Portrait of a Change Agent

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With a recent award in London, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, remains a consistent positive face of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, writes Olawale Olaleye

Often mistaken as arrogant and sometimes, dismissed as highly conceited, these are nothing but the mere impressions of those who have deliberately elected to see the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, in flawed light. There are times such misgivings are allowed to swirl, for there is nothing wrong for people to relish in their own follies once in a while. However, not all the time. In truth, impression is a reflection of the background make-up of the person holding it. Therefore, it is always not a correct reflection of the reality. The lenses of view too play a major role.

In reality, however, such misconceptions are merely the manifestations of the degree of confidence and competence that radiates around Kachikwu. He has been around for a while and this is telling in all of his being, particularly, his carriage.
No man combines his kind of academic and professional successes and does not boast the kind of self-esteem that registers his presence anywhere, anytime. He is self-made, more or less and from a humble background with stirring mien. He has presence. And because he is neither given to frivolity nor tawdry delivery of responsibility, Kachikwu has learnt to approach every facet of his life with as much seriousness. He simply does not have the time to waste. There is work to be done and as the serious type, he dedicates his time to only worthy causes.

A core professional with huge success made of his career with over 30 years of experience, Kachikwu’s efforts were accorded recognition last week, when The Nigerian News, a London-based online media awarded him the 2017 Minister of the Year, in recognition of his record-breaking contributions to “transparency, accountability, probity, profitability and integrity in the management of one of Nigeria’s most critical sectors, the oil and gas.

Kachikwu clinched the award ahead of three other nominees in the category to hit the mark of first, his usual trademark in academics and decades of working in a sector that is arguably the nation’s mainstay. It was not surprising therefore that when he gave his really short speech, he could only dedicate the award to President Muhammadu Buhari, who at the time was in London and incidentally, the award held two days before the president returned home after 103 days in London. Clearly, it was an honour well-deserved for the president and the minister.

Born in December 1956, Kachikwu, who hails from Onicha Ugbo in Delta State, was first appointed the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by President Buhari on August 4, 2015, later combined it with his ministerial posting before the two offices were severed by the president. And since he faced his job solely as petroleum minister, Kachikwu has not only brought innovations and panache to the ministry, he has ensured efficiency, transparency and accountability in the various parastatals under him.

His idea of the ‘7 Big Wins’, designed to grow the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry is one of the most ingenious conceptions to the administration of the all-important sector. The seven big wins, Kachikwu had mooted to help develop stable and enabling oil and gas landscape with improved transparency, efficiency, stable investment climate, and a well-protected environment.
Let’s take a run through the seven big wins: the Niger Delta and security, policy and regulation, business environment and investment drive, transparency and efficiency, stakeholder management and international coordination, gas revolution as well as refineries and local capacity. And when combined with the ongoing reform in the sector, it is generally believed to present a new dawn for Africa, because it is projected to provide huge investment opportunities in infrastructure development, oil and gas facilities, operations, and maintenance across the oil and gas value chain.

This initiative, Kachikwu reckoned, requires innovative thinking, new ideas, technology and partnership amongst various stakeholders. This is because such partnerships, he held, would enable the country improve her oil and gas production from the new, mature, and marginal fields, explore the frontier basins and improve the local refining capacity. He also projected that the country would leverage her liberalised downstream environment to attract investment into high value portfolio of products distribution and storage assets network.

“We will also unveil a set of enabling policies and regulations that will jumpstart our gas industry through the establishment of robust infrastructure, gas-based industries – petrochemicals plants, fertiliser, methanol and LPG/ CNG programs,” he said as he ushered the country into an exciting journey of growing the energy resource base across the full value chain.

Sadly, in all of these, the minister has had to contend with attempts to blacklist him over unfounded allegations of corruption on the one hand whilst being dragged into the murky waters of politics on the other hand, thus creating an entirely different perception around him.

First, Kachikwu’s posters flooded different parts of Abuja as if a prospective governorship hopeful in Delta State in 2019. To think that this was not the first time the issue of Kachikwu’s governorship was being touted showed consistency on the part of those behind the attacks with the inclusion of his campaign posters as the latest slant to the destructive campaigns being slung at him and this, of course, has raised high wire political undertone, which may be geared towards distracting the minister, without an iota of doubts.

Soon after this, unfounded stories started flying around about President Buhari’s determination to drop him over some imaginary misdemeanors, including but not limited to a certain N3.8billion fraud, which they added was being routed through one of his brothers, Dumebi Kachikwu.

Expectedly, Kachikwu’s media office had immediately dismissed all these as groundless. And to cap it, a group, The Conscience of the Niger, through its leader, Mitai Okeroghene, had also denied the many allegations and exposed why “some power hawks and mischief makers” were poised to see that the minister was shown the way out.

It was later contended that the attacks might not be unconnected to the purported cabinet reshuffle as efforts were said to being fervently made to not only stop Kachikwu from being made the substantive oil minister but dropped completely from the cabinet. Coming at a time that the fight against corruption is the only thing this government seems to have going for it, what is happening to the oil minister is clearly a function of corruption fervently fighting back.

This is because it is easy to analyse. One, the marginal fields have not been awarded yet. Therefore, the allegation of N3.8 billion does not arise. And if there was going to be any, it would be through the NNPC or DPR. In other words, the minister has no such platform and part of the changes in the system geared towards transparency is that Kachikwu has made these parastatals independent.

A successful technocrat by all standards, Kachikwu came into the Buhari government with a lot of credibility and track record. And if anything, he has shown to have earned his record and not one dumped on him by chance and or time, which is evident in his handling of the affairs of the oil sector despite its legion of problems.

It is for this reason and more that the conspiracy to bring down such a man is seen as not just wicked and evil but also clearly unpatriotic. And thus, it is expected that if anyone truly has anything against Kachikwu in terms of corruption, it is incumbent on them to approach the relevant agencies with the facts, after all, whistleblowers are now well-protected under the law

For these reasons and more, if a list of Nigerians, who have risen to the pinnacle of their careers and attained successes through commitment and dint of hard work without soiling their hands in one way or the other were to be written, Kachikwu would evidently stand out from the crowd and he carries on without having to grandstand about his self-effacing mien. Say what you may, he remains one guy who knows his job and does it well.