www.huhuonline.com, December 29, 2009
by Dayo Atofolaki
It is amazing how some jobless imbeciles can lend themselves and their pens to falsehood all for a little cash. The disgraceful and clearly defamatory little piece written by some unknown hatchet writer and hired gun who claims that her name is Abimbola Agboluaje is one of such. I really do wonder how a newspaper like Businessday that has national circulation and credibility in the areas of business/economic coverage, would lend itself to such filth, and wastefully give a space to such an embittered and fraudulent soul as this. It is also against the ethics of journalism where they say facts are sacred and opinion is cheap.
Needless to say Abimbola did not even attempt to be honest or decent. She had a job to do and she had been well paid to do it and she did not care whose ox was gored. She sold her soul to the devil for a pittance and agreed to do one thing and one thing alone-attempt to discredit and destroy one of Nigeria’s brightest and best and to do so by peddling disinformation, falsehood and half truths. That person is none other than the distinguished Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a man that not only served his President and his nation selflessly but a man who also transformed both ministries that he served in for the better and did a simply remarkable job. It is only in Nigeria that such stars are denigrated and insulted by the likes of Abimbola and that is precisely why our country is going to the dogs. And of course it is very convenient for her to launch her vitriolic diatribe now simply because Chief Fani-Kayode together with the Nuhu Ribadu and the El-Rufai that she mentioned are all being persecuted and have been charged with various offences by the Yaradua administration simply because they are close to President Obasanjo and because they are seen as his blue eyed boys. And yet of the three it is only Fani-Kayode that has been brave enough to stay in Nigeria to clear his name. The other two ran. Not only that he has also been courageous enough to announce the fact that he will be running for the governorship of his state in 2011 against all odds which is what is giving the likes of Abimbola and those that have sponsored her sleepless nights. And now, for what it is worth, let us look at the issues raised by this young lady in her article which in my view is nothing but a few lines of disjointed and illogical verbiage. As a matter of fact if not for the fact that her subject matter is an individual that so many of us respect and admire one would have just ignored her. Nevertheless that would not have been the right approach and the only remedy for falsehood and those that peddle it like Abimbola is truth. That is the purpose of this piece- to tell the truth and set the record straight and to stop Abimbola from freely indulging in telling the most blatant lies and indulging in perfidy and character-assassination. Now let me look at the issues she raised briefly and answer them point by point. Firstly it is not true that Chief Fani-Kayode, whilst he was President Obasanjo’s spokesman at the Presidency, just used to abuse people. What he did, and he did it very effectively in my view, was to defend his principal President Obasanjo and to join issues in a very cogent, articulate and sometimes combative manner with Obasanjo’s critics. Such was his eloquence, his ability to put up a strong case and his knowledge that very few people could stand against him and when notable figures like Wole Soyinka were very insultive and told lies about Obasanjo and his government, Fani- Kayode rose to the occassion in a splendid manner and responded in kind. Whilst doing this job Fani-Kayode’s excellent education as a Cambridge man and a lawyer and his brilliant oratory and formidable debating skills were brought to bear and very few, including Soyinka, could stand against him. Simply put the man not only did his job very well but also Obasanjo eventually found him virtually indispensable and depended on him completely to face down his detractors and enemies. In fact such was the power of Fani-Kayode’s office as Special Assistant To Mr. President on Public Affairs that it completely overshadowed Remi Oyo’s office as Special Assistant on Public Communications and that of successive Ministers of Information. In those days if you wanted to get Obasanjo’s views on anything or if you wanted to know the governments position on any issue it was Fani- Kayode you went to and we all used to enjoy listening to him speak on tv with his impeccable Queens english British accent even if we did not agree with what he was saying or even if we didn’t like his boss Obasanjo. And yet this is the man that Abimbola can glibly write only used to insult people. With due respect this young lady needs to have her head examined and so do those that sent her on this futile errand.. The second falsehood that Abimbola indulged in was the assertion that unlike Ribadu and El Rufai, Fani-Kayode was not a member of Obasanjo’s economic reform team. This is a lie. I can confirm to you that both as Minister of Culture and Tourism and then later as Minister of Aviation, Fani- Kayode was not only a member of the economic reform team but he also played a very active role in it both when it was chaired by Ngozie Okonjo- Iweala and then later Nenadi Usman who were the Ministers of Finance respectively. The minutes of such meetings are before me as I write this piece and of course if Abimbola has any doubts she can ask the other members of the team rather than displaying her crass ignorance and peddling falsehood here. The third falsehood and the one that I as a journalist and as someone who believes in objectivity and professionalism in our profession objects and takes offence to the most of all, was Abimbola’s assinine and childish remark that Fani-Kayode was redeployed to become the Minister of Aviation as some kind of reward for services rendered by President Obasanjo. The innuendo here is clear and I really do hope the Fani-Kayode’s lawyers will eventually take this aspect up with Abimbola and Businessday eventually. Such a submission is not only untrue but it is also defamatory and irresponsible. How I wish that Nigerians did not have such bad memories and how I wish that the profession of journalism, of which I am a proud member, did not have so many historical revisionists, liars, lepers, pimps and prostitutes in its ranks. Thank God that they are a tiny minority and that the overwhelming majority of journalists do not fall into that category and will not allow themselves to be used the way that Abimbola has chosen to do. The records show that the reason why Chief Fani- Kayode was redeployed to the ministry of Aviation was because there had been a terrible cycle of plane crashes (five in one year) with the attendant loss of over 400 lives just before he got there. Fani- Kayode’s predecessor in office, Professor Babalola Borisade, was wholly incapable of putting and end to the crashes and many even saw him as the source of the problem. Much to the shock of Nigerians Obasanjo kept Borisade there even after the public insisted that he should be removed and everyone in those days was scared of flying. As a matter of fact up until that time aviation was a sector in which danger, insanity, insensitivity, recklessness and graft prevailed. Yet for some bizarre reason or other and despite all the bloodshed and death from those crashes, Obasanjo insisted on keeping Borisade there. It was only after the fifth plane crash in which the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Maccido and his son and grandson together with a large number of senators and other political leaders from the north-west also died that Obasanjo relented and agreed to remove Borisade. Pressure was brought on the government to stop those crashes at all costs and to clean up and reform the aviation sector. For this difficult task and historic role President Obasanjo chose one of his most brilliant, toughest, forthright and fearless disciples in the person of Femi Fani-Kayode. This could hardly be described as a reward for services rendered because at that time no-one wanted to be redeployed to aviation due to the loss of life, the crashes, the mafia-like cabal and the monumental corruption that controlled the place but Fani-Kayode not only went there but he cleaned up the place, took on the mafia, exposed the corruption, reformed the sector and most important of all he put a stop to the plane crashes and gave Nigerians the confidence to fly again. This was a monumental achievement and the relative stability and safety that you have in that sector today can be traced to the efforts of this great man and the reforms that he put in place. I assure you that this was no mean task and if Obasanjo wanted to “reward” Fani-Kayode for services rendered as Abimbola is suggesting he would have found an easy ministry like the FCT for him to run and not a hot seat like aviation. It is a pity that Abimbola was not on one of those planes that crashed before Fani-Kayode was redeployed. If she had been we would have been spared all her trash and if she had survived she would have appreciated him all the more for turning the tide and making our airspace safe again. It is for this very reason that many till today refer to Fani-Kayode as the best and most effective Minister of Aviation that Nigeria has ever had even though his tenure was relatively short. The fourth falsehood that Abimbola sought to peddle was as childish as it was amusing.
Of all the things that Fani-Kayode achieved whilst he was at aviation perhaps the one that Nigerians love and respect him for the most is the fact that he was the first and only Aviation Minister that we had who was able to stand up to the international foreign airline operators and insist that they not only abide by our rules and regulations but that they should also treat Nigerians with decency and respect. He wielded the big stick on them and it really worked. For the first time the international foreign airline operators in Nigeria not only sat up but they also started treating our people with respect and not like animals. He even stopped them from spraying Nigerians with insecticides and threatened to ground British Airways for doing so. He suspended Lufthansa for a while for operating an illegal air route(and publically told off the German Ambassador in very harsh terms whilst doing so) and he also grounded Air France for a few hours for the same reason. Fani- Kayode was patriotic, candid, open and firm in his dealings with the international airline operators and Nigerians that travel a lot and that live in the diaspora were particularly impressed with and touched by that. But of course that means nothing to people like Abimbola who has probably never even travelled out of Nigeria before, assuming she even really exists. In fact to them patriotism is a crime and Nigerians should continue to be treated like vermin. That is how hopelessly degenarate and corrupt the hearts, souls and minds of people like Abimbola and her sponsors have become. And to show you just how far Fani- Kayode went with his brand of patriotism he also ensured that Nigerian airline operators won lucrative international flight routes to many foreign destinations. For example it is thanks to his efforts that Arik Air of Nigeria can today fly to Heathrow Airport in London and to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Those major concessions to Nigerian airline operators were fought for and won by Fani-Kayode when he was the Minister of Aviation. Of course all of that counts for nothing and means nothing to poisoned and vindictive minds and bitter little souls like Abimbola. Let us hope that they do not ultimately choke on their own poison. Let me end by touching on the general point that the obviously confused Abimbola was at least trying to make even though it really did not make any sense. She objected to the fact that Fani-Kayode had suggested that both foreign and local airlines should pay their dues to the state such as taxes etc.. She then went on to suggest that to insist on their doing so would create some kind of disincentive to foreign investment into Nigeria.
This is not only ludicrous but it is also outrageous. As a matter of fact it is what one can comfortably describe as arrant nonsense. It is obvious that Abimbola of Businessday either never went to school or is just desperately looking for a free air ticket to London from any of the foreign airlines. It is very obvious to the educated that a Minister that has the courage to speak out publically and insist that foreign companies should pay their dues and abide by our laws ought to be encouraged and commended and not villified and lampooned by desperados that are looking for favours and tips. If it had been the other way around and Nigerian companies and airline operators had wilfully refused to pay their taxes and dues and honour their obligations in Europe or America not only would the government scream out, impound their planes and arrest them immediately but the whole matter would have been reported on cnn and bbc and it would be regarded as another example of Nigerian criminality, irresponsibility and 419. But when we insist on our laws being adhered to over here by their airline operators, as Fani-Kayode did when he was Minister of Aviation, all manner of reprobates and turncoats who are obviously on the payroll of these foreigners say that we must allow them to break the law otherwise it may act as a disincentive to foreign investment. Can anyone really be as stupid and gullible as to try to argue such a ridiculous point? Well Abimbola seems to be trying very hard and in my view she qualifies eminently for the title of goof of the year. Honestly she should go and bury her illiterate and ignorant little head in shame and Businessday Newspaper would do well to relieve her of her job and replace her with seasoned journalists and writers who have far more integrity and who are of better quality than her.