By Bisi Daniels
Many people have danced to the imposing Twin Towers in the Central Business District of Abuja in celebration of their appointment as helmsmen of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Why not? It is an exalted, career-peak position many people will lobby or die for, but it is certainly not a walk-in-the-park job.
Some of the people, including thoroughbred professionals, who made a song and dance of it, left the position with heads bowed in shame and their image shredded; while some others left seething in anger, with bruised ego.
Both are reasons a former MD of a multinational oil company declined sometime ago when he was offered the reputation-on-the-line job.
Experienced as Dr. Maikanti Baru was, he was appointed into that position in a strong headwind of rumours; even as industry insiders knew it was only a matter of time for him to mount the position.
Yet, some of them were not unaware of the fact that some promotions to reward hardworking and excellence on a previous job are sometimes counterproductive to the beneficiary and the system at large. They call it the Peter Principle.
Baru turned one year as GMD of NNPC on July 4 with his reputation intact or even soaring; and although there was no celebration, a lot has been achieved to allay the above fears; and future challenges clearly defined.
A man who knew the industry and the system at the Twin Towers very well, he would have known if there are banana peels in the Towers, as they say exist at the National Assembly. He has the added advantage of humility and a God-fearing nature for discernment and effective leadership. According to John Boldoni in the Harvard Business Review, “A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity.”
Baru assumed office with a clear vision to turn NNPC into a commercial and profit-oriented corporation. He rolled out 12 key Business Focus Areas for focus in support of the Seven Big-wins initiative launched earlier by President Buhari and Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources as part of a business drive and investment focus of the Federal Government.
Many industry executives believe that together, President Buhari, Kachikwu and Baru, provide the best industry leadership the country has seen in many years.
The rumour headwind
Baru assumed office amid heavy rumours of a rift between him and his predecessor, Kachikwu, who had commenced reforms in the corporation for efficiency.
Baru would not be distracted by the rumours or muddy the water; he got on well with Kachikwu, continuing from where he stopped, although he would make some changes himself.
Even people, who watched out for tell-tale signs of rift in body language, or optics, as it is now called, were to be disappointed. Experienced people know that when high profile changes are made, friends and contractors wage proxy wars in the media. It would seem that was what happened!
Baru continued the culture of transparency, initiated by Kachikwu, and having been the chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee who relentlessly sensitized staff members on obligations and laws concerning corruption and corrupt practices.
Improved brand quality
But giving NNPC a new image was not going to be done only in-house. He backed it with strong internal and external communications, which also carried stakeholders along. Today, the tar on the Twin Towers is peeling off for a new, reputable look.
The corporation has a number of awards to show for that. They include the 2016 Phillips Consulting/WebJurists award for the Best Website and Social Media Platforms amongst Federal Government Parastatals; PETAN award at the 2017 OTC in recognition of NNPC’s “aggressive exploration campaign in the Benue Trough and Chad Basin”; and 2017 PENGASSAN award for contribution towards labour and industrial harmony, amongst others.
Also, there was no industrial action or heated agitation during the year under review. And negative press on the Group has reduced considerably, replaced by positive stories almost on a weekly basis. Only last week, there was a story on the reduction of the price of diesel to a low N155 per litre from about N300 per litre.
The week before, in a show of strong character, sometimes clouded by his disarming humility, Baru, who was just recovering from the painful loss of three close relations in quick succession, signed a tripartite agreement with the NNPC/FIRST Exploration and Production Joint Venture and Schlumberger for the development of the Anyalu and Madu fields in the Niger Delta. Schlumberger would provide the over $700 million development cost of the projects that will generate 193 million barrels of crude oil into the current reserves of 37.2 billion barrels; and an additional 800 billion cubic feet of gas into the nation’s proven gas reserves.
In a podcast to staff members last Tuesday, Baru commended them for their efforts