Idowu Akinlotan: Too much money chasing too much frivolity

Published:11 Jan, 2013

Between them, three women have partitioned Nigeria into an overbearing and scheming country. It is doubtful whether the three – Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Finance), Stella Oduah(Aviation) and Diezani Alison-Madueke(Petroleum) – do so deliberately. But by their policies, and the vociferous arguments they summon to drive them, the country’s fate seems sealed, at least under President Goodluck Jonathan. The situation was probably not better under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, but in those days it was at least difficult to determine where Obasanjo’s overbearingness began and where the conceitedness of his appointees ended. We groped in that fogginess for eight years to 2007 assured that some sort of balance could be conjured by nature itself. Nature, we convinced ourselves, abhorred imbalance. But under Jonathan, there is no fog anywhere, nor is nature keen to intervene.

For a moment, let us put aside the policy parade of the Finance and Petroleum ministers, and instead concern ourselves with the Aviation minister, who is on some sort of rampage. It is of course mere co-incidence that the three ministers are from the Southeast/South-South. Their power and influence – some say dominance – is probably not due to their states or regions of origin. They are influential partly because of their intellects and mostly because of their personalities. When it comes to the debate over finance and poverty, have you ever tried to convince the highly opinionated Okonjo-Iweala that the square of the longest side hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides? Forget it; it’s a lost cause. No matter how right you are, she is even righter. If you draw the sword of Pythagoras, she will counter with the shield of Euclid. And you would be lucky to get in a word when she is declaiming on any topic.

Diezani (I mean no disrespect; her first name, which is not common, is simpler to use than her hyphenated surname) is probably the most oratorical of the three, and certainly the most dashing. What degree of persuasiveness she loses by way of conjured or ambiguous facts and figures, especially when she is put to task by the National Assembly and the querulous long-suffering public, she makes up for by way of sheer verbal profundity. It is always an unequal combat when a brilliant but not fluent speaker meets an eloquent exaggerator who can manage to pay occasional homage to logic. Whereas the Finance minister undermines your statistics and makes you doubt the sources of your figures, the Petroleum minister overwhelms you with her rolling words and glacial composure, thawing only sparingly to remind you of her humanity, nay, femininity. Neither of the two ministers is ever able to convince anyone about the fidelity of the facts and figures coming from the two ministries, whether as they concern poverty and the application of fiscal tools to regenerate the economy, or as they concern fuel consumption or the so-called subsidy regime.

Of the three, however, Oduah, who is the main focus of this piece today, appears to be the most daring and enterprising, and perhaps the most energetic. By dint of her obtrusion, she has managed to raise the status of the Aviation ministry from a sedate, backroom bureaucracy to a frontline and, if we should borrow a phrase from modern analysts, cutting-edge organisation. As her obtrusiveness during electioneering showed, when she made the so-called Neighbour-to-Neighbour unit of the Jonathan campaign organisation a powerful instrument propelled by delicate and indecipherable financial engineering, she has a knack for turning water to wine, and turning a molehill to a mountain. Left alone in the Aviation ministry, as the Jonathan government seems increasingly bent on doing, she could soon begin imagining the prospect of developing a rocketry department in the ministry with the objective of putting a Nigerian on the moon, if not next year, then the year after. Her imagination is so fecund that, like God observed of human beings at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11), whatever she proposes to do she was likely to accomplish. But of course I exaggerate, for Oduah’s fecundity is neither profound nor without a terrible price.

During the 2011 electioneering, Oduah knew how to get things done. She has transferred that talent and energy to her present assignment. Somehow, she does not seem to be discomfited by lack of funds. She is renovating, modernising, and in some instances, expanding the airports in the country, of course, in phases. And from all evidence, and by frequent fliers’ testimonies, she is doing the renovation to taste. But that exercise, as salutary as it seems, jars against a sensible consideration of the economics of airports. Might the renovation not be an unsupportable elevation of aesthetics over functionality? Ghana’s Kotoka Airport is not as fascinating as Murtala Mohammed International Airport, but it is better maintained, better utilised, friendlier to travellers, and there is always a general sense of sanity and safety in its precincts. I won’t push this point, however, for Nigerians, high and low, are eternally fond of the meretricious.

Oduah speaks interminably about grandness in the aviation sector without a correspondingly grand and realistic paradigm to support her dreams. She wants at least one International Airport comparable with the best in the world. But in which aspect of Nigerian leadership is there anything comparable with the best in the world? Is it in observance of the constitution? What of the justice system, education, politics, healthcare, and all other human development indicators? This objectionable lack of realism, as personified by Oduah’s approach to aviation matters, is discernible in the attitudes of Nigerian leaders to the construction of State Houses, legislative complexes, official residential quarters, and the headquarters of some powerful ministries, departments and agencies. Oduah’s comparable airport terminal will pander to our outsized ego, and nothing more.

Perhaps the most disagreeable policy to come from the Aviation minister is the decision to float a new national carrier barely 10 years after the same federal government scrapped the old carrier, the Nigeria Airways. The old carrier was scrapped because the government and its World Bank economists argued that governments were notoriously inefficient in running businesses. With maniacal zeal, the previous government scrapped virtually everything publicly owned. Official residences and cars were monetised. Roads were to be offered to willing concessionaires, and even Federal Government Colleges were scrapped. Virtually nothing was to be left in the hands of the government except the privileges of power. Now, they are gradually reversing themselves – a troubling indication of sloppy thinking, official grandstanding and depressing lack of public debate.

When the Aviation minister first mooted the idea of a new carrier, a columnist with this newspaper argued along the following lines: “Oduah indicates the new national carrier will welcome private equity and be jointly and professionally managed to make it a successful venture. In addition, she says, if all things go well, the new carrier could hit the skies before many months. But it was not too long ago, however, that the government invited Virgin Atlantic to invest in the airline business in Nigeria over the ashes of Nigeria Airways. It proved an impossible task after just a few years, as the new airline made huge losses estimated at more than $300m between 2005 and 2010. In 2007 alone, Virgin Nigeria Airways lost nearly N10 billion. Moreover, Virgin Atlantic Limited never took more than 49 percent equity in the Virgin Nigeria project. So, what has changed? Oduah says the government has learnt its lessons, and will not repeat the mistakes of the past. She is confident that a new national carrier operated jointly with private capital will fly. Nonsense.

“If private investors want to come into the airline business either in partnership or alone, the skies are always open. As everyone knows, the skies may be open, but the capital to establish and run airlines here has not always been open or friendly. Airline business has been a difficult one in recent years requiring the help of the government to keep it aloft…It is doubtful whether Oduah can convince anyone of the need for a new national carrier. The idea of a new national carrier is idle and wishful thinking. There is absolutely no basis for it, either financially or managerially…”

And while we were still trying to come to terms with the new carrier bugaboo, Oduah threw us an even tougher bone to chew. According to an aviation source, the federal government plans to buy 30 new aircraft to be distributed to airlines to help them operate better and to crash air fares. Now, if there is a worse malady than this, we would like to hear it. The crazy venture, we are told, is to be funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) – would Sanusi Lamido Sanusi countenance this nonsense? – and the Bank of Industry (BoI). Would the planes be given free? If not, would it not further aggravate the financial distress of the operators and encumber their operating costs? And are the CBN and BoI so loaded with idle money that they can be persuaded to throw it on fantasies?

It is not enough to absorb the fact that these three ministers are powerful and influential, or that they give the Jonathan cabinet its steely core; we must also recognise that they are in fact symptomatic of the lack of consistent policy framework required to run a disciplined, transformative and progressive government. The ministers and their policies indicate just how besotted to grand fantasies the government has become, and why their successes will be few and far between.


Idowu Akinlotan

Read original piece via The Nation

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Brad Pitt Releases a Second Statement on his Divorce

Last week we all heard that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from her husband of just two years, Brad Pitt amidst reports he is being investigated for child abuse by the LA County Department of Children and Family Services for being verbally and physically abusive with one of his children. In the second statement since his separation, the actor said he won't be attending the red carpet screening of Voyage of Time, a documentary he narrated which...

Unemployed Man Docked For Stealing Spaghetti

A 29-year-old unemployed man, Monday Suileman, who allegedly sneaked into a shopping plaza and stole three cartons of spaghetti, was on Thursday charged before a Badagry Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos State. The accused, who resides at No. 2, Adewusi St., Ajara Dokoh area of Badagry, is facing a charge of stealing. Prosecutor Innocent Uko told the court that the accused committed the offence at Ajun Plaza in Gbaji area of Badagry, but did not...

Edo guber: Sheriff Not in Support of PDP’s Rejection of Result

Disputed National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, said he did not support Thursday’s rejection of the yet-to-be-declared result of Wednesday’s governorship election in Edo. He said that the rejection of the result ahead of its declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was pre-emptive. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that PDP in Edo, at a news conference in Benin, announced its rejection of the result of the...

Soldier delivers woman of her baby after she fled her village over Boko Haram

A gallant Nigerian, Celestine Nwabueke, has been praised after his heroic effort in helping a woman deliver a bouncing baby boy in a village in Borno state. According to multiple reports, the new mother -was aided the the gallant soldier with the help of other women who fled their community over fear of Boo Haram attacks.. According to reports, the woman wanted to name the child after the soldier to appreciate him but later changed her mind due to his...

Police Officers To Undergo Psychiatric Test As Medical Team Arrives Lagos.

The medical team of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, on Wednesday converged on Lagos state to begin arrangements for the mental evaluation exercise to be carried out on all armed policemen.   The exercise is meant to assist in promoting principles of people-oriented policing as directed earlier this year by the then Inspector-General.   It would be recalled that the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase had in January, disclosed that the NPF was considering conducting psychiatric test on recruits and serving officers,...

Okorocha Gifts Paralympians Cars For Winning Gold

Governor Rochas Okrocha has fulfilled a promise he made to the victorious Paralympic gold medalists by presenting car gifts to them after a nice outing in the concluded RIO 2016. Three contingents from Imo state were among those that represented Nigeria and they all won gold medals in power lifting. See photos below;    

56th Independence Anniversary: FG Declares Monday Public Holiday

The Federal Government has declared Monday, October 3, as Public Holiday to mark Nigeria’s 56th Independence Anniversary. This was contained in a statement signed by the Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido and issued to Vanguard Thursday in Abuja. The Minister of Interior, Lt Gen (rtd) Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, while making the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government, congratulates Nigerians at home and abroad on the commemoration of this year’s independence anniversary and assures them that Government...

Nigerian Man Deported from Kenya Twice Over Alleged Drug Trafficking Arrested Again in Nairobi

Police in Nairobi, Kenya have arrested a suspected Nigerian drug lord, Emmanuel Peter Inobemhe. According to Kenyan media, Inobemhe who was deported from Kenya in 2013 on Presidential orders, was arrested by police officers in Kayole Estate, Nairobi yesterday Wednesday Sept. 28th. The Police boss at Kayole police command, Ali Nuno, said Inobemhe had been deported twice from Kenya over drug issues and wondered how he came back to the country.   “He says...

BREAKING: APC Candidate, Godwin Obaseki Wins Edo Governorship Election

Godwin Obaseki, the All Progressives Congress (APC) party candidate in the gubernatorial election in Edo State, has won the contest in the two-way race with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), winning most of the votes. Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the PDP came second in the votes collated and announced by INEC. The Independent National Electoral Commission, announcing collated results across the state, said APC won 13 of the state’s 18local government areas. Details to follow shortly...

Lafiya Dole: Nigerian Soldiers Ambush Boko Haram Terrorists

Troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE on patrol yesterday, Wednesday, September 28th, came across some elements of Boko Haram terrorists at Bulabulin.   They engaged them in a fire fight that lasted for an hour. The troops killed 9 Boko Haram terrorists and wounded several others.   They also captured 2 AK-47 Rifles, 2 Hand Grenades, 1 Improvised Explosive Device, 5 Jerrycans of Premium Motor Spirit and 9 motorcycles. However, the troops hand held radio was badly damaged during the encounter.  

Borno Government To Rebuild Churches Destroyed By Boko Haram

Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno has promised to rebuild churches and other structures destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents in Lassa as he visited liberated communities in the southern senatorial zone of the state. “We will rebuild churches, private and public buildings destroyed by the insurgents,” Mr. Shettima said when he accessed the level of damage in Lassa in Askira-Uba Local Government Area on Wednesday. He expressed shock at the magnitude of destruction, saying that the government would commence the rehabilitation in...

#Nigeria@56: FG Declares Monday Public Holiday

The Federal Government has declared Monday as public holiday to mark the nation’s 56th independence anniversary celebration. The Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), who made the declaration on behalf of the FG, congratulated Nigerians at home and abroad on the commemoration of this year’s independence anniversary. He assured  them that the government was working assiduously to put in place “various palliative measures to cushion the effects of the current economic challenges.”

3 Fashion Rules Every Generation Should Live By

It’s Not What You Wear, It’s How You Wear It My mom always told me, "It doesn't matter if your clothes are expensive or designer, if you wear them well you'll be the best dressed in the room." I hear her advice in the back of my head every time I go shopping and always choose pieces that fit my body type, that I feel confident in, and that work with my individual...

Live Updates: Edo Governorship Election

Official Edo State Governorship Election Result as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission Owan West LGA APC : 12, 862 PDP : 10,132 Registered Voters: 54, 406 Accredited Voters: 24, 487 Igueben LGA: APC: 7,802 PDP: 7,560 Registered Voters: 42,655 Accredited Voters: 16,482 LGA: Esan North East APC: 9,130 PDP: 16,220 Number of registered voters: 74,293 Number of accredited voters: 27,121 Total valid votes: 25,747 Rejected votes: 1,197 Egor LGA APC: 26,177 PDP: 19,514 Total registered voters: 184,296 Accredited voters: 49,802 Esan South-East LG APC: 9,554 PDP: 11,466 Reg. Voters - 66,698 Accredited Voters - 22,522

News Reporter Who Quit On Air To Sell Weed Faces 24 Years Behind Bars

Remember the Alaska news anchor who was doing a segment on the Alaska Cannabis Club and then shocked everyone when she revealed she was the owner and quit live on television? Well it looks like she should have kept her daytime job because her Cannabis Club got her in some big legal trouble and could spend the next 24 years of her life behind bars. According to Complex , Greene has been hit with 8 charges...

5 Myths About Marriage That Are Totally Untrue

1. The romance eventually dies Your sex life doesn't end when you get married! Yes, as time passes things become routine or perhaps less spontaneous than in your 20s, but married couples actually experience more intimacy because there's a level of trust that may not exist in premarital relationships. 2. Happy couples don't argue Let's get this straight: every couple argues. No matter how compatible you may be with your partner, disagreements are going...

OPEC approves first oil output cut deal since 2008

Members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed yesterday, to cut oil output for the first time since 2008, with Saudi Arabia softening its stance on arch-rival, Iran, amid mounting pressure from low oil prices. A report which quoted two sources in the organisation said the group would reduce output to 32.5 million barrels per day from current production of 33.24 million bpd. The sources however could not tell how much each country will produce, saying that is to...

University Studies Course Entirely Focused On Beyoncé’s Lemonade

The University of Texas at San Antonio now officially offers a class all about Beyoncé's Lemonade. Titled "Black Women, Beyoncé, and Popular Culture," the course will explore how Bey's visual album is a "meditation on contemporary black womanhood" — then use that as a starting point to delve deep into the "theoretical, historical, and literary frameworks of black feminism." Developed and taught by Professor Kinitra Brooks, the class will be held three times...

Nigeria Loses N61trn To Non-passage Of PIB

The country has lost $200 billion, translating to N61.1 trillion, for failing to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), a Bill expected to provide the enabling law for the petroleum industry. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), which revealed this yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps to halt the unending delay in the passage of the Bill. This was contained in NEITI’s latest policy brief, titled: ‘The Urgency of a New Petroleum Sector Law.” NEITI attributed some...

FG Okays New Water Policy

Yesterday, the federal government approved a new water policy that will improve the management and delivery of water in the country. Speaking to State House correspondents after the FEC meeting, minister of water resources, Suleiman Adamu, said the Council approved the National Water Policy, National Irrigation Policy and a Draft National Water Resources Bill. Adamu said, “National Water Policy seeks to provide strategies that will improve the management and delivery of water in the country in particular reference to water supply.” He...

Recession: FG Recants, To Dump Assets Sale Proposal

The federal government has made a U-turn in its proposed bid to dispose national assets to raise money in order to reflate the economy, describing it as mere speculation. This position was made known by the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, at the Presidential Villa. This comes barely one week after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, presided over by the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, with 23...