X-raying the silent performer at PTDF

There is a silent revolution ongoing at the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), the agency of government tasked with the responsibility of building capacities and capabilities in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry through the development of human abilities, institutional capacity development as well as the promotion of research and acquisition of relevant technologies.

Since its establishment, the PTDF has been at the vanguard of providing scholarships and bursaries in universities and other tertiary institutions in petroleum undertaking. This much has been acknowledged as a critical component in developing the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.

Dr Bello Gusau has proven that leadership is all it takes to make a mark in this country. He has demonstrated a strategic leadership style that has turned around the agency’s fortunes since he assumed leadership. This feat indeed has seen equitable allotment of scholarship to qualified Nigerian students in the oil and gas industry. According to industry watchers, Dr Gusau has succeeded in building solid institutional frameworks that would outlive his tenure and better position the PTDF in good stead in delivering its mandate.

For example, we were all aware of what the PTDF scholarship programme students encounter while abroad for studies. We were confronted with cases of late payment of tuition and living allowances that often become embarrassing to the country. But this trend was halted by the leadership of Dr Gusau when he assumed office.

I recall one of the challenges confronting Nigerian students on scholarship in the United Kingdom was the lack of transparency in the selection process of students, where in some instances, students without the requisite qualifications were granted scholarship and end up performing poorly, which ultimately led to the rejection of students from Nigeria.

Gusua addressed this challenge in record time by ensuring that the selection process goes through a very transparent process, where only the best students are selected. How was this possible? It was gathered that the PTDF introduced a multi-level screening process that ensured that all applicants undergo rigorous academic screening to ensure that only those with the mental and physical capacity for advanced studies are selected.

He also dismantled the scholarship racketeering regime, where the available slots are hijacked and given to the rich and mighty in society. Today, applicants do not need to have godfathers to secure a scholarship. The selection process is entirely devoid of ethnic or religious consideration but merit. Little wonder that Nigerian students on PTDF scholarship have been adjudged to be among the best since Dr Gusau assumed the agency’s leadership.

Another cardinal issue that was addressed was the late payment of tuition to the recipient institutions. We have had cases where academic activities for Nigerian students were either suspended or terminated for non-payment of fees by the PTDF. Again, this is also history now as fees for Nigerian students are promptly settled, and students go through uninterrupted academic programmes.

Also, history is when Nigerian students are forced to besiege embassies with placards requesting payment of their allowances. Today, students are promptly paid their allowances, which has saved Nigeria the embarrassment of students protesting over unpaid allowances.

We might not understand on the surface that it takes a lot of courage and commitment to ensure a seamless academic pursuit for Nigerian students on scholarship abroad. And we must admit that this is what Gusau has been able to achieve in a manner devoid of all the media hype.

Indeed Dr Gusau has proven by all standards to be a genuine nationalist. He is not only carving a niche for himself in the oil and gas sector but setting a landmark for future generations to follow. Boasting an extensive wealth of experience in research and policy formulation, Gusau has shown to be a strong advocate of legal and institutional reforms of the sector. This is evident as the executive secretary has blocked unnecessary leakages through strategic cost-cutting initiatives. The federal government, in turn, has benefited.

Under Gusau’s steerling leadership, the Trust Fund has, more than ever, effectively carried out its mandate of building capacities and capabilities in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry through the development of human capacities, institutional capacity development as well as the promotion of research and acquisition of relevant technologies. A host of Nigerians are from a diversified pool of knowledge and the facilities offered by world-class institutions across the globe.

Back home, the Fund has seemingly rebirthed its local scholarship scheme. The exercise is more transparent, efficient and explicit. But Gusau’s major coup could be another assignment by President Buhari.

Having been special assistant to a minister of petroleum resources, and later secretary to the Oil and Gas Sector Reforms Implementation Committee (OGIC), which work birthed the original Petroleum Industry Bill, Gusau was tailor-made for the task of the head of PIA Implementation Steering Committee’s Coordinating Secretariat and Implementation Working Group.

As expected he has done the job with aplomb. Among others, he ensured that the PTDF was fully ready to align with the new challenges and role which requires training and capacity building for effective implementation.

According to Robin Sharma, leadership is about impact, influence, and inspiration. Quite leaders influence those they guide with great care and consideration. They understand that t be effective and efficient, one must consider all aspects and potential outcomes of a scenario. They also value the unique strength of each member of the team, and they know that influence is not about forcing people to see things differently but about learning from others and leading by example.

The above indeed summarises the leadership style of Dr Gusau at the PTDF. Some of us conversant with his antecedent are not surprised that things have turned around at the PTDF since he assumed leadership. We knew that it wouldn’t be business as usual because of his long-standing emphasis on getting the job done without fear or favour.

In truth, Nigeria indeed needs silent reformers like Gusau, who are broadminded in their approach to issues, leaders whose overarching objective remains in the national interest and for the good of every Nigerian.

The list is endless for Gusau; his commitment to work is infectious. This much has been said about him by staffers of the PTDF and concerned stakeholders in the oil and gas industry. It would have been an indictment on all he represents if he indeed performed less as a consummate professional and scholar.

The rational thing to do in this instance is to extend support to this administrator per excellence who has repositioned the PTDF for optimal performance through a sterling performance in a silent way. You can call it magic or wonders, but I call it the Dr Bello Gusau phenomena. And posterity would be kind to him.

Agbese, a UK based human rights activist, writes from London.

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