Nigeria News

Oduah: The axis of revenge

Stella OduahThe late literary icon, Prof Chinua Achebe was at his proverbial best when he stated in one of his novels that the house the enemy wanted to pull down has caught fire on its own. Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, who had massed a lot of enemies following her landmark reforms in the sector, is that proverbial house the enemy had long wanted to pull down.

It is no secret that the Oduah reforms upstaged the apple-cart in the sector and left some entrenched interests who had claimed the entire aviation patrimony as their personal estate wondering what on earth hit them so fundamentally below the belt.

Coming from a woman with a quiet and unassuming mien; and an almost vulnerable disposition was totally unexpected. Little did the cabal know that behind that cool exterior lies a steely determination to right decades of rape and desecration of the nation’s aviation sector!

Having fed fat on the system, and compromised every aviation minister along the line, the cabal felt it would be business as usual when Oduah came on board. By the time it dawned on them that the old order was truly over, several lopsided, inconsistent and in the words of the Minister herself, ‘’horrible” concession and lease agreements in the sector had either been reviewed or out-rightly cancelled in the overriding public interest.

The battle line appeared clearly drawn, and ever since then the Minister has hardly slept with both eyes closed as the cabal swore to fight with every ounce in their putrefying vaults. The bulletproof car purchase brouhaha presented the excellent opportunity for them to exact their revenge with the hope of dislodging the Minister and returning the sector to the ‘good old days of chop-make-i-chop’.

The concessionaires who were affected in this cleansing exercise fall squarely into this disgruntled and vengeful category. This category is ignobly joined by the ubiquitous stakeholders who believe self-righteously that every aviation minister ought to worship every morning at their feet in order to acquire any form of acceptance or legitimacy.

This clan would later increase with latter-day converts like a particular airline operator whose rabid dream of becoming the new National Carrier is turning into a deadly obsession, governors whose executive impunity is no longer an acceptable conduct under the current reforms as well as the Northern elements who are baying for President Jonathan’s life veins over his alleged 2015 ambition; and conveniently find in one of his most performing Cabinet Ministers, a perfect cannon fodder.

There is also an amorphous group that has been crying blue murder, alleging undue interference by the minister in the running of the agencies.

Each of these individuals and groups has a dubious grievance against the Minister which has nothing to do with any altruistic or patriotic fervour. They equally have one desire in common -to see the Minister quickly out through the back door. It is this coalition of the aggrieved that has coalesced to form the unofficial opposition that is now fuelling the car purchase controversy in the media beyond all reasonable boundaries.

To them, this is no ‘ordinary’ story, hence all and every effort must be made to keep it alive in the public psyche, hoping and praying that the Presidency could, in the process be blackmailed into taking a decision one way or the other in their favour.

Perhaps it is necessary to point out that apart from the oil and gas sector, it is difficult to point at any other sector in Nigeria that has more vicious and entrenched interests like aviation. But unlike the cabals in the oil and gas sector, those in aviation take no prisoners as the current controversy surrounding the purchase of two bulletproof cars has come to conclusively show.

As one reform after another was rolled out of the Oduah reform mill, and Oduah continued to receive one accolade after another, the number of those entrenched interests whose modus operandi was antithetical to the very essence of the reforms, kept multiplying.  What the heck is going on here, they quipped indignantly as decades of rot in the system was cleared and measures to pave the way for a more transparent, accountable and self-sustaining sector were being institutionalised.

It is against the foregoing backdrop that we must interrogate and hazard an unbiased understanding of the on-going controversy and the accompanying, unusual media hype. Now, Saharareporters.com, that online media outfit that has thrown all known professional media ethics to the dogs broke the story of the alleged purchase of two bulletproof cars for the Aviation Minister.

We must not lose sight of the main plank of the Saharareporters story. The story was built on the charge that the Minister ‘’compelled” the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, to procure the vehicles for her in the sum of N255million. To be sure, every other aspect of that report, safe the fact of the purchase has come out to be patently false. This is no surprise as the Saharareporters.com thrives on falsehood, blackmail and other underhand tactics unknown to the media profession.

Tragically however, no one seems to be paying any attention to the other lies peddled by the online medium. For starters, the lie that the Minister ‘compelled’ NCAA to procure the vehicles has been exposed for what it is- a huge lie as investigation by the House Committee has not proved any iota of compulsion on the part of the Minister.

Secondly, there has been no shred of evidence supporting the claims in the report that the vehicles were bought for the Minister. In all their testimonies before the committee, the Minister, NCAA, First Bank, and Cosharis Motors declared that the cars were bought for the operational use of the agency. Instructively, the Committee has not found any evidence to the contrary.

Thirdly, it has emerged that the alleged sum of N255million was never paid to Cosharis Motors as the vehicles were purchased under a Lease Financing arrangement by First Bank plc. Fourthly, the claim that the bulletproof/security vehicles were not captured in the 2013 Appropriation Act is incorrect. Item 6 on the budget listed every other vehicle type and numbers (for example 5 nos Prado jeeps, 10 nos Hilux pick-up vans, etc) in addition to 2 nos security/safety vehicles.

Now, if the House Committee on Aviation members are insisting they never appropriated bulletproof cars for the agency, it is incumbent on them to explain to Nigerians what those 2 nos security/safety vehicles represents because every other vehicle type was listed by brand and quantity to be procured.

If anyone were therefore, to blame for the procurement of the bulletproof cars, it ought to be the Committee that provided the opportunity for the NCAA to interpret the 2 nos security/safety vehicles whichever way it wanted. Or are we to take the Prado Jeeps and Hilux cars which were clearly spelt out both in brand name and quantity to mean the same thing as security/safety vehicles? The honourable thing for the lawmakers to do is to admit that they erred by making an open-ended provision for the purchase of 2 nos security/safety vehicles on Item 6 in the budget without specifying the brand.

Else, it would be taken to mean that the Committee and the entire House is now the latest leg in the nebulous and ever-expanding axis of revenge traducing the Aviation Minister for undertaking drastic reforms to reposition the aviation sector in Nigeria.

Or is there more to it than meets the eye, since we have been told severally that the committee earlier ‘rejected’ the request for bulletproof cars? Did someone play smart by inserting the 2 nos vehicles by subterfuge?

Now we come to the real crust of the matter-the question of culpability or otherwise of the Minister. If what we have read in the newspapers and online media is anything to go by, then it is very unfortunate. Reports indicate that the House Committee found Oduah guilty of ‘abuse of office’ by allegedly exceeding her approval threshold of N100million. We must not lose sight of the fact that the said ‘reports’ were from unofficial sources.

To be sure, the said reports appeared a clear 24 hours before the Certified True Copy of the Report was laid on the table in Plenary. Who leaked the report to the media and what was his or her motivation? Could it be that some underhand dealings had taken place, hence the rush to assure the paymasters that the ‘job’ had been done in accordance with the terms of the agreement?

Whatever the circumstances, the fact is that the leakage casts a long shadow not only on the reputation and integrity of the Report itself, but also over the Committee and entire House. The integrity of a report that found its way to unauthorised hands and even widely published in the media, a clear 24 hours before it was due to be officially presented to the House is, to say the least, already compromised. We are not even interrogating the fact the syndicated Report did not appear to take into any account, the testimony of the Minister in arriving at its the final recommendations.

This scandal should not be allowed to pass as if nothing untoward has happened because this is against all known Legislative Practice and Procedure. The leadership of the House must give the serious attention which this matter deserves by mandating the Committee to produce a fresh Report that would not be tainted by any suspicions of compromise.

This is the only way a Report into this serious investigation will have any measure of credibility and command the legitimacy required of a document from the second highest legislative organ in the land.

Else, it would be taken to mean that the Committee and the entire House is now the latest leg in the nebulous and ever-expanding axis of revenge traducing the Aviation Minister for undertaking drastic reforms to reposition the aviation sector in Nigeria.

 

Mr Obohro Embe a public affairs commentator, wrote from Warri, Delta State.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
https://www.codewit.com

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