The ruling All Progressives Congress may not necessarily comprise a pack of political incompatibles but there is no hiding the cat and mouse game, which lately came into the open with the criticism of Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachiukwu, by former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, an action which turned out to have stirred the hornet’s nest.
First, the said criticism of Oil Minister Kachukwu was deliberately embargoed and syndicated for the Easter Sunday for Nigerian media for maximum impact, with the double emphasis in front page lead banner headlines of Tinubu as “the national leader of APC who “blasts” Kachiukwu.” A tenable reason was to reflect concern for suffering motorists. A private phone chat or even sharp criticism of the minister would have been a better alternative. On the other hand, any opposition PDP member is free to publicly criticise an APC minister, especially to mark Tinubu’s birthday.
Second, Tinubu’s criticism of Oil Minister Kachiukwu exposed the division and political schism within the APC. The South-East branch of the party, for example, defended the oil minister more as their “son” instead of defending the government.
The APGA Think Tank showed no qualms in descending on Tinubu with all the political/ethnic insinuations. The APGA Think Tank’s response must interest Tinubu for future guidance to be circumspect. The counter facts of APGA Think Tank may be circumstantial but are true and embarrassing.
By the way, Minister of State for Oil, Mr. Kachiukwu, obviously embarrassed by the controversy, seized the opportunity to earn himself a distinction. Summoned by the Senate to be questioned on all aspects, he showed up at the stipulated time and discharged himself. That was the second time Kachiukwu honoured a Senate invitation.
The gradually emerging standing practice for those similarly summoned by the National Assembly was to head for law courts to cheaply obtain injunction against the summon or even to contemptuously ignore the summons.
Obviously, the minister’s critics forgot the starting point. With fuel queue almost stuffing public (office) life out of him, poor chap Kachiukwu tried to humour his way out of that danger. Within hours, his promise that the queue would disappear in two days collapsed and (the queue) rather lengthened, with the inevitable debilitating effects on traffic and movement nation-wide. Hence, the minister’s humour that he did not study magic. But that humour was lost on the reporters. Even then, that would not justify the impression of Kachiukwu’s contempt or disregard for the fuel scarcity crisis. Visuals don’t tell lies.
Nigerians must also make up their minds on if and how intermittent fuel scarcity is to be tackled. For example, is government’s inability to provide fuel the only cause of the scarcity? Over the years, it was always clear that during any presumed fuel scarcity, always at work were oil marketers as economic saboteurs, hoarding the product. The situation is not different in the on-going crisis. Is that the fault of any oil minister, past or present?
Most unlikely. At the initial stage of the fuel crisis, saboteur oil marketers hoarding the product were exposed in the media and Minister Kachiukwu’s reaction was that any offending petrol station would be forced open and the products would be freely supplied to vehicles on the long queue. But Kachiukwu was thumped down by critics on the ground that in a free market economy, a dealer has the right to maximise his profit. Even in a situation of economic sabotage?
The minister, therefore, had to beat a retreat. In the absence of any punitive measure, marketers freely hoarded petrol, worsened the fuel scarcity, and inflated pump prices. Outwitted by his erstwhile two days’ deadline within which to end the fuel scarcity and sabotaged by hoarders among the marketers, Kachiukwu had to give himself an elastic deadline, ending in May.
If he gave a nearer deadline and once again failed, the sack chorus would be loudest. It would be a surprise if those criticising Kachiukwu within APC did not realise that such shots would ricochet on Muhammadu Buhari, as substantive Minister of Petroleum if not as President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, especially if such critics have easy access to him. Could that be a reason, most unusually, Buhari took it on himself (through his media adviser, Femi Adesina) to robustly defend Minister of State for Oil, Ibe Kachiukwu? Whatever prompted that intervention, a message was clearly conveyed that snippings of mistimed and mismessaged criticisms from within would be contained.
The recent criticism of Oil Minister Kachiukwu re-emphasised the faux pas of the “national leader” of APC. Coming so soon after the speculations of plans to depose the party’s national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, even foreign diplomats in Nigeria are confused on the genuine leadership of the party.
From Ekiti State, a party member was straight to the point. “President Muhammadu Buhari does not need to contend for our party’s leadership. It is given.” In the heydays of PDP as the ruling party, there was no doubt on the leader, as the occupant of Aso Rock. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was so recognised. So was his successor, the late Umaru Yar’Adua. Not left out was ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. No other party member, not even the numerous successive national chairmen, was ever touted as rival to the national leadership. That controversy will eventually rock the APC in the run-up to 2019 elections.
So far away? Okay then.
Last line: There is widespread lamentation on Nigeria’s dismissal from the next African Cup of Nations contest in Gabon, following Egypt’s victory in the return elimination match and the sudden withdrawal of Chad, which consigned Nigeria to the heap of disabled. Well, Nigeria’s fate is the lot of all ingrates among humanity. Christian Chukwu qualified Nigeria for international competition. He was sacked. Amodu similarly qualified Nigeria and instead of being appreciated, he was sacked. Steven Keshi even superceded everybody by winning African Cup of Nations for Nigeria for only the fourth time since the beginning of the competition. Conveniently, Keshi was sacked.