They are the outsiders, within. They see fellow ministers, ‘the properly connected ones,’ who eat groundnuts with the president, everyday. They choose to remain in the ostensible service of fatherland. They chew, and swallow, their frustrations. Yes, ministers, in Nigeria, do not resign.
Kachikwu’s leaked letter to the president is a sad tale. We expected this presidency to be different. We have refused to believe it has been pocketed by nepotism. We dismissed El Rufai. We thought he was crying wolf. We dismissed Mrs Aisha Buhari. We thought she was emotional. This letter confirms our fears. The picture it paints is unhealthy for the president. The most benign suggestion is that he is not in full control of the reins of government. Some say his indifference to scandals involving close aides must not be excused.
At the heart of Kachikwu’s letter is heart-wrenching corruption. Contracts worth billions of dollars have yet again been executed without due process. Who would believe that in a Buhari presidency the NNPC would continue in its old ways. But this is perhaps even worse. The man who supervises the NNPC has refused to yield himself to supervision and has disregarded brazenly laid down procedures and banished transparency. The corruption in the NNPC used to carry everyone along. It now appears so bull headed it cant say hello to the minister of state for petroleum.
The leaks are in themselves atrocious. They could be works of corrupt hands bent on hijacking the government. They could be the last resort of frustrated minds seeking to be heard. Whatever they are they tell of gross dysfunction. The leaks of confidential communication in this presidency should be embarrassing. But nothing embarrasses the presidency any more. The SGF report has gone mouldy. The Federal Government’s ambivalence in that matter has spoken volumes.
The fight against corruption can sometimes be hypocritical. The EFCC vs DSS saga is perhaps awaiting another flare up. The public that hoped for a change is now being fed moral confusion. A governor wrote the president in confidence. It was leaked and published.
The President didn’t budge. Leaks have become part and parcel of the Trump presidency. But at least Trump groans and moans. President Buhari doesn’t stir. A minster writes a confidential letter to the President. A few weeks after, its paper copies are being used to wrap ‘boli and guguru’ at Obalende.
Kachikwu must have known the import of GMD NNPC portfolio being taken from him. But Kachikwu may have believed that a Buhari presidency would be different. That reporting lines would be observed. That the processes he had established in the NNPC would be retained. And that since he was minister of state, not for sports, but for petroleum, he would have access to the petroleum minister, the president. Whatever he thought, he was wrong. He is now a frustrated figure. He championed a reorganization of the NNPC. He championed a return of peace to the Niger Delta. Oil production has greatly improved. He is playing a crucial role.
But he has tried for months to get an appointment to see the president. And has failed woefully. He believes those around the president are punishing him. Governor El Rufai called them by their names. Kachikwu has not called names. But he must be talking about the same cabal. The cabal is alive and well. In his own words, they have been labelled anti north, pro Niger Delta militants and perhaps soft on corruption. He thinks they are mischievous, unscrupulous.
He must be worried. They may have convinced the president. He didn’t go public with his frustrations. He tried to see the president, his supervising minister. He could not. They shielded the president from him. So much for good governance. He wrote the president. It has been a few months. He got no response. So much for responsive government.
Now his letter is in the open. He has become a man of controversy. The messy details have found their way into the public domain. And have left an impression of a very weak president. He doesn’t want them to put a wedge between him and the president. He is in a pathetic situation. Baru is the man whom the NNPC portfolio, taken from Ibe Kachikwu, was given to. Kachikwu thinks Baru is perpetuating corruption and disorganizing the NNPC.
Ordinarily, a government that has zero tolerance for corruption would have commenced investigation of Baru. Kachikwu thinks Baru has undermined his authority as the head of the NNPC board through a series of acts of insubordination. He says the acts have been humiliating.
The word ‘humiliation’ connotes that Baru’s acts of insubordination may have been ordained by nepotism. He thinks Baru should be called to order. Baru should be told Buhari belongs to everyone. Would Buhari see Baru as someone who has crossed a red line? Buhari’s reputation is at stake.
There are many who think that some appointees of this president work against his ultimate political interest and reputation. Their anger against the president lies in his toleration of these acts and retention of these treacherous figures. We now know it was Baru who unilaterally released a list of NNPC appointments that grated the south east. And stoked accusations of political insensitivity against Buhari. The list was notorious for its brazen disregard for inclusiveness.
The political costs can be huge. The nation needs healing. Baru’s arrogance can wake demons. The denial of access to Kachikwu can inflame tempers. President Buhari’s reputation is at stake. Change must begin in the presidency. The president must belong to everyone.