By DICKSON OMONODE
There are emerging indications that certain political leaders and chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), particularly from the South-west, wants Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum, removed from office because of the lingering fuel scarcity.
Investigations revealed that the South-west political leaders are purportedly using the fuel scarcity crisis as alibi to get Kachikwu out of job. It was revealed that they are angry with the minister because he is not subservient to South-west leaders. It was gathered that they came to Kachikwu with handouts, pressing to induce him for exclusive favour but he shunned them. They are accusing the petroleum minister of favouring South-east businessmen in the oil industry and not favouring those from the South-west.
The political leaders felt disappointed because they could not control him as anticipated.
They feel their business interests are not sufficiently protected.
They were alleged to have been inducing President Buhari to drop the minister in place of a party member, attempting to blackmail the minister of not being loyal to the APC-government but rather the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). They are using the fact that Kachikwu is not a partisan member of the APC but a technocrat brought into government by President Muhammadu Buhari to help improve the petroleum sector.
A source from the Presidency, however, revealed to our correspondent that the minister had earlier complained to President Buhari about pressures from certain interests on him to sway decisions in their favour, some of the demands said not to be in the national interest. The President, it was gathered, gave Kachikwu free hand to do whatever is right in reforming the petroleum industry.
The minister of state is building on that trust and confidence from the President in resisting the various attempts to influence him or even intimidate him, as in some cases. The fuel scarcity has practically caused undue hardships on Nigerians and other citizens resident in the country. In the past weeks that the scarcity became severe, the price of petrol at several filling stations rose to N200 per litre, in some other stations outside major cities, the price rose to as high as N300 per litre, while black market operators became uncontrollable.
The multiplier effect was the astronomic rise in transportation fares and prices of commodities and service. Intra-city transportations, for instance, that cost N100 rose to between N200 and N250. The price of a pack of sachet water that was previously about N80 has risen to N200.
The situation was worsened by the non-availability of electricity, which heightened the multiplier effects on households and businesses. Most people found it difficult to even pump water into tanks for domestic usage. Several factories were short down; in most severe cases, some companies, particularly, small and medium scale businesses were forced to retrench workers.
The President was said not to be happy with all these but he showed that he still believe in Kachikwu. It was gathered that the visit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, last week, to President Buhari was not unconnected with the current crisis in the country.
Though details of their closed door meeting were not made public, Obasanjo was said to have gone to Aso Rock to encourage Buhari not to be discouraged by the current crisis and the leadership challenges.
Obasanjo was also said to have advised Buhari not to be distracted but focus on his change promise to Nigerians. The former President had also advised Buhari against removing Kachikwu, telling him to be aware of deceit by people around him.
President Buhari, it was gathered, assured Obasanjo that he still believes in Kachikwu and has no reason to drop him. “I believe in him,” he said. There were insinuations that the move by the South-west political leaders, who have been trying to influence the President to remove the minister, appears to be a follow up of the statement by APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, condemning Kachikwu over his recent comment of not being a magician.
Tinubu, had in that statement titled: – Kachikwu Needs to Know That Respect and Good Performance Will Do What Magic Cannot articulated that, “Perhaps the statement by Kachikwu was made in a moment of unguarded frustration or was an awkward attempt at a joke. Whatever the motive, it was untimely and off-putting. The remark did not sit well with the Nigerian people; they were as right to feel insulted, as the Minister was wrong to have said such a thing. The fuel shortage is severely biting for the average person. They are forced to remain in lines far too long, for too much time, to pay too much money for too little fuel. This is no joking matter. Livelihoods and people’s welfare are at stake. With so much on the line, Kachikwu’s flippancy was out-of-line. He was basically telling Nigerians that they should be lucky that they are getting the inadequate supply they now suffer and that they should just be quiet and endures the shortage for several weeks more.”
The APC national leaders had maintained: “Kachikwu’s intervention was unhelpful. It panicked and disappointed the public as to the duration of the crisis. It insulted the people by its tonality. He spoke with the imperious nature of a member of the elitist government the people voted out last year and not the progressive one they voted in.
Kachikwu must be reminded that he was not coerced to take this job. He accepted the job and its responsibilities knowingly. He also must remember that he does not own NNPC. This also is not a private company that owes nothing to the public except the duty of fair dealing.”
The former Governor of Lagos State had further protested inter alia: “He is a public servant. The seat he sits upon is owned by Nigerians, not by him. The company he runs is owned by Nigerians, not by him. They are his boss. He is not theirs. Power is vested in the people. He is a mere custodian or agent of their will. In talking to us in such a manner, he committed an act of insubordination. If he had talked so cavalierly to his boss in the private sector, he would have been reprimanded or worse. If wise, the man should refrain from such interjections in the future.”
However, some leading South-east businessmen like Ifeanyi Uba, Arthur Eze, and certain Igbo groups have risen in defence of Kachikwu, mobilizing support to avert the plot for his removal.
A reliable source revealed that the South-east groups have concluded plans to send a strong delegation to President Buhari to commend him on the federal appointments extended to their sons.