Yakubu Bako, Austen Oniwon: Where are they now?

After serving in various capacities, they have not been seen at any public function now for a long while, prompting ELEOJO IDACHABA to ask where they are.

Yakubu Bako

Colonel Yakubu Bako (retd.) was a former military officer in the Nigeria Army before he was retired in 1997. Prior to this, he was the military administrator of Akwa Ibom state from December 1993 to August 1996, during the regime of the late General Sani Abacha. After being appointed Akwa Ibom administrator in December 1993, Bako developed infrastructure in the Bakassi area of the state which was later ceded to Cross River state. It’s on record that while he was military administrator of that state, he built the first ever-state liaison office (Akwa Ibom House) in Abuja. Although a Muslim by religion, he established Akwa Ibom state Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board and was the first governor to send 50 Christians to Jerusalem. He built the present state-of-the-art University of Uyo Teaching Hospital. Thereafter, he retrieved from the natives the land being used as farm and developed the present Ibom Le Meridien Golf Course. While reeling on his achievements as the man behind the golf course, he said in an interview that, “Sometimes in 1994, the Calabar Golf Course had an amateur golf tournament and the then military governor of the state, Group Captain Ibrahim Kefas invited me, then Akwa lbom state military governor as the guest of honour. After the tournament, while returning to Uyo, I asked the then commissioner for works, Engr. Akan Udi, to look for land where Akwa lbom state can also build a golf course. I was then given to understand that an area in Nwaniba in the outskirts of Uyo had been acquired for the development of golf course by former administration of Group Captain ldongesit Nkanga, but it was being used as cassava farm by the villagers. “I came around with some commissioners and visited the site. I gathered all the farmers and asked them not to plant any new crop after harvesting their crops in the designated area.

“Towards the end of the year, 1994, the construction of the Golf Course began and the contract was given to one Engr. Etuk, an Akwa lbom indigene who was also a golfer. The first nine holes made of brown putting areas, was completed around June 1995. By December, 1995, an 18 hole, (brown putting areas) had been completed. I also constructed four chalets by the golf course, club house and a lawn tennis court to attract tourists and visitors of the Mobil Oil Company at Eket.  “Thereafter, Engr. Etuk was given the contract to maintain the course on yearly basis. When I left and handed over to Navy Capt Joseph Adelusi in 1996, he continued the course maintenance payment. Group Capt John Ebiye, from 1998, also continued with the payment.”

Analysts are of the opinion that he was instrumental to drawing up the blueprint for the eventual development of the state today. Bako was in December 1997 implicated in the alleged coup against Gen. Abacha and was jailed alongside others like the former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya.  His offence bothered on what the military tribunal considered as ‘other offences’ by receiving a bride from one Alhaji Adamu Dankabo as well as the importation of one pistol and 12 rounds of ammunition in 1983, after his university education in the USA, has nothing to do with the coup. However, in March 1999, he was among the convicted individuals that were granted clemency and released from detention. In 2003, former President Olusegun Obasanjo granted him full pardon. Since he was granted pardon, he has not been visible in the public square again.

Austen Oniwon

Mr Austen Oniwon is the former group managing director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) appointed by the late President Umar Musa Yar’ Adua in 2010. He was, however, relieved of the appointment by Dr Goodluck Jonathan in 2012 in a major reshuffle within the oil industry as other top management staff of the organisation was affected. Their offence, according to industry sources bothered on several scandals including the petroleum subsidy payment scandal. Oniwon under whose purview as boss of the NNPC the controversial oil swap deal was entered told the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee on Crude Oil Swap probe in 2017 that a debt of over N3 billion necessitated the deal entered into by the government then. According to him, shortage of cash flow in the system also made it imperative for the corporation to look for alternative ways to remedy the situation.

“I met a debt of over $3 billion when I took over as managing director and it became a primary responsibility to see what I can do because our cash flow was in serious trouble to the extent that we could no longer service the federation account and pay for products,” he said. Not much has been heard about this Kogi state-born technocrat since he left the NNPC almost eight years ago.

John Ebiye

Group Captain John Ebiye, a native of Bayelsa state, was the last military administrator of Akwa Ibom state just before the advent of the current democratic dispensation as he was the one that handed over to Obong Victor Attah in 1999. He served under former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar. Ebiye was among the military officers asked by former President Obasanjo to retire voluntarily because of their involvement in politics. While as administrator, he was faced with the problem of minimum wages payment to all the employees in the state. Because of that he stopped funding the state government-owned newspaper, The Pioneer. Despite the criticisms in some quarters against that move, he held on. He was, however, noted for ensuring that policemen in the state do not extort motorists who had complained to the governor about the behavior of the law enforcement agents. Since this former Air Force officer left the military, not much has been heard about him again.

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