NIGERIA: LIKE DANA AIR DISASTER IN WAITING

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Penultimate week in Ghana, Nigeria’s West African neighbour, a football match was going on at the National Stadium Accra and the flood lights went off. The stadium manager was sacked the next day. That is in a country where things work! Had such an embarrassment taken place in Nigeria, nothing would have happened. The stadium manager would still be free, roaming the streets beating his chest. Nobody would have dared touch him, either because he belonged to the ruling political party, has “god father”, or hails from the same village as the President or Governor. But not in Ghana where things work. We are all aware of the Dana Airways crash which sent nearly 160 Nigerians to their untimely graves. Imo State lost 23 people in that incident, including erudite scholar, former Commissioner and Vice Chancellor of FUTO, Prof Celestine Onwuliri, whose wife, Viola is the current Minister of State, Foreign Affairs. Many families lost their dear ones in this ill – fated accident. While it is true that accidents must happen, but some accidents are man – made, waiting to happen. Preliminary investigation already has already unveiled that the Aircraft in question needed to be serviced. It was even said that Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state had raised alarm over that particular aircraft. But as usual, in a country like Nigeria where nothing works, nobody acted until these prominent sons and daughters of Nigeria perished for negligence. Reading one of the eye witnesses, he said he saw the aircraft hovering in the air, and it looked as if the two engines packed – up, and the pilot lost control of the Aeroplane, and crashed. That illustration vividly describes the situation Nigeria as a Federation has found itself. Nigeria today looks like a Dana Aircraft hovering in the air because of rudderless leaders. The difference here is that while the Dana ill – fated aircraft had two engines which packed up at the same time, Nigeria has many engines (the various tribes) and would not pack – up soon, if the pilot does not take time. It is heart rending that, the remote cause of the Dana aircraft is corruption. If not, those charged with the responsibility to ascertain an air worthy aircraft would have detected it and avoided this gory scenario by nipping it in the bud. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigeria. In fact, it would not be surprising to say that there must be “Corruption Departed” at Abuja which equally gets allocation every month. As I write this piece, two former Aviation Ministers are standing trial for corruption. But unfortunately, after some years now, the issue would be buried, and the looters will go home with their bags of loot. Indeed, the fight against corruption in Nigeria needs committed leader, those would not look at faces, tribe or political party affiliation to do the right thing. In China, Korea and some other countries, corruption carries the capital punishment. But in Nigeria, a corrupt official is simply dismissed, and he/she goes home to live like a king. This type of punishment would not show deterrent to others. In the Dana air disaster, Mr Harold Dumeren, the Head of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA has been ordered to step – aside while investigation on the crash goes on. But what happens to the supervising Ministry of Aviation? The Minister Mrs Stella Oduah is free, and even had the temerity to visit the scene of the disaster on the President Jonathan entourage. Is that the way we will fight corruption? Okey, if Dumereu is asked to step aside while investigation goes on, why was Mr Oniwon, the Nigerian National Petroleum Coperation boss on his seat, while the House of Representatives carried out the investigation on subsidy scandal? The NNPC was indicted in that probe and even asked to refund huge sums of money running into millions, yet Onuiwon is still on his seat. What a double- standard of carrying out investigation and fighting corruption. Despite the rot unraveled by the House of Representatives on the oil subsidy scandal, the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Allison – Madueke is still on her seat. Maybe because she hails from Bayelsa State? It is a pity. The unfortunate thing is that, Nigerian leaders take the masses for granted, thinking that Nigerian populace is still docile and uninformed. But it is the opposite. Every average Nigerian is today hooked to the global network via the cheapest of hand phones that has social networks that keep them abreast with happenings in the entire globe. And again, the new set of youths in Nigeria are growing up, knowing that they have a right to good things of life like their colleagues in other climes, and most importantly, have the right to ask questions on what and how the common wealth is being spent by their leaders. Nigerian youths of today are aware that each Senator goes home with an average of N400m annually. They are aware that their President uses N1b to feed. They are aware that nearly N3trn was mapped out for security in the last budget, yet Boko Haram is killing citizens like they are chickens. They know that in the last 13 years over N40b has been spent on roads, yet our people die every day because of pot holes on the roads. Nigerians know that billions of Naira have been sunk into the Aviation sector, yet Dana Airways crashed killing over 160 Nigerians. They know that trillions of Naira have been put into the power sector, right from the Obasanjo regime, yet every family in Nigeria own generators. Nigerians also know that the country is among the worlds largest countries endowed with oil, yet Nigeria imports petrol and cannot boast of one functioning Refinery. The people are aware that a Governor or Permanent Secretary can steal billions of Naira, and yet be acquitted by our courts, unless the looting Governor or permsec is caught outside the shores of Nigeria. The list is endless. And those were the reasons Nigerians, after MKO Abiola, came out en masse to vote for Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan as their President. Jonathan proved better option among all the candidates, especially with his meek mien and the story of how he went to school without shoes. Whatever the case, Jonathan today is the President of Nigeria, it is a tough task, and Nigerians know that whomever they voted for that position was not coming for a tea party. Jonathan two weeks ago in Enugu said Nigerian problems have been there before he assumed office. Yes of course, that is why we voted for him, to tackle the problems. The President should not allow the Nigerian problem to overwhelm him. We know he may have been doing his best, and Nigerian have been swimming in corruption before he assumed office. Therefor, rather than allow corruption increase under his administration, he should let it remain the level he met it, if he cannot reduce it. Much as we know that the President is not corrupt, but some of those in his government are not so clean. We don’t need a Judicial Inquiry to ascertain these. Nigerians are not blind and have seen the present standard of living of those in government today and what it used to be before yesterday. They know when a government official lives within his salaries and allowances too. Nigerians are supporting Jonathan to move Nigeria forward. They want action. They want heads to role. They want somebody to be sacked for misdemeanor, like in other countries. In Nigeria, nobody resigns, unless you sack him or her. Until corrupt officials are identified and shown the door, the Transformation Agenda envisaged by the government, and expectant Nigerians may turn out a mirage. If we must get it right, there should not be any sacred cows. My cousin, during the 419days arrived Owerri from Lagos, with a brand new Mercedes Benz car, complete with alloy wheels, but my uncle threw him out with his car. The young man sold the vehicle and ran back to school to complete his studies. Today 419 is a big crime, and he lives on his Law chamber in USA. Nigerian problem may look myriad, but with concerted efforts, it would be uhuru. Nigeria is not worse than Ghana before the country found its bearing. What is needed now is mobilization of the teeming population with leadership by example. President Jonathan is an honest man, but he needs the steel to drive the populace. He should not look at whose ox is gored, provided he is on the side of the populace. Nigeria is in total ruins and needs a new beginning. There is no power, water, security, health sector, no housing and good education for the poor masses. The roads have turned death traps. Employment is scarce, and crime rate is growing everyday. We still have three years of Jonathan’s administration. May God give him the strength to take the nation to another level. I sympathize with the entire people of Imo State, for the loss of these distinguished citizens in the Dana Air crash. It is very unfortunately that there has not been any air crash in Nigeria without an Imo citizen being involved. It is not our making. It shows our industry and penchant for hard work. Unfortunately, air crashes will not stop Imo people from continuing to contribute to the development of Nigeria. But we pray that this should not happen again. Adieu Prof, and all the 23 Imo citizens who lost their lives.