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Africa Oil Week has been the go-to place for the Oil and Gas industry. Rumors have it that they received a lot of money from the Dubai Expo and were quick to ditch Cape Town South Africa for Dubai. They used Covid as an excuse. 

In an audacious move, the African Energy Chamber the unapologetic pro-oil lobby in the continent decided to organized African Energy Week during the same dates of November 9th to 12th in Cape Town South Africa. 

I attended African Energy Week when I read about the charismatic and Trump like Character multi-millionaire oil lawyer, NJ Ayuk who acts like a country boy but very savvy in his operations. He figured out how to get corporations to pay him millions of dollars to talk oil and talk coal and talk gas with a slick tongue of a southern Baptist preacher with a penchant for going aftr opponents in a Trump-like fashion. Some delegates admire his ability to fight back and his take no prisoner approach. I have read a lot about the African Energy Chamber, and I wanted to see if they will pull this off. I wanted to know the engine behind them. So, I went to African Energy Week in Cape Town and was shocked by the massive operation. You saw cameras everywhere and a lot of happy people. Long lines to test for covid and people hugging each other and dignitaries talking to everyone one. 

But there is a back story how this happen. 

Look at the list of American Participants at African Energy Week. 

• Ryan Zinke, former U.S. Secretary of Interior under former-President Donald Trump. Zinke is known for distributing oil licenses like someone giving out candy at Halloween. 

• Scott Taylor former Navy SEAL who served as United States Congressman

• Erik Prince Founder of Blackwater and Chief Mercenary Officer. Brother of Betsy Devos, Trump’s education Secretary. 

• Peter Pham- Former United States Special Envoy for the Sahel Region of Africa under Trump. 

• Frank Fannon, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, US Department of State under Trump

• Robert Stryk, Trump Lobbyist and CEO of Stryk Global Diplomacy

And the list goes on. 

First African Energy Week was a successful well-run event. a better event than you will see in the United States. The substance and content and also the style was impressive. There were white demonstrators against Africans using fossil fuels and I think it was a gift to Mr Ayuk who wanted to blame someone if anything went wrong. 

The conference started with hardcore messages supporting Fossil Fuels from many African Ministers. Mr Ayuk led this with his normal salvo. When Ayuk walked up to the podium, a little bit tired and but he looked around like a preacher ready for a sermon in front of hardcore evangelicals. He wore a dark-blue suit, white shirt and his signature red tie as he stood on the raised, intricately carved limestone pulpit, looking down at many people that showed up to this oil and gas show. He seemed, for Ayuk, restrained, a little uncomfortable maybe tied. He was not nervous but aware of the timing. One observer who has known Ayuk for years stated, “whoever thought a few years ago that NJ Ayuk would be preaching Oil and Gas in Cape Town and defending capitalism and raging against development aid by liberals?”

In the American twilight zone of political chicanery, operatives and wheeler dealers often cooperate across ideological lines. In this case I am amazed by how Trump officials infiltrated the African Energy Chamber and supported it in its massive take down of Africa Oil Week. This is a classic case of whenever their interests coincide, seasoned mischief-makers can set aside superficial disagreements to harass a common enemy. Africa Oil Week in London has been going green and building this European narrative on oil for Africa. Ayuk and the Chamber and the Trumpers are hardcore oil people and the Trumpers decided to use Ayuk and the African Energy Week to get into Africa and use Africa to send a message to COP26 and the west. Indeed, the alliance between the Trump officials, fundraisers and consultants and the charismatic African oil man makes perfect sense.

Whatever excuse each offers to justify their embarrassing embrace, Trump officials certainly serves the Republican party by sustaining and promoting Ayuk. Ever since Ayuk announced African Energy Week,  right-leaning commentators have gleefully predicted that he will pose “a major threat” to the left and Africa Oil Week. For Ayuk himself, the attraction of endless publicity for Oil and gas remains irresistible, along with the opportunity to supplant and put his finger at former French collaborators who cheated him and stabbed him is also a drive. You watch him talk and you know he wants to remake the African oil industry in the image of his mentor and best friend Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima. These two are actually dangerous and will do anything to promote oil and gas and forget their green talk. They don’t love green energy. Gabriel Obiang could not even name a green project in Equatorial Guinea. 

Robert Stryk, a friend of Ayuk and a Washington lobbyist involvement in African Energy Week only suggests how pervasively Trump officials influence the African Energy Chamber and their message. Their role is even more crucial. They assisted African Energy Chamber with staffing, financing, and often its message. Look at how the Chamber went after Africa Oil Week in the lead up to the clash in conferences. It was a textbook American polarization. Ayuk confessed that polarization is good if that’s what it takes to defend Africa’s oil and gas. He went to Glasgow and raged against climate activist. He created a message “Making Energy Poverty History”. During the conference, Frank Fannon called it brilliant branding and many oil zealots said it was their response to climate activist. Trump officials even advised on the program which saw renewable relegated to the last day of the conference. 

We must ask why the African Energy Chamber emerged as a contender for Africa’s energy poverty campaign and the oil industry. The answer is simple and should be deeply troubling: Mr Ayuk and the African Energy Chamber were the only ones with the guts and the courage to step forward. Such was also the case with many cases where he use his US legal education to make millions of dollars by suing corporations and shaking them down for more money with the help of Gabriel Obiang and many African leaders. When many African leaders are in crisis or there is a big dispute or a big deal needs to be mounted, Ayuk was on point. When African anger rose on the unfairness of the west at Africa on climate change, Ayuk rose to the occasion – year, after year, after year.

Climate activist and many liberals are quick to denounce Ayuk as an opportunist and publicity seeker – as if they were telling the oil industry and Africans something they didn’t know. Talking to many oil men and Africans in Cape Town, they will say Africa and the Oil Industry desperately needed publicity, and an opportunity to be heard. Ayuk and the Chamber and their Trump Bro’s seized the spotlight and shook things up, which was a lot better than nothing. During the conference many will explain stories of Ayuk stepping up for them to provide legal or strategic advise and in some cases financial support something they will never get from the London base Africa Oil week and greedy liberals who just want to take from Africa. 

Africa Oil Week is set for a return match with Africa Energy Week in 2022. I watched an interview of its Africa head Paul Sinclair on SABC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlqIRHnI_DA   This guy is no match to Ayuk. Ayuk and his AEC team are podium ready. The camara goes on the AEC team is all smiles and they know are well trained to look at the camera angles and you might think they are using teleprompters but they are not. They are comfortable and ready to fight. Robert Stryk, his team and republican operatives have done an amazing job in making these guys media savvy. They look like fox news on steroids.

I watch Sinclair evade every question, I watch Sinclair unable to answer questions on how much income is generated by oil and gas, I watch Paul Sinclair blatantly lie about 1500 people at his Dubai conference and thought this is a gift to the slick operators at the African Energy Chamber who are definitely compiling a list of Africa Oil Week missteps and will be ready to get into a dog fight and they fight hard and nasty. Paul Sinclair use of the word energy poverty basically means the chamber has gotten into their head and I wonder why Africa Oil Week will let Ayuk and the Chamber define the narrative. Two previous employees were frustrated that Ayuk is able to manipulate such a big audience when there are better Africans but one said they admire his guts to take on the difficult issues but have no respect for his ruthless attitude towards anyone who crosses him. One believes the Chamber and Centurion should be audited.  It’s reported that, Ayuk terminated the only white woman on his staff Glenda Benson during her maternity leave because she advised him to comply with Covid protocols. Another delegate at the conference complained they love the Chamber but declined an offer after speaking to a former employee Mandisa Nduli who explained how chaotic it is to work for this pro oil lobby. I approached Ayuk to have an interview. he promised to seat down with me but said he had to talk to protesters. I pushed and he smiled and said the media created me and the Chamber.  “If I did not exist you will miss me” “you are not in Dubai because it’s boring and there is no news to make. I always give you guys something to write about”. We never had a chance to talk but I did not feel he was avoiding me. He was genuinely busy and occupied with a lot of people who showed genuine affection for his work. He pointed to them and told me, “these people will follow me to hell with a gasoline jacket around my back”

When Ayuk went on the same SABC, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8jOiWV8U4g (The potential of renewable energy in Africa: NJ Ayuk)  you heard him talking about different shades of green, using the words God’s children, you heard him get into specifics, you heard him talking about Africa Oil week Power list by saying black women need a job not a list and as they are the last hired an first fired. You saw a savvy lawyer got a textbook takedown or impeachment of an opponent with calm and smiles. 

I looked at Linkedin photos of the Dubai oil week conference and it was all unhappy white males from London mostly consultants talking about Africa to one another. Some delegates in Cape Town told me they abandoned the Dubai conference for Cape Town after day one. The Trump-AEC anti climate team had every African Petroleum Producer and there was more excitement in Cape Town.

I am not a fan of the African Energy Chamber and certainly dislike Ayuk dangerous views on energy transition, but you have to give them credit for their resilience and their discipline. I find it disappointing that the climate crowd and moderates at the Africa Oil Week have let these oil junkies steal the show. I’ve generally supported Africa Oil Week and even IN-VR, but I’ve admired Ayuk and the AEC’s performance in the debates and his articulation of Africa’s positions.

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