Baru’s Forbes award: Unjustified criticism By Hamid Hendrix

The good news that Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, has clinched the Forbes Best of Africa Oil and Gas Man of the Year 2017 Award by the New York based internationally reputable media organization must have been received with elation by most Nigerians eager to witness some shine on the nation’s external image. It was even more significant that the international award was in recognition of the NNPC helmsman, Dr. Maikanti Baru, whose lot it has been to shoulder the difficult task of reforming the national oil company to perform better in meeting the needs of the economy and the citizenry.

This is not just another ego-massaging gesture but a prestigious endorsement of technocratic attainment by Forbes, the world’s top ranking assessor of outstanding capacity and performance. According to Forbes Media which announced the award, NNPC’s Maikanti Baru emerged from a process involving “ top oil and gas personalities who have made far-reaching and positive contributions to the development of the sector and have caused sustained stability of the economy in which they operate,” adding that in arriving at the choice of Baru, his rising profile and impressive career path through the years was of particular significance, among other ‘landmark achievements’ recorded in his “enviable career”. As additional indication of the status of the award, it was noted that the ceremony would be graced by doyens of the international oil and gas business community, policy makers, entrepreneurs, politicians, opinion leaders, among others.

From this summary of the focus and status of the award, Maikanti Baru should be the proud recipient of resounding salutation from all angles of his office, colleagues in the industry, family, friends and indeed all Nigerians for what amounts to a befitting recognition of the entire span of his career as well as his current position as chief executive of Nigeria’s apex oil company. It bears restating that Forbes has earned international reputation in carrying out such independent, scientific assessments of accomplishments and earnings among other measurable p.arameters of human and corporate capacity and performance that its voice is not only the loudest but also most authoritative.

However, when a national newspaper such as The Nation sticks out its pen to question the justification for Forbes’ award to NNPC’s GMD Maikanti Baru, it necessitates a response if only to shed the light of knowledge and reason onto the dark recesses of editorial sentiment and judgment, since even in Nigeria Forbes credibility in its area of expert competence cannot be shaken by the opinion of The Nation’s editors. Besides, readers of the newspaper should be assisted with a broader-based perspective, especially of international issues, than the localized content analysis dished out by their newspaper.

Going through its editorial, Unjustified Award, in the December 25 edition, provides an insight into the limitations of information, knowledge and perspectives that gave rise to what might very well be the only dissenting editorial opinion on the Forbes Award to NNPC’s GMD, Maikanti Baru. The main motivation for The Nation’s criticism of Maikanti Baru’s well-deserved Forbes Award is clearly a continuation of the targeted tirade against him by the paper for being NNPC GMD who therefore must be “guilty” of all the purported inadequacies and alleged indiscretions pronounced against the company and its past and present GMDs by pseudo-judicial excesses of its journalists and editors aptly tagged “trial-by-media”.

The Nation’s editorial itself opened with an inadvertent self-indictment when it observed “though not one allegation had been proved(sic) then, the public space reeked of tales of malfeasance” which it certainly propagated against NNPC and former GMDs and has been targeting incumbent Baru with since his appointment against the ethics and principles of journalism. Under such pathological prejudice against targeted persons, only the worst of “public space” hate chatter gets propagated and the more accurate, balanced and substantiated reality is criticized and blacked out.

Forbes’ criteria for selecting Maikanti Baru appropriately assessed his entire career “through the years” and seeks out “far-reaching and positive contributions to the development of the sector” from a global . The Nation’s editors based their premeditated perversion of Baru’s eminent qualification for the award on the narrow and jaundiced aperture of his tenure as NNPC GMD even as they admit he “has been in office for barely one year” before proceeding to pelt him with a malicious mix of “controversy”, “allegation” and long-standing systemic problems of NNPC such as petroleum imports and ailing refineries. They could not notice that the current fuel supply crisis is the first since Baru took office 18 months ago.

Obviously, Forbes’ award to Maikanti Baru is so transparently justified that the world of oil and gas applauded it. Its The Nation’s editorial that is unjustifiable, even from its own self-negating slips of the pen.


Hendrix writes from Kaduna

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