Opinion: President Buhari Should Immediately Step Down as Petroleum Minister – By Dr. Ahmed Adamu
The huge responsibility of the office of the Nigerian President and that of a Commander in Chief of Armed Forces is enough to weigh down the attention and commitment of a person occupying these positions, and who yet couple as the Minister for Petroleum Resources. What every leader should try to avoid is “Burnout”, which is a situation where a person is overwhelmed by workload, stress, frustration, and the time demands of the positions he holds. Burnout affects a person’s focus on a vision, and this can be severe in old age.
Petroleum sector is sensitive and volatile; it requires absolute concentration and commitment, any gap in the management of the sector will show up in the face and the pocket of the poor. Therefore, it is highly responsive, and as such it requires energy, expertise, commitment, focus and a vision. The minister of state for Petroleum Resources will not be sufficient to oversee the affairs of the multi-segmented and complex sector like the petroleum sector, especially when you say he is just a state minister, he might think he is not enough to be creative and take bolder actions. The state minister will have limitation bureaucratically, and if there is no proactiveness from the substantive minister, the junior minister will be slowed down. Of course, we were told never to overshadow your boss, especially if that boss can fire you in a moment notice. If your boss is slow, you need to slow down too.
The ongoing petroleum crisis and hardship is unnecessary, and like I established in my other article on this issue, it relates to the management of the sector. The NNPC would have been more proactive having a committed supervisory minister. If there was a careful plan and vision, these hardships would have been avoided. Even if there are established bureaucratic departments, the leadership of the sector matters and can influence everything.
I have not heard of a country around the world where the President or Prime Minister is also the minister for natural resources. A leader should be able to trust the ability and sincerity of others, and a leader should delegate not abdicate responsibility. Abdicating responsibility is when you assign a task to someone who is not the best or not competent in terms of capacity, skills and knowledge to deliver the task. If there is corruption in petroleum sector, that does not mean the system should be broken. The best thing to do is to allow the system, but create check and balance to counter the corruption. The resultant repercussion of the broken system is more severe than the one that corrupted system will bring. A corrupted system is easier to mend than a broken one.
The current petroleum hardship is the worst ever, it happened in the wake of high inflation, poverty and unemployment. The hardships are untold, and this was exacerbated by the rushed removal of petroleum subsidy. In my previous article, I have introduced the best petroleum subsidy options that we can implement to make life easier for the poor, and I will do another set of article just to elaborate on them. Anyway, Petrol is the blood of the economy, once it is expensive; everything will become expensive. This crisis should have been envisaged long before it happen, and measures should have been taken to prevent it.
President Buhari was not educated in the field of Petroleum, though he was once the head of the sector more than four decades ago, but that was military appointment, under which anyone can be appointed to any ministry irrespective of the person’s prior relevant education or experience. Despite the remarkable development achieved during that time, such success was possible because the then President appointed a substantive minister. That Minister who is now the Nigerian President was able to be creative, because he was given the complete power to be creative. I remember President Buhari saying these words “the ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo appointed me as minister of Petroleum Resources and tolerated me for three years, and that is why I succeeded”. Therefore, Mr President, if you want this country to succeed, you will need to do the same thing, find someone and appoint him as minister of petroleum, tolerate him, I can assure you he will succeed too. The condition of success is when you assign people roles and then let them to be at their best.
There are many Nigerians who are expert and experienced in the sector, who could do better job and create focus and vision for the petroleum sector. We have to learn to give people benefits of doubt, and there are millions of honest and sincere Nigerians. We cannot achieve efficiency by limiting the cost of expertise.
A leader should not do what others can do, a leader should see himself as a supervisor, a leader should surround himself with competent people and delegate to competent hands. This is what will help reduce pressure, ensure focus, efficiency and productivity. A leader should be able to identify who are good in practical and those that are philosophical. There are people who are good in ideas and creating vision, but they don’t have practical skills to put them into action, these kind of people can be good advisers. There are others who are not theoretical, but they have high practical skills, these kind of people can be good administrators. Leadership is a big responsibility, it has to be exerted with carefulness, and you cannot get it right by chance.
Therefore, Nigerians deserve a new substantive minister of petroleum whose daily schedule and thinking is all about the petroleum sector. This new minister will then be assisted by the state minister and NNPC. This sector does not need divided attention. Nigerian citizen is more important than the office of the president, and what will serve the citizen well is what has to be done. Would this petroleum crisis go if Mr President steps down now as petroleum minister? The answer is not immediately, but this avoidable hardships may not likely to happen again. The new minister will have all his focus on how to avoid it in the future, because his attention is undivided. This minister can be man or a female, so don’t worry for using male gender pronoun.
Finally, from legal point of view, the Nigerian constitution bearing in mind the overwhelming responsibility of the office of the president, it denied the occupant of the office taking additional responsibility. This is stated in section 138 of the 1999 constitution (as amended), and it says “The President shall not, during his tenure of office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”. Going by this too, the President should step down and appoint a substantive minister of Petroleum Resources.
Dr. Ahmed Adamu
Petroleum Economist and Development Expert,
First-Ever Global President of Commonwealth Youth Council,
University Lecturer (Economics),
(08034458189, 08188949144 firstname.lastname@example.org)