Tributes, emotions as former NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru, says goodbye
Gaining access into the NNPC Towers, Abuja on this day was tough; it was obvious something momentous was happening. Aside from long convoy of siren blaring VIPs making their way through the main entrance, as well as the visitors’ car park that was almost packed full, the pedestrian gate also felt the large turnout for the Valedictory session of the immediate past GMD of NNPC Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru.
Notwithstanding the delay caused by human and vehicular traffic that stretched to the main road, the security men did their job; every guest was screened. Well, with the number of VIPs in the building on this day, the watertight security was actually anticipated.
As early as 9am, the Amphitheatre of the NNPC was already packed full with dignitaries and staff of the corporation, who turned out in their numbers to not only to say goodbye to their former boss, but also witness the ceremonial handover to the new GMD of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari. Being a part of the NNPC, the handover ceremony was more of a family affair.
Taking the front row at the well-attended ceremony were former GMDs of NNPC, including the pioneer GMD, Chief R. A Mahinro. Others present include Dr. Thomas John, Chief Chamberlin Oyibo, Dr. Funsho Kupolokun and others. Siting directly opposite the former ‘oil bosses’ are top government officials and politicians led by the Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. Also present was the Acting Chairman of EFCC Ibrahim Magu, who sat side by side with Dr. Kupoloku, senators and some members of the House of Representatives
Man of the moment, Dr Baru, took a vantage position in the hall, alongside Chief Mahinro, Kyari and members of the outgoing management board of NNPC. Also on that side of the hall were members of the incoming management board, who were eventually unveiled to the audience for the first time.
With the hall filled to capacity, the MC had tough time recognising dignitaries. To appear professional, the MC had made it a point of duty to recognise all the dignitaries. But as guests kept trooping in, to be on a safe side, the anchorman had to resort to ‘all protocol duly observed.’
Setting the tone for the day was the NNPC GMD’s choir with the rendition of the National Anthem. All the way from Port Harcourt, the choir, which is made up of NNPC staff, also presented a special number on the corporation before delivering their special tribute song for the outgoing GMD. Obviously impressed, Baru had no option but to step out and gave a special applause to the choir he adopted during his days in the Garden City.
A special documentary on the outgoing GMD and his achievements was also screened to guests before Baru took to the podium for an emotional valedictory address. From the way he spoke, you could tell that Baru was fully in charge during his tenure; he knew everybody by name. Like a true leader, he was full of praise for his men for their effort in changing the fortunes of the NNPC; he didn’t ascribe the glory to himself.
As he went down memory lane on his exploits in NNPC and the challenges of choosing his successor, Baru went emotional.
“Every good parent wants to see his children be better than him; I can’t be better than you. The success of turning around the fortunes of NNPC is success for all of us. Our in-house union, the PENGASSIN, I cannot thank you enough. I will always be proud of your support, especially the mutually beneficial engagements that we had across dialogue tables.”
To President Muhammadu Buhari, he said, “I thank Mr. President for giving us the opportunity to serve this great country Nigeria. He trusted our judgment and supported us with the resources and policy directions that have manifested in the quantum accomplishment that have characterised our tenure of 1099 days. Thank you Your Excellency; I cannot thank you enough.”
To the management team and staff of NNPC, he said, “Today is the perfect time for me to say goodbye and take my leave, as I watch and count the successes the corporation will be recording in years to come. I also want to use this medium to thank all our invited guests and stakeholders. Definitely, time will not permit me to do justice to each and everyone of you, especially my aged GMDs; you don’t know what you’ve done for me today. In a very short notice, you came out to honour me, thank you very much. I can only wish you all the best my great staff of NNPC. Long live NNPC, long live Federal Republic of Nigeria, bye, bye for now,” he said amid resounding applause.
In his tribute to the outgoing GMD, Chief Mahinro said, “This for me has been an occasion that has actually brought tears to my eyes, tears of joy. After over 40 years, we are having this first and unique occasion of this kind. A total of 16 GMDs have come and gone and there was no occasion to have this kind of thing for them. Not because of any wrongdoing on their part, but simply because of the kind of situation we have in Nigeria. We have the leadership where if you cannot add value to anything that is put in charge of, you then turn and add value to yourself; this is what the situation has been,” the elder statesman noted.
Turning to Baru, he said, “When I was invited to this occasion, I knew it was going to be a grand one and I was thinking to myself, ‘what would I say?’ Few days ago, I read something in the newspapers, which was a tribute of the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to Baru. I thought all I needed is to say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I concur with all that he said.”
He continued: “But I think Baru is more than that. We’ve had in recent times encomiums from different places, both local and international; I think he has earned every word of that. But for the fact that old age has made me lose my grasp of English grammar, the words I would have used for Baru, you would have had to use your dictionaries. Maikanti baru, God bless,” he concluded.
Done with the ceremonial handover from Baru to Kyari, it was time for the new GMD to make his first speech. Indeed, he talked tough.
“Let me tell you, there will be no corruption where there’s no discretion; corruption is about discretion. If you don’t apply discretion, nobody will give you money. Therefore, what it means is that we are going to work with EFCC to ensure we take out discretion in our system. It’s very strange to see the chairman of an anti-corruption agency attending a function at the retirement of the CEO of a company, ordinarily people see as a bad place; it means that this place has changed,” he said.
Turning to his family members in the hall, Kyari said, “You have a tough job. They are here; I’ve seen about three of my children. By the way, I have many children; I have two sons, but I’ve adopted several others, who I see as my children. From today, I make it public; if you accept any gift from anyone, it’s not for me. So, do not give gifts to members of my family; they will not have any influence on me,” he declared.
He continued: “I recognise the difficulty of carrying the responsibility of being a GMD in this company. Gone are the days where we see NNPC as a very opaque institution; NNPC would not be opaque. I have a responsibility to declare what we would do to the citizens of this country; it’s their right, not a favour. So, gentlemen of the press, we are going to work with you. We will be transparent to all so that at the end of the day, we are going to build this country. We are also not saying that we won’t make mistakes; we will make mistakes, but we will never make deliberate mistakes.”
To his predecessor, he said, “When Baru called me and informed me that I’m now the GMD of NNPC… by the way, from a very religious perspective, I have never raised my hands and asked God to make me the GMD; I did not. But I’m aware of the goodwill that I have. But I know that getting this opportunity can only come from God. I’m not sure I’m the best; there are better-educated people in NNPC. I only have a first degree. I know in this company, we have at least 40 people with a PhD. I know world-class engineers; I didn’t have the credentials of Dr. Baru. But that tells you that leadership comes in two ways. One, you earn it in a way, but there’s always the divine part of it and God lines up the divine part for you,” he said.
To oil union members, Kyari said, “the impression is that the union people are left overs; they are frustrated people. I’ve never seen myself as a frustrated person and I’ve told our members that everybody has the potential to become the GMD of this company. The way to do this is to align with the organisation so that you share the objectives and drive the organisation to the delivery of its tasks. Therefore, unionism becomes a contribution rather than a challenge. In doing so, your members get everything they would get.”
Turning to some chief executives of oil companies in the hall, the GMD said, “We will work with you. There are two things we have to do with you, which is to grow production and grow reserves. Also, it should be beneficial to all; we are going to make it a win, win situation. You should do business to make money, but you should make reasonable money. We are not going to stop you from doing that, but we will engage you to make sure that we deliver on that,” he said.
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