By Rahma Oladosu
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
– William Shakespeare, in Macbeth
If the popular saying that there is a very thin line between life and death never made sense before, it should make sense now. The events of the last 48 hours should awaken the consciousness of the most drab person to the ephemeral and unpredictable nature of life… The fact that a man can propose but it is within the powers of the celestial forces to dispose… Men should therefore learn not to beat their chest and say I will do this and that…
One moment he was in seat of power being welcomed in ‘red carpeted’ pomp and pageantry, and praised to high heavens by all and sundry including the most powerful man in the country… And the next moment, he is transiting to the great beyond…and thereby cancelling all the grand plans to enjoy a well deserved retirement.
After bathing him with deserved encomiums for his dedicated service to the country and the global oil and gas community, President Muhammadu Buhari had gone ahead to instruct the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to organise a befitting welcome ceremony for him at a later date. To borrow the words of King Macbeth above who was mourning the sudden death, by suicide, of his wife, Lady Macbeth, in that Shakespearean classic, that presidential order is now looking like “a tale told by an idiot.”
Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo is arguably the most celebrated individual in the rich history of oil and gas governance in Nigeria. A well read, astute manager of men and resources, Barkindo’s rise to the pinnacle of oil and gas management in Nigeria and the peak of global oil and gas politics, was organic as it was meteoric.
Born on the 20th of April 1959, Barkindo completed his bachelor’s degree in political science from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1981 and has a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Washington University in 1991. In 1988, he had earned a postgraduate diploma in Petroleum Economics from Oxford University
In 1982-1985, with the influence of his mentor, Late Rilwan Lukman, he worked with Nigerian Mining Corporation, Jos, up to the Level of principal administrative officer, Liaison Office in Lagos.
Later in his career, he was special assistant to Lukman, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources and also OPEC Secretary General.
He made his debut in the global energy politics in 1986 when he was appointed to be on Nigeria’s delegation to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Summit. From 1993 to 2008, he served meritoriously as Nigeria’s National Representative on the Organization’s Economic Commission Board. In 2006, he was Acting OPEC Secretary General, and represented Nigeria on OPEC’s Board of Governors from 2009 to 2010.
From 2009 to 2010, he was back home to serve as Group Managing Director and CEO of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Prior to that, he served as Deputy Managing Director of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas.
Barkindo has been the leader of Nigeria’s technical delegation to the UN climate change negotiations since 1991. He served as Chair of the Group of 77 and China at the UNFCCC and was elected to serve three terms as Vice President of the Conference of the Parties – COP13 (Bali, Indonesia), COP14 (Poznan, Poland) and COP15 (Copenhagen, Denmark), where he chaired the opening session.
Barkindo began his tenure as Secretary General of OPEC on 1 August 2016. Few days to his July 31 2022 exit from office, he chose to retire home and indeed the extraterrestrial forces made sure he was called home for his real retirement and final interment.
Fondly called the ‘Stabiliser’ for his rare ability to keep calm in the face of pressure and bring sanity and stability to the volatile global oil and gas industry, the spirits led Barkindo home (Nigeria) when it was time to go home (Heaven) and also led him to the most competent person to give him the best possible parting gift.
As if the spirits also led President Buhari and told him that he won’t get another opportunity, the President did not mince words in thanking Barkindo for his outstanding contributions to global energy governance.
According the the President, his efforts have placed the organisation in a stronger position to confront the challenges it will face in the coming years. He further said that Barkindo had shown an incredible leadership to rally industry players and pushed through the turbulent times.
To end his remarks, the President said, “we are proud of your achievements before and during your appointment at OPEC and the proud legacies you will leave behind.”
Responding, Barkindo had recounted how the counsel from President Buhari helped in the birthing of the Declaration of Cooperation of OPEC and non-OPEC oil-producing countries, after he assumed office in Vienna, Austria in 2016 during a downturn in the sector when oil prices plunged to less than 10 U.S dollars per barrel.
He also noted that the Declaration of Cooperation, which is now in its sixth year, also helped the organisation to navigate the turbulence in the market occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He added that OPEC is now in the final lap of restoring the production figures due to rebound in the global market and economy, and having survived the major turbulences in 2016 and 2020, he expressed confidence that the worst is over and the future looks very promising for the organisation.
But as fate would have it, Barkindo will not see that promising future. Hours after making that philosophical speech in front of the President of Nigeria, the iconic oil and gas guru succumbed to Low Blood Pressure – which sources close him said he had been battling for years – and passed on.
Barkindo, whose remains have since been buried in his hometown of Yola, Adamawa state, lived an exemplary life and died in extraordinary, though, shocking circumstances.
His depth of understanding of the industry and impact on the sector will forever be missed by colleagues and stakeholders in the global energy community.