Re: Minister of Aviation Declares War On YORUBA 1 By Joe Obi

‘’In almost twenty years of writing this column, I have never written any article in support of anyone because he is ‘’my brother’’; neither have I written one against anyone because he is not ‘’my brother’’, Dele Sobowale asserts in an article under the above headline in the Vanguard newspaper edition of February 24. Everyone, according to the self acclaimed ‘’Area Boy in the Media’’, from the North to the South, East and West received the same amount of treatment (vitriol?) from him. Well, we cannot ascertain the veracity or otherwise of this spurious claim, but in a space of one week, Dele, writing in his column, ‘’Frankly Speaking’’ has suddenly become an advocate for one man-Wale Babalakin of the Bi-Courtney infamy, a man from the same ethnic stock as Sobowale; producing in the process, two articles in defence of a fellow Yoruba.

It must be a very dramatic turn in fortune and perspective for Sobowale. On February 18, he began a ‘’series’’ that is certainly bound to redefine his persona; for good or bad. Writing under the caption ‘’Who wants Babalakin Dead’’, Sobowale took on the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) for daring to execute an ex parte order of court in respect of Bi-Courtney, a company owned by Babalakin. Every adult Nigerian is aware of the inglorious role Bi-Courtney played in the failed execution of the Lagos-Ibadan Express Way construction contract which the company won. AMCON was only doing its legitimate duty, going after chronic debtor companies of which Bi-Courtney is one. But this does not seat pretty with Sobowale who is insinuating bias and ethnic cleansing against Babalakin-read Yoruba, in this instance. I am however aware of several other companies in Nigeria which AMCON is also beaming its searchlight, using the same strategy but Sobowale has never seen anything odd about the tactics of the organisation-until now, that is! To be sure, I am not the spokesperson for AMCON so I am not competent to speak on all the allegations of impropriety leveled against the establishment by Dele.

I have however been inevitably drawn into this because of the ‘’series’’ which has now ominously berthed at the door-step of the Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, OON. Writing under the above caption, Sobowale alleged that the Aviation Minister is at the heart, indeed ‘coordinating’ the efforts aimed at the ‘’persecution’’ of Babalakin. Oduah’s ‘sins’, according to Sobowale, is her insistence that Nigeria and her people cannot be given the short end of the stick with regard to Concession and Lease Agreements in the Aviation Ministry-not under her watch! We do not intend to interrogate the way and manner Bi-Courtney even emerged as the ‘preferred bidder’ for the MM2, we leave that story for another day. But the point has to be emphasised, and very strongly too, that the Bi-Courtney ‘Concession Agreement’ remains one of the most horrific in the history of Concession and Lease agreement in Nigeria today in its audacity for an orchestrated reap-off of the Nigerian state.

To be sure, other past Aviation Ministers may, and perhaps might indeed have looked the other way with regard to the Bi-Courtney Agreement. They may have their reasons, but this Minister has a different perspective on how government ‘business’ is run. Nigeria and Nigerians, she insists, must have a fair deal in any transaction under the Aviation ministry. It is this insistence that Nigeria cannot, and ought not to be short-changed in order to satisfy an individual or corporate entity’s whims and caprices that has piqued Sobowale so much so that he has elected to prosecute a proxy ‘’war’’, dressed in ethnic garb against the Aviation Minister. All the talk about sack of staff of the Yoruba stock is not only unfounded and baseless but ultimately diversionary. I can bet that neither Sobowale nor Babalakin cares a hoot about the well being and welfare of Yoruba personnel in the Aviation Ministry and its Agencies, because if they do they will realise that the Yoruba has fared far better that other ethnic nationalities in terms of employment opportunities under Princess Stella Oduah. Anyone who cares to know should start from an audit of her personal Aides. The Yoruba are more than fairly represented.

The point has to be made that the institutional reform the Minister is implementing has no ethnic or religious face. All those who are qualified and competent have been given a fair and equal chance to prove their relevance to their organisations irrespective of where they may hail from. So the entire gamut of Sobowale’s claims of ethnic cleansing through unjustifiable sack and dismissal are just diversionary. To be sure, the allegations are only a veiled, yet obvious pretext to launch a campaign for Bi-Courtney’s claims of spurious exclusive rights to all domestic airports in the entire Lagos state! We do not intend to dwell too much on this as the matter is currently before competent courts of law for adjudication. But the point must be clear to all that Sobowale is not doing any altruistic work on behalf the Yoruba race simply because there is indeed no basis for it as allegations of victimisation are completely false. People should therefore be clear about what he is actually doing-he is only prosecuting a mercantilist war for and on behalf of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited and Wale Babalakin.

This brings us to his claim that he has ‘’never met’’ Wale Babalakin. This is as pedestrian as it is immaterial. A Dele Sobowale does not need to ‘physically’ meet a Wale Babalakin in order to do the latter’s bidding. While we are not inferring that he is in fact executing a script authored by Babalakin, what is certain is that proxy and mercenary wars are often fought without a physical meeting with clients. But the coincidence in this instance is not lost on us – Babalakin has issues with AMCON, Dele Sobowale elects to be his advocate in his column, asking rhetorically ‘’who wants Babalakin dead’’. Barely a week later, Sobowale continues the Babalakin ‘series’ with a personal declaration of war against the Aviation Minister who is interrogating the business transaction of Bi-Courtney, owned as it were by Babalakin! Haba, Dele!

Now to the real question of war. To be sure, the Aviation Minister will not engage in any kind of warfare with Dele Sobowale. Pitiably, the Yoruba nation will not join him to prosecute what is clearly a self-declared war whose motives are at best, pecuniary and unclear. The Yoruba race is too enlightened to be hoodwinked into fighting a war that is neither just nor rational but dressed elegantly in ethnic robes. In the end, Dele Sobowale will be left to fight his self-declared war all alone-and against himself. The outcome is never in doubt. Dele Sobowale will be vanquished-by Dele Sobowale.

Joe Obi is the Special Assistant (Media) to the Hon. Minister of Aviation. He contributed this piece from Abuja.

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