Lessons Nigeria Can Learn From Kenyan Tragedy By Yakubu Dati
We are at it again. The pull-him-down (Phd) politicians are out to score cheap political points in time of adversity. Perhaps, it is important to look at the most recent case of tragedy in East Africa, Kenya. Recently, when that country was faced with one of the worst hostage crises it had ever seen, the rallying cry was under one banner -We are one! The fervour towards unity and the patriotism exhibited by Kenyans were those never seen before. In the face of the onslaught, the people came together to ensure that they offered one another what went beyond emotional support. I recollect the story of the woman who voluntary served tea and snacks to journalists and policemen throughout the siege. We also saw President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and other opposition leaders standing together to address their countrymen. Together, they also reached out to support the security forces, burying their differences to grieve and comfort one another. The opposition leaders rose above the temptation to cash in on the situation that was beyond human comprehension.
At periods of great trials, statesmen stand out. They resist cheap opportunities to grovel at the misfortunes that befall people they seek to rule. It is high time Nigerians learnt from Kenya.
Indeed, after the bitter fight that trailed the 2013 elections, it would have been so convenient for Kenyatta and Odinga to create camps and start the war of attrition over the attack by the deadly Al-shabab on Westgate shopping mall that left the country devastated after no fewer than 69 people were killed and several others injured. But there was no accusation that government failed to provide security. We didn’t hear outworn phrases like “clueless”, corruption or leadership failure from Kenyans. What we heard was “onward.”
Don’t our leaders know where to draw the line between politics and statesmanship?
Ever since the unfortunate crash of the 120 Embraer aircraft operated by Associated Airlines on a charter flight to Akure on Thursday, October 3, opposition leaders practically threw caution to the wind to exploit the sad incident for political gains. Like the vulture that feeds on carcass, they have started to feast on the remains of the departed.
It’s no secret that the country’s aviation sector was left to a cascading decline, until the present leadership embarked on a rescue operation two years ago. Everyone in the country can attest to the fact that the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, has vigorously pursued the aviation master plan that revolutionised a sector that today has become the phoenix, rising from the ashes of its past.
On resumption of office, the minister left no one in doubt that she will walk the talk. In just about two years in office, issues of safety and security have taken the centre stage. Agencies have been transformed and appropriate laws initiated to meet current realities. She has initiated the Aerotropolis project aimed at building cities around airports, and thus connecting workers, suppliers, executives and goods to the aviation world. Following the gains from the International Conference on Aviation Safety in Africa held in Abuja in 2012, the minister in a tactical marketing strategy took her merchandise to the doorsteps of international investors through the Abuja road shows.
She realised that Nigeria as a leading aviation market in Africa must evolve policies to strengthen this position and play a greater international role in this arena. Already, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd has signed a contract to construct five ultra-modern international airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Enugu. Right now, we have seen work commence in Enugu.
As part of the Airport Remodelling Project, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos has been expanded by 25 per cent, to enhance passenger facilitation at the airport. The new power house at the airport is also ready for inauguration while the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has recently taken delivery of modern security equipment that would enhance safety and security at all the country’s airports. It is also to the credit of the current Minister of Aviation that abandoned aircraft which constituted considerable danger for many years at Nigerian airports have been removed. It was also her determination to enforce safety at all airports that saw the removal of oil tankers that had constituted danger and an eyesore at the MMA access road for many years. The list is endless.
The international regulatory agencies like the International Civil Aviation Organisation have put a stamp of approval on these achievements in a number of ways. For example, ICAO recently listed Nigeria as one of the 14 countries in Africa that have effective safety implementation above the global average of 61 per cent, as contained in its 2013 Safety Report. The ICAO Safety Report is made from investigation conducted by the organisation’s auditors concerning levels of compliance by individual member states all over the world.
Indeed, that explains why perhaps, for the first time in the annals of our history, less than 24 hours after the Associated Airlines plane crash in Lagos, the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau has commenced investigation into the crash in Nigeria. Flight recorders recovered are being downloaded at the Bureau’s newly installed flight laboratory at its Abuja headquarters where the readout of the recorders has commenced.
It is imperative that we reduce our pull-him-down syndrome. If Nigeria must grow as a nation, the lessons from Kenya must be imbibed. We must say to ourselves that we are one, irrespective of our political and ethno-religious inclinations.
•Dati is General Manager, Corporate Communication, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria
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