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The many gods of aviation in Nigeria

Almost every Nigerian feels a sense of loss and grief over the latest plane crash in the country last week, which resulted in the loss of many lives.

Howbeit, this grief at the loss of many innocent Nigerian lives soon gives way to anger and frustration that question whether we, as a nation, were so powerless as to prevent this latest unfortunate air crash involving an Associated Airlines aircraft.

As has become the attitude and character of Nigerians, some people are ‘the culprits’ to be singled out for blame for this latest tragedy that claimed about 16 Nigerians.   The critics, in righteous anger, are pointing accusing fingers in all directions.

Some have called for the head of the Minister of Aviation. Some have blamed the President. Some have blamed the airline. Some have even blamed the remains of the departed Dr Agagu. The arguments behind the blames have ranged from the serious, the dogmatic, to the biased, the ignorant, the spiritual, to the sentimental. Such is the nature of the Nigerian psyche.

To give an example, after the tragic Dana Air crash of 2012, the government was persuaded,howbeit reluctantly, to retire the then Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren and appointed a new DG ,Captain Fola Akinkoutu.

Did that prevent another air crash? Obviously,no. Then, should we also sack Captain Akinkoutu who is only few months in office?

So, the question is: How many Aviation ministers are we going to have in how many years? And how many director generals of NCAA are we going to sack and hire in the same number of years?

Indeed, there are many “gods’ of aviation in Nigeria. They know which aircraft is bad and which is good. The same way they know which Aviation Minister or Aviation official is bad and who is good.

Are we in a country of voodoo management where mannequins tell the professionals what to do? Is it that these mannequins are better trained than the professionals in Aviation? Some even suggest that the dead wanted to take along some living in some kind of sacrifice.

The unkindest cut of all came from a former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.One would  think that this eminent personality who has been privileged to be head of Aviation in this country would know better.

It would appear that politics got the better of him in his criticism of the current Aviation Minister and the Aviation authorities, since he has crossed over to the opposition party known as the APC. Without doubt, Princess Stella Oduah is as devastated by the fatal airplane crash as the families of the deceased.

Nigerian aviation is under her watch and anything that affects this part of our national life negatively, also affects the Minister negatively.

Chief Fani-Kayode wrote in his article:“How many more people have to be killed in air crashes before our President realises that he needs a new Minister of Aviation?”

He howbeit answers his own question when he provides data on the number of air crashes that occurred during the tenure of his predecessor in office as Aviation minister,Professor Babalola Borishade:”The year before I became Minister of Aviation there were five plane crashes and 453 people perished from our skies.

The airlines that crashed were Bellview (2005), Sosoliso (2006), a Nigerian military plane carrying a large number of senior army officers (2006), ADC (2006) and a private light aircraft in Kano which had on board the adopted son of the PDP National Chairman Ahmadu Ali and a pilot (2006). At the time that all these crashes took place Prof Babalola Borisade was the Minister of Aviation.”

Fani-Kayode now goes into self-glorification:”Suffice it to say that there were no air crashes under my watch and not one drop of blood was spilt from the air whilst I was Minister of Aviation, whether it be passenger plane, private jet, helicopter or light aircraft.

I thank God for that because if it had happened I would not have been able to sleep at night. I am the only Minister of Aviation in Nigeria between 2002 to date that can lay claim to that. I put it down to hard work, prayer and the grace of God and nothing else. Unlike some others I was literally paranoid when it came to air safety and security because it was obvious to me that there was more to the whole thing than meets the eye.”

Unfortunately, Chief Fani-Kayode did not give us details of what was the ”hardwork” he did so that we can benefit from his knowledge and happily prevent further air crashes in the country. But he soon enough provides a clearer picture of the truth when he says:”It was obvious to me that there was more to the whole thing(air crash) than meet(s) the eye.”

The only conclusion we are left with is that Chief Fani-Kayode himself cannot provide any ready explanations or reasons for the string of air crashes. Are these spiritual? Are these what?

But unlike Fani-Kayode,the current Aviation Minister would not shift blames and would not engage in name-calling or looking for scapegoats.The right thing is to do a proper investigation—one that can be verified by empirical evidence and get to the root cause of the accident.And this is what has been put in place by the Minister,Princess Oduah and is already ongoing.

Paul Bassey, a senior communication officer with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, wrote from Lagos


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