BY SIMON EBEGBULEM,
BENIN-CITY = On Saturday, August 24, 2013, 13-year-old Daniel Ohikhena, from Owan, Edo State, stowed from Benin Airport to Lagos in the wheel well of Arik flight W3 544. When the flight landed at the Lagos Airport, security agents and passengers aboard the flight were shocked to see the boy creeping out of one of the wheels of the aircraft. The security agents and passengers thought he was a ghost until they found that the boy stowed to Lagos. Daniel told journalists then that he thought the flight was going to America as he wanted to travel outside Nigeria.
However, that silly move he made gave him the opportunity of being in school today, after then Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State adopted Daniel and gave him scholarship. Daniel, whose parents are separated, is from a very poor home and confessed that one of the things that motivated him into that dangerous adventure was his dream to be a pilot. He is 16 years old now and in SS 1 in Edo College, Benin-City. On holidays, Sunday Vanguard ran into Daniel, last week, where he was assisting his mother, who is into petty trading, at the Oba market. He is taller now and more mature.
Luckily for Daniel, the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki continued, sponsoring his education and other children popularly referred to as Oshiomhole’s children. That can be said to be one of the positive aspects of continuity in government. Oshiomhole’s handing over to Obaseki, also from his party, the APC, means there is hope for these children, about twenty of them. Some of the Oshiomhole adopted children are in universities across the country. As a matter of fact, some of the kids include the ones the state government brought back to Edo from Borno when Boka Haram insurgency raged. Some of them had lost their parents but Oshiomhole sent three luxury buses to the North to bring back these Edo indigenes languishing then in refugee camps.
Meanwhile, Daniel, in a chat with Sunday Vanguard, stated that during the governorship election, he prayed that Oshiomhole’s candidate should win “because I was scared that if the PDP took power, they will stop my scholarship”. The former stowaway boy continued: “And thank God Obaseki won and since he came in, he has been doing his best for me. I am very fine at school. He has been paying my school fees and I am very grateful.
I thank him for continuing with my scholarship and God will bless him. But I want to see him and thank him personally”. Asked about his school work and ambition to be a pilot, Daniel said: “ My school has teachers who are well trained. Gov. Ohsiomhole rehabilitated our school and recruited good teachers who have been doing very well. In fact, my school is better than most private schools which big men’s children attend. I like the school and enjoy my studies. I am a member of the school cricket team and I am doing very well. I am a science student and I am good in computer studies. I wanted to be a pilot but I think I will do better in computer engineering. I have been told that I can still do piloting after becoming a computer engineer”.
Recalling his experience inside the wheel that day he stowed away, Daniel stated: “I was 13 years then when I entered the wheel well of the plane. Each time I see a plane flying, I always look at it and remember what I did. In fact, now, I feel stupid each time I remember that incident but I believe God wanted it to be that way. If not, I would not have gotten this scholarship and I am from a poor home. My mother is struggling to train us including my siblings and it has not been easy. But thank God, after what happened, our governor then, Comrade Oshiomhole, gave me scholarship after he invited me to his office. Governor Oshiomhole helped me that time. He discovered me and told me that I should work hard so that I could achieve all I want in life. He gave me a chance to be educated and I am very grateful to him.
“I always discuss the issue with my friends in school and some of them wished they were me. Whichever way you look at it, I have entered the plane before but most of them have not. So sometimes I feel proud of what I did and sometimes I feel stupid when I was told that I could have died in the incident”. Told that the wheel well of the plane is always hot, and whether he felt the heat, he replied: “It was not hot really. The temperature was normal. I was really not scared of anything because I was determined to travel out. The only thing is that I now have one challenge in my ears due to the noise from the engines of the plane. It is like the noise still echoes in my ears giving me the impression that I may have problems with my ears.
“The only issue I want to appeal to Governor Obaseki now is that I want to see him and thank him. He is a good father. Again I want to beg him to help my mother. We don’t have a home right now because my mum can’t pay house rent. The landlord is threatening to give us quit notice. And now that I am on holidays, I am scared of where to stay. Each time we are at home, the landlord will come with a lawyer and they will be harassing my mum over house rent. It is really disturbing. I want to appeal to Governor Obaseki to help my mum in that regard. And I still want to travel outside Nigeria to further my education and learn more. I want to grow up as a responsible man so that I can help my mother.
We are four in the family and it is hard for my mum to pay my sisters’ school fees. She is into petty trading and after she manages to give us food, it is always difficult to pay house rent and school fees for my sisters. I wish my mother is doing a big business that would have helped her to provide well for us. So I really want to do something extra for myself and that is why I will be happy to go to a place where I can be schooling and working to make money and help the family”.