By Dele Sobowale
“A precedent embalms a principle.”
William Scott, 1745-1836.
On January 1, this year, I predicted that politics will take precedence over governance. Now, Nigerians can see how politics has taken control of the President and Governors of the two major parties. Governor El-Rufai, of Kaduna state, left a state on fire to spearhead the failed coup against Buni of Yobe state, who hardly stepped into his state while he was Chairman of the Caretaker Committee.
El-Rufai proudly announced to reporters that “all the [APC] governors have relocated to Abuja.” That sort of impunity would not be tolerated by Americans – whose constitution we copied and bastardised. Governor Buni would have been impeached by his state’s parliamentarians before now. But, Nigerians being mostly docile, Buni would probably receive a hero’s welcome back to a state he deserted.
Unfortunately, the rest of us are not different from the people of Yobe state. We are careless and we allow tragedies to occur – over which we then lament after the event. One such event is the intended concession of four Nigerian International airports – Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt. They just happen to be the only profitable airports – while the rest are monuments to somebody’s ego. The only other airport, which could have been viable – the Victor Attah International Airport, Uyo – is still work in process.
“Charity begins at home.”
“You learn more by doing than by watching.”
“Friends today; enemies tomorrow.”
LESSON FROM PUTIN’S WAR
“One of the lessons of history is that men [especially Africans] never learn from history.”
Journalism has finally become recognised as the first rough draft of history. All media organisations providing news services are today focussed every hour, minute and second of the day on the war in Ukraine. Already, there is a lesson for Nigeria which should deter us from allowing our four international airports from falling into foreign hands. The sanctions being applied against Russian business interests will one day be applied against another country. A precedent has been established in that regard. Imagine, if you have any imagination, what could happen if we concession our airport to a country on which sanctions are imposed. It could involve asking all foreign airlines to boycott the airport. Nigeria will suffer serious collateral damage from a dispute in which we are not directly involved.
Furthermore, the organisation to which the airport has been concessioned might, with some justification, insist that airlines from its own country cannot be prevented from landing in an airport it operates. It will be akin to a landlord trying to prevent the tenant’s kids and relatives from entering the rented premises because two people are fighting in the neighbourhood. It won’t
work; and it will only get Nigeria involved in unnecessary litigations.
“Friends today, enemies tomorrow.” That is not something unknown to most adults. And, just as we experience it among individuals, it has also been known to occur among nations. Anyone reading the exchange of hot words between America and Russia must not have been aware of the time when the Cold War between the two countries gave way to a long period of cooperation. In the late 1980s US multinational companies flocked into Russia; expanded operations and created jobs. Right now, there is a scramble to leave. Millions of Russians, hitherto gainfully employed will be rendered jobless.
Nobody can be sure that the foreigners who are awarded the concession will always work with us or for us. If they decide to go, they will not leave the installed equipment intact. We will most probably inherit airports which cannot be useful to us for quite a while. To avoid being labelled as xenophobic, with a deep hatred for strangers, let me stop here for now.
EVERY CONCESSION REPRESENTS OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE MONEY
“Charity begins at home.”
Because every concession presents the lucky winners with an opportunity to harvest great fortunes, one would have thought that the best place to start is home. Nigeria should give her own citizens the right to the great bonanza. Reports reaching me from usually reliable sources indicate that preference might be given to countries in Asia and the Middle East. That, to me, sounds like a mother giving the baby breast-feeding other babies while her kids starve.
While concessions, in general, are beneficial to the winner, airport concession is almost a licence to go and print your own dollars. Most charges are quoted in dollars; and the company pockets the lion’s share of the receipts for transfer abroad. Nigeria and its people need the foreign exchange more than any conceivable client and its country.
It will almost amount to criminal neglect of our national interest to deprive our people of this wonderful opportunity now – particularly when the tenure of the agreement might be as long as 20 years. Most Nigerians, over the age of 40 might never live long to see the airports returned to us.
YOU LEARN MORE BY DOING THAN WATCHING OTHERS
“Practice makes perfection.”
I am yet to meet anyone who became a competent driver, good footballer or excellent manager through mere observation of the greatest people in any field of endeavour. Granted, we might not now have all the Nigerians we need to manage the airports. But, one thing is certain, we will not have them twenty or thirty years from now – if all Nigerians do is to run errands for foreign managers.
At any rate, we have a few now. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot start with the ones we have and expand the pool through education and continuous training. Even the best airport managers anywhere in the world started from total ignorance.
We should therefore not allow the Nigerian consultants, agents and lawyers of foreign bidders to discourage or scare us away from doing what is best for Nigeria at this time.
THE TYRANNY OF ELECTIONS
“Politics is a thoroughly foul, rotten world; we get nowhere through politics. It debases everything. Henry Miller, 1891-1980, VBQ p 192.
Politics in Nigeria is about to produce a tragedy which the youths will have to live with. President Buhari two weeks ago ordered the Minister of Aviation to conclude the four airports’ concession by the end of this quarter. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with that instruction. I fully endorse concession. What is bothersome is the fact that the politicians and community leaders, who should be insisting on Nigerian management of Nigerian airports, are all tied up with politics 24/7. They have no time left for anything else. I predicted this in my January 1, 2022 article in the SATURDAY VANGUARD. That lack of attention has given foreign bidders a terrible advantage. They are focussed on grabbing our airports.
Even the three Governors – Sanwo-Olu, Ganduje and Dike – in whose states three of the airports are located are caught up in the maelstrom of 2023. they might wake up next year to learn that the person calling the shots in the airport in their state is a Turk…
To be continued….