Yakubu Ibn Mohammed
When I got out of bed in the wee hours of Saturday, May 30, 2020, and stumbled into the restroom, the thought on my mind was to get in there, do what I had to do, get back to bed and slumber off before getting up again for the early morning prayer some one and a half hours later.
Little did I know that a blink from my phone signifying a post, SMS or WhatsApp alert would put an end to that plan.
On my return from the restroom, I discovered that the blink was a Facebook post conveying the news of the demise of Dr. Maikanti Baru, immediate past Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
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I picked up my phone, read the post, and almost immediately dropped it on my bed as though it was laced with the coronavirus or it was a source of some toxins capable of inducing physical aches and pains.
Now clear-eyed, I picked it up again and made to call a friend, Ndu Ughamadu, who was until recently the Group General Manager Corporate Affairs of the NNPC for confirmation. I ended up not making the call having realized the unholiness of the hour (3am) and went back to sleep.
At noon, I made yet another attempt at confirmation but each time I picked up the phone my nerves melted, and the call was aborted. However, after casting off the delay, procrastination, and slow-walking, I finally made the call that confirmed the morbid authenticity of the Facebook post – the demise of Dr. Maikanti Baru. This was hours after his internment in Abuja according to Islamic rites.
An indigene of Misau in Bauchi State, Dr. Barn’s uncommon brilliance was evident from his days at the Federal Government College Jos where his record of six straight As earned him a unique West African School Certificate distinction in 1978 which still remains unequalled.
The unsurpassed excellence continued in his days at the Ahmadu Bello University with a first-class degree in Mechanical Engineering. In 1987, he added another academic feather of excellence by obtaining a PhD in Computer-Aided Engineering from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.
After a stint in the Jos Steel Rolling Company, Dr. Baru joined the National Engineering and Technical Company (NETCO), a subsidiary of the NNPC in 1991.
His fundamental commitment to integrity and honesty in Public Service became manifestly evident when as Manager Operations of the Procurement Management Services (PROMAS) of the NNPC, he saved over $70m for the corporation in six months. Perhaps this accounted for his appointment as Chairman of the Corporation’s anti- corruption committee.
In his 28-year illustrious stint in the NNPC, he served at various times as General Manager Gas Development Division of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Executive Director Nigerian Gas Company Warri, Managing Director Hyson Limited, President of Carlson Bermuda Limited, Group Executive Director Exploration and Production and NNPC’s Chief Technical Negotiator on the West African Gas Pipeline Project.
In all these assignments and responsibilities, Baru acquitted himself most creditably and glowed like the star he truly was. To many discerning followers of the man’s career in the NNPC, his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as NNPC’s 18th Group Managing Director on July 4, 2016, was the most natural culmination of his years of unalloyed loyalty to the corporation.
Dr. Baru’s academic excellence over the years saw him winning various prizes and bagging first position prizes from his Forms One to Five in all the nine subjects he offered for WAEC in his secondary school, the best Parts One and Two Mechanical Engineering Student, the Best Technical Drawing Student in Parts One and Two, the Shell BP Petroleum Prize for the Best Final Year Mechanical Engineering Investigation Project at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Dr. Baru also attended prestigious institutions such as Harvard Business School, USA; College of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Oxford, UK; Columbia University Business School, New York, and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, California, USA, amongst others.
As Group Managing Director of the NNPC, he encouraged an atmosphere in the corporation for people to tell him the truth no matter the consequences even to himself. This way he built a reservoir of trust that made his tenure the success story it was.
Not a man of imposing or intimidating stature, although slightly heavily built, he epitomized humility and a singularity of purpose in the service of God and humanity.
A devoted family man and a devout Muslim, Dr. Baru could not resist the magnetic pull of his seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge as one of the first things he embarked upon after retirement was to enrol at an Egyptian Islamic theological institution for a course of study.
His demise at the relatively young age of 61, painful as it is, is a further reminder of the inevitability of the fate that awaits all mortals. All said and done, his was a life well-spent and we pray for the blissful repose of his soul in Aljanna Firdausi – the highest final abode of the righteous.
Yakubu Ibn Mohammed is the Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).