Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and the burden of genius (2) By Olatunji Ololad


Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu is a supporting actor in President Muhammadu Buhar’s ‘change’ fiction or drama of ‘change’ if you like. At a glance, he seems an ideal ambassador of ‘change’ but has he the political and ideological bent to actualise Mr. President’s anti-corruption crusade in the oil sector? Has he the nerve to turn his office into something more than a labyrinth and political jailhouse? If he fails, his name and reputation will suffer for it.

There is no gainsaying the Nigerian corridor of power is booby trapped to thwart genius. A rabble of genii has fallen in recent past to her decadent pleasures and cruelties. By their deeds, they become a profanation of sterling stewardship in public office. After Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Reuben Abati to mention a few, one gets the feeling that entrusting a genius with a Nigerian public office is an exercise in futility. It’s akin to trying to tie the Mediterranean with palm fronds for storage against drought.

Time was, when the argument was entirely against the ‘system’ thus making a case for the genius. But a new school of thought emerges and it advances the perspective that the genius should no longer be let off the hook by the simple technicality of his perceived powerlessness against a corrupt system and hostile work environment. That is simply one way to look at it and it is a grossly skewed portrait of the status quo presented in defense of the genius.

Managing a public office is no walk in the park, particularly in Nigeria, yet the Nigerian genius with an Ivy League education and impressive track record, eagerly accept to serve the country, promising hope and positive change. It is always fascinating to see such individuals however, morph into grotesque apparitions of the patriots they were meant to become. Annoyingly, they do so with unpardonable cheek and a swivel-it-finger-in-your-face stance.

Kachikwu should be different. He should be that interpreter of ‘change’ who keeps his wits about him. He shouldn’t fall to the lure of the decadent and all powerful ‘system.’ Can he? His predecessors suffered irreparable loss of self; Kachikwu shouldn’t. Salaciousness, lewdness, avarice and extreme covetousness are familiar hyper-states that destroyed preceding genii by stifling their minds and enslaving them to the attraction of vulgar luxury and other unimaginable obscenities. Lots of promising folk have extinguished in name and status on this charred, crimson path. It takes a man of integrity and strong personality of unusual kind to scorn and tower above such decadence.

In the unfolding drama of ‘change,’ greed is the depravity that Kachikwu should shun. The ‘young oil Turks’ and the aging cabal dominating the oil sector over which he currently presides have overtime, evolved an enduring culture of acquisitiveness, self-centeredness and mediocrity as the benchmark of stewardship and moral fibre in the nation’s oil sector. With the connivance of the immediate past administration, they created and sustained a daemonic lyre of gluttony and lust as the language of transaction and service in the oil industry.

Consequently, the need for competence and accountability was serially altered into an imperial hankering for unearned dividends and mechanised pilfering. Public service in the oil sector thus split into two, taking on the forms of a vulgar gladiatorship by perverse civil servants and leisure-class banditry by aberrant oil magnates.

At the twilight of the last administration, Nigeria came face to face with the snazzy promiscuity and dishonesty of the characters that ran the oil industry aground. President Buhari swore to retrieve the country’s looted funds from these bandit breed. To this end, the nation is treated to a tragicomedy-styled hunt and prosecution of the culprits at home and abroad. While it is too early to give the president kudos for operationalising his anti-corruption crusade beyond platitudinous jingle, one cannot but appreciate the haunted glares of the culprits as they scurry for safe havens abroad, their trails littered with their plundered and pasty spoils.

Kachikwu had better take in the imagery of nemesis and remorse. Let it guide him as he serves as the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) or as he prepares to assume his touted new portfolio as a minister for the oil sector.

Lest we forget Kachikwu’s assurance to Nigerians that although the challenge of cleaning NNPC will be a bumpy ride, it will be exciting and it will eventually yield positive results. Positive results for whom? It’s about time the NNPC boss understood that Nigerians are more aware and interested in their affairs. Nigerians are paying his salary and they deserve more than his subtle retractions and fragile excuses.

Agreed, fuel is being sold at N87/per litre at the moment but for how long? Nigerians expect him to evolve a regime that would make fuel more affordable to the citizenry and eliminate insititutionalised corruption in the NNPC. Nigerians expect him to furnish the country periodically, with details of the workings and actual proceeds of the oil industry. It is not only the president that he is accountable to in such respect. There are a lot of other products refined from the nation’s crude oil, in the spirit of accountability and his touted love of transparency, let Kachikwu furnish Nigerians with a transparent account of the workings of the oil corporation. Nothing should be done in secret anymore. It’s about time Nigeria stopped watching helplessly as her public officers, NNPC top executives inclusive, meet with oil magnates in hotel lounges and suites abroad. Any such meeting done in secret with a select few often reek of suspicious or malicious intent against the progress of the nation’s oil sector and the country in general.

It could be rewarding fellating Kachikwu’s ego but that would be disastrous to his persona and career as a public servant. Nigeria needs Kachikwu to evolve and uphold professionalism and moral culture impervious to degeneration and machinations of the oil industry’s bogeymen.

If Kachikwu succeeds at his current brief, the ricochet of his exploits would serve a greater purpose than justifying President Buhari’s second term agenda, if actually the president nurtures any such ambition. Besides ameliorating the pains of the citizenry, his sterling success and patriotism at his job, will stand him in good stead for more significant leadership role in future. Kachikwu needs to evolve an enduring moral code unyielding to any baggage from his past – if any such baggage actually exists – and amenable to higher responsibilities in future.

Agreed, moral codes could be somewhat obstructive, relative and counter-productive, particularly when pitched against a vicious circle of leeches and reprobates but ultimately, moral codes are of inestimable benefits to civilisation. Without them, we are vulnerable to the degenerate barbarism of gluttony, amorality and wanton tyranny of the self-seeking and covetous. It was a lack of moral code and personal ethics that ruined the names and reputation of immediate past genii in Nigeria’s power circuits.

Picture a future with an unsullied Kachikwu, Okonjo-Iweala, Babatunde Fashola, Reuben Abati and their likes in sensitive public offices and as drivers of the Nigerian State. Imagine a future whereby such men and women are peacefully ushered off the corridors of power after meritorious service in the interest of the collective – that would be a future to die for no doubt.

At the risk of sounding Polly-Annaish, Kachikwu should understand that public service and valour need to be progressively planned, not cashed in upon or taken advantage of; and that there are all sorts of questions and consequences to ponder before he adopts the next economically or politically expedient measure. At  the end, Kachikwu will be judged by how adroitly he scorns or tones to a minimum, the arrogance implicit in leadership and corruption characteristic of power.