Given the way the Ayefele affair ended last year in Oyo, one would have thought that mandarins of officialdom would be more circumspect in the way and manner they use and misuse power. From yet another saga of Idoko Illonah currently engulfing Abuja media space, it does appear no lesson has been learnt.
Public outrage had trailed the partial demolition by Oyo State Government of the Ibadan-based FM station owned by musician Yinka Ayefele. The official reason given was that it had not only breached building plan but also violated town-planning in a manner likely to predispose road-users to avoidable motor accidents.
But the discerning were certainly not deceived by that official sophistry. As events later proved, the punitive action had more to do with the station’s criticism of now-outgoing Governor Abiola Ajimobi. After a public apology by Ayefele, the state officials dramatically landed at an epiphany – em, em the station was actually not in breach of any law!
So, it turned out that the same hands that Ajimobi used to demolish a section of Ayefele’s Music House were what he used to rebuild it, with his publicists left to manufacture a spin to disguise what was evidently a gross abuse of power.
But unlike Oyo where hapless taxpayers had to pay the price for the someone’s elephantine ego and razor-thin skin, it is Ilonah presently bearing the costs of official intrigues in Abuja stalling the erection of an electronic billboard on which close to a staggering N1bn loan has been committed.
Now, a phenomenal undertaking, for which the nation was already being touted for the Guiness Books of records as the location of world’s biggest electronic billboard, is suddenly stuck just at the point of installation.
Back in 2011, Ilonah had made a success of similar innovation in the nation’s media landscape as he brought the mammoth digital billboard to the approach of the Muritala Mohammed Internarional Airport in Lagos. Five years later, he also helped change the skyline around the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja with a unique 20mx80m LED digital billboard.
After reading a recent indepth report by Premium Times, one could not but pity Illonah, the promoter of Lona Global Resources. Anyone familiar with how government runs will know that Ilonah’s project has become a victim of high-level malicious intrigues orchestrated obviously by powerful interests in the Federal Capaital Development Authority (FCDA) who simply went to work by overriding an approval earlier granted in 2017 by the Department of Outdoor Advertising and Signage (DOAS) for the construction and installation of the billboard.
From experience, it is sometimes possible for such mafia to package petty mischief and seething malice behind nebulous “security reports” to shoot down any idea promoted by someone whose face they don’t fancy.
They started by saying that, em, em, the site allocated to mount the billboard was too close to the New City Gate for comfort. Expectedly, the full force of bureaucratic mischief was brought to bear. Another rainbow committe comprising the directors of DOAS, Urban and Regional Planning, Engineering Services, Public Building, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), etc was raised.
After several meetings and adjournments, another resolution was made. Ok, not to worry. Another location was offered; this time, close to the Centennary District along the Abuja airport expressway.
But a still zestful Illonah had barely begun to tinker with the original design to reflect the new change when another obstacle came. This time, someone at the Centenary District raised a red flag with a petition citing perhaps the most ludicrous reason: the billboard will likely obstruct the view of the district from afar!
Seriously? When exactly did it become possible for a finger to obstruct a whole face?
Then came the father of all excuses – the superstition from official circles in Abuja that a billboard of such magnitude could distract motorists thereby causing motor accident, without any research or evidence! (Yes, exactly a rehash of the official fable initially retailed in Oyo last year after the bulldozers mauled Ayefele’s house.)
From the Premium Times’ report, two deductions could easily be made. One is Illonah’s indiscretion to have sought the intervention of higher authority through an SOS letter addressed to the Vice President. The story quoted the deputy Chief of Staff to the VP as saying that the matter had been referred to the FCT minister for “review and necessary action”.
In the circumstance, it is only human that the little gods at FCDA would grow more adversarial.
Two, perhaps Lona Global Resources publicized its potential Guiness Books feat too early. In a corporate environment often defined by vicious hate, you have to mind who you share your success stories with, lest you incur the wrath of the envious.
But then, Ilonah’s apparent desperation could be understood. When bankers and other creditors are knocking furiously at your doors, one is not likely to be at ease. Worse, a big corporate player has also recalled a huge sum advanced him as pre-payment for advert slots in the hope that the billboard would become operational on schedule.
All things considered, it is high time commonsense prevailed on this matter. Someone should rescue Ilonah’s dream and save the young man from bankruptcy.