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THE STRANGE CASE OF NIGERIA'S BERMUDA COLUMNIST

By NBF News
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In this season of campaigns it is an open field for all manner of media onslaughts on the leading lights of Nigeria's democratic dispensation. The higher the position of responsibility, the more vicious the vendetta, all in a futile bid to circumvent the electoral process by misleading the people in order to get through the media what cannot be obtained in free and fair elections. This glaring abuse of the media is most rampant in the Press where arm-chair critics and hired hack-writers gate-crash into the once respectable ranks of columnists and wreak havoc on the ethics of journalism. Instead of the objective analysis and logical arguments expected of seasoned journalists, we are daily assailed by a barrage of mud-slinging mercenary slanderers, solely motivated by pecuniary gratification.

Among these is a certain cashiered air-force officer, Dan Omale.  He now vends computers and accessories, and craves the limelight.

The disquiet in the aviation industry became a convenient opportunity for him to don the garb of 'aviation columnist' and launch into a series of jaundiced commentaries later exposed to be the sponsored submissions of feuding airlines and aviation agencies, dressed as 'expert opinion'.

Vice President Namadi Sambo was the latest focus of his 'expert opinion' when he delved into the intriguing intricacies of Kaduna State politics of which he knows next to nothing. Dan Omale crash-landed severally even before he took off on his mission to rubbish the impressive political career of Sambo when he served as governor of the state. Omale appeared to take a self-appointed task of seeking another running mate for President Goodluck Jonathan in the next election. His choice: Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, whose imprimatur can be felt over the column. As if this is not enough blunder, the hired columnist anchored his improbable objective on a combination of ignorance, deliberate distortion of settled issues and outright falsehood.

Considering Sambo's meteoric rise from governor to Vice President, it can only be by dint of excellence in personal and professional qualities if indeed, as Omale claims, Namadi Sambo lacks a political base and was not a politician before 2007. Of course, given the delicate circumstances following President Yaradua's death, the choice of Sambo has proved to be the most strategically effective political decision diffused tension, facilitated smooth transition of power and stabilized the Jonathan Presidency. But the fact of the matter is that VP Sambo has come a long way in politics to justify his competence to hold even the Presidency of Nigeria, a fact that is clear to Omale's sponsors. Namadi Sambo made enough political waves in Kaduna State to emerge as the DPN governorship candidate in the Abacha era, a feat which forced Makarfi to seek shelter under UNCP! True Kaduna politicians know that Makarfi relied a lot on Sambo for his political attainments, which is why the latter's Kaduna and Abuja offices hosted most of Makarfi's strategy meetings and also explains why Makarfi preferred Sambo as his successor. Omale's brief to rewrite history and portray Makarfi as Sambo's 'disowned godfather' has fallen flat! Even more absurd is Omale's ridiculous references to the 3-year tenure of Arch. Namadi Sambo as Governor of Kaduna State as 'wasteful', when in fact those three years were more eventful and had a greater socio-economic impact than the preceding eight years, considering a last-minute contract bazaar  committed the incoming government to the tune of N23.5 billion and increasing the state's wage bill by 15%.Yet Sambo took it all in his stride and deployed his considerable business acumen to overcome the hurdles deliberately put in his way.

Completion and commencement of academic programmes of the Kaduna State University, launching of the bold and potent security initiative, 'Operation Yaki', which transformed the state from crisis-prone to a haven of peace and prosperity, the development of the new Millennium City with mass housing and an ultra-modern specialist hospital to replace the ABUTH and a package of cost-free services for the common people in health and education, are among the indelible achievements of the Namadi Administration that even his predecessor is humbled by. None of these could have merited mention by the 'columnist' Omale, who instead chose to refer only to the 'resuscitation of a few railway coaches' emblem'-whatever this means.

What cannot be denied is that the intercity and intra-city rail rehabilitation project of the Namadi Administration involved the entire infrastructure including locomotives, coaches, rail tracks, stations, level crossings and 425 kilometres of rail tracks linking up major cities and towns. A total of 876,308 passengers booked the Intra-City Train Service Phase I, and 159,993 boarded the trains on the state-wide service from Kaduna Junction to Kuya Station from inception in June 2008 to May 2009 alone and by paying a paltry N20 fare, commuters on the intra-city service collectively saved as much as N157,735,440 while on the state-wide service, passengers paid N80 fare from Kaduna Junction to Kuya Station and N240 from Kaduna Junction to Wasa Station which would have cost N200 and N650 respectively on road transport. Makarfi by contrast spent eight years without even thinking of the abandoned railroads in Kaduna State.

In the absence of any tangible grounds to convince anyone of his sponsored campaign Sambo, Omale drifted into the pedestrian sentiments about Sambo's 'indigenization', insinuating the false and the irrelevant. That Namadi Sambo is a bona fide citizen of Kaduna State from Zaria City where his family roots and base is situated is beyond conjecture. He was a commissioner for 5 years under the Dangiwa Umar and Sarki Muktar administrations of Kaduna State. If all these cannot substantiate his citizenship, certainly one Dan Omale lacks the locus standi to raise any question lest we interrogate his own 'indigenization stereotype'.

Quoting the VP out of context on the issue of being university graduate only makes matters worse for an Omale whose 'Captain' title is not upheld by the cumulus clouds still hovering over his ejection from NAF or wherever he claims to have served. The real challenge both he and his masquerading sponsor should face is the disparity between their 'graduate' claims and the less than laudable legacy they left behind in their respective careers.  At the end of the day, our busy-body columnist should henceforth regard politics in general and politics of the North and Kaduna State in particular as the Bermuda Triangle of his misadventure into column writing.

Garba wrote in from Gwana Road, Kaduna