Our attention has been drawn to an article entitled, ‘’The Scandal In Aviation’’, written by one Obi Nwakanma, a columnist in your newspaper. In the write up, he wrote things that were not only deeply malicious and untrue but were also clearly defamatory and were designed to mislead the public and impugn the character and integrity of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode who is our client and a respected and well-known public figure.
Chief Fani-Kayode was not only the Minister of Culture and Tourism under the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was also presidential spokesman to Obasanjo for a number of years and later appointed Minister of Aviation. We are not in the least bit concerned about the columnist’s opinions about Chief Fani-Kayode or anyone else but what we take strong objection to are his pernicious lies, his mendacious fabrications and the continuous free expression of his malevolent and hate-filled disposition towards our client.
We shall take this opportunity to point out the fact that this is the second time that your columnist has maligned and libelled Chief Fani-Kayode, the first time being a few months ago during the Igbo/Yoruba debate in which he made some very disparaging remarks about him. Yet it did not stop there. On Sunday, the 27th of October, we woke up to discover that Nwakanma had done it again by writing the essay that is presently under consideration.
His obsession with Chief Fani-Kayode is truly larger than life. He is so filled with venom and hate that he has continued his worthless diatribe against a man that has not only served his country well but that has also saved lives by stopping crashes in the aviation sector when he was Minister. It is amazing that the columnist seems unable to rid himself of his igbocentric nature and sentiments and that he cannot desist from attempting to pass off fiction as fact.
In journalism we are told ‘’opinion is cheap but facts are sacred’’. Yet Nwankanma seems to have forgetten that principle or, in the case of Chief Fani-Kayode, he has recklessly thrown it out of the window. Not only is he vulgar and uncouth in all his ways but he is also given to telling fat lies and indulging in vicious mendacities. In short, Obi Nwakanma is a liar of the first order and a man that is motivated and subsumed with hatred.
He cannot see beyond his nose or beyond his eastern origins. In his latest swipe at Chief Fani-Kayode, he wrote, inter alia, that Stella Oduah, the embattled Minister of Aviation, had ‘’become the object of a certain Mr. Fani-Kayode’s eyes and lust for the ethnic other (meaning the Igbos)’’. He went further by writing ‘’whispered hints suggested that it all had to do with Oduah raining on FFK’s Bicourtney parade or some unfinished business involving certain personal interests at aviation’’. He ended it by writing, ‘’in all these Oduah managed to shrug off her adversaries and seemed rather coy about it. Note-when she recently laughed off Fani-Kayode and told him to get off whatever he must be smoking’’.
These are Obi Nwakanma’s words and the innuendo is clear for the world to see. We shall not take it lightly and Mr. Nwakanma will be put to the strictest test and proof of Chief Fani-Kayode’s ‘’smoking’’ anything when he offered his counsel to Stella Oduah or at any other time. Such malicious and baseless assertions and slurs are best reserved for usage by motor park touts and school yard bullies and certainly not by a columnist of one of the most respected newspapers in Nigeria and on the African continent.
Not only was our client not ‘’smoking’’ anything when he offered his counsel to Oduah and to the president but he answered Oduah, in his characteristically eloquent manner, by telling her that the only influence that he was under when he advised her to resign and when he called for her sack was the influence of the Holy Spirit. Subsequent events may well have proved that to be true because ever since that call, Oduah has been completely exposed for what she is by forces that are clearly beyond her. As a matter of fact, her entire world appears to be falling apart. Perhaps if she had taken Chief Fani-Kayode’s advice and resigned immediately after the Associated Airlines plane crash, she could have avoided all this.
As if this was not bad enough then came the second lie from Obi Nwakanma and perhaps the most grievious and damaging lie of all. The suggestion that Chief Fani-Kayode has any business connections or interests in the aviation industry with Bicourtney or any other company or persons is another of his baseless fabrications and a manifestation of his fanciful and reckless imagination.
The truth is that there is absolutely no link between Chief Fani-Kayode and Bicourtney other than the fact that Dr. Wale Babalakin, who is the Chairman of Bicourtney, is a family and childhood friend to Chief Fani-Kayode and that they went to Cambridge University together. Dr. Babalakin’s law firm are also lawyers to Chief Fani-Kayode and this is a matter of public knowledge.
One wonders how and when such a proximate association and deep friendship, which has spanned over a period of 35 years, can possibly translate into having business interests with one another in aviation or elsewhere or how it can possibly be described as a crime or viewed with suspicion? Should Chief Fani-Kayode have declined from going to the Ministry of Aviation when he was redeployed there by President Obasanjo simply because Babalakin is a stakeholder in that sector?
The truth is that Chief Fani-Kayode was as hard on Babalakin as he was on everyone else when he went to aviation and it is on record that he actually closed down the airlines of two of his closest friends because they did not meet up to safety standards. Till today, those two airlines have not flown again. He also refused to accept and endorse the newly created AIB Accident Interim Report of the 2005 Bellview crash which was presented to him by the pioneer CEO of the AIB Engineer Oduselu in 2007.
That plane belonged to another close friend and the report cleared that friend of any wrongdoing. Yet Fani-Kayode refused to endorse it because, according to him, the report did not go far enough and did not explain the cause of the fire that brought down the plane. So much for Chief Fani-Kayode bending the rules for his friends or helping them out.
He had every opportunity to do that but he refused to do so and instead treated them with the same level of caution, discipline and professionalism that he treated everyone else. As a matter of fact, that was the secret of his success. For anyone that knows him and knows the way he operates to suggest otherwise is utter and complete madness and they are either being malicious or are plain ignorant. One really does wonder how these sick minds think and the truth is that Nwaknama must be in a position to prove this in court if he can.
For the record, we repeat that Chief Fani-Kayode has no business interests in aviation, no interests in Bicourtney or any other company that does business in aviation and no reason to call for the resignation of Stella Oduah other than the fact that, under her watch, no less than 200 people have been killed in six air crashes in the space of two years.
Three months after she assumed office, helicopters and planes started dropping from the sky and they have not stopped since. This is a matter of concern for anyone that is not only sensitive and responsible but especially so for someone who once ran the same Ministry and who put a stop to the terrible cycle of plane crashes that took place in the one year before he came in.
Lest some have forgotten let us restate the facts. During that one year before Chief Fani-Kayode was redepolyed to the Ministry of Aviation, no less than five crashes occurred and no less than 453 people were killed. It was a period of sheer horror in which the aviation sector was not only in a state of disarray but also in a state of emergency.
Everyone was scared to fly in Nigeria at the time, airline operators were cutting corners, the oversight agencies were not doing their jobs properly and morale in the sector was very low. Chief Fani-Kayode came in, acted with a firm hand and military precision, reformed the sector, made everyone sit up, put a stop to the crashes, won the confidence of the public to fly in Nigeria again and for the seven months that he was there not one person died from our skies.
Sadly three months after he left and President Obasanjo’s tenure ran out, the reforms and strict safety measures that he put in place were jettisoned by the incoming administration and the crashes began again. There is no other Minister of Aviation in the last 11 years in our country that has had no loss of life under his or her watch other than Chief Fani-Kayode.
This is a fact and this remains so even though some of those Ministers were only in aviation for three or four months. It makes perfect sense for a man with a clean and wholesome safety record like that to speak out and offer some counsel to the authorities and to criticise the government when people are being killed in crashes in our skies.
This is made all the more so when the Minister of that sector had the effrontery to tell the Nigerian people that such crashes were ‘’acts of God that were inevitable’’. One wonders if Nwaknama would have been so hostile to Chief Fani-Kayode’s call for the Minister to resign or to be removed if he had lost his entire family in one of those crashes as other people have done.
Frankly the columnist has shown the insensitivity of a beast and the tendency of the proverbial blind ostrich that has stuck it’s head in the ground and sees nothing if he can suggest for one minute that Chief Fani-Kayode’s call for Oduah’s resignation was borne out of anything but a deep sense of patriotism, compassion and genuine concern for the safety of Nigerian fliers.
The suggestion that such counsel came due to any imaginary business interests in aviation or any anti-Igbo sentiment or ‘’lust for the other’’ (whatever that may mean) is not only balderdash but it reflects the kind of gutter-infested and filthy mind that Nwakanma and those who commissioned him to do this dirty job must have. Even more pitiable is his suggestion that Oduah ‘’laughed the matter off’’.
If that is what Nwakanma calls laughing, then perhaps he needs to go back to school. Stella Oduah was not only visibly shaken and emotionally wounded by Fani-Kayode’s call for her resignation but she has been crying ever since. As a matter of fact, she literally sees Fani-Kayode under her bed and she regards him, quite unfairly, as being the person behind her numerous travails today.
She got far more than she bargained for when he responded to her insulting comments by calling her a ‘’market woman’’ and a ‘’fish wife’’ and by telling her to act with the level of decorum, maturity and seriousness that her office demands. More importantly, he publicly challenged her to a live television debate on both his tenure and hers, and ever since that challenge, Oduah has kept silent.
If her record was so good and Fani-Kayode’s so bad ,why should this be so? Other than directing her minions, consultants and staff to be writing tendentious, disingenuous and libellous essays in the newspapers about Chief Fani-Kayode, most of which make little sense and bear no logic, Oduah has kept her mouth shut and that is perhaps the smartest thing she has done so far.
Yet things are not getting any better in the aviation sector itself. In fact, they are getting worse. Shortly after the altercation between the two of them, there was a collision between two planes in Lagos airport and then, as if God, Himself wanted to expose the Minister’s deals in aviation, the 1.6 million USD car scandal broke. Since then every single right-thinking Nigerian (apart from a few die-hard loyalists who hail from her Igbo stock, her staff at the Ministry and her numerous consultants) have echoed and supported Fani-Kayode’s call for Stella Oduah to be fired by the President or to resign and the country, and indeed the aviation sector, has not been the same since.
If she ever ‘’laughed’’ anything off as the columnist is suggesting, she certainly isn’t laughing anymore. If Obi Nwakanma wishes to help his ‘’Igbo sister’’ in these troubling times, the best he can do is to ask her to resign, pray for her and focus on publicising her so-called ‘’wonderful achievements’’ and not make childish, baseless and libelous assertions against her perceived enemies or adversaries.
It is my honest opinion that Nwakanma himself is in serious need of some kind of counseling or prayer otherwise he would be more alive to the dangers of flying in Nigeria under the watch of Stella Oduah. Her sheer incompetence has not just led to the death of almost 200 people in two years but it has also resulted in the uncovering of the greatest car scam in the history of Nigeria.
One would have thought that Nwakanma would focus on that rather than use his ever-malicious column and poisonous pen to malign and disparage those that he hates with such deep passion. The truth is that as long as Stella Oduah is at aviation our skies shall remain a death trap. Let us hope that when the next crash occurs that Obi Nwakanma and his family are not on the plane or in the helicopter. That is my prayer for him and his loved ones. He ended his column by asserting that the entire aviation sector under Oduah ‘’stinks’’. Many will agree with him on that. What he may not appreciate is the fact that his column ‘’stinks’’ almost as badly.
*Ayodeji is a legal practitioner.