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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Momodu’s Misinformed ‘Travails of Chief Harry Akande’

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That Dele Momodu is perhaps, the country’s leading authority on rich celebrity businessmen especially if these flamboyant persons happen to hail from the South West is not news. At one time, you would recall, Momodu claimed to know more about the late Chief MKO Abiola-- even far more than the man’s sons and daughters.

The latest task the famous celebrity watcher has set for himself is that of throwing up Akande as a righteous paramour, who surprisingly, has been hurt and victimized by his own country, Nigeria and his own people. Momodu, dripping with pity, describes this as “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Something was however, not quite right. It appears rather curious that, after Momodu has laboured hard to establish Akande’s reputation as a very rich and powerful businessman with far-reaching connections and influence across the globe, he then, tells us that the same Chief Akande who has dined and continues to dine with the high and mighty across the globe, would then, suddenly, become so powerless that he can easily be victimized by some people in his own country, Nigeria. Very curious, indeed!

Of course, this make-belief by Momodu is so far from the truth. Rather, on the contrary, it is Akande, the flamboyant and powerful Nigerian-born international businessman and former presidential aspirant of the ANPP(All Progressive Peoples Party) that has failed to deliver on his sweet talk.

Using his powerful connections, he got the concessions to build and operate these facilities at the MMIA before year 2000, but soon after, could not muster the investment required to keep his side of the bargain. If the flamboyant businessman and politician has spent most of his personal resources on fruitless political campaigns, with the aim of becoming President of Nigeria, who is to blame for that? The current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and the current Aviation minister are more interested in moving the industry forward as quickly as possible and are not interested in stopping anyone from investing in the sector, especially someone of Akande’s business stature.

If the Aviation minister can go on roadshows to promote investment in the country’s Aviation sector then, it would be absurd to say that she would deliberately oppose Chief Akande’s investment in the sector if he genuinely wants to invest in the sector! The truth is that shortly after the fun fare of the foundation laying at the site at MMIA, Akande and his company, AIC abandoned work at the site. And since government and Nigerians cannot continue to wait for anyone no matter how highly placed at the expense of the country, government revoked the concession agreement. With two change of governments since then—from the Obasanjo administration to the Umaru Yar’ Adua administration to the current Goodluck Jonathan administration, Chief Akande has had ample chances to represent his grievances to government. And at worst, he may have re-negotiated his agreement with succeeding administrations who would have been willing to listen to the prominent businessman and politician. Obviously, he has not explored these options.
The law courts which he has been making the rounds of, have ruled against him twice in recent times.
But rather than obey court judgment, Akande resorted to self-help by hiring thugs to fight and throw out legitimate law enforcement agents of government. Today, the land in question, 11.7 hectares of prime land-- which is designed in the airports Master Plan for the further development of the terminal, by government remained fallow until recently when the project for the new international terminal for MMA came up. In fact, this site as contained in the Master Plan was designated for the construction of the A, B and C wings of the international terminal.

What most members of the public do not know is that the dispute between FAAN and AIC does not have anything to do with ownership of the land where the proposed AIC hotel was to be built because there is no doubt about who owns the land! The dispute revolves around the award of over 48 million dollars granted AIC Ltd by the arbitral tribunal in 2010 which FAAN contested and won through a judgement of the Federal High Court in Lagos, in June, 2013. FAAN has even gone out of its way to offer AIC other sites for the construction of the said hotel within the airport premises but this has been turned down by AIC, which has continued to insist on the present site, with all its security implications for the airport. With the present security challenges, it is ridiculous for anyone to dream of building a hotel in a land that stretches into an airport tarmac!

While not holding brief for the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, it seems almost inconceivable that that administration would simply wake up one day and revoke the concession agreement granted Akande’s AIC to build his hotel at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA 1, in Lagos for no good reason.

Unsurprisingly, Momodu describes Akande in superlative terms: “The media was awash with stories that this new King Midas (who) was poised to turn the misfortune of that jinxed airport into prosperity.” Unfortunately, as it turned out, there was no“ new King Midas,” as Akande failed to live up to his billing as a serious investor.

Momodu, the praise singer of the rich and flamboyant goes further:” “Everything looked set for this miracle to happen. But it seemed Chief Akande failed to take the Nigerian principalities into consideration. He would have known that nothing was absolutely certain in a country where pettiness and incurable jealousy reigned supreme.” How trite!

Then, Momodu delivers his coup de grace:” I’m not willing to go into who is wrong and who is right. I just believe, and wish to ensure, that a man of Chief Akande’s status would be better treated with all the respect he deserves.” What Momodu appears to be saying in essence is that, we must all bow down to Chief Akande –a man of uncommon accomplishments and we must all allow him to have his way –with us—at all times. How nice. It does not matter if Akande is right or wrong. Really, I daresay, no one has disrespected Chief Akande. It is only that the nation must move forward by re-developing a 40 year old  airport that remains the country’s premier gateway to the world and Akande appears to have made himself into a stumbling block. More over, if indeed, Momodu is unwilling to go into the contending issues in the AIC/MMIA matter, why bring it up?

Then,Momodu plays the proverbial ostrich who buried its head in the earth to avoid an unpleasant situation while its heavy body remained within sight, when he said that “Before our very eyes, the airport has gone from bad to worse..”That means that Momodu has not seen the unprecedented physical transformation of the MMIA terminal undertaken by the Ministry of Aviation and FAAN. Or perhaps, he prefers not to see this. Because this would distort his preconceived notions and views about the airport and his subject of fancy, Akande!
•Dati is the Co-ordinating General Manager, Aviation Parastatals.

My Dear Yakubu
I have chosen to respond to your diatribe as a matter of long-standing policy. I believe no serious writer should allow media advisers get away with serial murder. In your own case, and as a big man in your Aviation Ministry, I expected a more informed response from you. But since you’ve chosen, like others before you, to abuse the messenger instead of attacking the message, I will try to educate you on how not to be a spin doctor.
You betrayed a lack of judgment and decorum by starting your rejoinder with an attack on Ovation as a magazine for “flamboyant persons” from the South West. You are probably too busy cooking the latest lies in your Aviation kitchen that you find it hard to read a simple lifestyle magazine. You would have known that Ovation is not a parochial magazine but a pan-African one reporting the lifestyles of African newsmakers in Africa and the Diaspora for over 17 years. We therefore do not dwell only on the lifestyle of Nigerians not to mention dwelling on a sub-region of the country.  No magazine would have survived that long if it indulged in the petty discrimination or censorship you wish to tag the magazine with. We tell stories with beautiful pictures and leave our readers to judge. Today we publish 364 pages monthly, in English and French. How mean can you be to reduce such gallant efforts of your fellow-citizens to a community journal?
Regarding my relationship with the late Chief MKO Abiola, you said I claimed to know the man more than his children. Please, quote the source of your hyperbole. Of course, I knew Chief Abiola well, and it is a public knowledge that he openly declared me his adopted son. Incidentally, I will be joining a crew from Los Angeles this afternoon to speak about Abiola in a forthcoming documentary. Abiola’s Crown Prince, Kola Abiola, personally invited me.
You wasted your introduction on jejune extrapolations that bore no relevance to the meat of your message. The examples you gave were blatantly false and only revealed desperation to justify your high-faluting title and remuneration as Co-ordinating General Manager, Aviation Parastatals. No wonder the whole place is littered with parasites.
I will leave you to stew in your own juices of lies but point out the salient contradictions in your illogical reaction. If what you tried to write was a satire, you failed to deliver. Media Advisers stick to the facts but you chose to mix a cocktail of false, cheap, tawdry ingredients. I’m not surprised that it gave you verbal diarrhoea. There was nowhere I said Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah took Chief Harry Akande’s land. It was revoked by the Obasanjo government. You’ve now told us that Chief Akande’s inability to deliver on his promise was the reason for the revocation. Now listen to your own statement:
“What most members of the public do not know is that the dispute between FAAN and AIC does not have anything to do with ownership of land where the proposed AIC hotel was to be built…” Mercifully, you told us it had to do with the award of 48 million dollars awarded by the arbitral tribunal in 2010 which FAAN contested and won in the Federal High Court. However, you failed to say what the Court ruled as regards Akande’s right to use the land or the reason AIC is being offered alternative parcels of land. 
The same Akande that you said could not honour his promise, according to you, was offered another piece of land: “FAAN has even gone out of its way to offer AIC other sites for the construction of the said hotel within the airport premises but this has been turned down by AIC…” How generous of FAAN.
Equally important, you failed to tell us the progress of the case in the Nigerian appellate courts.
Something is not very right about the deals going on and you’ve raised more suspicions than ever. It’s the same way the media aide to your Minister rushed to Press and said the controversial bullet-proof cars were bought for the protection of Her Majesty. Would it not have been better to keep quiet or offer apologies to Nigerians instead rubbing pepper on fresh wounds? Must you guys defend every insane act?
I had said nothing about the bullet-proof car saga or the drowning cacophony about unprecedented physical transformation at your magical paradise called MMIA. The reason was simple. I didn’t want to give you guys the pleasure of adorning me with your tribal rags. Little did I know that a simple plea, asking government to have pity on Akande, would still drag me down your clannish alley! You guys know nothing better than to play the ethnic card.
What a shame!
Dele Momodu


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