Ibe Kachukwu and parable of the woodpecker
The leaked letter of last week, written by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, to President Muhammadu Buhari which he entitled Re – Matters of Insubordination and unapproved award of $25 billion contracts, may ultimately be the woodpecker boring a hole on the Buhari government’s canoe. The canoe is right now cruising on the high sea.
A woodpecker, with its longish beak, is a species of birds which is chiefly known for its characteristic behavior of foraging for insect prey inside trunks and branches of trees. It often communicates to its kin by drumming with its beak and thus producing a reverberatory sound which can be heard distance away. Fascinated by the share artistry of its wood-pecking and assured that it had similarity to a woodcarver’s ingenuity, Yoruba call this bird akoko and the woodcarver, gbegilere, both united by their carving talent. Peradventure the woodpecker pecks at a canoe on the sea and succeeds in boring a hole into it, the canoe and its occupants capsize.
The Kachukwu woodpecker has done two things. One, it has provoked the debate on the curse of crude oil on Nigeria since Oloibiri Oilfield was discovered on Sunday 15 January 1956 by Shell Darcy. Second, the alleged impunity, corruption of process and intention that underpin the transactions complained of in the letter by Kachukwu have also taken Nigeria down the familiar road of endemic corruption in high and low places which the country has trodden since independence.
For Nigerians who haven’t recovered from the huge sleaze allegedly perpetrated by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke under the protective nose of President Goodluck Jonathan, that a similarly monumental impunity would go on under Buhari whose major advertisement for being in office is anti-corruption, is yet a humongous letdown. Until proven otherwise by a competent law court, the huge heist attributed to Madueke, who was said to have administered the NNPC and Nigeria’s cursed resource like an Ali Baba and his thieves, stand out as an unimpeachable evidence of the sewer that crude oil has become to the country.
By the way, as at the time of going to press, there hasn’t been any reaction to Kachukwu’s documented infamy that allegedly took place under the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru. Kachukwu had alleged that Karu awarded petroleum importation contracts totaling $25 billion without the approval of either the board of the NNPC or the minister who is the chairman of the board. Perhaps more grave is the allegation that Baru claimed that Buhari signed each of them. More than 48 hours after the troubling cache of allegations was made public, instead of a response by the federal government or the NNPC under Baru, what Nigerians were treated to was a private meeting between Kachukwu and President Buhari at the Aso Villa on Friday. We are still left guessing as to the veracity or otherwise of the allegation, with many choosing to believe the rumoured complicity of the Buhari government in this articulated colony of maggots.
Unarguably, the NNPC has always approximated the major lever of Nigeria’s national cesspit. Corruption in the oil sector has become a self-acclaimed and undisputed bottomless pit of Nigeria’s national shame, right from the time of the inflow of petro dollars. Apart from the organized sleaze in the NNPC which frequently gets to public awareness through the illimitable and stupendous wealth of whoever had real or tangential interface with it, the corporation is the hub of fraudsters’ antics, in and out of the country. In Daniel Jordan Smith’s A culture of corruption: Everyday deception and popular discontent in Nigeria, an anthropological study which concluded that fraud was “Nigeria’s largest source of foreign revenue after oil” in “a society riddled with corruption,” the NNPC was painted as the nectar of official corruption. NNPC also attracts, according to Smith, an international fraud ring which advertises Nigeria’s free oil wealth waiting to be tapped by the duo of greedy foreign nationals and their collaborators.
From the way the Buhari government has treated the Kachukwu letter in the 60 hours or so since it became public knowledge, there is no doubting the fact that it wants to make it an internal family matter. This, if there is further empirical evidence to it, would be a tragedy of monumental proportion of the Hiroshima and Nagazaki hue, not only to the government but Nigeria as a whole. Indeed, it would worst Buhari, who wears his morality on his sleeves, in such a way that he may never recover from the swine’s ranch that this NNPC scandal would throw him and his government.
As he campaigned for the 2015 elections, Buhari swam against the PDP tide which consistently alleged that even though he was cleared of complicity in the N2.7billion alleged fraud as minister of petroleum in the late 70s, he was indeed neck deep in it. Till today, that allegation still hangs on his head like the Sword of Damocles, over 40 years after. For a Nigerian national budget which approximates N7 trillion, the alleged single-handedly awarded oil contracts by Baru is N9 trillion. What this means is that an individual peremptorily awarded contracts that bested even the national budget, spitting on due process in the process. Those who know Baru would help solve that national riddle. Is he the suicidal type who would commit such self-immolation without President Buhari’s knowledge? If he is not, Kachukwu’s allegation that Baru claims that Buhari signed all the contracts may yet be logical. Could Buhari sign contracts that the board didn’t approve? Or was it Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, who is a member of the NNPC board, that Baru meant as the one who signed the contracts? Why in the first instance would Kyari, who holds such a powerful and busy office, still be a member of the NNPC board? Was it primed from the beginning that Kyari would be Buhari’s Man Friday, funneling petro dollars into designated private accounts? Grapevines maintain that Kyari represents the President’s interest in the oily mess. Be that as it may, Baru’s act grossly violates the NNPC Act which explicitly states that contracts exceeding N20 million would have to pass through the board of the oil corporation.
Already, diverse permutations are being made on why this NNPC sleaze may pass as another Nigerian sewage that infuriates without reprimand. One is that Buhari, being an unrepentant ethnicist, as mirrored by his pre-presidency umbrages against previous governmental actions he perceived were against his Fulani kin and Hausa hegemonic hold in general, would rather vacate the presidency than allow Baru, his fellow Fulani, carry this oily crucifix to Golgotha. Evidence is the grass-cutting contract scandal that has remained in the cooler ever since. Second, some people also hold that Baru may yet be Buhari government’s own Diezani. The wily woman had opened the crude oil tap to the Jonathan government to secure funds for the 2015 elections. Kachukwu may thus have committed class suicide by squealing on Mr. Clean Buhari’s 2019 election serpentine fund raiser, using the highly burnished fame of NNPC as sleaze cow of previous Nigerian governments, as model.
If Buhari would act like an Italian Mafioso, Kachukwu will surely, even if not immediately, be served his recompense, which the mafia says is best served when it is cold. For all you care, Kachukwu himself, who is alleged to be General Danjuma’s nominee in the Buhari government, may have been singing because he was sidestepped in this illicit bazaar. This is an elite bazaar and Nigeria is not in the equation at all.
The Baru scandal may also be a strong pointer to the need to indeed restructure the country. The Federal Government and all the felons who superintend over its wealth have too much federal resource at their whims to cherry pick from. Imagine if these trillions of naira in contention were proceeds of our tax, palm-oil, groundnuts and cocoa, would we have kept quiet? The truth is that, oil belongs to all and no one in particular. Only recently, Buhari appointed an NNPC board that is largely populated by his Hausa/Fulani kinsmen even when the North is not known to produce even a jar of crude oil. The east, one of the oil-producing states in Nigeria, has not even a single representative on the board. If you take a census of those who possess oil blocs in Nigeria today, Northern Generals and their hirelings top the list. Those whose backyards produce the oil live in unimaginable squalor, environmental pollution and immeasurable deprivation. These are ripe cherries of a revolution and the umbilical cord that ties the Nnamdi Kanus.
Let us see whether Buhari will cleverly sidestep this destructive woodpecker by convincing Nigerians who believe in his alleged purity of heart that Baru was a lone felon. And deal with him appropriately. Or that Kachukwu was just a loudmouth consumed by irreverent vengeance against Baru, a cousin of Angel Michael (!). All these must however be done with the aid of convincing and deductive logic that all Nigerians will believe. Trust Buhari and his legendary disdain for us all: he may tell 170 million Nigerians to go jump inside the Atlantic Ocean!
Lest we forget Osibakoro
Last week, specifically October 6, 2017, was the 22nd anniversary of the gruesome murder of Pa Alfred Ogbeyiwa Rewane, popularly known as Osibakoro. He was murdered by some gunmen who were reported to have stormed his house, having gained entrance by cloning a car with the stickers of one of his companies.
The little that some of us knew of Osibakoro was that he was a philanthropist, aside being one of the most loyal and trusted allies of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Rewane gave without let and had a heart that was pure in its entirety. As huge as he was in stature, so also was said to be Rewane’s kind heart. A friend of mine once told me of how he walked into his house and asked for his assistance in furthering his education. Rewane funded his higher education without batting an eyelid.
This writer was just a few months old as a reporter in the Tribune in 1995 when news of his assassination filtered in. it was like a thunderbolt. Rewane was killed like a common chicken by his assailants, one of whom was rumoured to be an ex-governor.
Osibakoro’s death was one of the early symptoms to Nigerians that General Sani Abacha bated blood and sought to drink same from the bodies of those who dissented from his infernal government. Osibakoro, being a graduate of the Awolowo school, believed that a life lived outside of the service of humanity was a worthless life. As at that time, the military had made life and democratic aspirations of Nigerians very miserable. He was said to be one of the major financiers of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). He was apparently killed for his “sin” and seeking a transition from the life of brutality under military jackboots to a life where the people themselves decide.
Osibakoro is one of our heroes past who was martyred for this democratic governance that we have. If the Rewanes, in heaven, look back and see how governors are unable to pay salaries, how Nigerians perish in the Mediterranean in search of greener pasture, how it is almost an anathema to claim to be a Nigerian elsewhere, and allied ills of the supped democracy we have, how happy will they be? To worsen matters, 22 years after, the killers of this first class patriots are today popping champagne…