By Beks Dagogo-Jack.
Over the past couple of years, particularly since her appointment as Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Allison-Madueke has been under the constant gaze of different stakeholder interests, each having different interpretations and indeed expectations of how she should do her job relative to their own well defined interests. To be clear, Mrs Madueke is not the first Minister of Petroleum Resources to face this level of acute tackling by vested interests across Nigeria’s socio-economic and political landscape. And she certainly would not be the last.
My personal opinion is that the current minister of petroleum resources, Lady Deziani, came on board with better appreciation of the intricacies of the job than some of her predecessors did. Whilst this fact alone cannot and should not fully immunize her against the well-entrenched activities of decades-old vested capitalist forces in the oil and gas sector, yet evidence abound that her preparedness has helped to tide her, thus far, without caving in under the armada of attacks which had been the lot of several oil ministers before her.
The current campaign to stampede the minister out of office, mostly centered on her use of private jets, etc is, in my opinion, trivial; and a case of leaving substance in pursuit of shadows. Whilst no credible democratic government should stand idly by in the face of any impropriety or misuse of public funds, I am of the strong opinion that we must strive to build effective and efficient institutions which should diligently handle such cases dispassionately and totally in our national interest. This would discourage this very harmful culture of over sensationalized trial of public office holders on the pages of newspapers, with mostly speculative and unfounded allegations. Indeed, often times whilst the gullible public is treated to the high drama of sensationalized media campaign against public officials with the sole goal of instigating their sack from office, we often lose sight of the fact that most of such campaigns are engineered and promoted by capitalist interests, which in most cases, are founded and fueled by personal vendetta anchored on business and political interests. I repeat: a robust institutional framework for dealing with all cases of abuse of public trust remains our best hope for exposing and punishing genuine cases of violation of public trust, whilst seeking prevention and deterrence for new violations.
Without any doubt in my mind, Deziani’s tenure has come with its own unique risks, challenges, quirks and opportunities which she and her team have tackled with visible zeal and tangible results to show for their efforts. The multiplicity of demands on her ministerial duties and responsi-bilities, in view of the strategic position of oil and gas in our economy, is not comparable to any other ministerial portfolio. Over these years, even her harshest critics would readily admit that, she has learnt quite a bit on the job and is headed towards the point of measurable confidence in the handling of the intricacies of this hugely peculiar duty post. Whilst the experience she has gathered in the last couple of years now stand ready to benefit the government and the Nigerian people, those who have personal and political axes to grind seem hell bent on a totally different mission.
It is indeed a sad irony that on the one hand, Nigerians expect public office holders to demonstrate required expertise and experience in the discharge of their duties, and yet on the other hand, we so readily yield to our baser instincts. We pressurize Government at the slightest opportunity to change Ministers at such short intervals that they hardly ever settle in and tackle the job requirements before we begin to demand for them to be rolled off, invariably sending the wrong signal that acquisitive interests rather best practices on the job is the overriding factor in making such critical appointments. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that over the years, the performance level of public office holders across the sectors have continued to decline to the overall disadvantage of our national economy.
Beks Dagogo-Jack, Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power.