Tonye Princewill

June 8, 2012

DANA – Counting the dead and conning the damned (1)

DANA – Counting the dead and conning the damned (1)

Some of the victims of Dana Plane crash: Fatokun and daughter, Olusola Arokoya, Ajuonuma, Onita, Ike Abugu and Kunbi

By Tonye Princewill
IF it were possible, I’d really like to avoid using the word “tragedy”- not only because it’s trite and over-worked, but also because, in this instance, the term is woefully inadequate.

It fails to give vent to my true passions: To the explosive plethora, the swirling vortex of emotions that the Dana Airliner crash in Lagos has aroused within me.

Naturally, there is grief and a sense of loss which I share with the bereaved families of the passengers and others who perished as well as with Nigerians generally. But this is just part of the emotional mix, one dimension of my thoughts and feelings about an airline accident that follows an all-too-familiar pattern.

The Dana crash fits perfectly into what has become an ethos of death and destruction, a catastrophic continuum, which entails a fatal accident and a litany of promises, ceremonies and rituals. No tragedian – Greek, African or other – could have created a more dramatic contrivance than the scenario that is being played out in the wake of the Dana Airlines incident.

Nor could even the most accomplished thespians have acted their roles with more exactitude, than did our administrators and elected officials, when paying their customary visit to the scene of the crash. It was a classic – if not exactly captivating – performance. The Aviation Minister cried, as reportedly did the President, who issued the expected proclamation – promising to “get to the bottom of this” and “find a solution” to the problem of airline safety.

Let me stress, to avoid being seen as callous and inconsiderate, that when I make reference to “thespians” and “acting”, I am taking poetic licence. The intent is not to portray the President or any other public official as insincere, far from it. Many of you know that the Aviation Minister remains one of my favourite and God knows the entry of Dana into our airspace precedes her.

So no, quite to the contrary, the grief of these leaders almost certainly runs deeper, even than my own (if that is possible). They not only share a sense of loss with the rest of us, but must also – I think it’s fair to assume – suffer guilt-pangs, being among the persons charged with ensuring safe air travel. What I must insist upon though, is that grief is not enough. Nigerians, especially those who ply the corridors of this country’s air space regularly, as I do, deserve more than displays of sorrow and regret, after disaster has struck.

Elimination of accidents

Accidents, of course, can never be eliminated entirely. But members of the public have a right to feel reasonably safe, whether in flight or in their sitting rooms – whether they are air travellers or people like the residents of Iju-Ishaga, in Lagos, who reside under flight lanes.

“Getting to the bottom” of the Dana Airlines crash, which the President has promised to do, is an important first step towards providing Nigerians with this sense of security: Towards alleviating the oppressive psychological burden which the looming threat of plane crashes impose Nigerians.

The operation of Dana Airlines has been suspended. But why did it take over 150 Nigerian lives to achieve this – particularly when the irregularities, as reported in The Will, a U.S. based newsletter, were so glaring? Within hours of the crash, CNN had a detailed report on the ill-fated plane formerly owned by Alaskan Airways and rejected by both Canadian and US authorities.

Why not us? If anyone thinks that this will blow over, think again. If anyone thinks that this report will join the rest, know that the mood in the country is changing. It is like the filling of a cup drop by drop. It is simply too hard to point the finger at the drop that made the cup runneth over. Maybe we should be thinking more along the lines of a judicial commission of enquiry. The absence of consequence is the mother of our evils.

To be continued