BY ABDULWAHAB OBA
Anyone who has been following the recent stories about near misses by our airlines would appreciate what yours sincerely felt few days back when , several minutes after we were airborne from Ilorin International Airport, our pilot informed us we would be in the air longer than the stipulated timeframe for the flight from Ilorin to Abuja. It was a frightening announcement for those with phobia for flying. But wait for this, the reason for our having to hover in the air with all its attendant dangers, was because of what they call presidential movement.
I respect constituted authority; the holy books command us to so do. The incident, which is better experienced than described, left me wondering what is really wrong with our nation. Why putting the lives of several people in danger all to secure the life of one man who in the first place had sworn to protect the lives of the majority of the people? I doubt if the president is really aware that flights take off and landing are always suspended for his movements; possibly before he even leaves the villa. Something don’t just gel at all.
I must confess that despite the frequency of my exposure to air travels, I’m mostly compelled to use that means only to fulfil official obligations. The latest experience has even worsen my initial misgivings about air travels, especially in a country where there are no adequate provisions for safety and rescue in the event of the unwanted happening.
Is it not a corruption or an encouragement of such, if because of our office, we make others suffer? On that Abuja bound flight that day were men and women who had critical appointments in the FCT and who had calculated the time frame for their movements and appointments but who were made to lose such because some one wanted to impress Mr. President who I’m sure would surely abhor absolute use of power.
Where is the connectivity between the people and the government? When the IBB regime used to close a major stretch of the Ikorodu on his way to /from the airport while he was ruling from Dodan Barracks, Nigerians complained about the attendant losses often suffered by the people. Remember those days of Road Close for two hours or more even when the man was probably still in his bath suit? Now it is airclose, because our leader wants to move. Does this happen in sane climes?
Why are we so paranoid about the security of one man when the lives of hundreds are in jeopardy? Who wants our President dead in the air? Is there no way to synchronise things? How many times must air travellers and road users in the country have to suffer economic losses because of Presidential movement? Corruption is not just about stealing money, which unfortunately this government has prominently focused on. The abuse of office which subjects citizens to untold hardship and losses is no better than stealing, I dare say. Our efforts must not be about protecting one man to the detriment of many men, but about putting in place measures that will ensure a less likelihood of having many people thinking of stopping our President from performing his constitutional duties, even while airborne.
Just imagine if there was an emergency in the flight. What somebody with a phobia for flying, who had managed to suppressed such but was then made to go through the harrowing experience of roaming about the air? Supposing there was an hypertensive patient on board? Supposing there was somebody who needed to connect with another flight? Supposing someone’s survival depended on meeting a scheduled appointment? Those in authority must rule in such a way that brings them closer to the people than having reasons to shield themselves from the same people who voted them into office.
The bitter truth being that whether airborne or on the road, safety lies only in the hands of the Almighty.
We were so excited when at inception this government announced plans to trim the Presidential fleet. That was a bold move against ostentation. We are excited whenever we see state functionaries reduce the cost of running government. And we expect to see state functionaries show more respect to the humanity of the people they lead; for unlike in the thinking of communism, we are flesh and blood, with feelings and emotions, not metals or matters that can be trampled upon without protest.
The protectionism of state functionaries that we inherited from the military era must be done away with as much as possible, without exposing such functionaries to grievous harm, while efforts must be purposively put in place to ensure a closing of the geographical space between the leaders and the led. It does no leader any good to weep on the grave of his people unless he had done the needful in providing the required protection for them all.
I’m excited many Nigerians are now looking at the concept of corruption beyond issue of stealing public fund. Don’t misunderstand me; stealing is a grievous crime and we must all join hands with the government to ensure a near zero situation if we cannot totally eradicate the evil practice. But we must also jointly rise to the challenge of creating institutions and processes that will reduce the penchant or temptation for leaders to steal.
The benefits of office, such as closing the airspace for one man to move, must be reviewed in such a way that they will no longer constitute temptation to the holders of office. Once that is done, corruption would be tamed strategically. Real change must begin with every one. Our leaders must respect our right to freedom of movement without hindrance. They must put necessary security apparatus in place to secure everyone’s life either in or out of office. Our leaders must sacrifice for our collective rights and freedom. We are their masters and not their slaves. Leaders must do the right things all the time to encourage us obey their legitimate orders. They must set the correct direction for us by showing sufficient passion for our individual and collective survial.
Thank God, I survived the scare in the air. I pray when yours comes, you shall survive it. May the airspace continue to be safe for all.