In defence of Stella Oduah and Cosmas Maduka

I sympathise with delectable Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, minister of Aviation at this hour of her tribulation. As a successful operator of fuel tank farm, Oduah was undoubtedly ill equipped for the highly technical ministry of aviation. But basking on her past glory as a wealthy trader, she arrogantly ignored informed advice that the cause of outrageous charges by foreign airlines was government and its elected officials who fritter away billions of taxpayers’ money on business and first class seats. She instead chose to fight symptoms by embarking on an unwinnable war against British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and Lufthansa. Having lost the war, she embarked on another ill-advised endeavour to float a new national carrier without first addressing the entrenched interests that killed Nigeria Airways and its successor, Virgin Nigeria. Her next gamble was a jamboree around the world in search of investors at the end of which she secured a $500m loan from China to build new airports.

As for the inherited problem of some PDP stalwarts who also double as Airline operators and took interest-free bailout government loans that were diverted to other businesses, she was unable to do much. And now after two years of fruitless war against the symptoms of the decay in the aviation sector, Oduah with her alleged involvement in car deal with Maduka’s Choscharis, has become a metaphor for the pervasive corruption that has characterized PDP successive administrations in the last 14 years.

As Oduah moves around alone soliciting the intervention of PDP godfathers to keep her highly rewarding job, she seems to have more detractors than friends among  the media that have dismissed her as self-conceited and lacking in grace, the civil society groups that often mistake symptoms for causes, the corrupt bureaucracy serving no one but itself, and of course, our highest paid legislators in the world who have chosen to look the other way in the face of massive looting going on in the executive for obvious reasons.


Oduah’s other detractors that have now constituted themselves into a lynch mob, include the Air line Operators of Nigeria {AON) which has already recommended her for investigation by EFCC while remaining silent on its members that diverted huge government bailout to other businesses.

We also have the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN). Ben Okewu its national president said the “necessary government agencies’ should not hesitate to prosecute anyone found to have played a role in the purchase of the bullet-proof cars”. He was silent on their members who received Toyota Corolla cars as part of the deal.

Not left out also is the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE). Its secretary General, Comrade Abdulkareem Motajo, claimed that his union had written several petitions on the alleged financial improprieties involving the Minister of Aviation to the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation.

But what has Oduah done outside PDP predilection for confiscating what belongs to all? At a period when it has been widely speculated that it is not uncommon for a female minister to own a private jet, Oduah’s ordeal according to her media aide, started with her request for armoured car “in response to the clear imminent threat to her personal security and life”. This is not unusual within PDP where gang wars among men and women are often fought with might and with tragic consequences. Even ordinary PDP state party officials and their business associates move around with armed police escorts.

Following what by PDP standard, was a modest request by a minister, the corrupt and parasitic entrenched interest in NCAA decided to buy the minister not only one but two armoured cars at princely price of $800,000(N127.5m each.) not forgetting to buy themselves 34 new cars (13 Toyota Prado SUVs and 21 Corolla saloons.)

Then, Sahara Reporters, the whistle blower, an outfit that torments PDP from outside, insisted there was a rip-off. To prove this, pro forma invoices were obtained from Vista BMW in Florida, United States of America, for a fully armoured BMW 760 Li car for only $162,195 (about N26m); and from the armoured car ballistic division of the International Armouring Corporation in Utah, USA, for $200,000 (about

N32m), shipping to Nigeria inclusive.

But Nigeria newspapers almost spoiled Sahara Reporters resourceful investigative work by introducing comparison which can sometimes be odious. As if we are not aware our ministers are superior to a British Prime Minister, they claim princess Oduah armoured car is more expensive than the British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s armoured Jaguar XJ X351 car at a cost of £200,000 (about N52m). Nigerians know that British prime minister lives in a three bed-room apartment called 10 Downing Street, and owns only one official car which must be left behind at the end of his tenure as Gordon Brown who drove out of Downing Street in his old personal car did.

But back to our embattled aviation minister: Except we are setting out to persecute the minister for self conceit, Oduah is just a symptom of a cankerworm that has eaten deep into our social fabric. As one angry Nigerian analyst put it “At an exchange rate of N155 to $1, Oduah’s vanity would establish eight cottage clinics of N30 million each, or fund the sinking of 50 boreholes in a country where only 17 per cent of its 160 million people have access to pipe-borne water, according to a UNDP report”. In fact that figure can be multiplied by 36 if our leaders decide to lead by example. We can triple that figure if for instance the presidency sells off six of the nine jets claimed to be in the presidential fleet and the senate president and other principal officers of the National Assembly decide to live in mansions they erected in Abuja. After all the Malawi president recently sold off her country’s only presidential jet while British parliamentarians who have houses in London live in their own houses. The removal of Oduah, a mere symptom, as a minister will not stop PDP treachery against our nation.

And if you ask me, Cosmas Maduka that sold a 2008 model of the BMW armoured car for four times the actual cost in Europe has nothing to hide. He is a shrewd Nigerian trader/businessman. I was privileged to meet this great trader turn industrialist a few years back.  I had led a delegation of two other Guardian newspaper directors to his office to present a business proposal. The man took a look at our painstakingly packaged proposal and declared “I will pay 50%’. Shocked, I responded involuntarily by shouting ‘Guardian does not sell ‘tokunbo’ (second hand) goods’. That was the end of the business meeting. Maduka has no patience with non traders especially newspapermen!

Although some of his unorthodox methods may be unacceptable in other climes, I think Maduka is a saint compared to many PDP businessmen and their children currently in court allegedly for forging documents to defraud government of N1.7 trillion. He engages in transparent trading transactions with anyone including government bodies that accept his terms.

And even it if is finally established that Maduka’s Coscharis made a kill  in its current car deal with officials of NCAA, how many Nigerian businessmen will waste such an opportunity to help themselves if all it takes is supporting PDP game of perfidy? As Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, my teacher and a former external affairs minister said not too long ago, show me one Nigerian billionaire who did not ride to his good fortune on the back of the Nigerian state.

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