By Chioma Gabriel
It is the reformer who is anxious for the reform, and not society, from which he should expect nothing better than opposition, abhorrence and mortal persecution — Mahatma Gandhi
When President Jonathan on Tuesday decided to do the needful and got rid of some excess baggage in his government, there were mixed reactions. Nigeria’s ex Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah who has been trailed by a catalogue of allegations, some of which were real while others were half-truths fell by the way side. But she was one minister who made the opposition hate Jonathan government . There were many sides of that coin. Her’s was one coin that had more than two sides and while she fought to remain in office, the agitations for her removal got stronger .
An adage says that when ingratitude barbs the dart of injury, a wound would have double danger . Oduah was enmeshed in first, a web of scandals involving purchase of two BMW armoured cars for $1.6 million and while the fire smouldered, a new scandal involving her certificate emerged. Her blackmailers claimed the university where she allegedly obtained her MBA doesn’t offer MBA as a course of study and so, she allegedly quickly began to delete that qualification from her certificates posted in her website and other places. In other words, they claimed it was a Toronto-like certificate.
In the midst of all the allegations against Oduah, one can truly say that President Jonathan gave her a soft landing. First, he allowed the pressure to wear itself out without acting on it and was patient even in the face of further allegation that she was too close to him (Jonathan) for comfort.
When the scandal against the illegal purchase of armoured cars for an outrageous sum couldn’t sack her, the blackmailers waited and searched for a fresh scandal which soon manifested.
Just in case there are those who do not understand the ‘sins’ of Ms Oduah, we will refresh their memories. Towards the end of last year, Ms. Oduah had allegedly compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to pay Coscharis Motors, an auto dealer, approximately $1.6 million for two BMW bullet-proof cars which highest cost in both the US and UK according to findings should be $267,000 per car. It was alleged by her subordinates in the Aviation ministry that the two cars were never delivered, an allegation that compounded the belief that Ms. Oduah split the $1.6 million funds with Cosmas Maduka, the Chief Executive of Coscharis.
You can say Oduah was a victim of house-hold wickedness. Even the holy book acknowledges that a man’s foes are those of his own house-hold. And for Stella, the very Federal Ministry of Aviation which she headed pulled down her profile from its website , on the allegation that her bio contained falsehood and misleading claims.
That website has allegedly been de-activated and her blackmailers insisted that Mrs. Oduah and her associates cleaned up the ex minister’s biographies on the Internet because she lied about her academic qualifications. According to what was alleged , her profile on the Ministry of Aviation was revised, with references to St. Paul’s College removed.
Different online publications kept harping on this allegation that the wikipedia page of the ex-minister was edited with no reference to the university Mrs. Oduah attended and that the reference materials to the university she attended was deleted.
Oduah’s personal website was also allegedly reviewed to remove any reference to St. Paul’s College. The ex-minister, it was alleged had claimed she earned a Bachelor and Masters degrees from St. Paul’s College but her claim to a masters degree allegedly could not be substantiated. C’est demange.
But to those who loved her and still do, Stella Oduah was a reformist in government; a woman who unjustly suffered persecutions for her achievements. To these, Oduah remains a heroine with visible achievements and transformational initiatives to her name and beautiful visage, a woman who stood tall even when the roar of her persecutors was shaking the earth under her feet .
Oduah was perceived as courageous and undeterred by the antics of her accusers.
Many had thought that the crisis in the aviation sector woven around Stella Oduah would subside with the commissioned investigations involving the House of Representatives and Senate Committees as well as the Presidential Panel of Inquiry but the House of Representatives Committee’s investigations and findings indicted her of the first charge.
Inspite of these, it is an incontrovertible fact that Stella Oduah’s appointment as Aviation minister brought developments to the sector. The immediate transformation of the sector and strengthening of the agencies under her ministry are valid testament to her understanding of the nation’s aviation sector.
Just before her removal, she brokered Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the State of Israel. The agreement would expectedly pave the way for direct flights between both countries on reciprocity by designated airlines of both countries.
This initiative will put an end to the plights of Nigerians travelling to Israel, including Christian pilgrims, having to stop over in neighbouring countries before being finally transported to their destination.
This effort, it is expected will boost bilateral ties between Nigeria and Israel and also promote economic collaborations.
If it will be of any consolation to her ,she should be proud of the fact that the nation would extract a value from her service.
There had been Aviation Ministers and none had thought of addressing the age-long challenge that kept Nigerians stranded in foreign lands for decades.
Stella Oduah’s midas touch in the aviation sector is visible to all, even to her detractors and persecutors, who are perceivably, gagged by their quest to hijack the sector and whose eyes are not blind to the beauty of her achievements in the sector. Persecution, believe those that loved her was the only ploy her detractors had left when she was determined to revamp an ailing sector into one that supports economic growth and national development.
Her accomplishments are evidenced by the remodeling and reconstruction of towers, runways, resurfacing and installation of new weather systems at 19 airports across the country, the designation of perishable Agro-Cargo Terminals in Jos, Yola, Asaba, Enugu, Akure, Makurdi and Lagos and for expansion to Akure, Bauchi, Ibadan, Calabar, Jalingo, Kano and Owerri to help rural farmers reap the benefits of existence of facilities such as airports in the country and her aggressive investment in Aviation safety facilities which have boosted the ratings of the aviation sector by the international community. Persecutions against her were mostly rooted in allegations not visible to the discerning eyes but clear only in the conscience of looters fixedly gazing at the soul of the aviation sector.
But for peace to reign, her eventual removal is perhaps for the best with the presidential magnanimity of a soft-landing.
It is all too easy to forget the pains of yesterday once you are out of a deep, wrenching hole. All of a sudden, the comfort of today becomes all too familiar, all too normal to the point of convenient complacency, and even selective amnesia. Under the circumstance, you even forget that you won the new comfort on the back of severe pains; and probably personal sacrifices.
This is the story of the Nigerian aviation sector and the Nigerian airport user.
Majority of Nigerians without personal bile for the ex Minister know, and acknowledge this reality.
They know what the airports and their travelling experiences were yesterday; and what there are today.
The awareness of this acknowledgment by majority of Nigerians should give Oduah boundless joy even in the face of her recent removal.
She should also know she stepped on toes when she dared to question the rationality or otherwise of some of the spurious Concession and Lease assessments in the sector and like the Biblical daughter of Herod, they wanted nothing short of her head on a golden platter.
Everything that has a beginning must have an end. That is the reality of life.
Politics in Nigeria is a different kettle of fish entirely but this fact is not always known to private sector people.
They should know that some professional politicians would not want the state to function properly and would not rest on their oars to have permanent control of things.
But let Oduah go and put herself in order certificate-wise. Maybe, another opportunity will present itself for her to prove her mettle in another capacity.