By Dan Amor
“That which God writes on your forehead, thou wilt come to it” – Koran.
Indeed, the Holy Book cannot lie. That which God has written on your forehead is your destiny. According to Origen, things do not happen because God foresees them in the distant future; but because they will happen, God knows them before they happen. For Seneca, the greatest stoic philosopher and Nineth Century Roman essayist, nothing comes to pass but what God appoints- our fate is decreed, and things do not happen by chance, but everyman’s portion of joy or sorrow is predetermined. Yet, for Von Goethe, the Eighteenth Century German historian, philosopher and great writer, man supposes that he directs his life and governs his actions, when his existence is irretrievably the control of destiny. The Bible also says that we are the clay while God is the potter who moulds us according to His purpose. The above epistles point to the fact that in this matter, all religions and philosophy agree to the centrality of fate in all human endeavors.
Fate is not the ruler but the servant of providence. Again, Seneca agrees when he says that what must be shall be; and that which is a necessity to him that struggles, is little more than choice to him that is willing. Thus, Dryden the English classical poet asserts that all things are by fate, but poor blind man sees a part of the chain, the nearest link, his eyes not reaching to that equal beam that poises all above. So those who don’t agree with the inimitable Shakespeare that Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate, would continue to quarrel with why Nelson Mandela or Olusegun Obasanjo, for instance, emerged from the heat of the gulag to the splendor of the presidential villa. But while it is said that of these two ex-leaders hobbled by fate, the former understood the existential inevitability of fate, the latter was also aware of this philosophic construct.
In 2012, during the reign of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria, Chief Timipreye Marlin Sylva, the debonair and brilliant former Governor of Bayelsa State, was treated like a political outcast, despite his towering achievements as governor. Because of a feud or disagreement between him and his brother, the former president, all sorts of mud was hurled at the consummate strategist. He was not allowed to complete his second term as the Federal Government even used its attack dog then, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to go after him with spurious allegations of impropriety and perfidy. Most of his property were seized and he was left like a fish on a dry sandy beach panting. The rest is now history. Despite receiving the wrong end of the stick, Sylva maintained his cool without grudges. As a deft and calculating leader, Sylva’s life is a cautionary text. Before the fogs of hypocrisy, the currents that dash pride upon the rocks of hubris, he would only smile when he observed power’s effects on character, and character’s on power. Destiny can only be delayed and not denied. The story has been confirmed that in top All Progressives Congress (APC) circles and among the king makers in the party, Sylva is touted as a possible successor to President Muhammadu Buhari if power must move to the South come 2023. It is this that has made fifth columnists and alliterative headline casters to cook all sorts of stories to dent his well-polished image. But, can they kill his destiny? No. It is sheer desperation.
The story of the fall and rise of Sylva in the intricate political power calculus of Nigeria is like the political thriller of the century, illuminating the mystery of an extraordinary politician who continues to fascinate Nigerians. Even as notable and discerning politicians across the country have started realizing that the game has changed, not a handful know that the political pendulum is swinging towards Sylva. But when the refrain is now relayed in anecdotal remarks, those who can read between the lines should now understand that the game is up. Therefore, the fall and rise of Timipreye Sylva is about the most elegant and happiest story in Nigerian political history. Young, experienced, energetic, brilliant and caring, Sylva is a modern day phenomenon whose corpus requires a large canvas.
Even before he became Governor on May 27, 2008, Sylva, a consummate technocrat and politician, learned the rope in the management of the Petroleum and Gas industry when he worked as Senior Special Assistant to Chief Edmund Daukoru who was then Minister of State for Energy and Petroleum Resources between July 2005 and May 2007. Since the appointment of Sylva as Minister of State for Petroleum in 2019, the unnerving failure in the sector has ceased. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which hitherto could not service its metropoles, has suddenly woken up to its responsibility. A deliberate approach towards entrenching transparency, integrity and probity has been introduced in the management of the ministry. This new approach was integrated through the deployment of new templates which encourage goal-setting for meeting and assessing key performance indicators at the end of targets. Implemented across all levels, this approach has yielded positive results and made meetings more proactive and reports more result-oriented. It is important to note that the various departments and agencies under the ministry have come together to develop an industry-wide IT platform to provide online, real-time information on product supply and distribution. This strategic management policy came handy in ameliorating the fuel scarcity threat which would have resulted from the #ENDSARS protests which rocked the country in October last year.
It is important to emphasize here that the inherent shortfall in gasoline supply had been mismanaged for decades. Barefaced corruption in the industry had aggravated poor management to an untold magnitude. At a time, the importation of petroleum products was the family business of a head of state. The havoc done to the economy by this singular act is simply unprecedented and unacceptable. But the publication of the NNPC’s audit reports since 2019 when Sylva came on board, the monthly publication of its expenses and those of its subsidiaries and its success story and that of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) with attendant celebration of the Oil & Gas industry by the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) under Sylva cannot be overemphasized. For space constraint, we can’t enumerate here the numerous achievements the ministry has recorded so far under his watch. Here is a man who was almost rendered jobless due to political miscalculation. Then in 2013, Sylva became one of the prime movers and rallying points in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He virtually donated his hotel in Abuja free of charge to the party for almost all party activities.
Amor, literary critic and journalist, lives in Abuja