IS THE NEW NNPC HELMSMAN A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME?
Nigerians have been expectant that Buhari will assemble a crack team to help him deliver on the several promises, he and his party made to Nigerians, though I am dis appointed with the disingenuous methods being adopted to repudiate some of these promises. This will be my second effort to advise that President Buhari should not dampen the expectations of Nigerians or give Nigerians the impression that the President is just another Nigerian politician whose words should not be taken very seriously. When the President's spokesman joins the APC spokesman to enter into unnecessary arguments with citizens on promises made and barefacedly denying documents that were used as campaign material, my heart skips a beat.First it casts a doubt as to the integrity of the Party and its promises and unfortunately this may rob off on Mr President as well. The President's greatest asset is his integrity and this must be protected. When Shehu Garba says he did not have his authentic signature on some of the campaign documents used to promote the President, how were we to know which was his authentic signature and which was fake? Is that the responsibility of the voter to first verify the signature on a campaign material before believing its content? Did he issue a disclaimer to alert voters that false posters or handbills were in circulation ? I believe it was better to insist that the President was not minded to focus on the traditional 100-day Milestone and had chosen a longer term milestone, than to begin to argue with citizens about the authenticity of campaign materials. This President has a quantum of goodwill that is unsurpassed in recent political history and I pray that he and his men do not take Nigerians for granted. He said, he would not appoint ministers till September, Nigerians are bearing with him. He refused to declare his assets publicly on assumption of office as he had promised, yet Nigerians did not rebel and he has now done it at his own time and nobody is rebelling either. I believe we will accept all these as part of the change and perhaps as his style of governance but to begin to argue with citizens and asking them to provide authentic evidence that promises were made ,is to my mind, the fastest way to erode the President's credibility.
The expectations that the President will have a crack team is heightened by the time it is taking him to name them. The rate at which he is going, I will not be surprised if it takes the greater part of a full year to fill all the vacancies.Everybody expects that he will appoint honest men and women to positions of authority, people who are incorruptible as he is reputed to be. But I was not sure whether he would also focus on ability to deliver. People who focus on results while doing things righteously, because I know a few very honest but dump people. Like the servant in the Parable of Talents, who received one talent, buried it in the ground, and returned it intact to his master on his return from his trip, while his fellow servants traded with theirs and made profit, but our "honest" but dump servant was rebuked by his master.
So far, it is difficult to know exactly how many of the 31people the President has appointed to significant office in his first 100days are honest and smart. One or two that I know have demonstrated both in the past, but in different circumstances. As we all know, the motivation, the controls, checks and balances in the private sector are not exactly the same in the public sector.The 'honesty' virtue or competency takes a while to show up. In some cases, we may never know until after four years or until the EFCC Steps in. What we can easily get a glimpse of quickly is the 'smartness' virtue or competency. In this wise, I must say that I have been impressed with the new NNPC group managing director, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe kachikwu.
First, he hit the ground running. This rarely happens in the Public sector. Most Public sector CEOs spend their first few weeks reading handover notes, where they can find them or poring through files and holding series of briefing meetings. Then they begin to put their thoughts together and try to seek audience with the boss to sell their vision or get permission to make the first appointment. Not with Kachikwu. He arrived the NNPC towers and within 24 hours, he had fired the eight Group Executive Directors( GEDs) and before the news got digested, he had appointed 4 new ones, shrinking top management by at least 50%.
Then he speaks of his Vision for NNPC within days of assuming office, both in structure, format and mandate. One of our greatest challenges in Public sector leadership,is that many come to office and leave office running round in cycles and being essentially reactive. Kachikwu has already marshaled his vision for NNPC and has even begun to drive it. All of a sudden, the Refineries are back to life . The unending turn-around- maintainance of all the local refineries eventually turned around and the refineries began to produce, albeit at different capacities. Was it a mere coincidence or was there a spell on the refineries which has been exorcised?
Kachikwu is speaking authoritatively like a man who has authority or who is prepared to test the limit of his authority. He says without fear of contradicting his principal that there is no escaping full deregulation of the down stream petroleum sector and the consequent removal of the discredited subdsidy regime. He announces that the refineries will not be sold, promising to turn them around and perhaps make them efficient and profitable. He says PPMC will be broken into three companies. He announces that the PIB rigmarole will start afresh. Then he looks at the oil theft for which past NNPC GMDs and even ministers of Petroleum and Finance have raised several alarms and Lamentations without much visible improvement, and announces that oil theft will be a thing of the past in a couple of months and recent news report indicate that drones will be used to monitor the pipelines. He makes a promise and gives a deadline to deliver. True, I love people who hold convictions and are ready to speak about them and then do something. We may not all agree with what he says or how he is proceeding, but the Fear of not being politically correct, does not paralyze him as often happens to public sector CEOs. This is a robust display of professional confidence and deep understanding of the industry.
From the swagger of Kachikwu, I can surmise that he has been empowered by the President and given some latitude to recreate the NNPC and reinvent the Petroleum sector. I am excited about this development. Often, we find public sector officials or CEOs who seem afraid to take actions or who must wait to be told what to do by their bosses. And this is one reason, we have not achieved our goals as a Nation. The President is made to look or act as a super human. He appoints people to offices and expects them to take decisions and run with their mandates but many of the appointees turn around to pass the buck to the President queuing up for days to see him or waiting endlessly for their files to be treated. How many People can the President see and how many files can he read in a working day? It looks to me, using Kachikwu as an example that the President may actually be hiring competent people to whom he will commit his vision and then allow them to run with it.
If this is a sign of things to come, then there is hope that the change we desire may be realized. That we will have in the executive arm of government, people of integrity who are professionally competent and who are sufficiently motivated and empowered to execute and deliver. All of a sudden, the image of NNPC is changing and despite the precipitous fall in crude oil price, production has improved ,oil theft is on the decline and income stream is better assured. There is a strong feeling that some one has taken control, and the free fall and uncertainties in the Petroleum sector seem to be under control. Hopefully, we can expect similar changes in the management of our customs, immigration, Nigerian Ports, Maritime safety and other sectors where the President has made new appointments. That will certainly please Nigerians and hopefully improve our global competitiveness.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR