After many misses and altitude turbulences, the captain of Air Sirika has been forced to announce that he may crash his aircraft into the Lagos lagoon. The control tower at Aso Rock is confused, afraid, short-sighted, incompetent and dithering. A minute in the life of any captain’s emergency announcement of May Day may save or destroy innocent lives on board. In a moment of life and death, there is no pussyfooting or dithering in the air. A decision must be made, and it must come in a nick of time to save onboard passengers.
Hadi Sirika the Nigeria’s Aviation Minister is a dithering modern Pharaoh. His stubborn, over-bloated ego and his narrowness of the reality of the new normal is astonishing in its crudity. His ministerial remit gives him power to control any object that flies in the Nigerian sky.
Without contestation, that is his fiefdom. However, what is in contention is the indecision, obfuscation, delay, and complete shutdown of international travels without due diligence and consideration for the millions of Nigerians whose livelihood have to do with intercontinental junket.
One news report quoted the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, saying that Nigeria’s aviation sector had been losing N24 billion monthly since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country – N7 billion monthly for aviation agencies, N10 billion for airlines and N4 billion for ground handling, catering and others and the ‘tangential’ N3 billion. According to the International Air Transport Association, Nigeria risks losing 124,000 aviation jobs, which could amount to losing about $900 million.
To confuse the public more, the Director-General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Musa Nuhu, issued a Notice to Airmen that the airspace would no longer reopen for international flights on August 19, but “maybe” in October. The NOTAM read: “The Federal Government has extended the closure of our airports to all international flights with the exception of aircraft in a statement of emergency.”
The NOTAM said that approval may be requested and granted for “over-flights, operations related to humanitarian aids, medical relief flights, alternate aerodrome in the flight plan and also those being used for extended diversion time operation.” In addition, approved for exemptions are “technical landings where passengers do not disembark and cargo flights and other safety-related operations.”
Here, we see the picture of Pharaoh Sirika as a confused and dithering scoundrel who falls into a self-chasm of his own construction. His consuming passion to shut down international travels was not based so much on altruism but on unreasonable fear, tribal consideration, and clear impunity.
We live in a nation where public figures desire to cut the image of imperious Pharaoh. We must bring back common sense to the rank of our public figures in this country. What is so ambiguous in all this back and forth reopening of international travel is the deliberate deception of reopening dates that was once fixed for August 19 and then shifted to October with a giant maybe in between. Something is wrong somewhere. What has the ministry been doing since the March shutdown to see to the safety of international travellers coming and going out of Nigeria? Covid-19 has been abused and used as alibi to cover incompetence and as conduit to make money as we have seen in the untold looting that trailed the distribution of palliatives to many hungry Nigerian during lock down.
On the brighter side, Nigeria’s Covid-19 demography is one of the best in the world going by our population. As at the time of writing, Nigeria recorded its lowest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in at least two weeks with 386 new infections announced last Saturday. The new figures bring the number of coronavirus infections in Africa’s biggest economy to 43, 537, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The latest update is slightly lower than the 481 cases recorded on Thursday and the 462 infections reported last Friday. Many European countries where we had the largest Covid-19 fatalities have reopened their borders and economies, rationalising that they must live with the pandemic until a vaccine is discovered.
They are defiant and optimistic. In the United Kingdom and with new Covid-19-secure measures in place, we are all embracing summer. Internal attractions like the 02, Chessington world of adventures, London Zoo, Royal Botanical Gardens, National Army Museum, The National Gallery, Thorpe Park, Tate Modern & Tate Britain, and RAF Museum have all been hosting families. The Western skylines are now busy transporting fun seekers to Croatia, France, Greece, Germany, Malta, Turkey, Spain and other far flung places. Holiday seekers are going for camping, sightseeing, skiing, romantic reunion and sensational stacations. Millennial are jetting out to the beaches of Ayia Napa, Corfu, Cape Greco, Larnaca, Lauda and Magaluf in search of sun, sea and sex.
In the West, there is a growing Covid-19 contrarians and quarantine deviants who have vowed not to live with the regime of new normal that is designed to hack off their freedom. In fact, the US is grappling with anti vaxxers and anti-maskers who are questioning the eagerness of their government to take away their hard-won liberty.
However, our country is reversing backward into the oblivion of inaction. Nigeria, Africa mythic largest economy and the land of thieves, looters and the Sirikas regressed itself into indecision, defeat, despair, uncertainty, fear, and economic death by its unending shut down of international travels. Arguably, the Nigerians gnashing their teeth against Pharaoh Sirika’s overcautious approach to international travels are Southerners who travel in larger numbers than Northerners. What is unfolding is a tribally skewed policy of collective punishment and systematic crippling of the businesses of Yoruba, Igbo and other minorities who must travel abroad for their living. They have no cousins, uncles, nephews, or brothers in Aso Rock to sign them up to a life of ease and comfort through juicy appointments.
Many Nigerians who live in the diaspora are trapped in Nigeria and waiting for Pharaoh Sirika filibustering to end so that they could return and reunite with their family and friends. Their anguish is like the story of Israelites trapped in Egypt but retold with a Nigerian Pharaoh. Many of them have exhausted all the money they took home for their vacation and are now on resource depletion curve – an irritating social condition in Nigeria. Worse, they have no jobs to return to. Covid-19 and the prolong stay away from their jobs blew that away. There are many Nigerians in the diaspora who have a project or two to attend to, but that hope has been dashed without clear guidepost on when international travels will commence in Nigeria. Many of us have wives and husbands back home.
We have side chicks to re-embrace and side chicks on their part are lovelorn waiting for their amorous hunks to hit town. All the rational arguments for a safe reopening of international travels have been freely given but Pharaoh Hadi Sirika is still floating about in the outer space orbiting wildly between petty stupidity and patriotic common sense. The prolong and enforced shut down of international travels is aching millions of Nigerians across both divide who are looking for a getaway from months of lockdown with its side effects of emotional depression, mental anguish, and loneliness.
The Nigerian national psyche has to be emptied of the myths, fears and timid narratives that tend to imbue Covid-19 with omnipotent power to kill at will while forgetting that Covid-19 is a virus that could be defeated if safety protocols are followed and observed fearlessly. Pharaoh Sirika must let the people go! We must open our international travels without delay. It is homecoming time folks. This writer wants to come home!!! Gedit!!!!