These three ex-public servants once rocked public offices at different times in the history of Nigeria. Many years after they left office, Nigerians are asking where they could be at the moment. IDACHABA SUNNY ELEOJO writes.
Austin Opara, a native of Ikwere from River state is former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives until 2007. After then, this former vocal lawmaker is said to have retired to his state. Because of his loyalty to every government of the day in his state, it is said that he is into executing contracts in his state. His foray into the public square was as a lecturer in the now-defunct River State School of Basic Studies. In 1999, he was elected into the House of Representatives to represent Port Harcourt II Federal Constituency; he was re-elected in 2003 where he served as the deputy speaker until 2007. While in the House, he served also as deputy chairman of National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, sub-chairman of the House Committee on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, member, House Committee on Petroleum, deputy chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and member, House Committee on National Security and intelligence. A member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he once called on former president Olusegun Obasanjo just before the 2019 presidential election to advise his third force members to join the train of PDP in order to oust the APC from the centre. He said, “PDP is the party today that is providing and leading the opposition. Those who feel dissatisfied with what the APC has done should join the PDP and unseat this government. We are all Nigerians. The truth is that we still have credible people in PDP who can lead this nation, so PDP should be given another chance.”
Although he was deputy to Aminu Bello Masari as speaker of the House between 2003 and 2007, Opara held other strategic positions including chairman, House Committee of the Whole; chairman, House Constitution Review Committee, member, ECOWAS Parliament and Governing Council of the International Parliamentary Union, the umbrella body that governs all parliaments in the world. It was at the 103rd session of this body Manila, 2005 that Opara canvassed strongly for parliaments of advanced democracies to exert pressure on their executive arm to grant Nigeria debt relief and cancellation. This request was interestingly acceded to months after as Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration at that time similarly intensified the campaign on the international front. Austin Uganwa writing on Opara during his 55 birthday celebration not too long ago said, “Opara exudes remarkable attributes that endear him to many who would naturally stop at nothing to ensuring that his new age, the 55-year-milestone is well commemorated and the celebrant honoured deservedly. Opara is not only humble and delightful to be with, he is welcoming and open to those who come around him. He is typically a devout Christian and discernibly God-fearing. Little wonder that he became a Knight of Saint Christopher of the Anglican Dominion in his early 30s.”
Writing further, Uhanwa said, “During his first tenure in the House, 1999 and 2003, Opara fundamentally distinguished himself profoundly. Apart from making robust contributions on the floor of the House, he sponsored and co-sponsored several major bills. Among his many bills was Gas Re-injection Bill which sought an end to gas-flaring and proper utilisation of gas resources towards ensuring clean environment and the enhancement of government revenue base. He was also deeply involved in the horse-trading and intriguing politics that gave rise to the passage of Niger Delta Development Commission Bill and its establishment in 2000.” He, however appears to have bided farewell to politics.
Mrs Omotayo Omotosho, a former broadcaster was also the former director general of Nigeria Tourism Development Commission (NTDC) where she worked tirelessly to turn the face of the organisation around. Her face used to be regular on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) in the 90s when she presented a programme entitled ‘Towards a Greater Nigeria’. At a young age of 32, Mrs Omotosho was appointed into the board chairmanship of Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation where she turned things around like bringing back to shape the Lagos-state owned television and Eko FM. According to reports, it seemed that was the height of her success even at that age; but that was merely a tip of what destiny had for her in the course of her career.
According to Omolabake Fasogbon while writing about her, she said, “Aside the output of her 30-year- old ‘Towards a Greater Nigeria’ television programme by which she addressed political and economy issues, her footprint in the nation’s tourism sector as a former DG of NTDC is legendary. Till date, nobody has been able to rival her achievements in the industry. Still, she owes her feat to grace from above. On earth, she is grateful to her parents and husband’s teaching. Her alias, ‘Madam Tourism’ didn’t come so cheaply as she had to break all known and unknown barriers to place Nigerian tourism at a very attractive spot on the global map. This period, according to her, was no doubt challenging but an indelible moment of her life. Highly spiritual and religious as she may be, she never fails to neglect the rule of beauty, no wonder she is untouched by age even at over 55.” For a while now, Mrs Omotosho appears to have retired finally as no one has heard anything about her again.
Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi is the former president of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). Prior to this time, he was former FCT director of sports before upstaging Buba Galadima to become NFF president in 2006. His tenure as NFF president was however riddled with several allegations following which he was impeached by the board in 2010. The alleged offence bothered on conspiracy and breach of due process in contravention of the public procurement act over purchase of two Marcopolo buses. Because of this, this former NFF boss alongside other top officials of the football house were accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of breaching due process in the purchase of those buses for which they were arraigned in October 2010. The case which dragged for a few years however ended, an indication that the former NFF boss merely suffered from witchunting. While responding to all of these shortly before his acquittal, Abdullahi said, “I must at this point appreciate everyone who has been standing by me in the face of my predicament since the injustice I suffered in 2010. I believe in justice and those who for their desperate interests to sabotage our efforts truncated our passionate visions, they would meet their doom and know no peace.
“However at this point, I wish to state categorically that I’m not interested in returning as NFF president. I have had the chance and never left anything at the Glass House. Though I was aggrieved with how I was illegally impeached by those who were trusted to have shared in the visions of developing the game.
“Football is a game I love with passion and my achievements when I was the NFF president before I was forcefully impeached are still very visible and there for everyone to see. Nobody can disclaim the fact that we did revive the game from its dead state.
“It pains me most when many Nigerians were blindfolded from realising the positive contributions we made towards the growth of the game of football in the country due to some people’s personal interests.
“No hard feelings as I have since then moved on, but will continue to pray for justice to prevail. Justice delayed is not justice denied. No matter how long, I will wait for justice as I’m not guilty of any corruption charges.”
Lulu who is now a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was said to have set his eyes on Lugard House in the 2019 governorship election of Kogi state, but could not fly beyond expression of interest.