Monday, 20 January 2014

Open letter to the Minister of Transport

Dear Honourable Minister,
Please pardon me for sending this letter to you through this channel. I chose this means to underscore the importance of my message and because of its urgency.
I won’t take much of your precious time; it is a short letter; not anywhere near 18 pages.
You are someone I hold in high esteem and I will be happy to see you grow politically rather than take on an appointment that may truncate your political future.
I am also a little bit selfish; I don’t want you to leave your present position because you are beginning to understand the maritime industry and its various challenges. If you leave now, who knows how long it will take the next person to understand the sector. Your departure at this time therefore will be a drawback for the shipping sector. Besides, I have a good working relationship with you and I may not have access to you again if you become the PDP national chairman.


Dr. Bamanga Tukur is one of our own in the shipping sector and I was an occasional guest in his office in Victoria Island until he became PDP chairman. He never picked my calls or replied any of my text messages since he got into that office. It had also been very difficult getting him to attend any maritime function.
The Bamanga Tukur I knew was jovial and relaxed. This is different from the man we see on television these days who constantly looked rattled and agitated. He has also become the foot mat of many Nigerians; a man held in high esteem in the business community now despised by many. I don’t want you this to happen to you Honourable Minister.
Let me also remind you of the fate of past PDP chairmen.
Remember Chief Barnabas Gemade? He is a very close friend of the Chairman of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo. Gemade was frustrated out of the exalted office of national chairman of PDP. In fact, he was so peeved he pronounced a curse on the party. He said the fate that would befall his successors in office would be worse than his. That curse is working sir.
Gemade’s predecessor, the late Chief Solomon Lar, also suffered. After winning victory for the acclaimed largest party in Africa in 1999, his leadership was threatened. He could not be insulated from tremor. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s word had become the law. In a twinkle of an eye, the late Lar was shoved aside.
Audu Ogbeh succeeded Gemade. Ogbeh rose to prominence in the Second Republic when he served as the Minister of Communications under the Shagari Administration. He is a man of impeccable character. He hails from Benue State. When he was made the national chairman, he was a nominal member of the party, although in his local area, he was perceived by the chieftains as a father figure. The former minister did not harbour a chairmanship ambition. But when the responsibility was entrusted upon him, he embraced the call to service. All those who wanted to succeed Gemade were edged out by Obasanjo’s presidential muscle. But it was very hard for the chairman to blend with Obasanjo. He felt that the President was elected to run the country and the chairman, in consultation with him, was meant to run the party. Ogbeh became the chairman as the party was preparing for the 2003 elections. The party was in turmoil. The state chapters were crisis-ridden and the divisions had weakened the fold. The crisis in Anambra State chapter drew a wedge between the President and the chairman. Both canvassed opposing solutions.
However, the parting of ways became imminent between Obasanjo and Ogbeh, when the latter publicly advised the President to pay more attention to the sliding economy and the public cry for improved welfare.
Ogbeh’s exit was dramatic. He was invited to the Aso Villa by the Commander-In-Chief. He had lunch with the President; and then advised to resign. He resigned in 2005 in controversial circumstances and later joined the Action Congress now APC.
Senator Muhammadu Ali was the only chairman who had a smooth tenure as PDP national chairman.
A dark horse; the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, emerged as the national chairman at the end of Obasanjo’s administration. Basking in the euphoria of the party’s victory at the 2007 polls, he declared that PDP would rule the country for another 60 years.
You will remember that in 2010, a corruption case against Ogbulafor was exhumed. He was forced to resign from office in controversy. He did not complete his tenure.
His successor, Okwesilieze Nwodo, also had a turbulent tenure. He had served as the national secretary, but left the party when it was engulfed in crisis. He returned and emerged as the chairman when the pro-and anti-Jonathan forces were at war.
Since Tukur took over, it has been one crisis after another. Details of his travails are still fresh in our memories.
Last Thursday, President Jonathan announced Tukur’s resignation. It was a confirmation that Gemade’s curse had finally swept the former chief executive of the Nigerian Ports Authority out of the Wadata House.
Honourable Minister, I heard you are the First Lady’s choice for Tukur’s job.
I beg you, avoid Gemade’s curse. Don’t take the position. Don’t do it. They will rubbish you and send you to political Siberia. And the maritime industry will lose you.
Please tell Her Excellency you’re happy serving as her hubby’s Transport Minister. May God bless you as you do so.

Your good friend,
Bolaji.

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