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Iwuanyanwu, Obi and Oduah
Iwuanyanwu, Obi and Oduah

Stella Oduah, minister of aviation, is the Champion Newspapers’ 2012 Man-of-the-Year, in recognition of her revolutionary works in the aviation industry

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS a night of glitz, accolade and recognition as the Champion Newspapers crowned Stella Oduah, minister of aviation, as its 2012 Man-of-the-Year, at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, Tuesday, February 19. The night was historic for both the awarder and the recipient. It was the first time the newspaper would be giving a woman its Man-of-the-Year Award, and it was the first award that Oduah, 51, would be accepting from any organisation or body since she started her revolutionary work in the aviation industry. The occasion was witnessed by a cross section of Nigerians from different walks of life who came to celebrate with her.

In accepting the award, the minister humbly told the audience why she decided to take the award after turning down many others in the past. “I have always been hesitant to accept awards not only from the media but also from numerous other groups and bodies within and outside the country. The reason for this is simple. I hold a strong belief that I do not need to be given an award for simply doing my job,” Oduah said.

She disclosed that when she was informed about the decision of the Champion Newspapers to honour her, she too decided to reciprocate by accepting the award. Besides, she said a lot of people had started misconstruing her rejection of awards as either being arrogant or a snub. The minister dedicated the award to President Goodluck Jonathan, who gave her the opportunity to serve the nation in his government, and commended the National Assembly for its cooperation with the ministry.

Governor Obi presenting the award to Oduah
Governor Obi presenting the award to Oduah

Oduah, a recipient of national honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON, said the newspaper award was the tonic needed to invigorate her and her team to work harder for the country. She thanked the Champion Newspapers for counting her worthy of the award.

The occasion provided the avenue for a lot of the minister’s admirers to shower her with encomiums. Peter Obi, governor Anambra State, who chaired the award ceremony, said he was not surprised that someone from his state would be so hard working and be so recognised. Obi used the forum to reel out accomplishments of some Anambra people both living and dead, which earned him a standing ovation. He commended the minister for making the people of the state proud and urged her not to listen to sycophants, who would praise her “out of the world.”

Instead, Obi encouraged her to look for honest persons who would be willing to tell her the truth about the situation of things. For example, he said, if he met 12 persons at a function, he was sure that 10 of them would say he was doing very well and only two persons would be courageous enough to tell him his faults.

“I have learnt not to rely on what adults tell me. When I am looking for information about the true position of things, I go to children who tell me where I am wrong. It is them who tell that the roof of their classroom is leaking. It is them who will tell me that their school has no toilet. That is why all the senior school prefects in Anambra State have my phone number and I encourage them about to tell me the problem facing their schools,” he said. The governor agreed with Oye Ibidapo-Obe, a professor, and vice chancellor of the Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, who gave a lecture on leadership that there are lots of good people in Nigeria, but what is lacking is good leadership.

Edem Duke, the minister of culture and tourism, recalled that he first met Oduah several years ago in Calabar, Cross River State, while she was a guest at his hotel, and fate later destined they would be colleagues in the federal executive council. While commending her for the remarkable things she had done in the aviation industry, Duke said her accomplishment in such a short time was a true reflection of the true transformation of the Jonathan administration.

A retired permanent secretary in the aviation in her testimony disclosed that the minister and her team, of which she was part spent three sleepless nights to draw up the roadmap for the aviation industry, which later transmuted to the master plan that gave birth to remodelling of airports and set safety standards for the industry. In all this, she said, she enjoyed working with her because “she took a very good care of us and she knows how to encourage us to work hard. When you see her working, I am sure you don’t want to be lazy,” she said.

Also testifying to the indefatigable nature of the minister, George Uriesi, managing director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, said that when Oduah first mooted the idea of remodelling the first set of 11 airports, he was apprehensive, but she assured him “in her humble low voice,” it could be done and urged him to have faith. Uriesi said he was now proud of how the Benin Airport in his home Edo State, had been remodelled and modernised. He said he was proud to be working with such a dutiful and dedicated person.

Emmanuel Iwuanyawu, publisher and chairman of Champion Newspapers, gave an insight as to how Oduah emerged as the winner after a rigorous screening of nominees by the newspapers’ board of editors. He assured the audience that the award was not given based on “any political, ethnic or other biased considerations or with any intent to boost the ego of the award recipient.” Iwuanyanwu, who holds a national honour of Member of the Federal Republic, MFR, and a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, said Oduah was recognised for her revolutionary agenda.

“The verdict is that Princess Oduah has, within 18 short months, performed superlatively well and is still tirelessly and courageously pressing forward with great plans that would totally transform the aviation sector to world standards,” he said.

“Indeed, Ibidapo-Obe said he agreed with Chinua Achebe, a professor of literature, that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria. “What is wrong with Nigeria is leadership,” and that if leaders can lead by example and honesty of purpose like the late Mahatma Ghandi of India and Nelson Madela of South Africa, the nation would be the better for it. He congratulated the award recipient and the Champion Newspapers for the grand occasion.

Oduah was born on January 5, 1962, to the traditional house of D.O. Oduah of Akili-Ozizor, Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State. She was educated at the Zixton Secondary School, Ozubulu, before going over to Lawrenceville, Virginia, United States for her Bachelor and Master’s degrees. On her return to Nigeria in 1983, she worked with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, before going into business in 1992. She was appointed minister of aviation in July 2011.

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