Umar Ajiya: That APC’s anti-progressive group’s query for Tinubu

The All Progressives Congress Northern Progressives for Asiwaju, a group that was hardly visible during the countdown to the February 25 Presidential election, must have thought it was showing its love for President Bola Tinubu and the APC when it issued a statement about the new Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited on Tuesday.

The Special Adviser to the President on media and publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, had on Monday announced in a statement that President Tinubu had approved the composition of a new board for the NNPCL with Chief Pius Akinyelure as its chairman.

The president also renewed the appointment of Mallam Mele Kyari as the Group Chief Executive Officer.

Other members are: Alhaji Umar Isa Ajiya — Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Ledum Mitee — Non-Executive Director, Mr. Musa Tumsa — Non-Executive Director, Mr. Ghali Muhammad — Non-Executive Director, Prof. Mustapha Aliyu — Non-Executive Director, Mr. David Ogbodo — Non-Executive Director and Ms. Eunice Thomas — Non-Executive Director.

But the so-called APC Northern group picked out Umar Isa Ajiya as unsuitable for the position of chief financial Officer because, according to it, Ajiya was one of the sponsors of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and one of the major opponents of Tinubu in the last election. The group questioned the rationale for his appointment.

The statement signed by one Muhammad Hussein, said “We described this as despicable and a threat to many loyalists of our party who worked hard for the success of the 2023 presidential election. We expect Asiwaju to reward loyalty and people who worked tirelessly for him and not those who stole the nation’s money to sponsor people against him.”

This set of people cannot truly lay claim to the progressive mantra of the APC if it puts politics above merit. This is not what APC represents, and certainly not what Tinubu represents.

The Progressive political ideology to which Tinubu had subscribed since his entry into partisan politics is the type that encourages change in the way things are done.

Progressivism holds that it is possible to improve human societies through reforms. The goal of progressivism is to advance the human condition through populist reforms. A Progressive party is a party of reformers, not reactionaries.

Those who questioned Ajiya’s suitability for the office the president appointed him without providing evidence of his alleged wrong doing do not deserve to be taken seriously. They are anti-progressive elements who’re driven by their base passions and not the interest of the APC or that of the country.

If President Tinubu appoints loyalists of his political foes into his cabinet because he sees competence in them, does that not portray the president as a man driven by national interest, rather than party interest?

Is he the president of APC or president of Nigeria? Does leadership capacity reside only amongst APC supporters? It’s crude, regressive and illogical to argue that a technocrat should not be hired to serve his country because he doesn’t support the ruling party.
President Tinubu is a man known for his uncanny ability to identify human resource assets and put them to good use.

Mr Ajiya, who is from the North West of Nigeria, is undoubtedly one of such skilled technocrats who has served his country in the oil and gas sector for nearly 30 years.

Before his appointment as CFO, Mr Ajiya was the Managing Director of Petroleum Products Marketing Corporate (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC where he initiated and executed several reforms which transformed the company into a viable and profitable commercial entity. He achieved, among others, products price optimization, Business Process Review, SAP implementation, sales automation, Legacy debt reduction, commercial reorientation, effective stakeholders’ management strategy as well as unprecedented revenue and profit growth leading to a declaration of profit in 2018 for the first time in its history.

It was due to his remarkable success at PPMC that he was appointed the Group Executive Director (GED) Finance and Accounts and the Chief Financial Officer of NNPC in July 2019. He transformed the Finance and Accounts Directorate to an efficient financial and accounting service provider and a reliable financial advisor of the NNPC Group.

Together with his team of dedicated professionals, he was able to secure financing for key NNPC strategic projects across the upstream, midstream and downstream.

These were the projects expected to support NNPC and Federal Government aspirations toward increased oil and gas production, gas utilization, power generation and revenue to the Federation. He was the brain behind the restructuring of the NNPC Group Balance Sheet to transition it to full commercialization in line with the Nigerian Petroleum Industry Act.

Prior to his PPMC sojourn, he was Group General Manager Corporate Planning and Strategy (CP&S) of the NNPC. He also excelled at CP&S where he transformed and developed new business models for NNPC Autonomous Business Units and the resuscitated the NNPC Price Review Committee which ensures value protection through appropriate and competitive pricing of NNPC crudes, derivatives and products.

Mr Ajiya holds a B.Sc Accounting from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and MBA from the Lagos State University. He was hired by Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited (now Total Nigeria) in 1988, and was there till 1991 before he moved to become one of the pioneer staff of Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG).
He joined the service of NNPC as General Manager Commercial with the LNG Division under the Gas & Power Directorate of NNPC. He was responsible for the development of a business that led to the establishment of NNPC LNG Limited, a holding company for the NNPC’s interest in the LNG Marketing Joint Ventures. He was also the pioneer MD of West Africa LPG Limited, a trading Joint Venture between NNPC and Ocean Bed Limited, which now owns its own LPG vessel built and delivered in 2016 by HMD Shipyard Korea.

If members of the APC northern group (assuming it has members) thought their statement against Mr Ajiya would move President Tinubu to reverse the appointment, then they don’t know the leader of their party.

Tinubu’s political trajectory has clearly showed that he’s not a politician that succumbs to blackmail. He’s not swayed by gossips or talebearers.

Tinubu is a methodic person who thinks before acting, and appoints people he believes can deliver for him. This is not the time to play divisive politics. This is the time to build the country. And a true leader will look for good human resources wherever they may be regardless of political leaning, religion or ethnicity. That is the kind of leader we know Tinubu to be.

That APC northern group must be told to apologize to the president.

Suleiman, an analyst wrote from Abuja, Nigeria*

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