Happy Birthday Uncle Festus, SAN!

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

It was delightful, reading the President’s Birthday Wishes to you sir. Parts of the statement read, “President Tinubu congratulates the foremost lawyer and one of Nigeria’s leading advocates of good governance and citizens’ rights, on this anniversary of his birth, and commends him for being an irrepressible proponent of justice, truth and national unity. The President also commends The Honorable Minister for his devotion to duty and passion for service demonstrated by his efforts to strengthen the aviation sector to consistently deliver world class service, safety and performance. President Tinubu wishes Olorogun Keyamo good health, wisdom, and strength in the service of the nation”. I and many other Buharists and Batists wish you the same, and pray that your tenure records more successes than you ever envisaged. Your success is ours, as devoted members of the APC, and dyed in the wool supporters of President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Uncle Festus, even more delightful, is the news that currently, Nigeria’s Stock Exchange leads in the world, with the all share index which tracks the general market movement of all listed equities on the Nigerian Exchange, recording a 69 percent growth rate since May last year, when Mr. President was sworn in. This speaks volumes of Mr. President’s economic know-how, as investors are swooping in for Nigerian stocks. The importation of petroleum products would soon come to an end too, with the Dangote refinery coming on stream, along with the Port-Harcourt refinery. Within such a small period of time, massive results are trickling in, which have been great morale boosters. These successes are what we worked for and hope to continue to showcase as footprints of the Asiwaju administration.

Uncle Festus, unfortunately there are certain developments under your ministry, that have been of grave concern, and are generating quite a lot of debate, heat and animosity towards the government we have fought hard to bring to power, in an effort to renew the hopes of all Nigerians, that indeed Asiwaju’s government would bring more development to the country. First is the idea of de-registering or frustrating the take-off of The Nigeria Air project. Northerners believe that all the bottlenecks being created are concerted efforts to stop the airline because it has largely Northern ownership. The FG owns only 5%, Ethiopia Airlines 49%, and the remaining equity is by a consortium of Nigerian investors from the North. The Nigerian Aviation industry continues to grapple with so much difficulty, which the Nigeria Air project could have resolved. 5% government equity is not government in business. It was needed to get the project to take-off, to become a lasting solution to the challenges of air-travelers in the country, just the way The Dangote Refinery is a final solution to fuel scarcity, with government equity in it, to help bring it to fruition. It doesn’t stop other refineries that have taken off, and are being built all over the country.

Uncle Festus another quite stormy issue is the movement of FAAN headquarters back to Lagos. All Federal Government Headquarters are supposed to be in Abuja. NNPC Headquarters for example, is in Abuja, but its operations are in the Niger-Delta; both Onshore and Offshore. The FAAN idea is in bad taste and it’s giving the government a bad name and a bad identity. Some of the reasons given are thought of as mere excuses, such as the duty tour allowance payments to staff who are technically in Abuja, but working in Lagos due to the lack of office space in Abuja. Their postings can easily be changed to Lagos afterall, since they are in Lagos and not Abuja. With the new structures at The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, certainly office space to augment for the FAAN staff in Abuja cannot be a problem. The relocation of FAAN Headquarters is believed strongly by Northerners as part of an agenda, to eventually move the nation’s capital back to Lagos, piece-meal.

Thirdly Uncle Festus, there are the plans to move a multi-million naira project, named Refurbish Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Vehicles (ARFF), from Katsina State to another location in the South. AVSATEL Communications Ltd, the company awarded the contract, is said to be scheming to have the Aviation Ministry to move the project out of Katsina, possibly to Lagos. It is said to be complaining of the transportation of heavy duty equipment as part of its logistical problems. This is receiving huge outcry from the people of Katsina and the North in general. This is coming on the heels of the Northern Elders Forum statement condemning the relocation of some CBN departments to Lagos.

Uncle Festus, I remember how we fought tooth and nails, to debunk the agenda that the opposition was running against us in the 2023 elections, that ABAT, would relocate the nation’s capital to Lagos, if he was elected. It was serving a lot of damage to our campaigns and we dissipated quite a lot of energy in debunking that narrative. These narratives Uncle Festus, have resurfaced in view of the listed developments, and are running haywire, all over the media space, and the public space in the North. We are losing to this narrative up here in the North, hugely. The North is the primary constituency of this administration having delivered the most votes, but our detractors are having a field day here, doing us dirty, in light of the developments. In a multi-cultural society like ours, not all decisions are seen/ handled as logistical challenges Uncle Festus. Please Uncle Festus, help us out with some of these decision making, so we are not left gaping for answers, and how to defend our government’s decisions as against its intentions. I have carried and conveyed this burden to you, as one who headed our media campaigns during the elections. Things are not looking good at all, up North. Once again, please accept my Birthday wishes and prayers for success as you navigate the tough decisions in governance, especially in a troubled sector like Aviation.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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