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OPINION

Race against public good, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

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Race against public good, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The out-of-the-ordinary political interplays and considerable uncertainties of the past weeks created by new and returning members of the 9th angling for principal positions in both the Senate and House of Representatives, have in a well-defined order exposed a systematised interest the Executive arm and the ruling party have in the 9th Assembly – a development attributable to the imponderable experience from the unfinished ‘war’ with the outgone 8th Assembly.

What, however, makes the present situation very disturbing is that an exercise like the election of principal officers which constitutionally remain an internal affair of the Assembly has suddenly against all known logic got characterized by national intrigue with non-members of the Assembly underlining the advantages, and otherwise of having a particular lawmaker in a given position.

To understand more fully, the objective of this piece, it is important to clarify that like the vast majority of Nigerians, I am not interested in who becomes the President or holds whichever position in the 9th Assembly, I am also in agreement with the wise words of Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish political activist and Nobel Laureate, that in every issue, people must take sides as neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. And silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented!

These facts notwithstanding, it is important that as a nation, we must ensure at all time that, ‘the means we take to achieving a defined intention must be as pure as the purpose we seek.

As an illustration, I read with real curiosity a remark credited to Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central), announcing his decision not to contest the Senate presidency.

In his words; I should be able to appreciate the leadership coming from our elders. So in spite of all these calls, in spite of all the support, I have among my colleagues in the Senate, I have decided to in deference to the loyalty I have for his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and in deference to the loyalty I have for my party, the APC, in the interest of our party and the development of this country, in order to assist Mr President to deliver his promises, I have decided to respect his wish by not declaring to contest this senate presidency. Instead, I am supporting the party’s position thereby endorsing the candidature of Senator Ahmed Lawan.

Ordinarily, this should not have come as a total surprise as Senator Goje is at liberty to withdraw, and enjoys constitutional right to support any candidate of his choice. But there is in my understanding, something fundamentally new and different about the announcement.

Aside from the fact that what happens before the elections have a lot of influence on how the government treats its people, Senator Goje by his  own admission that he dropped his ambition  in deference to the loyalty  for his excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and in deference to the loyalty  for his  party, the All Progressive Congress,(APC), has barefacedly confirmed  the position canvassed by  a leadership guru, Professor  Sydney Finkelstein, that flawed decisions by leaders start with errors of judgment and fueled by the presence of inappropriate self-interest, distorting attachments and the presence of misleading memories.

Regardless of whether the decision which some has described as ‘statesmanly and patriotic’ was taken to achieve a particular purpose, the truth is that the world is in agreement that the survival of democracy depends on the rule of law. And the rule of law in turns depends on the respect each of the arms has for one another.

Admittedly, it is important for political office holders to respect Mr President and their political parties, but, I hold an opinion that the greater good/loyalty of any public office holder must go to the greater number- the Nigerian masses.

With the above fact in view, turning down support from colleagues who are convinced of your leadership capacity, just because of the so-called loyalty to Mr President and his party is but synonymous with robbing over 200million Nigerians their right to vibrant, more deliberative and productive 9th Assembly.

Notably also, if not errors of judgment and distorting attachments on the part of the Senator, he should have remembered that it was a similar relationship in the past that set the stage for situations in the Senate where constructive debates were given no chance and seen as unnecessary and divisive. Deferring political ideas and strategies perceived as destructive to the nation’s interest, open discussion is seen as a challenge to the leaders. And outspoken lawmakers, with a different set of ideas, values or organizing technique addressed as the enemy within.

As an incentive, instead of making loyalty to the President and the APC a reality to worry about, what needs to be the preoccupation of the members should include; how to make a difference for Nigerians of every social class and in every field of endeavour, how to do something worthwhile in the venerated space as well as how to internalize the advice by Senator Bukola Saraki, the immediate past Senate President, who during  the valedictory service of the 8th Assembly cautioned thus;

‘My advice to whoever succeeds me is therefore along the same vein: be there for the people. Act in the interest of the average Nigerians, keep the legislature always at the behest of the citizens, let it be a people’s parliament. Whoever succeeds me, that person will still be a product of the 8th Senate. We did it together. Let there be continuity. When Nigerians cried out for help, we did not turn deaf ears. Where there was contention or strife, we were agents of peace and helped to find the way forward.

That, in my opinion, is the way to go.

For the 9th Assembly to, therefore, move forward there should be a small shift in policy that will guarantee a visible change. They urgently need to remember that there is little hope for us as a people until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance. As any nation that produces softminded men purchases, its own spiritual and socio-economic death at instalment plan’.

I end in this manner; when asked to share his thought about leadership, Lee Kuan Yew, a one time Prime Minister of Singapore stated that; leadership is more than just ability. It is a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character and ability that makes people willing to follow leaders.

I think the 9th Assembly needs people with these attributes and more

 

Jerome-Mario Utomi (jeromeutomi@yahoo.com) writes From Lagos.

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OPINION

Festus Keyamo: Amazing story of his journey to the top

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One of the major problems the Nigerian nation is facing is the PhD syndrome. In Nigeria, everybody is a PhD holder. By this, I mean Pull Him Down syndrome, once you have access to a dilapidated computer and you’re able to manage its keyboard, then the coast is clear to indulge in self gratification by yelling some nonsense down a hole. Like they say, Nonsense is so good, only, because common sense is so limited.

It is the twilight of another democratic assembly and again, as expected, errand boys, employed by political opponents have began the usual mudslinging games. Some attention seeking political jobbers, in a bid to impress their paymasters have started throwing gauntlets, looking for victims where there are none, just to steer the body polity-a case of kettle calling pot black.

A typical example is a fictitious article making the rounds where a self-harm writer of an article titled, ‘Keyamo’s Reward’ spuriously conjured his deliberative polling on one of Nigeria’s gifted young men with exceptional intellectual ability, Barrister Festus Keyamo, SAN.

The sad thing is, the problems of this generation are its dramatic personae. We don’t ever see anything good in ourselves. The writer, though gave credence to the brilliance and intellectual capacity of the legal luminary, Festus Keyamo, like all hatchet men, he didn’t forget the primary briefs from his sponsors- to weigh-in, undermine and subvert the sterling and exemplary career status the young man, Festus Keyamo has laboured to build over the years.

Maybe he should be reminded that excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.

Those who have followed the footsteps and career mastery of the youngman will not be surprised the way he has emerged so far. He, is a product of dedication, doggedness and gradual result of always striving to be better, in actual fact, excellence, to Keyamo, is not a skill, it is an attitude. His likes are rarely found and more rarely valued.

The writer did not forget how he has nurtured a blossoming career from that super genius youngman who hails from a humble background and how he was able to walk tall amongst scores of brilliant legal team at the late Gani Fawehinmi’s chambers to earn himself the ‘Gani Boy’. If the dead do look back for real, the late legal icon, Chief Fawehinmi will be proud of what he has become at the moment and if it’s that easy, the mischievous writer too should have been able to step into the shoes of the famous Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Shoyinka but obviously, wicked and envious people never see anything good in greatness for envy is pain at the good fortune of others.

He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration, the youngman has prepared himself for this job long ago right from his civil rights activism days to his relentless battle at the legal field.

His sins must have been his willingness to accept to serve his fatherland and they’ve forgotten that, the worst disservice to any nation is the act of winking in the dark. We now live in a world where politics has replaced philosophy, there’s no way you can make a difference if you continue to bark from behind.

Leadership is the ability to have a compelling vision, a comprehensive plan, relentless implementation, and talented people working together. It is however, not by chance that the C-in-C, President Mohammadu Buhari had had the vision to choose someone whose cerebral influence, oratory prowess and over bearing personality was able to break the enemy’s camp without fighting during the last presidential election.

There’s no doubting the fact that, guided missiles from misguided men are expected at this point in time, from those cowards who now play victims to circumstances they created.

Jite Usman Writes from Akoko Edo, Edo State Nigeria

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OPINION

Ministerial Nomination: Godwin Jedy Agba, best man for petroleum ministry

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Godwin Jedy Agba

One of Nigeria’s very experienced energy administrators, Mr. Godwin Jedy-Aba, is a minister-nominee of President Muhammadu Buhari. And there is, understandably, song and dance in the quarters of those who know the capacity and experience of the nominee in the oil and gas sector. But for those who crave the enthronement of mediocrity to aid and abet the culture of incompetence or the regime of laissez faire in the management of the petroleum sector, the prospects of Jedy-Agba emerging as Buhari’s choice for the critical sector cannot resonate well with them.

Regardless of the prognosis of possibilities or otherwise, Jedy-Agba is one of the few “technocrats” in a list that has been largely dubbed “political” by critics. Notwithstanding his previous temperate, restrained and strategic foray into partisan politics, his accomplishments and exploits as an astute administrator have not diminished a bit. His administrative savoir faire and legerdemain had been writ-large in his public service trajectory from which he retired at the NNPC.

While the likely portfolio that would be assigned to the Prince of Obudu from Cross River state is not the subject of this piece of writing, it is, however, not in doubt that Buhari has made up his mind about using the few “technocrats”-like Abubakar Malami (SAN), Sunday Dare (journalist) Osagie Ehinare (consultant physician) et al, in his list to man some specialized ministries to demand value for knowledge and experience.

And, if this is the intendment, then one does not need a crystal ball to guess where Jedy-Agba, a former Group General Manager (GGM), Crude Oil Marketing Division (OMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will likely be assigned: perhaps, not far away from the petroleum ministry. While it is unlikely the President will hands off his direct control of the Petroleum Ministry, as the substantive Minister-in-charge, he will need a brilliant and effective minister of state who can be saddled with all the basic responsibilities of the ministry without caving in.

If the politics of administration is played with humility and wisdom, a minister of state can enjoy the privilege of full control with the confidence of the President to boot. Nothing suggests to the contrary that Jedy-Agba cannot be trusted to deliver on a presidential mandate with tact and precision. That will be in spite of the salacious narratives by detractors and traducers who are on a voyage of upending a luminous epoch that beckons.

With President Buhari’s commitment to consolidating on the achievements of his first four years in the saddle, attention is focused on experience. The president appears unprepared to gamble with “untested hands”. He is greatly seeking to make a better impression in his second term of office. To do this, he cannot afford to put square pegs in round holes. Buhari cannot afford to deploy a learner who cannot take the pressure off him in the administration of the critical petroleum sector.

Besides, time is of the essence. While the nation is waiting to see the ministers hit the ground running, critics are also waiting to feast on the administration’s mistakes.Viewed from any angle, Jedy-Agba is a good pick who could help the administration to weather the storm in the entire oil industry. That is why the malicious media campaign against him has been thick. His traducers know that he cannot be stopped when he gets cracking in delivering on any mandate.

Sadly, we are in a season where traducers who masquerade as critics, are wont to sacrifice everything – knowledge, capacity and accomplishments – at the altar of contrived criticisms in the guise of seeking the promotion of perfection in the land of sinners. This is not unexpected. However, the ninth Senate is urged not to entertain needless distractions in the screening and confirmation hearing of Jedy-Agba.

But of course, while the law must take its course where and when it is activated to do so, a phony media campaign to smear someone who has never been questioned or prosecuted by any anti-graft commission, must never be dignified as something worth scrutinizing or countenancing. President Buhari was an appointee of the late General Sani Abacha. Hundreds of millions of dollars that were taken out of Nigeria during that regime have been recovered from the late dictator and his family; but, this cannot, in anyway, qualify or translate as an indictment, simply because Buhari served under Abacha.

Unfortunately, the merchant of the smear campaign against Jedy-Agba cannot grapple with the fact that he was a top official of the NNPC, who could not escape working with a Minister of Petroleum. It is therefore disingenuous and wicked to think that everyone who has anything to do with Deziani Alison-Madueke, in the line of duty, is guilty as opined in the media. This is distasteful and uncharitable. This concern is not just about Jedy-Agba alone but it is also inclusive of everyone who had previously worked with Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Interestingly, in all the corruption cases filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) involving Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, there is not one in which Jedy-Agba has been listed as a party, whether separately or jointly with her. This is a matter of judicial records for anyone to verify. In addition, the sponsors of this narrative about his involvement in large scale corruption under Diezani Alison-Madueke should also have known that the security agencies must have subjected the nomination of Jedy-Agba to due diligence checks before the final pick.

This nomination, for Jedy-Agba, is a spring board for bouncing back to a familiar terrain of service, having worked for several ministers as a Personal Assistant and in different other capacities between 1985 and 1995. He is perhaps one of the most versatile nominees with requisite administrative experience, who once worked at ministerial level. For decades, he had acquitted himself creditably and meritoriously without scandals. He is indeed a great addition to the Buhari’s team. It is going to be difficult to cut shady deals on his watch behind the government, whether or not he is sent to the petroleum sector.

It is therefore not impossible that the people behind the smear campaign against Jedy-Agba are among the notorious oil mafia and cartel whose deep backend activities and shady deals are threatened by this strategic nomination. Jedy-Agba knows the oil industry like the palm of his hand, and his likely headship of the sector or as a minister of state to Buhari is bound to ruffle feathers and put an end to some underhand dealings. The level of opaqueness in the management of public finance in the oil industry in Nigeria has continued to be worrisome. This could thus be another tough call for an administration that has committed itself to fighting corruption.

It could be recalled that Jedy-Agba’s onerous tasks as Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division, NNPC had put him in a good stead to manage a complex terrain. He was responsible for liaising with Crude Pricing & Technical Evaluation Section on Price movement and other input data for market reports. He also monitored and analyzed consumption of other energy types, terms of cost availability and relative impact on world petroleum supply/demand balance. Jedy-Agba was simply vast and deep; and was capacitated enough to handle his huge responsibilities.

The campaign of calumny will not be over even after the senate screening and confirmation hearing. To be sure, those behind the sponsored malicious media reports are likely to shift their attack to the specific – calling on the president, not to appoint him as a Minister of State for Petroleum, while playing up their unsubstantiated allegations. Regardless of the shenanigans, Jedy-Agba remains a wonderful pick.

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OPINION

Tasks before Kyari in turning around NNPC, By Abba Dukawa

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ALL eyes are now on Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Male Kolo Kyari in turning around the fortunes of the Corporation and also need to make the company to be runs in very transparent ways.  In view the challenges before him in whirling the NNPC to practice the best norm in the world oil industries.  There is need for Kyari, to focus his attention on the implementation of the findings of the audit reports of the NEITI which has severally indicted the NNPC of operational maleficence. Nigerians were expected see that his nicked mane of Mr. Transparent really translated into the way he will tackle on poor transactional transparency, as NNPC had over time recorded differences in actual volume of crude oil lifted and actual volume of production NEITI stated.  

A recent World Bank report had shown that Nigeria spent N731 billion to subsidizes petrol consumption last year. The report had explained that within the year under review, Nigeria’s oil sector declined in productivity, ending on 1.9 million barrels a day (mbd) production mark as against the government’s hope of 2.3mbd.

In April 2019, Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) in its publication of National Oil Company Database, place NNPC as one of National Oil Companies (NOCs) with record challenges of transparency.   There is need for Kyari to initiate a see-through process in management of the corporation’s operations and also making it more profitable. It’s hardly and even became part of NNPC tradition not disclosed its net income from core revenues; capital and operational expenditures; cash flows from operations; total assets worth to public.

Saudi owned of National Oil Company ARAMCO raked in profits of £85 billion in 2018 as most profitable company making more than Apple and Google combine. Aramco raked in more cash than global ITC giant companies, Apple made roughly $60 billion, while Exxon Mobil made roughly $20 billion). The Wall Street Journal reported. ARAMCO revealed details of its finances for the first time since it was nationalized in the Seventies as part of a push ahead of its first bond sale.

Nigerians expected to see Kyari turning around the fortunes of NNPC into rakes profitable national oil company through openness, transparency and accountability. Establish a concrete economic Diversification plan with a concrete path to a post-oil future for Nigeria, based on emerging global trends.

This plan, akin to the Saudi Arabian government’s economic diversification plan, should include a clear strategy with interlinked policies – trade, industrial, fiscal – and far-reaching structural and governance reforms of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that could include partial privatization (with share listed on the stock exchange for purchase by ordinary Nigerians and not by Government- Related cronies).

The uncanny tasks before GMD are to turn around the nation’s nation feeble refineries remained terribly poor in operation and mostly constituted a deficit to NNPC cash flow. This decades problems placed the NNPC as a mere trader in the oil industry as against its potentials as a national oil company capable of establishing and running profitable ventures in the Upstream  and Downstream sectors of the industry. Finding a lasting solution would in many ways be a plus to Kyari and his team.   Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation recorded losses in the region of N551.46bn between January 2015 and December 2018. The Corporation repeatedly failed to meet projected profits as its subsidiaries, particularly refineries, running cost at the headquarters and other arms left whopping deficits.

 

Things you need to know about Kyari

Male Kolo Kyari was appointed to head production sharing contracts management in the Crude Oil Marketing Division (COMD). Also led the team that proposed and managed the Direct Sales And Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement of petroleum products from 2016 till date replacing the Crude Swap Arrangement. Under his watch, the Crude Oil Marketing Division has recorded noticeable transformation in the management and sales of the various Nigeria’s crude oil grades via an infusion of transparency and automation of the processes.

He contributed to reconcile alleged loss of $48 billion and established actual status of transactions involving NNPC in 2014. Malam Kolo Kyari pursued the determination of the tenure of the Amenam/Kpono carry arrangement with potential savings of over $1 billion; he also revised and initiated the process for the redetermination of the Applicable Fiscal Regime for the Addax PSC with potential shortterm savings of $1.6 billion. As the group general manager, crude oil marketing division. He created systems to ensure maximum transparency and accountability of crude oil and gas sales in the industry. He was the supervisor of production sharing contract for the NNPC.

Mr. Transparent’ he was one of the major people that came up with the NNPC’s commodity trading initiative. This initiative makes it possible for the government to know those who are buying the country’s crude and at what prices, and how much has been made. Kyari led various teams in developing the petroleum industry bill (PIB) that redefined the government’s take in production sharing contracts with oil companies. He was the secretary of the FG INTER-AGENCY team that coordinated the creation of the current basis of the fiscal and regulatory framework of the PIB.

He  is  unionists, per excellent and he is  fearless  toward welfare of his follows members and Kyari popularly called ‘Grand Chairman or Mr Transparency by other  comrades in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) often refer to him as a comrade after he was group chairman of NNPC PENGASSAN.

Male Kolo Kyari won four awards, namely: GMD Prize for the Overall Best Performance for NNPC Management Development Program; GED CS Award for Best Performance in Leadership; GM Group Learning Division award for Best Project work, NNPC Management Development Programme; and Examiners award for 1st Runner-up for Effective Presentation.

Dukawa a public commentator and can be reached at abbahydukawa@gmail.com

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