favour of Frank Ibezim, the favoured candidate of Governor Hope Uzodimma and the minister of state for education, Emeka Nwajiuba.
After fighting the governor to a standstill, Araraume was edged out after the courts upheld Ibezim.
Following the battle with Uzodimma, Araraume withdrew into his shell apparently returning to his studies in preparation for his doctoral thesis.
The fight against Araraume fueled by beer parlour talk is against his experience in politics and corporate Nigeria where he straddles several boards.
It would be foolhardy for Ndigbo to throw away what may be the juiciest appointment they have gotten from the man they claim hates them on the prism of primordial politics.