By Uche Mbah
Remember the fable of Icarus, the man who fixed feathers to his arms with wax and became the first man to fly, but flew too close to the Sun and got the wax melted and crashed from the heights to the ground? That is the sorry story of the Nigerian Aviation Industry.
Last week, the Nigeria celebrated the one year anniversary of the Nigeria Air logo that was launched by the Federal government. After gulping $308.8, the idea of a National carrier was jettisoned-and appeared in the 2019 budget again. Perhaps as a continuous conduit pipe. Some of these and more were the butt of discussions when stakeholders met at Raddison Blue Hotel at Ikeja last week. It was lamentation galore. Last year, when they gathered under the same aegis, it was not much different. This has prompted a stakeholder to gleefully announce that this year’s meeting was a remix of last year’s hit song, Save Our Souls. Unfortunately, last year participants cannot claim copyright. The hit dates back further down to the evergreen days when Nigeria Airways rose to become the biggest airline in Africa as it clocked a fleet of sixty four, after which it deteriorated to only two by 1999 when former President Obasanjo decided to scrap it-and dash out it’s multi million Naira assets at ridiculously low prices to Arik Air, while some of its choicest properties went to favorites of the then Bureau of Public Enterprises, headed by Atiku Abubakar and managed by Nasir el-Rufai. Soon Arik was ran the way of Nigeria Airways, and more came on board-but, like the leaves of the oil bean tree, they were many but nothing can be wrapped with them. “They are more interested in shows than performances”, a bank source told this magazine, “and most times come to us to finance some of these white elephant projects”.And they get them too. An airline, for example, took up an office in Benin, gave it a makeover, but never flew there for one year-and had to close it down again.
And the Chief Executive Officers of these Airlines are not acting differently from the time of the Nigerian Airways.During their time, government officials all travel with their families first class on free tickets.That is besides the smuggled passengers with fake travel documents that come back deported, costing the airlines fortunes in penalties. A report was made of the CEO of a certain Airline who pulled an aircraft from its normal route and commandeered it to Ghana just to buy Suya.
Most times, these are the most vocal at forums lamenting their inability to fill in their ICAO quota. They complain bad policies, lack of continuity while the foreign Airlines are taking over the Nigerian Airspace. They complain that other airlines allocated multiple entry points, asking for code sharing from other airlines. Who would like to code share with an Airline that will bring passengers to Dubai and leave them stranded? In all these the regulatory Agencies play to the gallery-only that the gallery is filled with thieves and miscreants.
Icarus may never fly again-but may gather his people every year to complain and wail against their own home made problems. They are not different from the government they criticize.
Next year will be another gathering of vultures. And a new remix will be released.