By Gwiyi Solomon
Either way, the Federal Government’s decision to close or downgrade the Akanu-Ibiam International Airport as revealed by the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is an ill wind – ill-conceived, ill-timed and ill-delivered.
Again, an Igbo man’s place in the conflagration called “Nigeria” has been brought to the fore for re-examination.
Aside the fact that Ndigbo have been at the receiving end of virulent marginalisation, utter negligence and other gross ill treatments since coming on board of the present Federal government; no economic viable country would contemplate closing or downgrading the status of its already existing international gateway, when it can comfortably afford the resources required for reconstruction or rehabilitation where necessary at its own Airport, serving its economic needs; safe if there is an agenda hidden from the public.
While it is only moral to appreciate the safety concerns of the Minister who made this disclosure in a Town hall meting in Lagos, I have no apologies reminding the Federal agent that the Akanu-Ibiam International Airport is to an Igbo what Port Harcourt International Airport is to the Niger Deltan; it is to the North what Kaduna international Airport is to the Hausa man; and it is to the West what Lagos International Airport is to the Yorubas.
Contemplating the downgrading of such sensitive international gateway through which the entire South Eastern Nigeria connects to the world outside their environment; instead of rehabilitation or reconstruction of the ailing areas will only amount to overstretching the patience of an Igbo man; as Akanu Ibiam Airport lives at the centre of their heart.
It is even more disheartening that the Enugu Airport was only lately given its current international status by the former President GoodLuck Jonathan; when the other regions were already savoring the joy of hosting such global feat in their environs for many years without threats of any sort.
The Minister’s concerns citing dangerous runway, the location of an abattoir and Market at the end of the runway, Bird strikes and other issues as reasons for his provocative pronouncement on the only international Airport in the entire South East does not fly and cannot do so for whatever reason; as any sensible, sensitive and serious minded government could have taken care of the concerns raised in a matter of hours.
Thankfully, the government of Enugu state, rising from a State Executive Council meeting, had promptly closed down the Emene market and abattoir, at the same time while making efforts to relocate the Business zone near the airport to avert the federal government’s planned onslaughts.
Happily, “the Senate has, in their last plenary, kicked against the plans by the presidency to downgrade Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu over security issues. Instead, they asked the Federal government to make efforts to repair and expand the runway to reduce the security risks that the Aviation ministry has complained about.”
That, I believe is enough and should be heeded by the FG; as downgrading the Akanu Ibiam international airport in Enugu state will amount to the downgrading of an Igbo man.
Gwiyi Solomon Writes from Uzo Uwani, Enugu state.