By Ikechukwu Amaechi
AS I ponder over the Emir of Kano, Air Peace tango, I could not help but remember the wisecrack by Sarah Churchwell, the 51-year-old professor of American Literature, who wrote: “People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.” That is exactly what is happening in this contrived hullabaloo. For those not aware, the story is that the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero, who was returning from Banjul, Gambia, missed his early morning flight from Lagos to Kano on an Air Peace plane.
It was neither the monarch’s fault nor that of Air Peace airline. His flight from Gambia to Nigeria was delayed, which impacted negatively on both his arrival time in Lagos and ability to board the 6.15 am flight from Lagos to Kano. Knowing the Chairman of Air Peace airline, Allen Onyema, the Emir’s cousin, who doubles as his Chief Protocol Officer, Isa Bayero, called to request a delay of the flight. But that was not possible because as at the time his call came through, boarding had been concluded, doors shut and the plane was already taxiing on the runway, about to take off.
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Air Peace duly gave Isa Bayero the situation report and offered to put the Emir and his nine-man entourage on the 7 am flight to Abuja and from there to Kano at the airline’s expense. But the royal entourage would have none of that. How dare the airline refuse to abort the 6.15 am flight, knowing full well, in their words, that a Very Important Person, VIP, and his entourage were not yet on board? They threatened fire and brimstone and promised there would be consequences if the flight didn’t wait for the Kano royalty, which they portrayed as a “disrespect to the emir and the people of Kano State”.
It didn’t matter to them that there were scores of passengers in the aircraft who will vicariously suffer if the flight was aborted. When the flight left without the Emir, Isa Bayero complained to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, seeking punitive actions against Air Peace while making very dangerous threats. Alarmed, the airline bent backwards and issued a statement through its Chief Operating Officer, Toyin Olajide, debunking the allegation of disrespect to the Emir.
Mrs. Olajide narrated what happened thus: “We want to state the true facts herein: From the telephone log evidence on the phone of our Chairman/CEO, Allen Onyema, Mr. Isa Bayero called our Chairman at about 5.52 am, at a time he was still sleeping. From the same log, it could be seen that Isa called him again at 5.59 am. This call woke him up and on seeing that it was Isa Bayero calling, he took the call.
“Isa told our Chairman that he and the Emir of Kano had just landed the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos from Banjul, Gambia and would be proceeding to Kano same morning. He told the Chairman to delay our first flight of the day, the 6:15 am Lagos-Kano flight for him and the Emir with another eight persons. It was not true that our Chairman refused flatly. He rather told Mr. Isa Bayero to give him a few minutes to call the airport to find out the status of the flight. I was the one he called. To show his desire to help, he called me immediately and intimated me with the request. I am the Chief Operating Officer, COO, of Air Peace. I quickly called the local airport from where we carry on our day to day domestic flight operations and was told that the aircraft had since finished boarding and was almost taxiing out.
I quickly called Mr. Isa Bayero with this information and I expressed our desire to put him, their entourage and the Emir of Kano on our 7.00 am Lagos-Abuja flight and that on landing in Abuja, we would then put him on our flight going to Kano at no cost to them. Mr. Isa Bayero refused this offer; he insisted that the already taxiing aircraft should be stopped and delayed until the Emir and the other eight persons arrive from the international airport.
“At this point, as stated earlier, Isa Bayero and the Emir of Kano had just landed at the international wing of the airport, this means they would still need to go through Immigration, get their baggage and, of course, clear with Customs before entering the morning Lagos traffic to get to the local wing of the airport. This would mean that the passengers in the plane ready to depart would have to wait in the plane for nothing less than an hour. So the decision was then to fly them from Abuja to Kano still in the morning considering the next flight from Lagos to Kano was for 7:00 pm.
“How this became a disrespectful action by Air Peace baffles us. After explaining this to Isa Bayero, he threatened he would incite the people of Kano against the Airline if we did not stop the flight.” And that was exactly what he did. Rather than Mrs. Olajide’s succinct explanation, which I consider a needless mollification of a bully with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, assuaging Prince Bayero’s ego, he became more recalcitrant and doubled down on his threat.
“I am giving an ultimatum of 72 hours for Air Peace to tender apologies to the Emir, first in national daily and secondly to come down in person to the Emir, or else, we would not hesitate to go extra miles to correct the misnomer,” he thundered.
But he was not done yet. “We can go any length to defend and protect any act of insensitivity against our prestigious traditional institution. That insult is not heaped on the emir alone but on the good people of Kano and folding our hands on this could trigger something worse and more ridiculous. I wrote to the DG NCAA, to complain but if someone claimed my statement is inciting, well, they are entitled to their opinion. But come to think of it, inciting who, Kano people because the airline insulted their emir and the airline refused to apologise? I have no regret if anybody claims or interprets my complaint that way.”
He wouldn’t bother if any harm befalls the airline or Onyema because as he put it: “After all, Air Peace has been in business before coming to Kano and Kano people have been flying across the world without Air Peace. So if that is what he wants, so be it. We will get there.” Sadly, you would come off with the impression that this “prince of Kano”, a professional pilot who “has flown five heads of state”, was talking to his houseboys – a case of undiluted hubris walking on all fours.
But do you blame him? He is drunk on unmerited privileges. Isa Bayero and his ilk have developed narcissistic personality traits, a sense of deservingness or being owed a favour. The tragedy is that they have done little or nothing to deserve the special treatment they claim as a right. In any other country, Isa Bayero would have been invited by security authorities over his reckless utterances that can breach the already fragile peace in the land. But that will not happen. This is Nigeria and he is a prince of Kano, a blue blood.
But this “you owe me” attitude has become insufferable. Bayero’s sense of entitlement, the belief that he deserves a special treatment or recognition is beyond the pale. The penchant to inconvenience others without thinking, which is what this is all about is part of the reason why Nigeria is where it is. Will the Igwe of Nnewi, Obong of Calabar, or the Ooni of Ife, for instance, threaten Max Air or its chairman, Dahiru Barau Mangal, because the airline refused to delay a flight that is already taxiing the way the Kano prince is threatening Air Peace and Onyema?
Rather than inciting the notorious Kano mob against Air Peace, a private business, will it not be better if the Emir goes to court if he feels his right has been violated, or better still boycott the airline since there are alternatives?
I hope Onyema doesn’t apologise. Air Peace committed no crime. If the people of Kano say they don’t want the airline in their state again because one of its aircraft refused to apply the brakes as a molue would do in order to massage the ego of royalty, the same idiocy that destroyed Nigeria Airways, so be it.