When the unconventional happens, the aftermath is the undesirable. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule of getting punished for challenging the status quo, and as rare as these exceptions are, they still exist in the face of unyielding opposition to change. Most spared change agents obtained their legitimacy from the masses whose cause they fight and cross they bear.
Stella Oduah in her capacity as the Aviation minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is saddled with the responsibility of transforming a dying sector into a state of activeness that would support economic growth and national development. The tasks before her are very clear and the routes to accomplishing them are equally visible but not without making enemies and crossing established paths in the aviation sector except she would just go and be remembered as a minister like many who had passed through the sector.
Stella would rather not be a number but a person of impact. This choice threw into the battle field peopled by individuals and institutions with capacity to fight in the murky water of Nigerian politics. The delectable feline-eyed lady of accomplishment certainly could not guess how dirty the battle could get until a fortnight ago. Perhaps she might have been warned and given insights into what could happen if she rolls the wheel of change that will move the tide against the perceived untouchables in the Aviation sector but her resolve for change would not allow warnings to deter her.
Before Stella, there were no perishable agro-cargo terminals that could enhance farm-to-market distribution chain, guarantee food security and facilitate economic development in the rural areas through easy exchange of farm produce for foreign exchange. Then, these services were within the remit of a group of individuals charging exorbitantly for facilitating trade between rural farmers and the international market.
Analysts with deep knowledge of the sector had opined that she would not go without any bruise because her achievements which are receiving resounding commendations home and abroad are detested by the ‘special class’ whose monopoly her transformation has broken.
In her Aviation Road Map, Stella Oduah highlighted the need for rural farmers who may not have the opportunity of flying on a plane to reap the benefits of existence of facilities such as airports in our country. Consequently, she aggressively designated Perishable Agro-Cargo Terminals in Jos, Yola, Asaba, Enugu, Akure, Makurdi and Lagos. The spread of these terminals will continue to Akure, Bauchi, Ibadan, Calabar, Jalingo, Kano and Owerri.
Stella Oduah is resolute in her resolve to transform the aviation sector in Nigeria. Notwithstanding the clogs on her path to achieving the highlighted agenda, Stella had bent-backwards and surpassed herself in driving the developmental initiatives which sap as much energy as brain. In the pipeline are schemes that would support the establishment of free trade and export processing zones at the four major airports in Nigeria, namely Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
As if she brought the initiatives from heaven, she executes them effortlessly and in a manner that fans the embers of envy. She has indeed achieved so much within a short period of her supervisory role in the sector. Still, her determination and body language are unequivocal on the fact that there are greater days ahead for the sector under her continued watch.
She envisioned the need for nine Pilgrims Terminal Buidlings at Minna, Ilorin, Ibadan, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Katsina, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Lagos as well as the relocation of the domestic passenger airport terminal in Abuja to the B&D wings of the NAIA international airport for greater convenience and service. These initiatives are not without their opposition, individuals who are affected by the simplification of the Nigerian aviation processes are at dagger-drawn with the aviation minister for her seeming disregard for the untouchables in her revolutionary development of the sector.
Under Stella’s watch, there have been remodeling of 19 airports and reconstruction of control towers, runways resurfacing and installation of new weather systems, with the activation of the Aerotropolis in the waiting for the use of Nigerians. But these feats were only accomplished because she challenged the status quo, and touched the ‘established order’ in the sector. Expectedly, there must be a fight back by the group who cannot operate without having undue advantage over others.
Bitter and battered, the untouchables have waged a vindictive war against the minister, a reformer whose love for the nation propelled to challenge the existing inefficiency and exploitation in the aviation sector. Her efforts appear to have angered the self-loving group but Stella seemed not to be worried by the ploys of this aggrieved cabal to scuttle her developmental agenda for the aviation sector. The pace at which she recreates most of the facilities in the aviation sector which had almost become artifacts, signals her firm belief in the pronouncement of posterity and divine reward for change agents.