…Kachikwu would by his high intellect, sound erudition, and master-class performance on his job remain a reference point for public and private sector servants, and would be relevant to our service space and public sector for a long time to come.

The news about Dr. Ibe Kachikwu’s first class details has drawn deserving traffic – quite naturally. After all, he is a star minister in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. From serving as both the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and managing the petroleum ministry to now supervising just one of the two, he has carved, not just a niche but printed his name in legible and beautiful fonts in Nigeria’s governance structure.

That a majority of the people look up to him as one of those who would market the Buhari administration is therefore not out of place. He has the skills set. He knows the facts and figures. He understands the issues and their intricacies. He can conveniently sell the dynamics without mincing words. He is by all means a poster boy.

Therefore, the news about his first class misspeaking came at a most inauspicious time. It is bad enough that it is coming at the eve of the general election; that it is coming at a time the government has a lot to deal with in terms of governance and development issues, makes it disturbing; hence this sincere intervention.

I’d heard about this audacious gentleman with superlative intelligence way before he became minister. He is said to be a poet, author, playwright, founder of the defunct Hints magazine, and also publications such as Chanelle, Hello and Complete Fashion – all of which have ruled the Nigerian soft-sell media landscape. By the way, he is also one of the co-founders of the Nollywood of today and a visiting professor of law to many institutions. He is a law author and philanthropist.

However, I took a closer notice of him when he performed outstandingly at his Senate confirmation and at one other time, when he compelled a public discourse on transparency at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as a result of a famous leaked memo. It was not really about the memo but the calm and dignity with which he weathered the storm and the attacks that followed, as well as the overwhelming support he received from Nigerians on that occasion. He barely spoke but kept mute to the attacks and only continued with his work, while asking Nigerians to focus on due process goals and not on accusations. That got my attention too.

Now, to the present issue, which ought not to be more than a ringside discussion or better still, what United States’ President Donald Trump would dismiss as a locker room chat, and honestly that is what it is.

Talking about whether or not he held himself out as a first class graduate, I want to make the following comments in reaction to the opinion recently published in PREMIUM TIMES, a reputable online news portal, but which I reckon might not have reflected much more on the piece, especially since PREMIUM TIMES has always supported the minister’s performance.

Let’s face it, the fact remains that his school qualifications and performances are superlative in nearly all post-secondary schools he attended, including revered institutions like Harvard University. He is spectacular anda rare match amongst public officers. His performance on the job is outstanding and the revolution he brought to the petroleum ministry and global oil politics is even more exceptional. This is why I do not think we should reduce this conversation to sheer inanity.

Talk about transparency, I hold the view that as a good ambassador, no one in this hive has done more than he has on his beat. This, of course, explains why foreign journalists are always seeking him. He is a newsmaker.

He is a cult figure at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and at every oil conference. For one who has been OPEC president and in three years, two-time president of African Petroleum Producers Organisation (APPO), the OPEC equivalent in Africa and the author of over ten law and petroleum books, six of which he authored in the last three years despite his busy work, Kachikwu has proven to be different and in a class of his own. In fact, he carries himself with a lot of discipline and candour.

Kachikwu has attracted, potentially in the last three years, over $5billion into the oil industry and has laid the foundation for over $30 billion foreign indirect investment in the upstream sector, going forward.

His effort at curbing militancy and reversing the heavily depleting production from less than a million barrels in late 2015 to two million barrels in 2016 are efforts we cannot forget in a hurry.

Indeed, there is a general feeling in the country that this must be responsible for Nigeria’s resurgence from its worst recession in many years. At least, we can all see what his work with others in OPEC is doing to the price of oil, which risen to over $90 a barrel.

This is why I hold the view that nothing in the video detracts from his integrity. It is no more than a locker room chat. Shall we therefore end this whirlwind of destruction, please? If he misspoke, perhaps, thats unfortunate. What is crucial, to me, is that in his resume, which was used for his clearance, he reflected his appropriate details.

What are we even saying? For a man endowed with the gift of the garb and who had delivered nearly 200 unprepared speeches all over the world, if he misspoke by saying first class instead of first in class, shall we then bring down the roof over this?

Besides, the speech in the video was early in his service sometimes in 2016, when most ministers were obviously still learning the ropes. By the way, he was addressing young people at a time of deep recession, when there was need to wire up a depressed youth population.

Someone who knows the oil industry once told me that Kachikwu was at a presentation for professionals in Port Harcourt in late 2017 when the MC superlatively introduced him as an all-round first class student and he had quickly corrected that. But he believes he could compete with the best and has done so creditably.

Still he has stated that he only graduated with a second class upper degree in law, which by the way, in a year in which no one had a first class, was a top class performance. This is merely applying some logic.

Again, from my interactions with some of his schoolmates, I discovered that even in 1978, the only reason a first class did not come out of Nsukka in law was because of the very conservative policy of Nsukka not to award first class in law serially. In law school – which is a collection of all law graduates from all universities in Nigeria and abroad – he proved that. If he topped the class of first class students from all over the world, then what are we saying? Does that not suffice to prove his capability, really? But that is still not the issue.

Even at Harvard, he proved his worth in terms of brilliance and outstanding academic performance. Therefore, I plead that we cut off these arguments about holding a first class degree or not, in the manner that is unnecessary. This, to me, is not an important issue in Nigeria today to take our attention this much.

The truth is, Kachikwu would by his high intellect, sound erudition, and master-class performance on his job remain a reference point for public and private sector servants, and would be relevant to our service space and public sector for a long time to come. It is in Nigeria’s interest that this be so.

Whilst I am one of those who strongly believe that PREMIUM TIMES has not gone out of its way to destroy a promising talent in the body polity, I urge the organisation to not appear so, at least, in the estimation of the undiscerning. PREMIUM TIMES, being part of the success story of this man and his ofice, would gain nothing from inadvertently distracting him from the good work he is doing.

Kabiru Musa wrote from Southern Kaduna.