The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi is as beautiful as she is hard working. Never in recent times have we had a minister, especially a woman, who has made her impact felt in her assigned task like this princess from Anambra.
I must say that when she was assigned to the Ministry of Aviation in 2011, I was one of the skeptics, who thought her appointment had more to do with her looks than what she had to offer in spite of the fact that she played an active role in the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Arc Namadi Sambo as President and Vice-President respectively. She was the duo’s campaign Director of Administration and Finance.
But she soon settled right in and two years after, Mrs. Oduah-Ogiemwonyi would ‘transform’ our typical motor park look-like airports into something of an organized, remodeled and upgraded motor-park! Apologies, but I hear the airports are still something of a child’s play when compared to others in some of our neighbouring West African countries. But she did something at least and that is what matters. History will not forget her in a hurry – and I mean that in every sense of the word.
I was a silent admirer of this woman for obvious reasons most importantly, after I was left shell-shocked about the revelations that my own, yes my own, Farouk Lawan, who has always dazzled me way back from 2003, took bribe and even had to stuff some of the gratification inside his cap, during the now forgotten House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy payments.
I digress. Somehow, call me a pessimist but I was still not convinced about Mrs. Oduah-Ogiemwonyi – she simply was just too good to be true and though I did not pray or wish that I was proved wrong about her, I just needed her to be my heroin. There are too many confused empty heads or ‘dead woods’ as one Tony Uranta famously put it in the present administration that I just needed one person (was I asking too much?) to be a shining light and a beacon of hope that all is not lost!
I have taken the last four paragraphs or so to try and eulogise Mrs. Oduah-Ogiemwonyi as well as impress it on the reader to understand where I’m coming from as regards my disappointment in this Amazon. Having said that may I quickly warn the ethnic voltrons, who are quick to whip up tribal sentiments in the face of facts, that this is not an opinion based on tribal bias, but one of a concerned citizen.
On Tuesday, Sahara Reporters had published an exclusive report with evidence of paper trail, which suggested that the aviation minister, Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi, had abused her office by compelling the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, to purchase two armoured BMW cars for her use to the tune of N255 million.
Personally, I’d hoped it was a false alarm. That this was another report designed to tarnish the good image and reputation of the minister; so I decided to siddon-look as we would say to see where the unfolding drama would end. And it ended too soon.
It ended too soon not because the minister pleaded ‘guilty’ to this particular allegation but because the General Manager, Corporate Communications of the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Yakubu Datti attempted to bamboozle us with a very familiar rhetoric of how the aviation minister was very successful before she was appointed to public office.
In a denial that smacked of very stupid pride, lack of understanding of public relations and an assault on the sensibilities of millions of Nigerians, Mr. Datti had told PREMIUM TIMES, “I don’t respond to rumours… [and] as we approach 2015, people are bound to make up all sorts of stories,” further arguing blindly that, “This is a woman (Mrs. Oduah), who is successful and established. A woman that made her mark in oil and gas, who owned trucks, barges, and so on. What is two cars?”
Really? What is two cars? That cost tax-payers over N200 million in a country where millions still go to bed hungry? Lecturers are on a prolonged strike over claims by the federal government that the economy will collapse if all the demands by ASUU are met? Are these peoples serious? Do they even have the faintest clue what governance is about?
And as if to spit in Mr. Datti’s face, the aviation minister’s spokesperson, Mr. Joel Obi attempted to defend the indefensible by whipping up sentiments in the public domain.
He claimed that when the minister came on board with her reforms, which included reversing some concessions and agreements that were not in the interest of the people and government of Nigeria which led some entrenched interests (I’m surprised he didn’t use ‘cabal’) to feel like they had been dislocated from the sector.
“The minister began to receive series of threats to her life, but because of the general lack of security in the land, she did not want to raise an alarm but kept it quiet and then decided to protect herself. So those vehicles were purchased in response to the general state of security in the land and the personal threats to her life because of the giant steps she has taken to reposition the sector”, Mr. Obi said.
Just three questions for the minister: Is Mrs. Oduah-Ogiemwonyi trying to tell Nigerians that despite the elaborate security detail which she obviously enjoys among others, which also are a drain on the nation’s resources, she had to spend N255 million of ‘our’ lean resources on two special purpose vehicles? What happens to hundreds of Nigerians, who are killed on a daily by Boko Haram or armed robbers just because they don’t enjoy the type and level of protection that she enjoys?
If a minister’s life was under threat, as she claims now but decided to ‘keep it quiet’ and ‘protect herself’, how are we supposed to believe that? When did her ‘protection’ become a license to compel a government agency under her watch to purchase expensive armoured cars for her use? Where did the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, raise the money from? Was it budgeted? Were illegal levies imposed on airlines or were they subtly compelled to contribute towards the minister’s ‘protection?’
Does the minister have any modicum of patriotism in her at all? Because my thinking is if she did, she would have realized that patriots are not easily cowed or frightened by death threats but simply embrace it as a necessary sacrifice for the larger good. And nobody should preach any gender sentiment about it. Even in Nigeria, history is replete with the heroics of brave women, who died to preserve the sanctity and unity of this country. Why is Mrs. Oduah-Ogiemwonyi’s case different?
It is my humble belief that the aviation minister, as a woman of noble origins and enlightened one for that matter, will lead by example and tender her resignation letter to President Goodluck Jonathan without delay failure of which, she should be sacked!
The armoured cars, which I read were purchased from a local automobile dealership, should be returned and re-sold with the proceeds returned to government coffers.
Mr. Yakubu Datti should also tender his resignation for misleading the public and treating the Nigerian people with disdain failure of which, he should be sacked also.
I have tried not to accuse the aviation minister of corruption here or blamed her purchase of two armoured cars for the recent air mishaps we have experienced but simply blamed her for abuse of public trust, conflict of interest and presuming her personal safety is more important or that her life is more valuable than thousands of Nigerians, who are killed either by bullets from the guns of terrorists, armed robbers or policemen, that are paid to protect citizens.
Nigerians must stand up now, more than ever before to demand the removal of Princess Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi from office. Enough is enough!
*Ayodele Daniel is a content creator at Information Nigeria