The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources seems to have lost out in the political power play that is currently rocking the Nation's cash cow.
What the Onicha Ugbo, Delta State-born publisher of the popular Hints Magazine did not know was that he would have to deal with seasoned politicians who are well versed in the art of wheeling and dealing and getting their ways most of the time.
He must have thought that in Nigerian politics, things are done by the book and as such, all protocols must be followed to the letter.
Even when he was made the Minister of State for the Petroleum Resources, thereby taking away the responsibilities of the day-to-day running of the NNPC away from him, Kachikwu must have believed he will be briefed on what goes on in the Corporation by the new GMD, Dr. Maikanti Baru.
But he has been roundly disappointed when he found out that not only has he been sidelined by Baru, he has been made redundant because his role in the running of the NNPC has been reduced to that of a mere Board Chairman without any powers to influence and effect any change.
According to former Aviation Minister and avowed critique of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime, Femi Fani-Kayode, 'Kachikwu has finally come to understand and hopefully accept the fact that no matter how much he tried to be a loyal and true member of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet and inner circle, and no matter how much he considered himself to be a key and indispensable member of the regime, he remains more of an outsider.'
With Baru running rough-shod at the helms of affairs of the NNPC, Kachikwu is more or less, a mere figurehead who is only seen not heard.
This frustration and alienation must have led him to write the now volatile memo to the President where he raised various issues and accusations against Baru, some of which hinged on high-level corruption, high handedness, awarding contracts running into $25 billion without discussing with the board, sidelining the board, taking decisions on his own and so many other accusations.
In the memo, Kachikwu also vented his frustration at the way he has been shielded from seeing the President by his people and how all his efforts had been frustrated.
The memo was sent to the President sometime in August but after over a month without any action coming out of it, the letter got leaked to the public by God knows who and within a short while, there was a rumble in the nation.
With many Nigerians calling on the President to act to prove his well-acclaimed integrity and not to treat the matter in the way others have gone, Buhari called for a meeting with Kachikwu and Baru where he reportedly told the NNPC GMD to respond to the accusations leveled at him.
Then the chess game began in earnest.
A few days later, Baru came out with a reply, clearly dismissing the corruption allegations, stating that there is no law in the land that required or mandated him to review or discuss contract matters with the Minister of State or the NNPC Board before they are carried out.
Baru went further to state that what the law stipulates is for the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board which does not have Kachikwu as a member as his role ends with the NNPC Board alone.
He added that only the President, in his executive capacity and the substantive Minister of Petroleum is required by law to approve contracts. Or better still, the Federal Executive Council [FEC], has the right to know what goes on in the NNPC in terms of the award of contracts.
To even make the Chess game interesting, Baru fired a shot at Kachikwu:
"The substance of the allegations made by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, in a letter to the President dated 30th of August 2017, is that a number of 'major contracts were never reviewed or discussed with me [sic] the NNPC Board.'
It is important to note from the outset that the law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the Minister of State or the NNPC Board on contractual matters.
What is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the President in his executive capacity or as Minister of Petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council [FEC], as the case may be."
In clear terms, Baru seems to tell Kachikwu that as far as the NNPC is concerned, he certainly has no roles and should not expect to be taken along in the scheme of things.
Now there are calls for both Kachikwu and Baru to be suspended while many say the Petroleum Minister of State's integrity and political career will take a further dent if he does not resign from the position.
And with the subtle backing of Baru by the Presidency, it seems Kachikwu has lost the power game he was not prepared for and it is checkmate for him.
Now, what should he do? Would he be able to continue in office with the apparent power play, political gimmicks and the seeming ubiquitous cabal in the Presidency? Should he resign, go back to Mobil and save himself further embarrassment or stay put and learn the ropes in political warfare?