Steve Nwosu: Stella Oduah- A minority report

by Steve Nwosu


Like the lynch-mob, however, I am also not moved by revelations that the bid for the accursed vehicles was completed long before the present NCAA DG came on board – long long before the penultimate week’s crash of the Associated Airline chartered flight. I am just appalled at the cost, knowing fully well that same vehicles can be procured for much cheaper.

Just as I was about rounding off this piece yesterday, a report came up on TV that due process was followed in the now controversial purchase of two bullet-proof BMW saloon cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). That, at least, settles the allegation by critics that the public procurement Act was disregarded in the said purchase.

But there is also a reverse side to the argument: What manner of due process would sanction  a price tag of N225 million for two cars, even if they are customised armoured tanks? In fact, if indeed due process was followed, then there must be something ‘undue’ about this due process talisman that government has been waving in our face these past years.

Painfully, that is not even the drift of my argument today. For me, I’d rather view the raging controversy of bulletproof cars from the downside-up perspective.

Of course, I don’t expect the views I am about to express here today to be a very popular one (hence the choice of headline) but I just don’t feel comfortable when public commentators deliberately refuse to look at issues holistically, preferring, instead, to stack argument in support of a pecuniary agenda and forcing us to accept same to be in the interest of public good.

I know the majority of us want Stella Oduah’s head as a early Christmas present. Like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Diezani Allison, Oduah is considered by the critical public, as one of the untouchables of the Jonathan administration. They are like the proverbial elephant, which attracts all manner of buttering knives on the day of its death.

So, it is with some mischievous grin that every ‘butcher’ is now plunging in his knife.

But while everyone is eager to dig in his knife, can’t we just wait for the elephant to die first? In other words, could we tarry a while to look at the other not-too-popular opinions on this Stella Oduah matter.

Yes, I know we are in a democracy where the tyranny of the majority is the norm but I also know that those, who fashioned this form of governance also made provision for the minority to have its say – even as the majority has its way.

Before writing this piece, I must confess, I called up three friends (one each at Coscharis, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the office of the Minster of Aviation, who I feel would be in the picture of what transpired in the controversial purchase of two bullet-proof cars – what my former boss, Pastor Dimgba Igwe, has aptly described as Stellagate. I even made a joke with two of them about wanting to buy my own bulletproof BMWs and not wanting a ‘ministerial price’. Yes, I insisted that while the minister was still contending with perceived danger and threat to life, my own enemies had actually fired a shot into my head. That I was, therefore, at an even bigger risk than the minister. However, I insisted on buying at market price or, if possible, journalist price. I also promised that, unlike the princess minister, I would not drive into trouble. But that is just by the way.

But, despite speaking with all these people and a few others at NAMA and FAAN, I am still as confused as I was when this scandal first broke. The only authenticated information out there remains that the vehicles were indeed bought, that the vehicles were bought by NCAA, that the vehicles are registered in the name of NCAA, that the vehicles are still with the NCAA, that the minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, can use the vehicles whenever she so desires, that other high profile guests of the agency can also use the vehicles.

Nobody has yet to produce any audio, video or written evidence to show that the minister asked for those vehicles. But that does not seem to matter. The vehicles have been allocated to her by the court of ‘contrived’ public opinion and hers they must remain.

Like the lynch-mob, however, I am also not moved by revelations that the bid for the accursed vehicles was completed long before the present NCAA DG came on board – long long before the penultimate week’s crash of the Associated Airline chartered flight. I am just appalled at the cost, knowing fully well that same vehicles can be procured for much cheaper. Of course, I refuse to join the bandwagon argument that this is how government business is done in this part of the world. Even if we have carried on like that up to this moment, there is always a time to say enough is enough. If we resolve to get it right, starting from these BMW cars, so be it. Where I disagree with the mob of latter day aviation rights crusaders, however, is this seeming desperation to hang everything on the minister’s neck

Why is nobody listening to what every other person has to say to the contrary?

Some report even tried to drag Jonathan into the matter, saying there is no way such a purchase could have been done behind the president and the Bureau of public Procurement. The report even went further to ask if the due process for public procurement was followed. But the writer did not bother to answer any of those questions before he went on to conclude: ‘Stella Oduah must resign’. The writer, curiously, did not call for the resignation of the president, the director of BPP or the DG of NCAA

And my take is; if the minister resigns today, that would automatically be the end of all these do-gooder crusades, going on today. Nobody would say anything again about the parlous state of the aviation sector in Nigeria.

So, why is it that we are now so reluctant to accept another accident, as an act of God? Is it because it was Oduah, who asked us to accept it as such? Are we no longer a praying nation? Do we no longer believe that nothing happens without God having so planned it to happen? Is this no longer the same Nigeria where we rig election and then mount the pulpit to tell those we rigged out and those whose mandate we stole that power comes from God and that He gives it to whomsoever He wishes? Is this no longer the country where we go to FEC meeting and pray God to help us arrest inflation, arrest Boko Haram and make our unmotorable roads to ‘obey’ us, as we travel on them? Where we board aircraft and call on God to be both the pilot and co-pilot? Why are we so reluctant to accept that the crash of an aircraft, bearing the body of Dr. Olusegun Agagu, our one-time aviation minister, as another act of God?

Now, that we are not ready to accept this as another act of God, why are we ignoring the promoters of Associated Airlines to go after the minister? Did we ever boycott the airlines whose planes crashed? Are we not the ones, who allege political witch-hunting each time a private jet (or even a commercial airline) is grounded by a government agency? Are we not the ones, screaming on top of our voices, as the authorities moved to impose some form of luxury tax on owners of private jets? And by the way, how many airline operators have so far been licensed by the Stella Oduah administration? How many are owned by the minister (or her friends)? So, where was the aviation industry before Oduah came? How many ministers resigned over air crashes before now? Or did everything just go bad because a Stella Oduah happened on the scene? Why are we turning a blind eye to the terminal disease, worrying the aviation industry and focusing on a minister, who is a mere symptom?

One supreme irony of life I picked up in the course of growing up is that people would leave the bum-bum that farted to go knocking the innocent head.

Why are we not looking at the owners of the airline, who put such an aircraft in the air? Why is everyone so silent on the fact that a major revelation of the AIB investigation was that the pilot ignored warning of the supervising agencies?

In fact, I was shocked to read about a pilot, saying they fly in risky airspace and trying to also put the blame on Oduah. Is it no longer the prerogative of any pilot to choose not to fly if the conditions are not right? I remember a colleague, who flew an Arik plane few days after the (ADC) plane crash that claimed the life of Sultan Muhammad Maccido, recalling how the pilot had opted to delay take-off in order for the cloudy sky to clear a bit. He had told his already boarded passengers that there was actually a little window in the cloud that he could use and beat the bad weather but that it was an unnecessary risk. He, instead, appealed to the passengers to exercise a little patience. They unanimously agreed to wait. So, my argument is: No pilot worth his title can claim he was forced to fly. They always have the last word. Let us also not blame Oduah for that negligence on the part of the pilot.




Read this article in the Sun Newspapers


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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