This is Nigeria, a country where there are clearly unwritten but strict rules in the code of conduct for top government functionaries who ever attempt to alter the status quo. For Stella Adaeze Oduah, the honourable minister for Aviation, she is learning almost late that the route to a successfully completed tenure as a federal minister in Nigeria requires an alarming dexterity and sophistry on how not to step on the various banana peels that liter one’s path as the head of a very strategic government parastatal. Unlike a lot of her contemporaries, even her critics agree that she has earned her place in President Jonathan’s cabinet. Stella was not only the finance director of the door-to-door Jonathan for the President’s Campaign Group, but she was very pivotal in the scheme of things as it concerned getting the Jonathan for President message across to a lot of neighborhoods. And for this the president came to appreciate her resounding intellectuality and her strength of purpose. On assumption as the aviation minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Stella was saddled with the responsibility of transforming a dying sector into a state of activeness that would support economic growth and national development. The task before her are more than crystal clear and the route to accomplishing these tasks are more than visible but not without making enemies and crossing established paths in the aviation sector. She had the option of looking away and be eventually remembered as a minister who had passed through that sector. Stella Adaeze Oduah has been a fire-cracker from the onset of her career even at NNPC. So refusing to bow to established order, she immediately set out on an elaborate reformation and transformation agenda that saw a lot of casualties within the aviation sector. Sacked, redeployed, transferred were some of the measures taken on the huge personnel within the departments under her. She immediately began to review a lot of policies that had been in existence before her and immediately revoked quite a number of them that where recommended by her inner cabinet of aviation experts. To really get to the crux of the matter, it will be very detrimental not to mention the actions that she took that saw her being labeled the Iron Lady of the aviation industry. Before the coming of Stella Oduah, there were no perishable agro-cargo terminals that could enhance farm-to-market distribution chain, guarantee food security and facilitate economic development in the rural areas through easy exchange of farm produce and foreign exchange. In the days of former aviation ministers these services were within the remit of a group of powerful individuals charging exorbitantly for facilitating trade between rural farmers and the international market. So to break the hitherto status quo was a big abomination to “overlords” who were milking the nation unrepentantly. In fact, analysts with deep knowledge of the sector opined that she would not go without any bruise because her achievements which are receiving resounding commendations home and abroad are detested by the “special class” whose monopoly her transformation has broken. Taking into consideration poor rural farmers who cannot afford to fly on a plane and reap the benefits of existence of such facilities as airports in our country, consequently, she designated Perishable Agro-Cargo Terminals in Jos, Yola, Asaba, Enugu, Akure, Makurdi and Lagos. The spread of these terminals would continue to Bauchi, Calabar, Jalingo, Ibadan, Kano and Owerri. As if she brought the initiatives from heaven, she executed them effortlessly and in a manner that fans the embers of envy. Stella Oduah has achieved what no aviation minister in the history of Nigeria has ever come close to within so short a period. Still, her determination and body language are unequivocal on the fact that greater days are ahead for the aviation sector under her watch. Another tough stance of Stella was the relocation of the Domestic Passenger Airport Terminal in Abuja to the B&D wings of NAIA International Airport for greater convenience and service. These initiatives are not without their stiff opposition; individuals who are affected by the simplification of the Nigerian aviation processes are at daggers-drawn with the aviation minister. For touching the established order or attempting to alter the status quo, there must be a fight-back by the group who cannot operate without total monopoly. Bitter and battered, the untouchables have waged a vindictive war against the minister, a reformer whose love for the nation propelled her to challenge existing inefficiency and exploitation in the aviation sector. But if you think that is all the opposition to the lady who has on countless times emerged best minister, then you must be kidding. Amongst the very top players in the FCT, one name that has continued to cause a lot of ripples in this Oduahgate scandal is the name of another cabinet member of the president’s inner circle, it is none other than the honourable minister for petroleum resources, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke. To the novice public they will sure say, how can? And why? Well in this piece, we bare it as it is with no iota of cover-ups. At a government function not too long ago, when Diezani Allison Madueke and Stella Oduah found themselves sitting close to themselves, bona fide villa informants kept recounting the bitter rivalry between the two ladies and consequently their cold war. That they have cleverly kept this bitter feud out of the public domain but that it wouldn’t be long before one will rip into the other if ever they found the chance to do so.
The multibillion naira question is: then what is the cause of their rift? There are so many tales but for lack of space we shall serve you the most ferocious. It is more than obvious that these two ladies are not only heading two of our most vital ministries but are also very close to the president, so there has been an alleged cold competition amongst them as to who would emerge closer to the highest seat of power. There has been without doubt a lot of backstabbing and back-biting just for this coveted throne. Even though Diezanni heads the petroleum ministry which is the life and soul of the nation, stakeholders and even ordinary Nigerians woul readily tell you that her performance has been below par. The monumental fuel subsidy scandal and the attendant rot in that field which she happens to oversee has left all coming to the conclusion that she has not delivered in an area no woman has ever held sway before while Stella Oduah before this time has emerged on countless times the best performing minister on account of her strides at the aviation ministry. The comparisons have left one of the two powerful women walking with a special aura that is common with new or latest brides. For very glaringly Stella Oduah has performed far above her contemporaries, a fact even her critics openly concede to. But worthy of mention was the recent scandal that graced the media with a ferocity not seen in a while. It was the leakage of the exact amount the minister of petroleum had spent on private jets and chattered flights since becoming a minister. It ran into billions of naira and it greatly embarrassed the Presidency. Amongst close aides to the minister of petroleum, it is strongly believed in Madueke’s camp that the exact amount was some sort of classified information and that only the aviation top shots with that inside knowledge would have been privy to such information. Then was the question of motive to leak? Maduekes people also believe that Stella Oduah who calls the shots in the aviation sector had the absolute motive to leak the figures to the press. Even though she escaped that scandal, her aides indicated that a “war of who will fall first had just kicked off between the two powerful women. According to very reliable information, Diezani Madueke waited for her own time to repay her rival Stella and alas Stella who never saw this coming stepped on the proverbial banana peel and today she is fighting the biggest battle of her life. Sources close to the petroleum minister claim she is not only overjoyed at the turn of events these past weeks but that she is alleged to have charged all her powerful cabinet members to stop at nothing to make sure that the heat on Stella never wanes until the final verdict is out. This is a very smart move because if the negative publicity continues the president might be forced to act in a very compelling manner. This position is an open secret to all the power brokers within the seat of power. Even though Stella has attended to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation where she dismissed all the allegations as baseless, the heat is still striving to burn to “death”, so let us watch and see how this epic movie plays out. They are both cabinet members but there is also a popular proverb that says, “Household witchcraft na the toughest o!”