Ararume: Buhari’s Deft Masterstroke *by Erasmus Ikhide

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Ifeanyi Araraume

Senator Ifeanyi Ararume’s appointment as the pioneer Chairman of the new
NNPC has been applauded by many as one of best appointment made by
President Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed office over six years ago.
Ararume has both robust experience in the private and public sector which
will rub off positively on the altered NNPC.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was created on April 1,
1977 by the then military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo as a
State owned Oil Company to play in the oil and gas space. It was patterned
after Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and Brazil’s Petrobras.

With the passage of time, mismanagement of the company has made it descend
into a white elephant project with huge financial losses being declared by
it annually while its counterparts all over the world are wildly
profitable. It recently made its first profit after over a decade of
colossal losses.

The stakeholders in the industry that lays the golden egg for the nation
pressed for reforms through the Petroleum Industry Bill which was recently
passed into law as the Petroleum Industry Act which has changed the status
of the NNPC into a Limited Liability Company with effect from February
2022. Now that the NNPC will be transiting from a government owned agency
into a profit driven organization, it needs someone at the helm to provide
direction and uncommon leadership in order for it to meet its goals.

Senator Ararumen has been here for quite a while. Few people know that he
was once resident in Benin City where he owned the largest pharmaceutical
chain at the time there. His business interests spreads across the length
and breadth of Nigeria and in the process built sturdy bridges across the
nation. Even though the new NNPC will be privately run as from next year as
President Buhari seeks further amendments to the PIA law, it also requires
someone with a strong political background to effectively steer its ship as
it will take some time for it to be completely weaned off from total
government dependence. Ararume perfectly fits the bill with his twin public
and private sector experience.

He is no political green horn as he has been in the cloak and dagger game
since the defunct Third Republic where he pitched his tent with the
National Republican Convention (NRC) as a member of its national finance
committee between 1990 and 1993. He was elected Senator representing Imo
North (Okigwe) between 1999 and 2007 and was the Chairman of the Senate
Committee on Power and Steel, Vice Chairman of the Senate committee on the
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chairman Public Hearing
committee for South-West zone on amendments to the 1999 Constitution,
member of the National Assembly Joint Constitution Review Committee (JCRC)
and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts. He was
Chairman of the Southern Senators’ Forum.

But for the flawed electoral system, he would have been the Imo State
Governor in 2007 as he won the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party
(PDP) but his name was unfairly substituted with that of Charles Ugwu. His
popularity was affirmed as his exit from the party in protest of the gross
injustice led to its electoral loss when the Imolites gave a protest vote
to Ikedi Ohakim of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA).

Ararume has the grit and street wisdom to lead the NNPC to the path of
sustainable profitability as he is a proven and tested manager of men and
resources. Imo state where he hails from is a member of the NDDC and he has
been in the forefront of resource control and greater devolution of powers
to the states as a firm believer in true federalism.

Even though his position as the Chairman will be nominal as the executive
powers will reside with Mele Kyari who is the Managing Director of the
NNPC, his position is akin to that of the Queen of England who reigns while
the Prime Minister governs. He will act as a great stabilizing force for a
fairer deal for Nigerians in the beleaguered energy sector whose dividends
has eluded them since crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantity
in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State in 1956.

His input will be highly valued and he will use his vast local and global
contacts to ensure that the corporation becomes wildly commercially
successful. The position of the Chairman of a Board even though ceremonial
is usually reserved for the cream of the crop in local and global circles.
Al Gore, former US Vice-President served as a Member of the Board of
Directors of Apple after he left the White House in 2001. Condelezza Rice
served on the Board of Chevron after her first stint in public office when
she served on the committee that permanently dismantled the then Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Coming down locally, the nation’s foremost downstream oil and gas company,
Ocean and Oil (OANDO) has Major-General Mohammed Magoro who had a
distinguished military career as a Minister both under the military regimes
of Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari when they held sway as military
leaders as well as a Senator as its Chairman. Former Chief of Army Staff
and Ex Defence Minister, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma who is a famous
soldier served as the Chairman of Union Dicon Salt, the defunct Universal
Trust Bank and many blue chip companies. Professor Pat Utomi, a renowned
political economist and management scholar served as Chairman of the
defunct Platinum Bank and is on the board of many successful companies,
including BusinessDay and Linkserve.

There will be the dawn of a new era with Ararume as the new NNPC Chairman
and the ailing corporation will be properly guided to profitability with
his uncommon leadership, especially at a time when the demand for fossil
fuels all over the world is on a steep decline. The UK for example has set
2030 as the exit date for fossil fuel driven vehicles in favour of electric
powered ones. Their foremost science and technology university, Imperial
College has scrapped Petroleum Engineering from its curriculum.

There will no doubt be a shift to more sustainable areas like gas and
renewable energy. Ararume is well prepared with his education obtained from
the United States and Nigeria to lead this energy restructuring both into
the new world order as well as making the corporation profitable.

-Erasmus Ikhide contributed this article from Lagos and can be reached via:
[email protected], +2348035032123.​