Former Aviation Minister, politician, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas dies at 82

A former Minister of Aviation in General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s cabinet in 1999, Alabo Graham Douglas is dead. He was said to have died this morning aged 82 years.

In 1999, he was appointed Minister of Labour and Productivity, and in 2000, Minister of Tourism in the Olusegun Obasanjo cabinet, leaving office in January 2001. Until his demise, he remained a force in Rivers states politics.

Graham-Douglas was born on May 8, 1939, in Abonnema in the Akuku-Toro Local Government Area of Rivers State. He is of Ijaw origin.

His brother, Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas was the first indigenous Attorney-General of Nigeria.


Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas

He attended secondary school in Lagos and Port-Harcourt. He studied at Acton Technical School, London (1963–1965) and then at the University of Lagos (1965–1969). He earned a BSc. in Botany and Zoology.

He started work with the Nigerian Petroleum Refinery Company, Port Harcourt (1969–1977). He became managing director of Togiscani Nigeria, a construction company (1978–1985), and CEO of Road Haulage Company and Magroad Enterprises.

He was also chairman of the Binterteco Nigeria, Pabod Finance and Investment, and Waterglass Boat Yard.[2] In 2000, Graham-Douglas was appointed Provincial Grand Master of the Freemason’s Lodge in Calabar.

READ ALSO:  Yadudu vows to resolve FAAN, workers’ spat

Graham-Douglas became Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Culture in 1986 in the Rivers State Government.

In this role, he completed the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, founded the Sports Institute of Isaka, and initiated the construction of the Liberation Stadium, Port-Harcourt.

He also gained approval to establish the Rivers State College of Science and Technology. He created, produced, and directed the first Rivers Carnival, Carnival ’88 with the theme of Unity in Cultural Diversity.

In 1989, the military government of Ibrahim Babangida appointed him Federal Minister for Social Development, Youths, and Sports.

During his tenure, the separate Ministry of Women Affairs was established. He was moved to the Ministry of Aviation where he oversaw the deregulation of the aviation industry.

He was also a member of the Special Tenders Board, which developed the Nigeria capital, Abuja.

Several years later, in November 2003, a judicial commission of inquiry into the management of Nigeria Airways between 1983 and 1999 issued a report that indicted Graham-Douglas and others for mismanagement and decisions that led to huge losses.

In 1992, Graham-Douglas became chairman of the Southern Minorities Movement, one of the groups that eventually merged into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was a candidate in the PDP primaries for the presidential nomination in 1998, losing to Obasanjo who went on to become president.

READ ALSO:  Sirika: How political class, experts synergy helped meteorological development in Nigeria

An elder statesman in Rivers State politics, in 1999, Graham-Douglas and Marshall Harry, Chairman of the Rivers State PDP settled for Dr. Peter Odili as a consensus candidate for governor.

By October 2002, Graham-Douglas was engaged in a public dispute with Odili. He was strongly opposed to Odili’s reelection.

He said of Odili that “he has no respect for good governance and we have a right to call him to order”.

In January 2007, following the PDP primaries in Rivers State in which Riverine candidates performed poorly compared to Uplanders, the Ijaw Consultative Assembly which Graham-Douglas had founded launched an attack on Ijaws who had served in Odili’s government, apparently in a move to reverse the selection of Rotimi Amaechi as PDP candidate for governor.

This was a reversal of his position in 2003 when he had said the Ikwerres from Rivers East should take their turn after Peter Odili.  Later he became a supporter of Amaechi.

READ ALSO:  COVID – 19: travel operators task govt on bailout, postpones Kano AGM

However, in February 2010, Graham-Douglas disagreed with Amaechi about the marginalization of the Kalabari people, claiming problems were due to longstanding government neglect combined with efforts to cut oil-producing areas out of the Kalabari region.

Amaechi took the position that Kalabari leaders themselves were to blame, and should do more to develop their communities and discourage militancy.


Talking of the Niger Delta crisis in an interview in October 2009, Graham-Douglas blamed the problems in part on the elections of 2003 when the boys were given arms and used to disrupt the polls.

He said the recent amnesty was progress, but not enough. More should be done to provide local housing and employment.  He was among leaders who that month protested the poor performance and lack of activity of the Ministry of Niger Delta.

Wole Shadare