Buhari's continued retention of the petroleum minister portfolio is breeding acrimony in the ministry.
Their dirty linen became public knowledge and sight for sore eyes when a memo authored by Kachikwu and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari on August 30, 2017, was leaked to the press in October.
On the surface, this is a battle of wits between two of Buhari’s ego-centric appointees. But on closer examination, it’s deeper than it looks. To situate where this acrimony stems from, look no further than Buhari’s decision to retain the ‘Minister of Petroleum’ portfolio for himself.
It is easy to understand why Buhari named himself the Minister of Petroleum. For years, the state owned NNPC has served as a conduit for corruption and grand larceny. The last Minister of Petroleum converted the NNPC to her private cash cow and personal estate. She awarded illicit contracts to cronies and used proceeds of Nigeria’s crude to acquire choice estates for herself at home and abroad.
Buhari didn’t want to see that happen on his watch, so he kept the minister of petroleum portfolio for himself and named Kachikwu as Minister of State for Petroleum. Meaning that no contract gets awarded at the NNPC without Buhari’s say-so. The president promised to rid Nigeria of graft to some degree and he must have considered his designation as Minister of Petroleum a wise decision.
Well, it was a smart decision. It no longer is. Read between the lines of Baru’s recent press statement and you’ll see that he’s got little or no regard for the Minister of State Kachikwu. For Baru, his only boss right now is Minister of Petroleum Buhari.
But Buhari has a lot on his plate as it were; as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And besides, when you’ve been battling health challenges for the chunk of your first term in office, you delegate responsibility and make do with the role of a general overseer. Now on the wrong side of 70, Buhari’s body can’t take the rigours of minister and president. You don't want to be micro managing at 74. It’s just the way it is.
The Act establishing the NNPC states that the Petroleum Minister--and not Minister of State for Petroleum--is Chairman of the NNPC board. It would appear that on this occasion, Kachikwu is little more than a figure head. It's what the law says he is. It is little wonder Baru has no regard for him.
The president’s continued retention of position of petroleum minister deepens the acrimony and in-fighting in the ministry. Baru should ideally answer to Kachikwu, but he isn’t because Kachikwu isn’t Petroleum Minister. He’s only but a ‘junior minister’.
There's got to be someone that Buhari trusts to oversee the petroleum ministry as substantive minister. Someone with some integrity and without a whiff of corruption about him/her. If Kachikwu isn’t that person, then the president should begin shopping for one with a view to finally relinquishing the portfolio.
For his sanity and longevity, Buhari should kiss the petroleum minister portfolio a decent goodbye.