Sunday, September 02, 2007

Madam Speaker, Obasanjo and her hospitality cloak

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Madam Speaker, Obasanjo and her hospitality cloak

Not long after he left office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was chatting with a friend and neighbor at his Otta Farm Estate. The name of Patricia Etteh, embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives came up. Obasanjo, according to an eyewitness, said with a twinkle in his eyes: “I try for Patricia O…mmm…I try well well for the girl O.”

Pres. Olusegun Obasanjo is known to be Patricia Etteh’s ‘friend.’ For a president who is noted for his appetite for ‘friends,’ his friendship with Etteh did not arouse any interests until her name started making the rounds as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Few people believed Patricia Etteh would make the cut as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. But with the machinery of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) thrown behind her, Etteh emerged as the Speaker. According to one of her colleagues, Ahmadu Ali, (PDP chairman) shoved her down our throats.

Some of her colleagues had argued behind closed doors that Patricia Etteh was not a good material for the position she was aspiring to. Soon after her inauguration, her verbal gaffes became a source of embarrassment to her colleagues. Her visit with the German Ambassador still draws laughter from her colleagues.

Of more concern to those who had served in the House with her since 1999 was what one described as “her insatiable appetite for money.” had reported on other financial malfeasance of the Speaker, besides the over six hundred million naira contract that has become a big scandal.

Obasanjo’s friends may not have understood completely what he meant by “I try for Patricia O!” While Patricia Etteh is known for her hairdressing prowess, we also discovered that Etteh is also in the hospitality business. investigations reveal that Madam Speaker is the proud owner of SilverGate Hotels, located at the Federal Housing Authority Estate, phase 2, Lugbe, near Abuja. The 72 room hotel is on the same street with Premiere Academy, a popular privately owned secondary school. The 72 rooms are spread in 15 bungalows, while another building is where the reception and conference centre is located. According to staffers at the hotel, SilverGate hotels opened for business in 2006 when Patricia Etteh was an officer of the House.

This reporter also discovered an uncompleted hotel complex in the heart of Abuja purported to be owned by the Speaker. This imposing structure is located directly behind the Nigerian Football Association headquarters in zone 7, Wuse. When we visited the property on Masaka Close, off Olusegun Obasanjo way, there were at least 12 stern looking men idling in front of the hotel. They would not answer questions from this reporter.

Some Presidency sources told that Etteh may have made the money for her hotel business through patronage from the Obasanjo Administration.

Next week promises to be a very tough one for the embattled Speaker. While there have been calls for her to resign by pundits and opposition politicians, the PDP, her party has thrown its full weight behind her. Although none of her PDP colleagues in the House has publicly called for her to step down, is aware of a petition going round the House. The petition is being sponsored by female PDP members of the House of Representatives.

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