Take-aways From the Bullet-Proof BMW-Aviation Crisis,By Garba Shehu



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Garba-Shehu1-580x340The controversy surrounding the purchase of bullet-proof cars by Aviation Ministry parastatals will be useless if at the end of it lessons are not drawn for the future.
In fairness to the government minister in the middle of it, Mrs Stella Oduah is not the first, nor the only one throwing her weight around,asking heads of MDAs under her to buy this or that thing. All misters order the chiefs under them to buy them cars, maintain their homes and offices and at other times provide air tickets and foreign exchange whenever the need for foreign travel arose. Those who don’t do this must be ministers who preside over MDAs that are non-lucrative. But cash liquidity is feature aviation and transport parastatals.
The question then to ask is, is it right that they are doing this? The answer is absolutely “No!”
Those chiefs know that they are doing wrong things; they are in fact jail-able in accountable situations, yet they can’t resist the ministers because they live in constant fear of being fired. If you as chief won’t oblige, there are many willing subordinates to show that with you out of way, they are ready to do the minister’s bidding 100 percent.
The epidemic nature of the malfeasance however notwithstanding, you will still find a few chiefs, here and there, who are ready to say “No” to the minister and damn all consequences.
More than 20 years ago, the Sunday Triumph which I edited at that time did a story on a heroic chief who fought his minister and won. The Minister of Mines and Power whose name I will not mention summoned Engineer (Alhaji) Hamman Tukur who was under him, serving as the General Manager of the defunct National Electrip Power Authority, NEPA and asked that cars be bought for him.
Tukur responded on the spot, asking the minister to name the sub-head ( meaning which budgetary provision) under which the money would be obtained. The minister was furious. He did not expect a parastatals head under him would show such “impudence.” He looked at Tukur and asked him to retrace but the GM was adamant.
He looked at him again and said “is this the stubbornness or arrogance for which the Fulani are known?” Tukur, unmoved by this blackmail retorted that this was nonsense, asking the minister in return whether his tribe or ethnic group had been licensed by Allah, their maker to steal what belonged to the public. End of discussion!
Back in the Ministry, the minister embarked on a course of action to discipline the “errant” GM of NEPA.
The permanent secretary fired a query, delivered through the Director of Power. Now at this point, Providence decided to make an entry into the matter. As I try to recollect the story as told by the Sunday Triumph in an article headlined “WHEN THE WHEELS OF GOD TURN AGAINST INJUSTICE..”, Armageddon was let loose on the management of the Ministry of Power and Steel.
First, it was the Permanent Secretary. He suffered a major stroke and was rushed out of office and the country for urgent treatment.
The Director of Power in reality was no more than a go-between, conveying the minister’s angry words to the GM. He nevertheless had his own share.
In an attempt to cross the street to buy either bread or oranges, his wife was hit by a vehicle and died as a consequence.
The bullying minister had a plane crash barely a few days after this confrontation. He broke an arm and a leg when the small aircraft chartered to take him to Kaduna crashed on landing at the airport.
The big masquerade hiding behind the Minister in all of these going on, the Secretary to the Government, SGF at that time soon thereafter had a ghastly motor accident between the airport in Kaduna and the township. He was fractured in five different parts of his body.
By this time, fear had gripped the entire government. But as Tukur said in a reaction, he had no hidden or secret power to use against anyone but the he knew that God or Allah was always on the side of the oppressed.
The story as told at that time was that the President, General Babangida, whose sense of humor no one could beat at any time called for a fence-mending meeting with Engineer Tukur.
The GM was then offered a year-long break to further his education at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS.
When he finished and returned to take over at NEPA, he was promoted to the post of Permanent Secretary, PS in the ministry.
Thereafter, he became the PS in Petroleum before he voluntarily retired.
Engineer Tukur belonged to a generation that had painstakingly laid the foundation of this federation. They opposed greed and theft. They believed that it was wrong for public officers to serve narrow ends as has become the norm these days.
From the cavalier and disinterested manner in which the Minister Oduah’s case is being handled by the government, it is clear that there is a disconnect between the administration and vocal segments of the society that inform public opinion.
Similarly, all that we are seeing in the parliament by way of inquisition may not be to provide solutions or sensible lessons to meet the challenges but to promote drama and income for a few.
As a people and a country, Nigerians have themselves not displayed the kind of resolve required to make for the change that would pass on the country’s leadership to selfless and patriotic persons.
Today, if Engineer Tukur, Gen. Murtala Muhammed, Ahmadu Bello, the Sardaunan Sokoto, Prime Minister Balewa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Azikiwe and individuals like them would dare to contest elections, they will not win any vote. Nigerian people mostly vote for GARRI.
In an ideal situation, Ministers caught in the on-going situation concerning the bullet-proof cars should have since resigned their position to limit the damage to their career as politicians and the government in which they serve. Minister Oduah has no legacy anymore in that ministry. The success she claims to have achieved reforming the aviation industry has since been erased from the memory of the public by the on-going crisis. All they remember and talk about her is bullet-proof cars.
Officials like Hamman Tukur entered the public service to give something to the nation. They had commitment and they had character. That was why some of them could look at the face of a wrong-doing minister and say “no!”
Politics has now made public office a gate pass to money and power. Even in the parliament, the temple of democracy, a Senator stood there to announce that there were robbers and criminals in its membership. It is however known that he was forced later to recant.
Every country needs a committed set of people, a sense of purpose and pride. That is why small countries such as Japan, Singapore, Israel and United Arab Emirates have achieved national development. Nigeria has to put its leadership beyond the hegemony of thieves masquerading as reformers. And to do this, political parties should search for potential Ahmadu Bellos, Ziks, Awos, Balewas-leaders who think, not of themselves alone but of the larger society.
Let this be an important outcome of the BULLET-PROOF BMW cars.


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