Columns

April 5, 2024

Allen Onyema the Magnificent! By Donu Kogbara

We’re ready for Abuja-London route; Houston, New York in works — Onyema

Allen Onyeama

When I first met Allen Onyema many years ago, he did not strike me as a titanic alpha male. The other men present asserted themselves conversationally, but he didn’t say much or blow his own trumpet. He came across as a pleasant, self-effacing, average kinda guy.

He is still pleasant and self-effacing but has turned out to be anything but average. Iconic, super-tough, mega-smart and extraordinarily dynamic would be more appropriate descriptions.

Onyema now owns 38 planes and the only Nigerian airline that flies to Europe. He started Air Peace from scratch in 2013. Its first maiden flight to London took off from Lagos last weekend. And it’s been one helluva rocky journey from domestic to international.

Air Peace covers all six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and provides  flights to and from Abuja, Anambra, Akure, Asaba, Benin, Calabar, Enugu, Gombe, Ibadan, Ilorin, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Makurdi, Osubi-Warri, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Uyo, Maiduguri and Yola.

Onyema has also boldly ventured outside his home base and regularly ferries passengers to and from the following regional and non-African airports: Accra, Banjul, Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Monrovia Niamey, Abidjan, Cotonou, Lome, Dubai (temporarily inactive), Johannesburg, Guangzhou-China, Jeddah, Mumbai and Tel-Aviv.

Every step of the way, both here and abroad, he has endured insults and encountered countless obstacles that have been thrown across his path by hostile enemies of progress, envious competitors and ethnic bigots who can’t bear the thought of an Igbo man succeeding.

Onyema has been forced to tolerate dirty high-wire politricks from compatriots and foreigners (including some elements within the Nigerian and UK governments) who are determined to stop him.  

But he has somehow miraculously survived and thrived because of  sheer grit, nerves of steel and an unshakeable belief in his dream.

And many Nigerians love him for his great achievements.

His stubborn refusal to cave in to sabotage has enabled him to give Nigerians fair prices and humble foreign airlines that were shamelessly overcharging us for decades. British Airways, for example, has just significantly dropped its ticket costs. 

Videos of Onyema confidently leading the smiling crew of Air Peace’s first ever London flight into Lagos airport are all over the internet and make my heart swell with pride. And I’ve lapped up glowing stories from my friend, Datta Amachree, who was a passenger.

Datta has raved about the food (delicious Nigerians dishes) and impeccable service. And I am thrilled that Onyema is getting it right from Day One and that the only talk I’ve heard about teething problems relates to the Gatwick Airport authorities’ failure to deliver efficient support at the check-in desks (some suspect that the bungling and faulty equipment were deliberate enemy moves!).

Is also worth noting that Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation, took the trouble to travel on the maiden flight. This, I hope, is proof that Onyema can count on Keyamo to staunchly stand by him.

Onyema has said that ALL Nigerian airlines need all the back-up they can get from the Federal Government and will blossom if doing business in this country becomes less stressful.

In the meantime, Air Peace is planning to acquire more planes and fly to more new destinations this year, including America. And Onyema is planning to build on his philanthropic track record, which includes:

1. Distribution of food items to indigent members of the public during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

2. Donation of a big 550 KVA power generating set to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Anambra State, 2019.

3. Construction of a 15-bedroom guest house at the University of Ibadan in 2020. The building was commissioned in 2022.

4. Donation of relief items running into millions to Internally Displaced Persons in four camps in Yobe State, 2016.

5. Donation of 70 million naira for the building of a Nonviolence and Peace Studies Centre at the Anambra State University in 2018.

6. Several evacuation flights for Nigerians and non-Nigerians during COVID-19 lockdown.

7. The evacuation of 503 Nigerians in South Africa amidst xenophobic attacks in 2019.

8. Evacuation of Nigerians during the Ukraine-Russia crisis in 2022.

9. Evacuation of 277 Nigerians from Egypt amidst the Sudan crisis in 2023.

10. Sponsoring the building of a Wall of Fame for the 1976 Nigerian sports heroes of the Montreal Olympics- CSR ongoing- 2022.

11. Offer of free tickets (six times) annually for the surviving members of the 1980 National Football Team- 2022.

12. Priority Boarding Policy for Nigeria’s military personnel- serving and retired- 2022.

13. Award of N1 million to Nigeria’s gymnastics sensation, Stephanie Onusiriuka, for winning a Gold Medal at the Junior Olympics of the African Club Championship in Pretoria. The 11-year-old also gets free tickets annually to Air Peace destinations for trainings and competitions.

14. Offer of 15% discount to Nigerian students in the UK for our London service.

Onyema’s vision isn’t just about making money. It is also about assisting fellow Nigerians and improving our society.

More grease to Onyema’s elbow!

DONU’S WORLD

I have a new YouTube 

channel. It’s called DONU’S WORLD.

https://youtube.com/@donukogbara?si=bBm_IPdFZ_wUyKYq

Check it out every Friday to watch me talking about my life and issues that interest me. And please “like”, subscribe and share!

Today, I’ll be reflecting on the kidnap ordeal I went through in 2015. Insecurity is still rife because successive governments have failed to free us from this menace. Nigerians are still being abducted left, right and centre, often in large groups. What a crying shame!!!

RESPONSES TO  donzol2002@yahoo.co.uk  or to 0805 404 6887. (TEXT ONLY). PLEASE NOTE THAT UNLESS YOU REQUEST ANONYMITY, YOUR EMAIL OR TEXT MAY BE PUBLISHED WITH YOUR NAME AND CONTACT DETAILS ATTACHED.

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