There are a few things on my mind this week. One of them is related to the preparation for the 2019 elections. Last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came out with the time table for the elections that would usher in a new administration on May 29, 2019. This was a day or two after the irrepressible and, in my reckoning, courageous Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose declared his ambition to contest for the presidency of the country. Though unrelated, but with great effect on the polity, is another major issue- the allegation of insubordination leveled against the Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru by the Minister of State and chairman of the NNPC board, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
On the forthcoming election, it is really amazing that of all the political parties, it is only the duo of Governor Fayose and former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar’s Atiku that have signified intention to contest for the presidency. Fayose had made his intention public unlike Atiku who is still waiting for the right moment to publicly unveil his agenda. He is in a more difficult situation because he is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and it is not de rigueur to make his intention known. He could be accused of anti-party activities when there is the possibility that the incumbent could still be drafted to contest for a second term. For Atiku to formally declare his intention now would put him at logger heads with his party, unless he would want to realize his ambition on the platform of another party.
Except for those two individuals, no one in the over forty registered political parties has shown interest. Not from any of the zones, not from any of the other political parties. Are we saying there is no candidate that is worthy and capable of contesting for that plum job? That brings me to another issue relating to the Alhaji Atiku’s ambition, which I consider quite legitimate considering that he is presently a chieftain of APC. What is the intention of the APC? Is the party actually considering the possibility of presenting Buhari for a second term? There are many reasons why the idea should be banished before it takes firm root, in spite of the cloying sycophancy and syrupy subtle campaign from those who never meant well for this country that he should continue. I do not want my position to be misunderstood on Buhari coming back for a second term. It is a legitimate right that he can exercise, but for his own sake and for the sake of the country, one term is enough. He has done well especially in the anti-corruption fight and tackling the Boko Haram menace. Not only that, he has been able to stage a comeback after he was unceremoniously removed from office in a palace coup by fellow military officers. He had almost given up on the possibility of realizing that ambition until the merger of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a large dose of support from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who literally threw his weight behind the slight frame of candidate Buhari.
Beyond that is the fact that age is no longer on the side of the president. Going beyond 2019 would therefore be stretching our luck too far as a nation. Apart from his age, the president has not been in good fettle. He had spent several embarrassing months outside the country on account of his ill health. Those who are now saying he should contest for second term do not mean well for him and should also be considered as Nigeria’s enemy. We know why they are doing so. It is not indicative of their love for him; they are just selfishly looking out for themselves and perpetuate their influence in office, even if Buhari would be so incapacitated that governance would be left in their hands.
Most ministers have complained of inability to see the president and these are supposed to be his eyes, ears and hands in the governance of the country. How do we expect the country to move forward when we have this situation? If we can recall, Kachikwu’s leaked memo has shown how difficult it has been to see the president in spite of several efforts to do so. He was stonewalled by people who deliberately feel he should be sidelined in the affairs of the NNPC. On the leaked memo itself, it is obvious that there are some under currents that we are not privy to. Why would the NNPC GMD deliberately sideline his supervising ministry if this was not a deliberate, planned agenda? The GMD had probably been assured that nothing would happen to him, because ‘we are in government and in charge’. It is the same set of people who had given that assurance to Baru who probably denied Kachikwu the opportunity of seeing the president. Kachikwu’s memo was written on August 30, considering the importance of the NNPC to the financial health of the country, should that sort of memo not have been urgently attended to by the president, coming with allegations that a contract of about $25 billion was signed out without due process by the GMD? It may even be that the cabals have not allowed the memo to even get to the president’s table. Do we now see why President Buhari should not go for a second term? Obviously, he is no longer in control of the affairs of state, though that itself is an open secret. The presidency is said to have reacted to the memo now, coming with the information that the president would now see Kachikwu. This probably would not have happened if the memo had not been leaked to the public. We should therefore thank whoever leaked the memo for his or her commendable service to the nation.
In all these, I still fear for Kachikwu. The cabals have their fang in the NNPC, it is their pot of soup and they would not brook interference from anyone, no matter how highly placed. This is not the first time that we will be having such insubordination in the civil service. One recollect the spat between Minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole and the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf who was suspended from office by the minster but refused to leave unless his removal came from the president. Adewole was forced to recall him even after having appointed a replacement. Nothing has since happened on that matter. Hopefully, the present case would not end that way too. Baru had sidelined Kachikwu, knowing full well that heavens would not fall.
As stated earlier, we may not have heard the last of this developing situation, there are still some undercurrents that may be unknown to us. But the President, should for a change, do the needful, he should deal with the allegation of insubordination and the award of contracts without due process. In fact, the president should set up a committee to probe what is happening or has happened in the NNPC. Another area that he should look into within the remaining period of his tenure is why it has been difficult for his ministers to see him. Is it his own style of governance or some people are deliberately shielding the president from knowing what is going on like what happened during the Gen Sani Abacha inglorious era? Abacha became a captive in the Villa, shielded by his security cabal and was unaware of happenings in most parts of the country, until death called in the form of an apple. Incidentally, President Buhari was one of those who worked closely with that administration as Chairman of the PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund), set up by Abacha. Most importantly, the Kachikwu-Baru situation should not be swept under the carpet like others before it. This is in order not to give the president a bad name that when issues affect some certain sections of the country, he does not always take action or he is always slow to take action.