By Ikeogu Oke
After reading the recent letter by Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, to President Muhammadu Buhari, one troubling cinematic image stood clear in my mind. It was the image of rats gnawing away at the seemingly numb feet of a reclining elephant.
Yes, by his stature, President Buhari may not be comparable to an elephant. But he is portrayed as some sort of moral elephant by his supporters compared to other Nigerian leaders, a giant of virtue in a jungle of vice, a jungle in which the rest of the powerful creatures are regarded by his supporters as lacking his reputedly superhuman moral qualities.
For instance, mai gaskiya, as some of such supporters fondly call him, translates as the man of truth. And who doesn’t recognize truth as a virtue, and that the sobriquet accords him a special recognition as an embodiment of that virtue? In the letter, Dr. Kachikwu even expresses “absolute belief” in his “leadership and integrity” and references his “renowned standards of integrity”. And to such staunch supporters of the President, we should all be so convinced of the unassailability of his character that we could actually call him President Integrity as a substitute for President Buhari. I agree with them.
Then, as the rats feasted on the feet of the elephant whose sensitivity seemed severely compromised, perhaps due to a long sickness, a vet, troubled by the sight, jabbed a spike into the elephant’s feet in the hope of making him realize that he had been turned into a victim of the cannibalism of rodents. As the elephant lumbered into what seemed like semi-consciousness with the rapid thrust and withdrawal of the vet’s spike, the rats scurried out of sight as you would expect such creatures to do.
There was a look of consternation on the elephant’s face as he then glanced repeatedly at his feet scarred by the remorseless and perhaps poisonous teeth of the rodents, apparently cousins of those rodents whose reported recent invasion of the office of a certain leader forced him to work from home following his return from medical leave abroad, as the spending of millions of his country’s scarce funds was said to be needed to undo the physical damage they had done to his office, besides their having apparently injured his reputation as a tough Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of a giant of a country who, ironically, might be afraid of rodents.
There was another look at the vet, followed by a nod, before the image melted out of view. It seemed a look of gratitude, the elephant’s acknowledgement that the vet had done him a favour by alerting him of the exploitative behaviour of the rodents, their capitalizing on the lack of sensitivity in his feet to eat him alive.
It is because of the later look by the elephant, suggesting gratitude to the vet and his realization that the latter did him a good turn, that I still stand with Buhari after reading the deeply disturbing letter by Dr. Kachikwu. For I also drew from that look the impression that the moral elephant will do something about the rodents. That, with righteous indignation, he would probe into whatever holes they might have run into with his trunk and ferret them out and use those same feet they had been feasting on, reawakened to sensitivity by the vet’s rather unorthodox procedure, and show them what an infuriated elephant can do to such audacious rodents.
But that’s if what Dr. Kachikwu said in his letter is true. For I’m also inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Dr. Maikanti Baru, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC against whom he levels serious allegations of misconduct which I believe President Buhari can see that he can only ignore at the risk of destroying the good reputation he has built for decades. What is more, the alleged misconduct happened in a ministry directly under his charge as Minister of Petroleum Resources, and the most important parastatal in that ministry, arguably our country’s prime revenue source.
Our ears should be open to the possibility of hearing from the other side, from Dr. Baru, even as we may analyse the content of Dr. Kachikwu’s letter in good faith as concerned and patriotic citizens. And regarding whether President Buhari had read and ignored Dr. Kachikwu’s letter before its alleged leak to the press, I think we should also give the President the benefit of the doubt. After all Dr. Kachikwu hinted in the letter that he had been denied access to the President for a considerable period despite being Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. And I think we can rightly surmise that if the author of a letter can be prevented from reaching its potential recipient, so can the letter.
But with the President now evidently aware of the letter and the negative impact on his integrity and government should he ignore it, I still stand with him in the belief that he would take appropriate action about the various troubling issues it raises.
And what shouldn’t be troubling to any Nigerian patriot and the President about Dr. Kachikwu’s letter?
Is it its suggestion of a culture of impunity having been entrenched under his watch, resulting in the questionable award of contracts that allegedly violate due process valued at about $24 billion in an economy in recession for which ordinary Nigerians are being urged by his government to adopt austerity measures to ensure their (and the country’s) survival?
Is it the fact that the $24 billion now being linked to impropriety in the NNPC is more than ten times the $2.1 billion for which Sambo Dasuki, the former NSA, is being tried, and higher than the $20 billion which drew public outrage for having allegedly gone missing during the tenure of his predecessor, a charge levelled by a former Governor of our Central Bank and the current Emir of Kano, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi? Or that, for a President swept into power with the broom and mantra of change, this suggests change from bad to worse?
Could President Buhari ignore the fact that he is being portrayed as an inspiration for anarchy as suggested by Dr. Baru’s alleged insubordination to Dr. Kachikwu, as the former is said to claim that his allegedly unruly actions are carried out with his approval?
Or could Mr. President ignore the implication of Dr. Kachikwu, his appointee, having been reduced to a whining technocrat by the alleged frustrating and demeaning conduct of a subordinate – that accepting to serve in his government can leave you humiliatingly vulnerable and unprotected by him under certain circumstances?
Could he ignore the implication that he is running a ministry in which the centre cannot hold, which portrays our country and his government as a fish whose rot begins from the head? And that the world is watching?
I believe he will not ignore any of these. And because I also believe he will act rightly to restore order and confidence in the system, prompted by Dr. Kachikwu’s letter, I still stand with Buhari.
Oke, a poet and public affairs analyst, lives in Abuja.
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