The soul-uplifting book by Sylvester Monye shows there is hope for Nigeria, writes Tony Eluemunor

It tells a compelling story not just about the Asaba Airport’s

development under three former Governors (it was conceptualized by Chief James Onanefe Ibori, built by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan retouched

and made profitable by Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa) but about Delta state itself– with all its intrigues, high drama, right decisions and successful execution of the project. Right from the beginning, the book

captivates the reader and makes him salivate. Actually,

politics runs through it, but so, too, great experimentation and the singular focus on getting the concession right.

Prof Monye writes: “The singular success of the Asaba International

Airport, among the plurality of airports which dot almost every state in Nigeria, is a testament to the success of the bold experiment, a

work in progress though, which Delta State represents. That this

Airport has been designed and built up through deliberate human

designs, choices, decisions and efforts to become hugely profitable,

while other airports in the country have been largely reduced to

despicable white elephants, is a cause for celebration and the focus

of the book. This outstanding economic success of the Asaba Airport is

an evidence of something much more important; it is a concrete

evidence that the Nigerian experiment could actually create a

spectacular success story, simply because Delta State is, going by the

successes it posted on this Asaba Airport project, rising above its ethnic and demographic challenges, to make the right economic

decisions, on the Asaba Airport, which is the focus of this book”.

As the author explained in the Preface, “This book highlights the

vulnerability in governance for an oil-revenue dependent economy and

the policy challenges that an Administration must confront and

overcome in its effort to deliver social and economic development for

its people. It draws heavily from my experience as a Senior Policy

Adviser to the Governor of Delta State, accumulated over a period of

eight years.

This book is presented in four parts and contains nine chapters, with

the first chapter constituting part one. Accordingly, the book is laid

out in five parts. Part one covers the political history of Delta

State. It draws heavily from the first-hand account and recollections

of some important stakeholders who were at the vanguard of the clamour

for the State’s creation.  These stakeholders gave their own account

of the struggle for the creation of the State, as well as the obvious

challenges inherent in governing a complex multi-ethnic space such as

Delta State.

Part Two of the Book dwells on the politics and economics of the

development of Asaba International Airport. In the first place, whose

idea was it that an Airport should be built in Asaba? This section


the Book covered the history of the project both in conception and

execution. Suffice it to say that there are contending claims about

the origin of the idea. What is however, undeniable is the fact that

the idea which originated from patriotic and far-thinking Deltans, was

driven by an amazing zeal to see Asaba take its pride of place in the

comity of states in Nigeria. The airport has a chequered and long

history. Not much was done to actualize the dream until the second

term of the Chief James Ibori’s Administration, when the idea for the

project began to take shape. Although James Ibori did not build the

airport, he certainly provided the needed impetus for its development.

By the time Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was sworn-in as Governor, the

concept design and technical drawings were already in place. This

explains why he was able to award the contract for the construction of

the airport within his Administration’s first six months. He didn’t

need to follow through with the project but he did. That is the

essence of policy continuity in governance.

Part Three of the Book consists of chapters Four and Five and focuses

on the dynamics of the concession”.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, who in 2006 appointed Prof Monye the

Executive Secretary at the National Planning Commission, wrote the

Foreword to the book. He said: “I am truly delighted to be asked to

write the Foreword to this book because it represents an amazing

account of an elaborate effort of a State Government to follow due

process in a public transaction. Senator Ifeanyi Okowa became Governor

of Delta State at a time when oil price had collapsed in the world

market. As a predominantly oil-revenue dependent State, Delta State

was hit badly by the oil market turmoil. So, Okowa needed to think out

of the box to be able to continue with the business of governance, for

which he was elected.

This book presents, in some detail, the socio-cultural challenges that

political leaders have had to deal with in the governance of Delta

State. It is impressive to note that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan

ignored the parochial sentiments in Delta State and provided good

leadership, as well as dividends of democracy to the people of that


President Obasanjo also noted that Monye, who later become “President

Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Performance Management, has

written a book on every position that he has occupied. He produced the

Compendium on National Development Plans 1999 – 2020 to account for

his period at the National Planning Commission. He also wrote a book

titled The Ministerial Scorecard: Critical Lessons in Performance

Management to account for his tenure as Special Adviser to President

Jonathan. I am, therefore, not surprised that he has just written this

new book titled: The Concession of Asaba International Airport:

Balancing Politics and Policy Execution. Clearly, this book is a

by-product of the work he did as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s Senior

Policy Adviser”.

Those two books will also be presented to the public with THE



Actually, Sylvester Monye’s book tells a fascinating story. It is

a masterful rendition of how three different Delta State Governors,

Their Excellences Chief James Onanefe Ibori (1999 -2007), Dr. Emmanuel

Uduaghan (2007-2015) and Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa (2015 -2023) from three

different ethnic groups and as well as Senatorial Districts, in an

enthralling relay race created a government project that is unlike any

other in the entire country; one working optimally and profitably. The

pain-staking detailing of that achievement, the in-depth and

meticulous rendition of the government’s minting of Delta State’s

success story, one that should be studied, appreciated and replicated

by others, is what Professor Sylvester Monye has achieved with this

very important book, an all-things-considered one about the Asaba

International Airport.

The book has received rave reviews from those who should know when the

state of national administration has achieved something extraordinary.

For instance, Mr. Steve Oronsaye, former Head of Service of the

Federation, rightly noted in a review that “This book highlights

Delta’s rising above crass ethnic politics to achieve something

lordly, and it shows the rest of the country the way to follow ….

And really, not only in Aviation but to truly develop and enhance the

lives of the citizenry.

Yes, 31 Airports dot the Nigerian landscape, in their varying states

of decaying elegance, huge sizes, monetary out-lays, often signifying

failed dreams and hopes betrayed. But the Asaba Airport is different;

it is alive, growing, humming, functional, keeping step with its

Master-Plan – the only Nigerian Airport that has a Master-Plan, Delta

State’s poster achievement”.

To Senator (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki, former Kwara state Governor

and former Senate President, “The book presents a ringside view of the

Airport’s development, from its conceptualization to physical

growth/development and most importantly, it’s becoming the first

Nigerian Airport to be concessioned. Prof Monye, taxed by Governor

Ifeanyi Okowa with an important role in creating the turn around that

made all the difference, has created a reverting story of different

governments working as a continuum, of Gov. Okowa’s intense focus on a

glorious goal, drawbacks and delays from undue suspicions and

debilitating “politics” inherent in the multi-ethnic state called


Beyond that, this impressive book shows sketches of the intrigues of

fifth columnists, recalcitrant contractors, sundry criminals,

circumvention, unnecessary delay and back-biting from colleagues and

fellow committee members but defeated by the illustrious and self-less

stand of many high-principled government officials, civil servants and

private sector professionals.

The author masterfully recounts the daring thieving and unconscionable

destruction of the airport’s and government’s properties – which often

kill government projects.  It is to Prof Monye’s credit that he does

this through solid documentary evidence and presentation of facts and

figures and with uncommon understanding and goodwill.

The book is a wakeup call for Nigeria and indeed, Africa. The Asaba

Airport was hemorrhaging billions of Naira in monthly overhead costs.

Seriously downgraded by Aviation authorities, it was teetering on

life-support that was fast running out. Then Okowa’s administration

did things differently…and changed the narrative.

This book tells how Delta state, through certain decisions made in

the state’s interest, performed a miracle; the once moribund Asaba

Airport not only picked up but became Nigeria’s singular boast – the

sole profitable Airport in the country and the third busiest after

Lagos and Abuja Airports, adding to Deltans’ bragging rights. The

goal? That the Asaba International Airport will become an

Aerotropolis, an economic hub containing everything needed in aviation

business and travelers comfort- from aircraft repair hangers,

strategic flight connection to different destinations, onsite world

class hotels and full security for the travelers plus fuss-free

transportation connections.

This book details the making of that miracle and shows it can be

replicated across the country by the federal and state

governments…if the political will is awakened and in true command.

It is not just the story of a concession that has proved profitable

and benefits Delta State greatly, it is a game changer, a narrative

begging for replication if Nigeria ever hopes to lead Africa to

realize her manifest destiny.

Please, fasten your seat belt. This is not just a success story of an

Airport deliciously and delectably told, Prof Monye takes you on a

flight, through both turbulent weather and calm blue skies. He invites

you inside the cockpit and shows you all the intricacies involved, the

challenges encountered and the soul-uplifting triumphs – like an

aircraft – out from the dark and threatening clouds and sailing into

clear blue friendly skies. This deliberately mid-sized book is an

Aviation university teaching all there is to know about Airport

concession; it is a must read for Pilots, government and public

officials, business moguls, Aviation sector operators, legislators,

and plain enthusiasts and travelers, indeed any citizen who cares

about whether government projects become white elephants or will yield

revenues and become of immense benefit to society.

·         Eluemunor is a Veteran Journalist

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