The nation’s media was awash with news of indictment of Chief Allen Onyema, Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, by the US Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia, which accused him of money laundering. Onyema is being accused of “moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.”
His Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, was also charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
Expectedly, the indictment has attracted huge attention, considering the personality of the businessman, who shot into limelight like a Phoenix not long ago, following the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. Onyema had airlifted trapped Nigerians back home free of charge when the former apartheid enclave went bananas and decided to bite the fingers that fed it. This patriotic act thrust the unassuming Onyema to the pubic sphere such that people even mooted the idea to make Air Peace the national carrier.
Though the indictment as yet remains an accusation and things are still hazy and will unfold in a few days hence.
Nevertheless, Onyema has denied the accusation, saying: “I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find NO dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities,” vowing that he is willing to defend his innocence in the US courts.
The matter has become more complicated though and so confusing one wonders if Onyema would be this daft to overly expose himself with the South African odyssey if his hands were truly soiled. We hope that the matter shall be settled expeditiously and clear this patriotic Nigerian of wrong doing as well as prove a lie to the suspicion that there may be more to this than meets the eye.
It is worth noting though that Onyema’s indictment, on the face of it, is not really unusual. It resulted from issues with the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, which is the revenue service of the United States Federal Government, just like our own Federal Inland Revenue, FIRS. Some United States companies and personalities, including President Donald Trump, have come under its searchlight at one time or another. It is not yet clear whether the IRS could be manipulated. However, coming from our clime, Nigeria, where anything is possible, especially because Onyema seems to have hit the right chords in people’s hearts, following his recent patriotic outing, it is not for nothing that those who love him and his Air Peace are apprehensive that some people may be plotting to clip his wings.
Since his huge patriotic role in airlifting home hapless Nigerians from South Africa, people may be asking funny questions. Who is this ‘upstart’? Where is he coming from? What exactly does he want? And an Igbo? These Igbo people sef, dem no dey easy die; the more you repress them, the more resurgent they become.
Of course, there is a list of many airliners that had come and then melted into the cloudy sky. So, why does Onyema seem to be succeeding where others before him had failed. Therefore, it would not be a surprise if some jealous, invidious plot is ongoing somewhere, with a scheme to cut Onyema to size being scripted locally but acted abroad, with the IRS as cast.
Recently, Air Peace has also been experiencing certain incidents, such as overshooting the runway, near air disaster, etc.; incidents that were hitherto alien to the topflight airliner.
However, Onyema symbolises the irrepressible Igbo spirit and must not go down like the others. Nonetheless, I wish he would be a lot more circumspect in the running of his business. He should be law compliant and plug every loophole, knowing fully that being Igbo, not many are happy with his success, even among his kinsfolk. A lot of people are now rattled by his rising profile and would love to undo him. However, I would also advise him never to contemplate veering into politics, the nemesis of many; ask MKO Abiola. I have come to know that there are professional political jobbers, who always go to and fro the environment like the devil, seeking limelight destinies to eclipse. They would package sumptuous political proposals and sell to naive individuals, whom the gods have decided to kill. That is why I will always respect Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, who has not allowed the sugar-coated tongues of dubious politicians to distract him.
So, Onyema should concentrate on running his businesses and impacting positively on society. While at that, he should not forget where he is coming from, the land of the rising sun, east of the Niger. If other Nigerians could have their way, they would stop the sun from rising or even setting in the East and would not even allow the sun to shine there at all.
Unfortunately for them, what the Lord has done is irreversible. The sun shall continue rising in the East. Its reflection has rubbed off on many like Onyema and he must not allow any nitwit to take the shine off his glory by mounting the soapbox in quest of political power, especially in Nigeria where results of elections are known long before votes are cast. Those who witnessed the latest charade in Bayelsa and Kogi states can attest to this.
Very significantly, Onyema should not neglect investing in the East, his land of nativity. In fact, he should form a league with equally successful Igbo businessmen and invest heavily at home. They should exact pressure on our laidback governors and wake them to action with massive development proposals. We need network of development ideas and projects to crisscross the length and breadth of Igbo land.
Only Onyema and his ilk can talk sense into our governors and fertilize Igbo land with good investment policies. There are many projects that can make Igbo land the envy of all but for visionless and flaccid leadership. If highly successful Igbo men weigh into this industrial barrenness, our governors shall encourage investors by rolling out friendly policies.
When Igbo land is developed, Ndigbo may restrain their wanderlust migration to hostile places but stay at home to develop their own land instead of ungrateful neighbours’. When facilities are built, many misguided youth will get busy and forget this amoebic quest for Biafra, which though attractive in concept, has been hijacked by oblique mercantile travellers to enrich themselves at the expense of innocent blood. When the youths get gainfully employed, they would not have time for disingenuous schemes and pursuit of easy money via yahoo yahoo, kidnapping, robbery and occultism.