President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday approved the appointment of Executive Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil Africa, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, as Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
This however did not come without some high level political horse trading that puts President Buhari’s celebrated integrity at stake, the Nigerian Times investigation can reliably reveal.
Nigerian Times can disclose that Kachikwu who has before the dissolution of the board of the NNPC been behind most of the administration’s directives in the oil and gas sector is the candidate of the biggest private players in the sector; the unabashed controllers of Nigeria’s hydro-carbon destiny.
Kachikwu was introduced to Buhari by a group of oil block owners that comprise of former President Ibrahim Babangida,his side kick business magnate, Nuel Ojei and Gen Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) before the elections. It wasn’t their first try.
Around 2013, the triumvirate met with then President Goodluck Jonathan and made him a proposal: accept Dr Kachikwu as Petroleum Minister in place of Deziani Alison-Madueke and they would back him maximally in the 2015 elections. The negotiations dragged on and finally collapsed when President Jonathan called it off.
Then as the 2015 elections loomed and Buhari’s campaign had to contend with serious financial constraints, he turned to Gen. T. Y. Danjuma for help. Danjuma invited his friends, Babangida and Nuel Ojei for a meeting where a decision was taken to present their botched plan with Jonathan to Buhari.
Buhari accepted to give them the position of the petroleum minister as a reward for their funding. Thereafter billions of Naira flowed into the Buhari campaign. Indeed the group also contributed to the Jonathan campaign.
After Buhari’s inauguration, the triumvirate met him with their candidate in attendance. Sources abreast of the negotiations told the Nigerian Times that Buhari announced to the group a slight change in the plan. According to the source, he told them that a group he referred to as “my people” would not agree to cede the position to them as originally planned.
Danjuma was left fuming and was said to have challenged Buhari to be the man he claims to be by keeping to the original agreement. The President offered the GMD’s position which was flatly rejected. To juice up his offer, he promised both the GMD and minister of state, petroleum. Danjuma was said to have pointed out the sheer clumsiness of the proposal. That was the point IBB took over a mediatory role. It was not clear at press time if the additional offer of minister of state, petroleum was still on the table.
Kachikwu, a respected operator in the industry owes his rise in the industry to his beautiful mind and an array of godfathers in the industry. Nuel Ojei is the Delta State born oil industry player who came into untold riches when IBB was president. Even though, Buhari has repeatedly restated his readiness to fight vested interest, the latest appointment simply goes to show how those interests could easily overwhelm.
Kachikwu hails from Onicha-Ugbo in Delta State and a First Class Graduate of Law from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the Nigerian Law School.
The new NNPC Chief Executive also has Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Law from Harvard Law School.