A nation’s dark moments-By Zainab Suleiman-Okino

Respite came the ugly side of politics, which has pitched Nigerians against each other, this week. The tempo of activities leading to the elections in 2011 never really subsided, before the drums of 2015 started beating again. The PDP government of Goodluck Jonathan did not help matters. The president started it all with his six-year single term proclamation shortly after assuming power. Since then it has been heated debates about and in the polity. Since politics seems to be the only thriving business in town, Nigerians were never really tired of the endless debates.

However, these political debates are often interspersed by the uglier side of our historical development. The Boko Haram insurgence was there before Jonathan, but it gained notoriety and intensity.  Government was unable to match words with action in ending their gradual but steady incursions into our daily lives. Now, the fear of Boko haram is the beginning of wisdom for Nigerians; even with the combination of the forces of military, SSS, police and what have you on patrol, to quell it.

The ugliest part of our national tragedies manifests when disasters strike, as it did last Sunday.

We have a poor record, now made worse by disasters. If it’s a natural disaster, we simply wave it off as an act of God, forgetting that there are things we could do to avoid, reduce or ward them off. I’m not discountenancing the hands of God in the affairs of man, but for us in Nigeria, invoking the name of God is always an escape route, when we fail to do the right thing. The Dana air crash in which over one 150 people died is a fitting example of this failure,especially given the news making the rounds that the aircraft has a history of troubled and turbulent flights. Some of the text messages flying around clearly indict the management of the airline. The one I got says: “The ill-fated Dana plane had been under repair for several weeks and the airline’s station manager protested its use but the Indian management insisted it should fly…the plane should never have taken off because of its unserviceable state and that it’s a wonder that the plane even made it to Lagos”

Every nation has its low and tragic moments, but ours never seem to end. Nigeria is daily blighted by avoidable tragedies. Imagine for a moment, that someone did not abdicate his responsibility, or did not cut corners, but insisted that the plane should not fly. This calamity would have been avoided. If our aviation agencies conform to international regulations, and brood no compromise, would the  managers of the company, who had no affinity to the families and victims of the crash, but were only driven by profit motive, have insisted that the plane should fly?

Yet, others said the plane is a World War II relic imported from Eastern Europe. If this is true, by now, the plane should be in aviation archives. I do not know the veracity of this, but considering that Nigeria is a dumping ground for all sorts of disused/out of use stuffs in Europe and South America, it is not impossible that the plane could be 67 years, if you count from when the war ended in 1945. Yet some said it a 1970s’ plane.

Going through the manifest, there are names of people that are family members. How do you console such families? When the news broke, one had hoped and prayed not to know some of the victims. It turned out that a national tragedy like this affects everybody, and the counting has begun. Only last week, I spoke to Livi Ajuonoma to accommodate our new reporter on the energy beat, after series of efforts by the reporter did not pay off, and he obliged. Yesterday, my daughter called to say that her classmate from secondary school, who is also a school mate at the University of Abuja, Chizoba lost her father in the crash. Through her, I have met some members of the family  including her sister, who’s studying law at the same university, and has been a mentor to my daughter, and of course their mother. How do you console someone who has lost a breadwinner? How do you console Rebecca Aikhomu, who lost her son in the crash? Only last year, she lost the patriarch of the family, former military Vice President Augustus Aikhomu.

In a way, we grieve for the loss of precious lives and for the loss of bearing of a once promising nation. We are broken-hearted because our government is uncaring and leaders are not different.  The unfortunate reality is that there is no hope in sight. Otherwise, how could this happen again after those of Belview, Sosoliso and ADC airlines that claimed prominent personalities in this country? I thought there was a total overhaul of the sector which should render it accident free. Was the overhaul just about contract and reequipping of the airports which gulped billions of naira, part of which went into private pockets? Was any effort ever made to reorient airline

owners? Were the aviation engineers and pilots ever trained and retrained for the reforming of the sector, if any? What will the refurbishing of equipment and airports amount to if there is no concomitant concern for the human resource development arm of the sector? I mean the training and orientation of the personnel manning the sector. Or could it be failure of technology? Yes, technology does fail, but how hard have we tried?

The ominous sign from the Dana crash is that for all our acclaimed commitment to safety in the

air, we still have a long way to go. This is not time for rhetoric, though; we have to go back to the drawing board, again. Already, some staff of Dana are talking. There are clues flying around. They should not be dismissed as the menace of the social network.


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