Analysis: Remi Babalola; a technocrat bows out of office


By Stanley Oronsaye September 17, 2010 01:22AM


“It is my candid opinion that Nigeria over the years has been largely overmanaged, overruled, but underled; this represents a breath of fresh air. I idealise an excited vision of the Nigerian future.”So states a ticker tape on the personal website of Remi Babalola, former minister of state for finance and the immediate past minister for special duties. President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday accepted the resignation of Mr. Babalola who based his exit on health grounds.


Babalola, a thorough-bred technocrat with over a decade of banking experience, drew the ire of government when on July 14 he stated that the state oil giant, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was insolvent. According to him, the firm had huge financial liabilities that made it difficult to meet some of its obligation to government and other commercial contracts. As minister of state for finance, he may have had access to some privileged information to draw such conclusion.


Even Austen Oniwon, group managing director of NNPC, told the Senate that the corporation is broke and may not be meeting its obligations. NNPC claims government owes it more than $6.6 billion in subsidies while government claims NNPC owes 450 billion naira in unremitted crude oil receipts.Babalola had barely uttered the words when the government rejected his claim. Dora Akunyili, minister of information, said the NNPC was a going concern and so cannot be said to be insolvent.


“Given the nature of the NNPC, there are regular transactions between Federal Government and the NNPC and as a result there are always outstanding balances between (it) and the government,” said Akunyili, who came all out to deny what many Nigerians had suspected a long time.


But finance minister, Olusegun Aganga, in his riposte, added that the true picture of the NNPC would emerge after the ongoing investigation into its accounts and when the final reconciliation of the accounts, which would last eight weeks, would be completed. Little has been heard about the audit of the NNPC account since then.


However, while the government may do all to hide the true state of the NNPC, the manner of Babalola’s exit is uncommon in Nigeria. Public officials hardly resign their position, unless, of course, they want to reposition themselves for a higher calling.So far, he is silent on his next political move, but for a man largely regarded as a technocrat with no solid political structure, even in his home state, Babalola’s resignation may be out of principle rather than a desire to seek higher office.


According to another message on his website, “Real leadership is about candour, sound judgement, and superior ability to galvanise all around a common and higher purpose.”His resignation decision may just be a demonstration of that.


He also stated his philosophy: “I believe service to fatherland and humanity is the greatest endeavour in life.”If that is to be taken at full value, perhaps Mr. Babalola still has some few tricks up his political sleeves. Only time will tell.






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