By Philip Egbede
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
—Paul J. Meyer
Greatness is repeated excellence. Success is incremental. It does not come in an avalanche. If you want to create a tide, focus on making ripples not waves. If you make enough ripples, waves will herald a tide. This is the guiding philosophy of Mr. Allen Ifechukwu Onyema; chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace Airline.
When Allen Onyema conceived the idea of floating an airline, his primary vision was to create jobs. His secondary focus was to birth a new ideology of excellence in the aviation industry, and his tertiary goal was to put Nigeria in the global aviation map. Seven years down the line, he has created not only the biggest airline in West and Central Africa, but also the largest job opportunities in the Nigeria’s aviation industry.
It was not a surprise to his admirers that Allen Onyema was among eminent Nigerians listed for the award of National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM), under the employers of labour category. Other captains of industry in the same category were: Dr. Mike Adenuga (Jnr), Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu and Jim Ovia. These are amongst first eleven of the nation’s private sector that have created hundreds of thousands of job opportunities, and need no further introduction.
When these quintessential entrepreneurs are referenced as employers of labour, they are very qualified to be rated so. A nation that has her unemployment level at 34 percent and underemployment index is approximately 55 percent, should cherish job creators like Allen Onyema, as a national asset. The National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) award conferred on him by President Muhammadu Buhari, recently, was duly merited and an encouragement to do more for this nation.
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Using the platform of Air Peace Airline alone, Allen Onyema has created over 4000 direct jobs and close to 10,000 indirect jobs. He does not just create jobs for the sake of it, but good jobs with liveable salaries, with the capacity to positively impact the employees and their families. Air Peace has one of the best remuneration and welfare packages in the industry for its members of staff.
During Covid-19 pandemic, when aviation sector across the world was pummeled and ravaged by shutdowns and layoffs, many airlines across the globe, even in Nigeria, downsized workers and furloughed employees,. Allen Onyema, in his capacity as chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace Airline, resisted the economic pressure to layoff or furloughed any of his workers.
To this aviation maven, you don’t throw your members of staff under the bus just to survive economic crisis orchestrated by Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Onyema does not see Air Peace employees as just workers but extended family. He plays the role of a father that will never allow any of his children get drown in the storm for the ship to stay afloat. You can understand why Air Peace’s members of staff are very committed to their duties— Onyema has given them a sense of belonging.
As a paragon of patriotism, Allen Onyema’s efforts at creating jobs and promoting the welfare of workers goes beyond his own businesses. As the vice president of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), he has made tremendous albeit unnoticed efforts to ensure survival of the nation’s aviation sector amidst excruciating operating environment, in the last few difficult years for the industry.
His sacrifices in getting National Assembly and President Buhari to pass and sign, respectively, the Financial Act of 2021, which exempted airlines from Value Added Tax (VAT) and Customs Duties, served as a breather to domestic airlines already hemorrhaging and struggling to stay afloat. Allen Onyema has been at the forefront of managing the aviation fuel crisis with other critical stakeholders, just to ensure that airlines do not bankrupt, which will lead to loss of thousands of jobs in the aviation industry.
At the same, he has been playing stabilizing role in the sector to find a middle ground between the exorbitant cost of aviation fuel and the price of flight ticket, without compromising safety and flight schedules.
Even when Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) in the midst of controversy over the price of aviation fuel accused Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) of running the aviation industry like “social welfare business” and urged the Airline Operators to “let people pay the appropriate price for airline tickets”, Allen Onyema, as the biggest investor in the sector, did not buy the idea of transferring the whole burden of high cost of JetA1 to already economically strained passengers.
Rather, In one of his presentations during stakeholders’ meeting at National Assembly recently, Allen Onyema argued that if the price of aviation fuel would be allowed to reflect totally on the flight ticket without government intervention and oil marketers making sacrifices, the average unit price of flight ticket (economy) would go as high as N120,000. And this will take air travels out of the reach of many Nigerians, and businesses will be adversely affected, of which can cause job losses.
And Mr. Onyema will not want such exploitation to happen to save the industry from total collapse. This is mixing business with patriotism—only an Allen Onyema does it. He is not only in business to create jobs and values but to protect the nation from economic sabotage at the risk of his own life, family and businesses. So, Air Peace’s boss is not only a blessing to the aviation industry cum Nigeria’s economy but to the country as a whole.
He has also ensured national productivity in sports development. His enormous support for the national teams is unparalleled. Only a few billionaires in Nigeria have shown such passionate commitment to our national sports. Allen Onyema does not invest in national sports because of the opportunities it creates for the youths alone, but for the strategic role it plays in national cohesion.
It is an honor well-deserved to be conferred the award of National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) by President Muhammadu Buhari. This recognition will strengthen his commitment towards aviation industry in particular and national development in general.