Oduahgate: Every Nation Gets The Govt It Deserves
There have been some allusions, both from official and unofficial quarters, to the fact that some influential individuals with stakes in the aviation sector, led by the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin, engineered the present travails of the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, simply because her so-called transformation agenda conflicted with their business interests.
Some even went as far as suggesting that the basic rationale for purchasing two armoured vehicles, worth N255m, by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, for the minister was the apparent threat to her life by these “powerful” individuals, while some others concluded that Babalakin, being “a victim of the ongoing aviation reforms”, would be a willing financier of the campaign for the removal of the minister.
A particular commentator, Ore Kingsley, actually claimed in an article in THIS DAY of October 23, that Babalakin and Bi-Courtney have the highest motivation for seeking a sudden end to Oduah’s tenure, and possibly her life, because they stand to gain the most from such an eventuality.
Apart from alleging that Bi-Courtney fraudulently secured an extension of the tenure of the concession agreement, it entered into with the Federal Government to build and operate the ultra-modern Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two, from 12 years to 36, the writer added: “How did Oduah cross the way of Bi-Courtney? The company realising that it did not have enough aprons to park aircraft at the MMA2 claimed that the General Aviation Terminal belonged to it and pointed out a clause in the agreement that said no other domestic airport terminal should be built in Lagos without deferring to Bi-Courtney. Oduah defiantly made it clear that GAT, which she dismantled and rebuilt under one year, did not belong to Bi-Courtney.”
It is on the strength of arguments such as these that the supporters of the minister have labelled Babalakin the instigator-in-chief of Oduah’s woes.
I have no doubt that the futility of such arguments, which is akin to the antics of a drowning man holding on to just anything to stay afloat, is very clear to the generality of Nigerians. Besides, the facts of the issues between Bi-Courtney and the Ministry of Aviation/Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria are settled and are entirely in the public domain, except for Oduah’s disdain for the judiciary and her blunt refusal to comply with the rulings of the courts on the matter. Therefore, Bi-Courtney has no reason whatsoever to resort to self-help, either covertly or overtly, to affirm its position or gain any advantage.
Truth is that the judiciary, up to the Court of Appeal, has affirmed Bi-Courtney’s ownership of GAT and the 36 years tenure of the concession. As a matter of fact, the arbitration panel, which first heard the dispute between Bi-Courtney and FAAN, did not only order the immediate hand-over of GAT to the company but also awarded N132bn damages against the government.
Since then, there have been several appeals by different entities, including the two mainstream trade unions in the aviation sector, Ojemai Holdings, which claims to be the landlord of Arik Air, FAAN itself and the Attorney General of the Federation on behalf of the Federal Government/Aviation Ministry, all of which were dismissed by the courts.
In fact, a particular judgment by Justice G.K. Olotu of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, delivered on July 3, 2012, in a case between Bi-Courtney and the Attorney General of the Federation, put the position of the law on the issues between Bi-Courtney and the Aviation Ministry beyond any shadow of doubt.
The judge, in his ruling, noted: “In the case before the court, we have seen the gross, deliberate, calculated and heinous abuse of the rule of law, typified by the acts of the Federal Government of Nigeria, headed by the President, assisted by the Minister charged with responsibilities for aviation matters in disobeying the judgment of the court delivered on 3rd March, 2009, i.e. approximately three years and three months ago, to deliver the immediate possession of the GAT to the plaintiffs (Bi-Courtney) as ordered by the court.
“As if that is not enough, the Federal Government and its agencies are presently engaged in the ‘remodelling and, or, construction works to improve the terminal (GAT), contrary to and notwithstanding the agreement with the applicant and the judgment of the honourable court.”
Need one say more?
The fact is that Bi-Courtney is a company that believes, and unwaveringly so, in the sanctity and the supremacy of the law, a fact that is well-known to the public. It is also in the ability of justice to ultimately serve its own course, no matter how much and how long it has been perverted by those in positions of authority.
Let us even for a moment pretend that Babalakin and his company are involved in a plot to unseat Oduah, as being alleged. How does that excuse the air crashes that have dogged the minister’s tenure, the cosmetic transformation of the aviation sector through the remodelling of some terminals, the indifferent manner she reacted to the crash of the Associated Airlines plane that claimed 14 lives by saying it was “inevitable” and an “act of God”, and the most recent scandal involving the purchase of two armoured BMW cars?
But, it is only logical for them to want to drag Babalakin’s name into the present debacle. This is a man several elements in government are desperately seeking to demonise in the eyes of ordinary Nigerians. They have tried several means, including charging him to court over unsubstantiated money laundering. It is even surprising he has not yet been accused of instigating the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, in order to rubbish his undeniable accomplishments in the education sector.
Having said all that, I cannot do better than agree with the popular quote, generally attributed to the French philosopher, Joseph de Maistre, that “every nation gets the government it deserves”.
I cannot stop wondering why Nigerians have just started crying wolf over a situation that has begun a long time ago. Where were we all when some fellow Nigerians were crying over the series of injustice, being perpetuated against them by the aviation ministry under Oduah’s watch?
Several individuals, like Babalakin, who hold the credit for single-handedly constructing the most modern and functional domestic airport terminal in Africa, have, for a long time, been complaining about the total disregard for the rule of safety as well as of law in the aviation sector, since Oduah’s ascension.
But, typically, Nigerians did not pay them any attention, since the issues did not affect us directly. Even the few that took note of their travails concluded that since these men were businessmen, they must be necessarily fighting a personal battle and not a common cause.
How long will it take before we start seeing injustice to one of us as injustice to all of us? It is this complacent attitude that has fuelled the arrogance that is common among our leaders and the disdain with which they regard us whenever we chance to raise our voice in protest.
This attitude of ours also brings to memory the words of Martin Niemoller, a priest, during the Nazi tyranny in Germany.
“First, they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then, they came for the socialists, but I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
•Ladigbolu is of the Communications Department of Bi-Courtney Group
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