Former minister of aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has faulted the claims of the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, over the state of affairs of the aviation sector during his tenure, calling Abati a malicious liar who is out to tarnish his name.
Fani-Kayode stated in his article entitled 'Delusion of Today's Men', a reaction to Abati's own, 'Hypocrisy of Yesterday's Men'.
According to Fani-Kayode, instead of Abati addressing issues raised by stakeholders on accountability, especially on the spending of $67billion from the external reserves, it is regrettable that the presidential aide indulged in what Fani-Kayode described as "a distasteful form of intellectual, spiritual and psychological masturbation, by telling us that he and his master were 'today's men' who needed no lessons from the 'men of yesterday'.
In his article, Fani-Kayode stated that Abati lied against him when he wrote that, as minister of aviation, he "shut down Port Harcourt Airport for two years and allowed grass to grow all over it."
Faulting Abati over the issue, Fani-Kayode said, "This is false. It is a classic case of disinformation coming from a man that is obviously suffering from a very low self-esteem. It is clear that Abati, who is a journalist, has forgotten the most important tenet of his profession - which is that 'facts are sacred and opinion is cheap'. Ordinarily, one would have ignored his bitter rant but it is important that I set the record straight for the sake of posterity."
The ex-minister of aviation further clarified what transpired at the aviation sector during his tenure, saying that Port Harcourt International Airport was closed on December 10, 2005, after the Sosoliso Air crash in which 100 people died.
"The crash," he explained, "affected the runway of the airport very badly and, consequently, the then minister of aviation, Prof. Babalola Borishade, closed it. I was redeployed from the ministry of culture and tourism to the ministry of aviation in November 2006. This was 11 months after the Sosoliso crash had taken place and that Port Harcourt Airport had been closed. It is clear from the foregoing that I was not the one that shut down Port Harcourt Airport.
He said that on taking over from Prof Aborishade, his priority was to carry out all the necessary repairs at Port Harcourt Airport and to open it as quickly as possible.
"I was saddened to discover that in the previous 11 months before I got there, nothing had been done and the contract to repair the runway had not even been awarded. Consequently within a month of my being appointed minister of aviation, we set to work and awarded the contract to Julius Berger at the cost of N3billion. 50 per cent of the money was paid up front and Julius Berger set to work immediately. The runway was fully completed and the airport in pristine condition before I left office on May 29, 2007, just six months after I awarded the contract," he said.
He, however, noted that despite the airport could not be opened before he left office because the runway lighting system was still in the process of being installed, saying that the late President Yar'adua government went ahead and opened the airport few months later even though the runway lights had still not been installed.
According to Fani-Kayode, "The record shows that from the day that I was appointed minister of aviation and the time that our mandate ran out seven months late, my staff at the ministry and Julius Berger worked night and day on the runway project at Port Harcourt International Airport in order to ensure that we finished it in record time. And this we managed to do. Given these facts, how Abati can peddle the lie."
Fani-Kayode also disputed Abati's claim that he closed down "other major airports" when he was minister of aviation 'for the purposes of renovation,' saying that the opposite was the case.
He lamented that for all the good work he rendered to the country as aviation minister, Abati had taken it upon himself to tarnish his good name with wicked lies, saying he would leave Abati to God's judgement.
Fani-Kayode reminded the presidential aide that no condition is permanent and that 'yesterday's men' could also become 'tomorrow's men.'
"So when Abati glibly writes people off as if they will never be in power again, it is a sad reflection of his lack of experience and naivety. It is God that determines our tomorrow. It is He that lifts men up, that pulls them down and, sometimes, if it be His will, lifts them up again. There are countless examples of that in our history," he said.
On the issue of corruption and the economy , Fani-Kayode stated that there was the need for the president and his 'today's men' to respond to the issue of accountability, citing the recent request of the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who sought answer into how the country spend the $100 billion made from oil sales in the last two years?
"When will they answer Obi Ezekwesili's question about how they squandered $67 billion of our foreign reserves? When will they answer the question that Nasir el-Rufai asked sometime back about how they spent over N350billion on security vote in one year alone?
"When will they answer the many questions that Dr. Pat Utomi and many other distinguished and courageous leaders and 'yesterday's men' have raised about the trillions of naira that have been supposedly spent on oil subsidy payments in the last two years? When will they implement the findings and recommendations of the Nuhu Ribadu report on the thievery that has gone on in the oil sector? When will they cultivate the guts and find the courage to respond to a call for a public debate to defend their abysmal record? When will these 'today's men' stop being so reckless with our money? Why would our 'today's man' FCT minister budget N5 billion for the 'rehabilitation of prostitutes in the Abuja'?" he asked.