As I write this piece on whether President Muhammadu Buhari has made the right choice in Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu to reposition the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), I remember my mentor, the late Major General Mamman Kontagora and his rescue mission at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
Kontagora was taken aback when he was given a marching order to bring sanity to the ailing ivory tower that had become a theatre of the absurd; apologies to dramatists. He was an administrator but not an academic. But I must confess as his Special Assistant, he recorded a resounding success in that assignment.General Kontagora presented the report of the Administrative Audit Panel which he chaired to the then Head of State General Sani Abacha at the State House on the 10th of November 1995.
The scenarios of appointment may appear different but there was a meeting point in transparency of leadership. We found ourselves in the conundrum of leadership with the general operations of the Nigerian petroleum sector being hooded in surreptitiousness.
With more questions, resolutions could not be found in the realm of self-examination and ethics which apparently, are lacking in most privileged Nigerians in positions of authority. For amoral reasons they develop tendencies that make them inefficient on the job. As it is said in corporate governance, corruption and lack of transparency kill productivity in any system.
Our petroleum resources managers for egotistic reasons are not courageous enough to tell our people that there are as many as 6000 by-products and derivatives when we refine a barrel of crude oil. This lack of information had not encouraged political leaders in channeling scarce resources to address our country’s refining problems; so the circus journey continued.
As I flipped through the biographical account of the newly appointed Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, it was quite fascinating. His pedigree caught my fancy so I became curious to examine the antecedents of this Onicha Ugbo, Delta State born, who had been saddled with the restoration of the NNPC to its past glory. I tried to peruse how, for about three and half decades, he had been in academics, law, business and administration.
Kachikwu is indeed an academic of repute who in 1979 bagged a first class degree in law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, first class at the Nigeria Law School with multiple awards as the best graduating student. He had a Ph.D. with distinction at the Harvard Law School in the USA, specialising in Petroleum and Investment Law Strategy.
He taught Law at the Harvard Law School and had been a visiting professor to many world acclaimed institutions. He has written three books in investment law and contracts including Nigerian Foreign Investment Law and Policy published in 1988 and with many articles in reputable journals.
He is a fellow of several institutes including the Chartered Institute of Petroleum Policy, Society of Corporate Governance and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. After a stint work at the Nigerian American Merchant Bank Limited, he held policy making positions in the petroleum industry.
He was General Manager/Legal Adviser of Texaco Nigeria Limited and Texaco overseas Petroleum Company Upstream and Downstream for eight years, General Counsel/Secretary Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, Executive Director ExxonMobil Group, and Executive Vice Chairman/General Counsel ExxonMobil companies in Nigeria and oversight Counsel in Africa since 2009.
He was said to have influenced over $10 billion investment from ExxonMobil into Nigeria and other African countries. He has also set major policy planks in government relations, investment policy and corporate governance for ExxonMobil in Africa and member of many highly influential policy and investment team for ExxonMobil Corporation.
Kachikwu served as lead negotiator on diverse issues for ExxonMobil in Africa including conclusion of lease renewal Negotiations for Mobil Producing and facilitated contacts in global energy sphere with many CEOs of multi- national corporations and secretaries of energy for over two and half decades. He is now poised to do that for the benefit of Nigeria.
To many industry watchers, his appointment ordinarily was a routine where oil super majors ‘donated’ their staff members to national oil companies to enable them (International Oil Companies) perpetuate their nefarious acts in regions they operate.
That appears not to be as from his actions so far, Kachikwu exhibits puritanical and patriotic zeal on the project Nigeria; a trait of an efficacious person.
His pronouncements on the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries, a promise to publish periodic financial transactions of the NNPC and his thoughts to review the joint venture agreements in the various sectors as well as using his contact to make International Oil Companies (IOCs) to partner with our National Oil Company in relationships of business complementarity attest to his doggedness to soldier on at the NNPC.
There is no doubt that he is already being accepted as a sweetheart to many Nigerians who now view him as one not cut out for negative thinking and negative action, which are hallmarks of successful people. Kachikwu is exhibiting the expectant enthusiasm of one who knows how the national oil company, the NNPC could be repositioned as a business concern.
With that confidence, many are quick to add that he is likely bringing the zest he founded the True Tales Publications Limited, publishers of the HINTS magazine which had survived a quarter of a century murky Nigerian publications business environment to bear on the NNPC. For the record, HINTS is one of the five romance, fashion and beauty magazines in his stable of Nigerian ladies bestsellers.
Was Kachikwu a legal icon really a ‘Romeo’ to have forayed into publications to expand the frontiers of Nigerian romanticism in 1989? Although Ibe as he is fondly called is yet to tell us why, suffice it to say it was a novelty and quite ingenious of him to have identified an investment portfolio in a ladies world.
Ordinarily he would have stashed his hard earned money in fat accounts overseas as some Nigerians would do by idolizing their monies that become sterile in strange lands. His series of investments in Nigeria had put him in good stead in his current assignment at the NNPC. He also cherishes time management in the publication business.
A close associate recalls how Kachikwu, as Publisher, struggled in spite of his busy schedule to meet production deadlines on his editorial contribution: ‘’Fatherhood with Ibe’’ a column he (Kachikwu) anchored to share his experiences as a father in HINTS.
There is this popular saying that anything big starts with something small. Kachikwu started small but had grown and developed to exude philanthropy as his humanitarian gestures know no bounds.
About 900 persons have benefitted from his scholarship awards scheme in his native Onicha Ugbo and indeed Delta State over the years. He has built schools and contributed immensely in church and road development projects to the admiration of many that he holds two significant Chieftaincy titles in the Odogwu and the Omeudo of Onicha Ugbo.
As Kachikwu, a colossus, continues determinedly on to equity at the four towers of NNPC, I wish him luck with this famous quote by Thomas Jefferson, an American founding father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the third President of the United States: ‘’ Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.’’ It is also said that the currency of leadership is transparency.