By Anthony Badmus
Ordinarily, the attempt by Captain Hosa Okunbo to obfuscate the real issues and confuse the public through a massive manipulative media onslaught should be dismissed as a desperate and futile effort to clean his Augean stable.
However, the inept and unskillful manner of his media campaign has only revealed to the discerning mind the missing links and his deliberate attempt to sidestep, if not totally avoid, addressing the substance of the issues in contention.
The issues in contention are crystal clear and unambiguous.
The deliberate and orchestrated campaign to demonise Tunde Ayeni, a major investor and co-founder of Ocean Marine Services Ltd has failed to achieve its intended purpose but has rather resulted in leaving people wondering why the substance of the critical issues recently brought to fore in the public domain have been intentionally left unattended to.
Captain Okunbo wants Nigerians to believe that Tunde Ayeni has irrationally relinquished his shares in Ocean Marine Services to him.
His claims are premised on an illogical notion that a highly discerning and successful entrepreneur such as Tunde Ayeni sold the totality of his over 30% equity stake in OMS, a multi-million dollar going concern valued well in excess of US$100 million, for a paltry sum of N2 billion (US$4.5 million) and a little change.
He wants the corporate Nigeria to buy into the false narrative that a business strategy aimed at ensuring that huge debts owed the company was recouped was actually a forfeiture of investment decision, thereby resulting in a situation where he, Okunbo, has become the absolute Lord of the OMS Manor, whilst the man whose idea and contacts gave birth to the investment can take a dive.
However, it is common knowledge that deception has its limits and treachery has its expiry date.
Discerning corporate players are not taken in by Okunbo’s wasteful media antics and the attempts to give a bad name to the one on whose back he rode to wealth and stardom.
Assuming, without conceding, that his erstwhile Partner’s investments are now his in return for the proverbial bowl of pottage, a la Essau, does that, in any way, extinguish the critical corporate issues bordering on the illicit diversion of OMS’s corporate revenues that Okunbo has been called out to address?
Many still wonder what type of media battle is this that fails to address the salient issues that could clear his name once and for all, provoking the question: “Why is Okunbo dodging confronting the real issues?”
The critical issues here are gross mismanagement, stealing and criminal diversion of company funds. This matter is fundamentally about the abuse of business ethics and corporate governance for selfish ends.
Why is Okunbo maintaining a deafening silence on the allegation of the unauthorised withdrawal of $10 million allegedly spent on settling a Senate Hearing on one of the Subsidiary Companies, Secured Anchorage Area, SAA? When did the Board sit to approve such bizarre expenditure and on what basis?
Why is the recently deposed King Maker of Edo State Politics not in town to address the issue of the alleged illegal withdrawal of $8 million allegedly and supposedly spent on the Presidency, whatever that means?
That withdrawal, which is what EFCC is currently investigating, was claimed to be funds withdrawn to take care of the dispute between the company and Ministry of Transportation and the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA.
Why is this self-acclaimed Lord of the OMS Manor with intimidating resources to buy all available media spaces and pages not addressing the gross allegation of diverting $5.5 million, being the proceeds of the sale of the company’s Challenger Aircraft, to his personal farm in Benin?
And this is not all. The EFCC is also beaming its searchlight on the company’s $5 million, which Okunbo allegedly singlehandedly withdrew and claimed to have invested in an oil block owned by Star Oil as a 5 per cent stakeholder.
Another key issue that will engage the attention of the anti-graft agency is the $1 million which the Captain allegedly claimed to have borrowed from the company but which he has refused to pay back.
The alleged infractions are legion. How does one justify a claim by a company Chair that he expended $30 million on a film on Oil Spill in the Niger Delta Region and expect investors and, even the long-suffering Niger Delta people to be excited?
But the mother of all infractions appears to be Okunbo’s recent political misadventure in Edo State where he threw in an intimidating war chest which unfortunately yielded a colossal failure.
An unspecified amount of money estimated at about $18 million allegedly withdrawn from the company’s account, was said to have been expended on that costly political misstep.
The EFCC definitely has its job clearly cut out for it in respect of the many infractions at OMS.
Okunbo will be explaining to the anti-graft agency why he singlehandedly moved the company’s account from Polaris Bank to StanbicIBTC and thereby abandoning the loan repayment commitment by the company to the consortium of banks that funded the acquisition of Ibadan and Yola Electricity Distribution Companies. The loan currently is about $100 million.
As damning and mind-boggling as these issues are, corporate watchers find it strange that at OMS’ so-called Board meeting of December 17 2020, the Board could only have a one-line response to the issues raised as follows: “…that its accounts are in good and correct order and its funds are intact and not missing, misappropriated or otherwise mismanaged.”
Of course, the so-called Board members are his minions and those with insignificant stakes in the company.
That the ‘Board’ could take such major issues bordering on corporate governance and accountability with such levity and treat Nigerians with such disdain speaks to the mindset of this Lord of the Manor who must have convinced himself that he could get away with any infractions since, in his worldview, everything and everyone has got a price.
But the day of reckoning draws closer and it is just a little more time before Nigerians will find out that some gods truly have feet of clay.