By Chidiebere Nwobodo
When news of Dr Akinwumi Adesina’s probe as president of African Development Bank (AfDB) hit the media, I became worried, not only as a Nigerian, but as one of the admirers of the trailblazing technocrat. Adesina has distinguished himself in his chosen career as one of the great sterling reformists Nigeria has gifted to Africa and the world.
As minister under President Goodluck Jonathan, if he missed the best-performed minister, he could not have missed the second most-outstanding appointee of that Administration. I strongly believe that he does not only possess the leadership qualities to be given second term at AfDB, but a potential African candidate for the exalted seat of World Bank president! Only less than a week ago, the highly respected Standard & Poor Global Ratings, affirmed AfDB’s ‘AAA/A-1+’ long and short term ratings on the AfDB. And it is undrr Adesina’s sterling leadership.
This is why the non-African interests-spearheaded witch-hunt of his stewardship came as surprise to some of us; judging by his stainless strides of excellence in public service. Worse, even after he was cleared by the Ethics Committee saddled with the responsibility to investigate the allegations of unethical conduct, even after the Committee’s report was upheld by the board, the US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, wrote the Bank’s Board rejecting the clean bill of health given to Mr. Adesina and requested an independent probe against the rules and regulations of the bank.
Patriotically, Nigerians, including their former and present leaders have risen in unison in defense of Akinwumi Adesina, Nigerian media have being consistent in defending this illustrious son of ours against the imperialists bent on truncating his second term in office.
While this is highly commendable, my contention in that what is good for the geese is equally good for the gander. And on that ground, I think Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace was not fairly treated by a dominant section of Nigerian media and political elites, and social media when the accusation by the US authorities broke. And this despite that Onyema has severally and selflessly come to the rescue of Nigerians and Nigerian government when it mattered most. I cannot forget in a hurry how he saved Nigerians trapped in South Africa during xenophobic attacks—at his own expense.
Yet, when Allen Onyema was accused by America’s Justice Department of financial infractions and unethical conduct bordering on money laundering, etcetera, while he was yet to put up his defense or response, some sections of Nigerian mainstream media, descended heavily on him as if they were long awaiting his downfall. To my utter consternation, these elements nearly went overboard just to scandalize his personality. A lot of falsehood and malicious stories started flying in the social aspect of Nigerian Media, with the ignoble intention to damage Onyema’s hard-earned reputation.
Indeed, this detribalised Nigerian and philanthropist of repute, who has weathered the storm in the turbulent Aviation Industry, to build the biggest domestic airline and West Africa’s fastest growing International airline, was literally convicted by dominant section of Nigerian media in a manner that appeared bothering on tribal on tribal supremacism cum bigotry. It was like a media jungle justice.
The illusion was even created, especially in the online media that Allen Onyema could have been in jail by now. Instead of defending Onyema—at least in the spirit of patriotism, demand fair hearing for the highest employer of labor in the nation’s airspace, Allen Onyema was an orphan.
I can vividly recall how some sections of the Nigerian media were falling on top of themselves with their so-called “Exclusives” and “Breaking”, just to crucify him to please imperialistic forces, which might not be comfortable with the entrance of AirPeace in the international routes, to compete with other foreign airlines. The belligerences towards Onyema nearly erode my faith in the nation.
In the spirit of objectivity, I don’t support corruption and abuse of rules and regulations. No. But if truth is to be told, it seemed as though to a session of the media, Onyema was guilty until proven innocent instead of innocent until proven guilty. Imagine how non-Nigerians watched with utter disdain, how some of us practically failed one of our rising stars of business world, probably because of where he comes from. At a point, a media house (which I won’t mention), declared that Onyema was “wanted” by American government. The next morning, another newspaper published a misleading story that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had seized his passport. That was very unfair, for a personality like Onyema. Some fabricated stories on “how Onyema looted Amnesty Program and NDDC Contracts”. I could not but wonder what these people were doing with all these findings before the American Justice Department came up with their allegation
But when the same imperialist overbearing influence came knocking on the doors of Akinwumi Adesina, the same section of the media became ardent patriots and defenders of AfDB President. They suddenly remembered that Adesina is “our own” that needed to be protected. And I ask: Is Onyema not also our own? Why different strokes for the same folks?
Again, AirPeace was given the contracts by the governments of Chinese, Indian and Israeli to airlift their citizens from Nigeria back to their respective countries. These foreign governments with head and shoulder higher than Nigeria in technology and economy had absolute confident in the capacity of the airline. But, guess what? It took the intervention of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation headed by Hon. Nnoli Nnaji for Nigerian government to include AirPeace as one of the airlines to evacuate Nigerians abroad back home. What an unjust treatment! Some say that if AirPeace was being run by a non-Igbo Nigerian, he would have been given the Right of First Refusal! This type of attitude to a man that freely airlifted Nigerians trapped in South Africa can actually discourage others Nigerians from future acts of patriotism.
Meanwhile, I pray that Akinwumi Adesina comes out of the whole trial and imperialist persecution unscathed and stronger. But I also pray Nigerians, especially the elites and the media to treat all Nigerians equally no matter where they come from. We need both Adesina and Onyema to put Nigeria on global map, and what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
- Chidiebere Nwobodo writes from Abuja