I make no apologies about it, I am one of the unrepentant critics of Injustice and Corruption in Nigeria under President Obasanjo. I know a tree does not a forest make. One isolated case of Justice in an ocean of injustice could have been written off by many as nothing to gloat about. There is some validity to that statement, but I am gloating about this fluke, if that is what you call it, and I am using this medium to congratulate Mr. President for standing his ground this time around and making sure that justice was done in the case of one Nigerian who has been very diligent in his work, in all the places he has worked, and therefore deserves all the public support he is getting on this, even from an E-mail pony writing out of New York.
It is very rare in our history for a public official like Olu Owolabi sitting on top of a gold mine of a public parastatal like SAHCOL, so to speak, and not getting his nose bloodied for playing smart and stealing the whole place dry after a few years. The gentleman deserves to be praised to the high heavens for getting off the hook of wolves, blackmailers and colleagues who may want to tarnish his reputation and destroy his career and credibility by all means simply because he has played by the rule, and has stayed above board to his own everlasting credit. The point has to be made that there are still a few honest and decent Nigerians who will not mortgage their conscience and join the bandwagon of looters to ruin our country, if they ever get a chance to lead. Our history is replete with those kinds of characters and leaders who are seeking power and relevance only to dip their hands into the cookie jar and to steal as much as they can. I would have been as effusive in my condemnation of the President and his Government for not doing justice and allowing due process to take hold if he has fumbled on this again.
Since the President has evidently got this right, I feel like letting the whole world know that all critics of the President are not just criticizing him for the fun of it either because we hate him or just because we want to see him fail. The majority of us are criticizing him because we seriously want him to succeed and because we have come to expect too much from him, and what he has been able to give back in return is, often, too little too late. Some may accuse some of us of impatience. I won’t dispute that, but we all have to remember that time is ever so critical in everything that we do. It took God six days to create the whole world so He might take his rest on the seventh day. The average tenure of office of most Government leaders in a Democracy is four years which is long enough to do what they have got to do. Life itself is very short. Even Jesus the son of God lived only 33 years and he accomplished all of his goals in his last three years on Earth. So time is of the essence, and we cannot afford a leader who needs eternity to do what he has to do. That is the more reason I think IBB is wasting his time trying to convince the nation he wants four or eight more years or for ever to do what he could not do in nine years of dictatorship when he did what he liked.
No Nigerian, I repeat no other Nigerian dead or alive, has been as lucky and as blessed as this Obasanjo of a man in a country of 120 million people. “Unto whom much is given, much is expected” says the Bible, and I wish to constantly remind the President about that as a born again Christian.
It was President John F. Kennedy who was once said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one solitary step. The acquittal of Olu Owolabi and his reinstatement back to his job at SAHCOL (Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited) should only be seen as a beginning, for the best is yet to come for this exceptional Nigerian, and for the Obasanjo Government, if he remains committed to Justice for all in our country from coast to coast and from sea to shining sea. I see a glimpse of hope in this development, and I am thrilled by it for a change.
Alhaji Oluropo Owolabi’s recall had come on the heels of another decent and honest Nigerian, Mr. Jonathan Jiya’s reinstatement as Managing Director of SAHCOL’s parent Company, the Nigerian Airways in January this year. SAHCOL is a subsidiary of the brain-dead Nigerian Airways which is being recommended for total liquidation by the B.P.E. (Bureau of Public Enterprises in Nigeria). Owolabi’s God-inspired recall was done with immediate effect following a clean bill of health given to him from an External Audit Firm appointed by the Federal Government to look into the financial accounts of SAHCOL under Owolabi’s result-oriented administration. The audit Firm has also returned a verdict of “not guilty” over the allegations of financial impropriety, economic sabotage and insubordination leveled against him for doing his job the right way, and making sure the Company does not follow the same beaten path of its dying parent body, the flying elephant which appears too heavy to take off or land, despite all the heavy investments of the Federal Government on it for as long as anyone can remember.
General Obasanjo himself had not forgotten how many planes his Government had left for the Airline in 1979 and how many planes he had come back to find in 1999 when Destiny had sent him back again to rule Nigeria. While outfits like the Nigerian Airways are supposed to grow and expand, the Nigerian Airways was shrinking, and just fading away from one year to another. Rather than progressing, the Nigerian Airways was retrogressing big time because of corruption in high places. It was good riddance to have it liquidated completely because it was serving no useful purpose. Nigeria is today toying with the idea of having Virgin Atlantic take over the very lucrative business the Nigerian Airways was always running at a loss because they are always in the habit of employing a Carpenter to do the job of a plumber, and using an elephant for their own symbol of flight, a move that I consider very strange. The green eagle is our national bird, and the elephant has no place in our national psyche other than a big for nothing animal which is only valued for its tusks and monstrosity. Nigerian Airways under our colonial masters may have used the elephant logo to ridicule us as a big for nothing giant. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the same logo should have been retained after Independence!
Have you ever seen a flying elephant any where in the world? If you do, you may have been watching some Indian magic movies like “Jaga Daku.” Only a foolish country would have adopted a flying elephant as a flying logo. You could argue the logo has nothing to do with the success or failure of the Airline, if the people managing it know what they are doing. I am not going to argue with you on that. But the truth again is that those who can efficiently manage the Airline are always the last to be hired and the first to be fired.
That has always been the jinx of that Airline. Gone are those days when Alhaji Shaba and people like him were in charge. As a matter of fact, Alhaji Shaba had recruited Olu Owolabi who had gotten the best kind of training that money could buy in Airline Administration and Management any where in the world. Olu has managed to prove that to all doubting Thomas’s when he was the manager in Rome and for many years the General Manager for the Nigerian Airways in the United States and Canada, but based in New York. His tenure of office was easily the best and the most profitable for Nigeria in the history of Nigerian Aviation. His station was known to return the highest dividends to the Head Office while most of the other stations were either being run at a loss or returning peanuts. Why? Because Olu Owolabi was a round peg in a round hole.
He was born to lead and work for an Airline, and he is a great credit manager who knows how to turn liability into asset by using less to do more, all the time. While many would spend years beating about the bush seeking a career, Olu Owolabi like President Obasanjo did not have to waste time debating what to do with his life. He instinctively knew that Aviation administration was his life choice, and that was what he immediately settled for after leaving Ekiti Parapo College in Ido in Ekiti State. Born by an Ilupeju-Ekiti mother and an Ijesha father, Olu seems to have combined the brains, the principled doggedness and honesty of a typical Ekiti man and the business wizardry, diplomacy and resourcefulness of a typical Ijesha man He has never wavered, for one minute, after choosing the Aviation Industry as his only preoccupation in life Because he is so focussed and resourceful he has become an oracle in the field who should easily have been tapped as the Managing Director of the parent Airline longest time if we had a dynamic Government in our country.
An Airline is floated to provide service and make profit. You cannot subject such an outfit to the dictate of a a foolish Quota system. You give the running of the industry to individuals who can best manage it, regardless of where they come from, and what language they speak. He certainly would have done for the Nigerian Airways the same magic formula he has used to make SAHCOL the envy of the Nigerian Aviation industry that all of his rivals could never match. I started paying attention to Olu Owolabi in my days as Secretary to the Joint Economic Commission of Nigeria with other nations of the World when I first had some official dealings with him. I could tell right there and then the sky was going to be his limit because he was razor blade sharp and gifted. He had done such a marvelous job at SAHCOL within so short a time that the parent body was so embarrassed he was going to expose them for their indolence and drift when reasonable people start asking why an affiliate body could be doing so well and giving the lifeline to the parent body which has all but crashed under her own weight. But for the Bureau of Public Enterprises intervention the parent body was just about ready to throw away the baby with the bath water. Olu Owolabi is that precious baby without any question in my mind.
Olu Owolabi is indeed an international figure and a true patriot who speaks Hausa language with the acumen and depth of a Dan Maraya in addition, of course, to his native Yoruba language. He also speaks enough Igbo language to get by, quite apart from his fluency in English and some working knowledge of French and Italian. Who can beat that among his peers in the defunct Nigerian Airways? Not a single soul. His public relations is first class, and he understands the very key to success in any business, that “the right relationship is everything” as observed by Chase Manhattan Bank. Olu Owolabi, like Mr. President, is a cat with nine lives and a survivor extraordinary who has succeeded in turning SAHCOL into the most profitable venture in the African Aviation Industry.
If you don’t believe me, go ask all the former Nigerian Permanent Representatives to the United Nations like the late Joseph Garba or his ife who is still alive and Professor Agboola Gambari and all of the Nigerian Consuls in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York the Financial Capital of the World and our former ambassdors in Washington DC who had seen him perform up close and personal. They will all tell you Olu Owolabi is exceptional, and I might add, the very best in his class. The SAHCOL staff who could not hide their euphoria and emotion when the President had sent him back to complete the good job he had started at SAHCOL, are only reflecting public opinion and the reservoir of goodwill we have all come to have for him as a man of character and a man of the future in our country. “Seest thou a man diligent in his work, he shall stand before Kings and Queens.” That is all there is to Olu Owolabi’s amazing performance in his chosen field. We all should be praying for more of him in our country, and the President needs more of him to get our country to where we need to be today and tomorrow. When the good Lord or Allah builds the House, they labor in vain who attempt to pull it down. God loves Olu Owolabi, and so do most of us who have been privileged to know and work with him. I couldn’t be more elated about what is happening to Olu at this moment. Praise be to Allah.
“Magana Yakare Shikena. To, de shau. Allah i ke mu”. Forgive my poor Hausa. I am just too crazy for that language. I just don’t know why.