DIEZANI ALISON-MADUEKE: SCAPEGOAT OR MARTYR?
This is going to be a very difficult column for me to write because it pits me against people who claim to be implementing principles and professional practices that have shaped my entire life. I have always stood for and championed the cause of absolute truth in journalism. In over fifty years of practicing this profession I have tried never to be cowed by authority or gagged by sentiment. However I have watched over the last few weeks as a particular individual whose privileged position appears to have rubbed certain elements in the media the wrong way has been taken to the cleaners in no uncertain manner.
Diezani Alison-Madueke served only eleven months as Petroleum Minister in Goodluck Jonathan's Administration but judging by the hurricane of hostile criticism and outright abuse that has been unleashed in some sections of the press against her she must have stepped on some very prominent toes.
I find it difficult to believe that a lady who achieved the unprecedented feat in Nigeria for her gender of rising to the executive directorship of a multi-national oil major before she was picked for Ministerial appointment in the Yar'Adua cabinet could be really as either incompetent or ignorant of industry protocols as these stories claim.
In fact it has become patently clear that the attacks on her person that have filled the pages of some newspapers are not entirely motivated by the facts but are substantially formulated around innuendo couched in fine language in an effort to undermine her and embarrass the President.
The volume of media and internet attacks mounted against Nigeria's former and first ever female Petroleum Minister just when it appears that she is poised to renew her service to the nation has definitely become a controversial issue. This is a pity. There are definitely a number of pertinent issues in respect of her stewardship that should be scrutinised. For example, her decision to create increased opportunities for indigenous participation in the oil industry is clear.
Those who are promoting a campaign of calumny and forthright denigration of her character rather than a meaningful analysis of her record may very well be those who feel that they have lost out in this process. In spite of this President Jonathan has re-selected her as a Minister and it is now apparent that her detractors have set out to challenge this decision on his part because of their belief that whatever she did before she may very well do again.
While many of those who have mounted attacks against the former Minister claim to be representing the interests of the Nigerian public they have deliberately ignored the extraordinary expertise and strategic professional experience, which made her one of the most qualified persons to have ever held the post of Minister of Petroleum Affairs in Nigeria. A group that claimed to be based in Imiringi, in President Jonathan's home area of Ogbia Local Government in Bayelsa State, recently raised a petition against her to the Chairperson of the EFCC, and then distributed it to members of the Senate.
This indicated that there was a plan to embarrass her on the floor of the upper house. But this petition was based on supposed actions of Mrs. Allison Madueke at the Ministry of Transport over two years ago and had been investigated and disposed of by the Senate in 2009 when it became clear that the accusations against her were false. The bad faith of the organisation under whose name these accusations are being made was further reinforced by a report from a neutral investigator that showed that the office address was a false one.
These attacks may be considerably reduced when Mrs. Alison-Madueke returns to office but the vehemence with which the campaign has been waged indicates that if she returns to the Petroleum Ministry she could very well be targeted for constant criticism by some very angry opponents. One of the sources of this criticism might very well be the self-same multi-national company that had earlier seen it fit to elevate her to its board of directors. In serving what she clearly sees as the national interest Mrs. Alison-Madueke has repeatedly called the company to order as it set out to sell some of its holdings in the Nigerian oil domain under what she clearly felt were false pretenses.
She has articulated this issue without fear or favour and will not be expected to relent in her challenge to that particular giant if in her return to the cabinet she returns to the Petroleum seat. The fact is that she is eminently qualified for the post and there seems hardly to be any doubt that her actions while on the seat had the sanction and approval of the President. Some of her decisions have been challenged so violently in certain sections of the media that the impression has been given that there are some particular interest groups mounting these attacks. These stories do not take into consideration the fact that these decisions could hardly have been taken unilaterally. Nevertheless the vehemence with which they have challenged these decisions suggests that the true target of their revelations is the policy framework under which she has operated. In that event the true target of these attacks is not Mrs. Alison-Madueke but her boss the President himself.
This has become increasingly clear as the attacks became more direct and distressing as the time drew near for Mrs. Alison-Madueke to appear before the Senate for re-confirmation of her Ministerial appointment. At the outset of the campaign against the former Minister the attacks were reasonably circumspect but as time passed they became increasingly personal and noticeably irrational. She has been stigmatised in some scurrilous internet reports as being immoral and unworthy of her employment.
Of course these anonymous and cowardly attacks on her person are shielded from legal redress even though they get substantial replay in the public domain. It is quite clear that a large dose of prejudicial gender chauvinism has also been brought into play in the effort to destroy Mrs. Alison-Madueke's reputation and professional credibility. President Jonathan has indicated that his confidence in her abilities, and not least in her record after less than a year on the hot seat of the most sought-after Ministry in the cabinet, has not diminished, This seems to have angered Mrs. Alison-Madueke's detractors even more.
The active deployment of pure insults against her person in some of the internet reports that we have seen cannot be described as being either objective or based on the search for facts. Now too there have been claims made that the lady is actively working to undermine Nigeria's relations with her traditional partners in the oil sector. This allegation sounds like nothing more than the cries of those who have lost long-held privileges as a result of Mrs. Alison-Madueke's clear penchant for creating new opportunities for local participation in the upper reaches of the industry.
They claim that she is awarding contracts to selected beneficiaries on the basis of her personal discretion rather than on the basis of existing regulations. Such accusations should be properly scrutinised and either proven or disproven, but this does not mean that the strategic transformation that her stewardship of the petroleum Ministry achieved in the eleven months that she was on the seat should be ignored. Mrs. Alison-Madueke is clearly being made both scapegoat and martyr in a battle that she has shown no inclination to shy away from in spite of her aura of feminine timidity.