People & Politics

September 2, 2013

Arik stowaway, Boy Oi!

Arik stowaway, Boy Oi!

*Daniel Oikhena

By Ochereome Nnanna

FOR passengers on an Arik Air flight from Benin to Lagos, Saturday, August 24,2013 will be a day to remember like no other. On that day, they climbed down the gangway of their flight at the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos and met with a spectacle that gave them the psychedelic shock of their lives.

A young teenager of about fourteen years old sporting a pink polo shirt with a cream Catholic rosary hanging loosely around his neck, climbed down from the tyre hole of the aircraft! He was also carrying what looked like a school bag. Then, in typical Nigeria fashion of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted away, security men swooped and led him away.

His name was later given as Daniel Oikhena, a boy said to be a loner and an aficionado of action movies which he watches till late in the night. I call him Boy Oi. When I examined the countenance of this kid as he was being dragged away, I did not see the fear or trepidation that hits when one has just escaped death. All I saw was a touch of bewilderment on a face that exuded intelligence and confidence.

What happened that day was extraordinary, and I must admit that the media slept on duty over this mind-bending news. In other, more media-alert parts of the world, all the television networks would focus on it for days, if not weeks, while all the major newspapers would descend on it like a pack of hungry hyenas, tearing every angle of it to shreds for a news-hungry public to devour.

Fancy what could have happened. The boy could have been crushed to death by the tyres when they were retracting. The dead body could have caused the tyres to hook and fail to eject on arrival in Lagos, thus leading to a plane crash. That black bag could have contained an explosive, which could have gone off mid-air, blowing the plane and its human cargo to bits. All these because workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Arik Air tasked with the job of ensuring the safety and comfort of air travellers woefully failed in their duties.

All we saw was FAAN and Arik exchanging blames. No one was made to lose his job; none was made to report to the law enforcement agencies to answer questions for endangering public safety. That is Nigeria.

This, certainly, is not the first time Nigerians are stowing away in planes. Stowaways have been happening since transportation was invented by man. But no serious country records aircraft stowaways with the frequency that we see here in Nigeria where it has almost become commonplace.

On Thursday, October 26th 2012, I was on an Arik (again!) flight to New York to cover the US presidential election. The flight departed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at exactly 4.20pm and landed safely at about 1.35am New York time. We all disembarked and went our respective separate ways, only for me to read a couple of days later that a dead man was found in the hold of the plane!

Apparently, he hid among the luggage, quite obviously with the assistance of some people charged with the plane’s security and logistical services. Similar such reports have come from Arik flights from Nigeria to South Africa and a few other routes. Arik needs to look inwards to know if they are truly well grounded to do airline business. So does FAAN. Whatever lapses the airlines may have, the industry regulators should be able to spot them and bring down the hammer as and when due.

Back to Boy Oi. I suggest that after interrogating him, the punishment should be very minimal. Being a minor who got mixed up with such a complex and perilous adventure, I will not put the full weight of culpability on his shoulders. The family he comes from is obviously not in the best of shapes to cater for his financial and psychological needs, thus his decision to take his destiny into his hands in that suicidal manner. Secondly, the system he was born into is not working. Otherwise, he would have been caught before the flight took off.

Boy Oi should be helped. He is an extraordinary young man. Such people can be turned to an asset to society. But if they are allowed to grow wild like weeds, they can equally turn to haunt society. His case requires expert and matured handling.

My last line is that parents should resume being parents. Let us spend more time with our children and study them closely. Let us encourage them to speak their minds to us and be eager to discuss with them. Money is only a small part of a child’s needs. We must help children to grow, not allow them to grow up anyhow. Let us revive the African concept of the community as a collective nursery for raising young people.

Abandoning these children as we now do is not in our interests. The Federal government and their state counterparts have ministries for the youth. What do they do, except using the youth for political self-aggrandisement? One misguided youth could have led to the death of scores of innocent air travellers. Some of whom might even be foreigners visiting the country.

We will surely pay through the nose for neglecting our youth, one day soon.



Suntai: Easier said than done

THE Governor Danbaba Suntai impasse in Taraba State is not an easy nut to crack. Commentators asking him to resign or be impeached due to permanent incapacity have to look closely at Section 189 dealing with Permanent Incapacity. Only two-thirds of the members of the executive council (people appointed by the governor; people who owe their employment to him) can initiate this process. They are unlikely to do this for obvious reasons.

For as long as Governor Suntai remains alive, he is free to cling to power. His loyalists will see to that. There are too many interests that will be affected by Suntai’s loss of power. We are not just talking about religious and ethnic interests, we are also talking about 2015 prospects. Only a dead president or governor will leave political cabals with no choice but to let go. The best the state can hope for is that development is not impeded in the heat and vapour of this controversy.

Clearly, Section 189 is a failed constitutional clause and must be amended to ensure the state does not fall sick along with an ailing governor.