By Sufuyan Ojeifo
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.