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Right of Reply : You can’t de-brand Dora

By Sunday Dare

IT was with great effort that I concluded reading your(Dele Sobowale) last weekend’s disquisition on the re-branding of Dora Akunyili our Honourable Minister for Information and Communication, and principal exponent of the Re-branding Nigeria project.

Your title reads, “Re-branding Akunyili and Ohakim”, but I will concentrate on the innuendoes and factual errors that impinge on Prof. Akunyili because I know that Ikedi Ohakim has enough aides to respond to the overtones fired at him.

Firstly, you got your facts wrong on several of the issues you raised. Let me start with the N8.2 billion NTA upgrade contract. Prof Akunyili’s life does not depend on it as you claimed.  Let me state clearly that Prof. Akunyili only presented the memo on NTA upgrade project to Federal Executive Council, FEC, just as she will present for any of the 14 parastatals under her supervision.

NTA initiated this project about two years ago when Prof. Akunyili was nowhere close to Radio House Abuja. NTA went through selective tendering and recommended the following three contractors to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for the project: Thomson Grass Valley of France, WTS/Sunny Nigeria and VISAT USA .

Interestingly, BPP reviewed submissions and called for fresh tenders from the companies to clear some technical details. Fresh tenders were submitted directly to BPP by all interested parties after which BPP selected WTS/SONY to handle the entire project. It was after BPP issued a certificate of “No Objection” for the project to be awarded to WTS/SONY, that the Minister presented the memo for approval to the FEC.

It is therefore clear that the Minister was not involved in evaluating the contract and selecting the contractors. It is clear to any discerning mind that Prof. Akunyili is a stickler for due process and walks the fine line.

Your claim that the “the re-branding which was ill-conceived was brought down by the Federal Executive Council…” is false. There was never a time that the Minister presented a budget of N1.2 billion to the FEC or anyone for that matter. It was a section of the media that bandied this sum around based on rumour.

For the avoidance of doubt, the money being used for the Re-branding Nigeria project is the leftover of the money budgeted for the Heart of Africa for the year 2009.The sum is N150 million, out of which an inherited debt of about N19.9 million was paid. The balance for the Re-branding project was N130 million.

So much has been said and written on the NCC saga. At this point it suffices to state clearly that for her, this is an issue based on principles. Simplicita. If there is an established process by law, then it must be followed without short cuts. The facts are out there and you can verify. Well, after about 12 weeks of NCC controversy and representations, Prof.Akunyili has been vindicated.

Her principled position  and courage under assault won the day when on Tuesday, August 11, 2009  President Yar’Adua ordered the cancellation of the 2.3GHz sale conducted by Ndukwe and directed that a new transparent process be conducted.

So you see, like the NCC saga, most of these allegations and insinuations against Prof. Akunyili cannot stick because they are not factual. Lastly, the daggers-drawn inference about her relationship with the Minister of State needs to be further investigated. We do not see any daggers yet. What she has tried to do is to make sure that the best working relationship is evolved and that issues are dealt with according to the rule of law. Period.

To many, Prof. Akunyili’s journey to the Ministry of Information is an odyssey. It is something that people only dream about but hardly witness in Nigeria. The ideological and physical journey by millions of people who always wanted to make Nigeria great have been traumatic experiences characterised by countless trials and tribulations, most of them harrowing and dreadful.

This is what Dora’s odyssey has come to change. But it is most irksome when disinformation is coming from the enlightened class, who would do well to join hands in nation-building and not this objectionable frenzy that unkind opposition perpetuates.

We all would want our nation to be great but great nations do not happen devoid of the contributions of great minds. Dora has surmounted some of the most outrageous obstacles in Nigerian life through hard work and perseverance. Her attitude since, has been, “if I can do it, many Nigerians can do it too”. That is why she is pursuing the Re-branding Nigeria project to veer Nigeria away from the course of misrepresentations that have turned the country into a war front and its future generation of citizens a war chest.

Sobowale should know that the Minister has no reason to indulge in propaganda, or use any concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the behavioral patterns of enemies, as most propaganda would do. There is no enemy here and she chooses her subjects very carefully, for the benefit of compatriots. The re-branding project is a result of deep introspection and the conclusion that an ingredient that could make Nigeria better is lacking.

By staking her hard-earned credibility in the project the Minister is saying she could give anything to salvage Nigeria. It is therefore inconceivable that such a well-articulated dream would now be turned into a monster by people who should be part of it, wishing that it consumes its protagonist. So who is trying to re-brand Dora?

Her message is as simple as it has always been, even before her time at NAFDAC. She is a hard-working ordinary woman who is out to change the world and willing to take all agents of change along with her in any crusade, be it at NAFDAC or elsewhere. There is the potent danger of people who supported her while at NAFDAC now abandoning her because she is in a terrain that they feel belongs only to them.

But Dora refuses to be pigeonholed. She is a one-size-fits-all and would perform as creditably wherever she finds herself, in or out of government. But she also says one more thing; that she cannot accomplish anything without the support of people like Dele Sobowale who once believed and trusted her. They form her village of crusaders and jumping ship midstream is not a good idea. Not this time, at least.


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