Nigerians have for decades been subjected to what many described as ‘undeserved’ embarrassment and humiliation in most countries of the world. OMONU YAX-NELSON and JULIANA AGBO dissects the issues in Nigeria’s dwindling prestige among the comity of nations.
In continuation of the search for answers to angling question of why Nigeria and its citizens continued to be stigmatized, ridiculed, and treated with contempt by nations of the world, searchlight is beamed on the epileptic aviation industry and the tragic fate of Nigeria’s once booming national flag carrier —Nigeria Airways.
Flags of nations are not hoisted or flown by national carriers or airlines for fancy. It makes bold statement about countries capabilities and serves as a boost to their national pride. Nigeria, the supposed giant of Africa, a country located on the south of Sahara, reputed for her huge human and material potentials have been suffering untold shame and contempt in the hands of foreign airlines like British, Turkish Airways etc., because of her ‘Esau spirit’—inability to exploit her huge aviation market/potentials.
This paradox calls to mind, a communique at the end of the Chinua Achebe (2009) Colloquium, which state in part, that, elections in Nigeria have become progressively worse in quality over the years, and that, this fact has gravely eroded the country’s international strategic significance.
It further emphasized that “Nigeria’s consistent exclusion from the G-20 meetings is a global reflection of the country’s political situation amid critical governance issues like bad elections and widespread corruption.”
Experts in international economic, political and social relations agreed no less with these submissions, given what became the fate of the lofty dreams muted by Nigeria’s founding fathers, when it started out as a nation in 1960. Observers had contended that the measure of respect accorded any nation by the international community is proportionate to its internal coherence, prosperity, orderliness and realities.
In aligning with this line of thought, a Professor of law at the Windsor University, Ontario, Canada, Paul D. Ocheje, explained in an interview with the LEADERSHIP trio of ISUWA SUNDAY, OMONU YAX-NELSON and EMAMEH GABRIEL that the international community feels Nigeria is not a serious country.
Ocheje buttress further that these conclusions is not based on prejudice or because of the colour of our skin but because of Nigeria’s internal contradictions and disorder.
The excesses or desperation ‘typical of a typical Nigerian’ notwithstanding, the opinion of the rest of the world about Nigeria and its sad domestic realities is obviously reflected in the way Nigerians are been selected for maltreatment at major airports and institutions around the world.
The instances of willful subjection of Nigerians in foreign countries are too many for mention but suffice it to point out the sad reality that stares us in the face. Today, lawfully or unlawfully, over 15,000 Nigerians are languishing in jails around the world. And, a good number are on death row.
International criminal gangs has found fertile ground in Nigeria for their nefarious businesses. They lure young men and women out of the country under the pretext of seeking greener pasture in Europe and ended them in servitude and all forms of modern-day slavery in Europe and other continents.
All these, experts explained was because Nigeria eat her destiny with ten fingers and ten toes. One striking example is the crippled aviation industry. Nigeria had in a bid to play significant role in global economy, in post-independence Nigeria, flouted a domestic airline called the Nigeria Airways Ltd. The company was founded in 1958 and was wholly owned by the Government of Nigeria, and served as the country’s flag carrier.
In its heydays, the Nigerian Airways had in its fleet more than 32 aircrafts. But the Nigerian way of eating its destiny with ten fingers and ten toes crept in, thus by 2003, the Nigerian Airways had been eaten up by neck-breaking corruption, ineptitude, excessive interference by government officials, over staffing etc.
With a fleet of 32 aircrafts in 1984, the Nigeria Airways was gradually depleted to a vanishing point. It may be asked; what is the fate of the company’s employees? The company had staff strength 2, 191 as at March 1970, 8,500 in 1986
Profligacy, dysfunctional and excessive bureaucracy, mis-management, corruption, and overstaffing that is usually the bane of government initiatives in Nigeria became the poison that eat up the Nigerian Airways. At the time of its closure, the airline had debts of more than US$60,000,000. At the time the government of President Obasanjo finally folded the math of the airline, it had in its fleet a single aircraft flying domestic routes as well as two leased aircraft operating the international network.
The Nigerian government later came to an agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways to establish Virgin Nigeria Airways, intended as a replacement that arrangement also ended in a fiasco.
Being unable to manage just an Airways, analysts queried, how and why should Nigerians expect respect from the South Africans, whose South African Airways (SAA), with the country’s rainbow flag, flies to 56 destination worldwide. Formed in 1934, with 54 aircrafts in its fleet and employees strength of 12,000.
Experts questioned; imagine a Nigerian Airways that can lift 12,000 Nigerians out of job market and its value chain services.
While Nigerians are been humiliated and maltreated on foreign airlines like the British and Turkish airline etc, the Kenya Airways, established in 1977, 19 good years after the Nigerian Airways was flouted, is bubbling with 45 aircraft in its fleet with employee strength of 3,986. That is not taken into account, its long list of value chain.
The Kenya Airways is considered one of the leading Sub-Saharan operators; as of January 2013 it was ranked fourth among the top ten African airlines by seat capacity, behind South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air. The airline became a full member of Sky Team in June 2010, and is also a member of the African Airlines Association since 1977.
Also, Indonesian, one of the G20 emerging economic hub was not mentioned in the 1961, international studies which predicted that, in 15 years, Nigeria, India and Brazil were going to join industrialized nations. Ironically, while Indonesian homegrown aircraft N219 undertook her maiden flight on 10 August, 2016 in Bandung, Nigeria has catastrophically failed to manage just an airline, talk more of building homemade aircraft.
Indonesian State-owned aircraft manufacturer ‘Dirgantara Indonesia’ had announced on Channel News Asia that a deal for the sale of the first 40 aircraft was sealed on the day of its test run.
The 19-seater twin propeller plane, which was unveiled to the public in December 2015, is designed to fly in remote and mountainous areas in Indonesia.
“We would like to have this contract signing at the same time when we fly this aircraft,” said Budi Santoso, President, Dirgantara Indonesia. “This is an Indonesian company, we would like to make it a surprise when we sign the contract; we have 40 orders and we are currently negotiating with another company for another 40.”
More than 300 staff are working on the project, many of them young local engineers. This is the first time Dirgantara Indonesia is undertaking a project without relying on foreign expertise, Santoso said,
In the estimation of the late anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, Nigeria was naturally positioned by nature to lead Africa and the entire black race out of post slavery and colonial convulsion. According to him, Nigeria will be assisted by Egypt and South Africa in the quest for the restoration of African glory.
Alas, while Nigeria who is to lead others could not manage a national carrier, Egypt that Nigeria is to lead have successfully managed the Egypt Air, the country’s flag carrier, since it began operations in the 1940s.
EgyptAir has scheduled passenger and freight services to more than 75 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. With an extensive network of domestic services focused on Cairo, Egypt’s capital. The airline had 65 air craft in its fleet as at the close of 2013.
Reputed to be the seventh national carrier in the world, Egypt Air was established ″to promote the spirit of aviation among Egyptian youth″,
Though the 2011 revolution adversely affected the operational profitability of the airline, it is working to regain profitable operations. Egyptair is a member of Star Alliance, having joined on 11 July 2008 and also of Arabesk Airline Alliance and the Arab Air Carriers Organization.