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OPINION: RE ARARUME: BUHARI’S DEFT MASTERSTROKE

Ifeanyi Ararume

The misleading narratives conveyed in the opinion article entitled, ‘Ararume: Buhari’s Deft Masterstroke,’ published in the October 10, 2021 edition of this medium, need to be corrected. Indeed, the author, Erasmus Ikhide, is at liberty to advertise his acquaintance with praise-singing and image-laundering. However, the dexterity with which he set out to adorn the personality of Senator Ifeanyichukwu Godwin Ararume in borrowed robes deserves no applause.

First, the author’s assertion that “Senator Ifeanyi Ararume’s appointment as the pioneer Chairman of the new Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been applauded as one of the best by President Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed office over six years ago,” is manifold fallacy.

Similarly, the author’s claim that “Ararume has robust experience in both the private and public sector, which will rub off positively on the altered NNPC,” is record-breaking delusion.

The appointment of Senator Ararume to chair the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited is purely political. While political appointments yield positive results in sane climes, ours is the opposite.  Here, political appointments are dividends of politics. They are extended to party loyalists for their positive or negative roles in enthroning a leader or a party to power. It is hardly based on merit, experience, competence and capability.  It is also a proactive step towards intended benefits, even at the expense of the appointee’s community.  So, only President Buhari knows the purpose of this eventide appointment.

What is “the best’’ in appointing a man from Imo state in the South-East geo-political zone that the President has, without pretence, shown hatred and disregarded, to chair the board of the new NNPC? What executive powers does the chairman wield?

From the inception of his administration in 2015, President Buhari has deliberately excluded the South-East from the real benefits of his government in terms of appointment and authoritative allocation of resources.  He has maintained his stand that those whose votes constituted a mere five percent of his electoral victory must not expect any good from him.  Imo is in that disdainful basket. The skewed executive appointments at NNPC, which extremely favour only a section of the country to the exclusion of others, even those with oil and gas bearing communities, is a demonstration of multi-volume civilian dictatorship.

So, what is “the best” here? Is it the appointment of a ceremonial chairman of NNPC without any residue of executive powers or the person of Senator Ararume?

Beyond having the enhanced portrait of Ararume decorating the walls of the NNPC boardroom, what powers can the NNPC chairman exercise to run the parastatal profitably and justly?  Has Ararume the powers to question the skewed allocation of resources and appointments against his or any region in NNPC? Will he go beyond merely endorsing the decisions of executive management in keeping with the policy guidelines of the organisation?

What is this Ararume’s robust experience in both the private and public sector that will rub off positively on the altered NNPC? What powers has Ararume to alter the corporate governance structure where it is obviously against the interest of the generality of Nigerians and contrary to the federal character principle?

According to the author, “Now that the NNPC will be transiting from a government-owned agency into a profit-driven organisation, it needs someone at the helm to provide direction and uncommon leadership in order for it to meet its goals.” This lies in the author’s imagination.

Agreed, as a limited liability company, the NNPC will be owned by diverse shareholders whose powers over the executive management are practically limited. What can Ararume do in an organisation where he is not the chief executive and the one responsible for the day-to-day decision making? In line with corporate governance practice, what will Ararume do differently?

Is Ararume’s appointment the best way to “compensate” the South-East in general and Imo state in particular, at the twilight of the Buhari administration, or is it a ploy for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to gain an inroad into Imo where the party has remained unwanted?

The author’s claim that a “flawed electoral system” cost Ararume the chance of becoming governor of Imo State in 2007 is not true.

Ararume had an axe to grind with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which bordered on the fall-out of Obasanjo’s failed third-term bid. The party instead chose to run Charles Ugwu in his place, perhaps, on the belief that Ararume’s candidacy could be a costly political mistake.

Ararume protested this decision and secured a Supreme Court ruling in his favour. The party expelled him and chose not to field a candidate, leaving the field open for Ikedi Ohakim of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), who later defected to the PDP.  Personal actions cannot be regarded as a flawed electoral system because it is the same system that produced Ararume as a two-term senator.

About 12 years later, Ararume emerged the APC senatorial candidate for the 2019 elections in a controversial manner, alongside Chukwuma Ibezim, who was eventually fielded by the APC but later disqualified for issues related to discrepancies in his certificate.

Ararume eventually secured a court verdict which ordered INEC to issue him the certificate of return in an election he did not contest. He was, by that fact, imposed on APC and the people of his senatorial zone after many years that Hope Uzodimna blocked his bid to return to the Senate. It is the same electoral system.

The author also wrote, “Imo state where he hails from is a member of the NDDC and he has been in the forefront of resource control and greater devolution of powers to the states as a firm believer in true federalism.” This claim is doubtful. There is no way Buhari would appoint a man from the South-East with that kind of obdurate credential.

There is no doubt that Ararume is a prominent politician in Imo. He has been there, truly, as the author observed.  But he does not seem to be popular among Imolites, and that is the kernel of the matter. Imo is a PDP state.

The “flawed electoral system” which earned Ararume two terms as senator representing Imo North, is the same system that earned him victory in an election he did not contest under APC.

Ararume, as a governorship candidate under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had declared in December 2018 that he would not contest for Imo governorship position after 2019.  That could be mere political talk. Meanwhile, let him enjoy the perk of his office as the pioneer ceremonial chairman of the new NNPC, courtesy President Muhammadu Buhari.

*** By SAM DIALA