An Encounter With Diezani

TELL Cover Page

TELL Cover Page

By Okpara Edozie Samuel

 In a country where almost every public commentator, including average Nigerians, are calling for the head of the former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, writing an article that represents her as an embodiment of humility, empathy and humanity may not be the wisest thing to do.But when the event in this article is experienced by an ordinary, every-day Nigerian who understands like Maya Angelou did that ‘’there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’’, the wisdom in writing such an article literally precipitates out of one’s sub-consciousness and becomes visibly palpable to him. Such was the circumstance that informed my decision to put pen to paper of my lofty convictions about Diezani Alison-Madueke at a time as inauspicious as this.

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But when the event in this article is experienced by an ordinary, every-day Nigerian who understands like Maya Angelou did that ‘’there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’’, the wisdom in writing such an article literally precipitates out of one’s sub-consciousness and becomes visibly palpable to him. Such was the circumstance that informed my decision to put pen to paper of my lofty convictions about Diezani Alison-Madueke at a time as inauspicious as this.

The ex-petroleum minister is now receiving treatments, albeit discomfiting, for cancer. Unlike one Etim Etim, who through his article on page 18 of THISDAY Tuesday, December 8th, 2015, believes that ‘’many Nigerians are not sympathetic to her’’ in her current struggle with this uncontrollably deadly cell division, I not only herein register my profound sympathy for her but I also do believe that the God of all creation, the immortal, the invisible and the only wise God is able to heal her completely and give her a second chance to life.

In 2012, as an NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) member serving in Benin Edo state, I had a fleeting three minutes encounter with the former minister in a standing position. The occasion of our meeting was the 15th International Biennial HSE Conference on the Oil and Gas Industry in Nigeria, which was held inside the congress hall of the Trancorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja from November 5 -7, 2012.

Fully kitted in our 7/7 NYSC regalia, my friends (Obong Ikpaisong and Ebenezer Abu) and I had travelled all the way from Benin, upon securing approval from the relevant NYSC authorities to attend the said conference. There was a heavy downpour that fateful day (Tuesday December 4, 2012) and in our drenched khaki, we managed to find succour at the Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, NCCF family house located in distant Mararaba, a satellite town in Nassarawa state which connects the state to Abuja. Fortunately, the ₦20,000 we had earmarked for registration (which was actually ₦200 higher than our monthly ‘allowee’), was retained courtesy of the benevolence of the chairman of the local organising committee of the conference, Mr Zagi.

And so on the first day of the conference, Diezani had affixed a period to a most erudite and insightful opening speech. The next assignment on her agenda was to inspect the exhibitions on the stands and then allow the conference to continue. Upon completion of these official obligations, she headed for the exit door. But because I was committed to seeing her (like the blind man who cried out to Jesus for help), I pressed myself against the phalanx of the very alert and not too friendly security attaché to her entourage. When she noticed my struggle, she immediately asked her security operatives to leave me alone and she then stretched forth her left arm (as though I was her biological son) and reached out for my left shoulder and said in a very quiet tone, ”calm down…what do you want?”. I was profoundly amazed, to say the least, that these soft words were coming from the mouth of a woman who has suffered so much vituperations and harsh criticisms and has been portrayed on the pages of newspapers as proud, autocratic and insensitive to the plight of the majority of helpless and hapless Nigerians whose only crime is that they are not born into or related to members of our country’s elite class.

I stammered a little in an attempt to answer this question but I eventually told her about our accommodation and mobility challenges. She practically addressed these challenges herself and also assured us that there would always be space for minds like ours to contribute our own quota toward the holistic development of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. This however, has not happened yet due to her insistence on due process even though she could have easily hand-lifted us and placed us into any of the five parastatals under the federal ministry of petroleum resources…

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