Daniel, The ‘Hollywood’ Boy ,By Dele Agekameh

agekameh 600There are adventures and there are adventures. It all depends on the mindset and conception. Perhaps, for Daniel Ricky Ohikhena, who was recently arrested at the Lagos Airport after flying the tyre hole of an Arik plane from Benin to Lagos, it was a risky, costly and suicidal adventure. The initial report of the incident said the boy told his interrogators that he was being maltreated and tried to escape from his parents. He thought the plane was on its to the United States of America. He was wrong. Instead, the plane landed Lagos and he was promptly handed to security agents for investigation.
Since then, the blame game had been on full throttle. Yakubu Dati, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, said the aviation
security personnel of the agency had no option than to hand the young voyager to the men of the State Security Service, SSS, for extensive investigation. Dati said the nature and
circumstances surrounding the crime informed the agency’s decision, adding that the agency had, “ the meantime, adopted risk amelioration processes to safeguard flight operations and ensure that a similar incident does not occur.”
However, FAAN has continued to trade blame with Arik Air the incident. Dati said FAAN was “unfairly indicted” while the airline took no responsibility whatsoever for such a
“serious security breach.” Giving the accounts of its preliminary findings, FAAN said, “Our investigations reveal that a passenger on board the flight called the attention of the cabin crew while the aircraft was waiting to take off at the threshold of the runway to the that they had seen a young boy walk under the aircraft and had not seen re-appear on the other side. The cabin crew in turn informed the pilots in the cockpit about this. The pilots called the tower and asked it to request FAAN to do a sweep of the area after their departure, opting to carry on with their flight despite the report. Upon the arrival of the aircraft in Lagos, were informed that there had been a stowaway found alive alighting from the wheel well of the aircraft.
In its own reaction, Arik blamed FAAN for the huge breach in security, noting that the incessant cases of security breaches at the nation’s airport had become a major source of concern to the airline. The airline wondered the teenager beat the aviation security personnel at the Benin Airport to get to the runway. It said its pilot had reported to the tower the presence of a strange boy in the bush about 200 – 300 metres at the end of the runway before leaving the airport. The captain was said to have been informed that the situation was under and that he had been cleared for take-off.
‘The bottom line is that Daniel needs help. So also is the family, while the security agents on duty in Benin on that day should face the music’
While the controversy raged, Evelyn, the mother of the boy, appeared on the scene. She said her was a nice boy who never displayed any tendency for such a dangerous venture. The
embattled mother said Daniel was a nice boy who did not mingle with bad friends. She said she was on a visit to her elder sister who had put to bed when the incident happened. It was when she got home the following day that she could not find the boy. The only answer she got upon her enquiries on his whereabouts was that the daughter told her that they quarrelled in the night because Daniel woke up at midnight to watch movies. Daniel eventually slept in the sitting room. One of his younger brothers also said he saw Daniel remove all his books from his bag. Her neighbours then told her that, at around
5 to 6 am of the fateful day, they heard sounds that somebody was opening the gate but never thought it was Daniel. The mother maintained that Daniel doesn’t go out. “What I know is that he is always watching films in the house but he doesn’t have friends. He is always at home; I have never seen anybody come to look for and he doesn’t have friends.”
Now let us look at the whole tragicomedy this . In these days of insurgency and bomb blasts all over the place, if that boy was carrying a bomb, it means he would have succeeded in blowing up the plane and all the passengers on board, including himself. Or if he had carefully dropped the lethal ware in the tyre hole and walked away, he would have caused an explosion of a catastrophic proportion. The question now is: can somebody be in an aircraft without being detected? This shows that have a serious security problem.
For a teenager like Daniel, gaining access to the airport at all from a bush path was a fait accompli. Although he thought that the plane was headed for the US, he ‘boarded’ effortlessly and came out of it successfully, unscarred. Others before were not so lucky. In 2010, Emeka Okechukwu Okeke, a desperate young Nigerian, who tried to smuggle himself to the United States, died in the tyre compartment of a Delta Airlines aircraft. His
corpse was discovered on arrival in New York. Okeke sneaked into the place at Lagos airport. That was not all. In 2012, the dead body of a young, male Nigerian was also discovered in the wheel well, the undercarriage compartment of a domestic airline, after it returned from South Africa.
It is needless for both Arik and FAAN to continue to trade blames over the incident. What about the plethora of other security agents at that airport? I mean the SSS, the Police, the Air
Force and the rest of them. Where were their personnel during the boy’s daring stroll into a tyre hole?
One disturbing thing is that, watching all manners of movies has become a major pastime of youths today. The other is playing games on television. The other day, I had a running battle
with my , a Senior Secondary 3 student who was completely engrossed in playing some Nintendo games even at the heat of his final exams. Thank God that he came out well in the exams but it shows the depth of detraction that parents nowadays have to cope with in order to bring their children into line.
Daniel may have been good at watching Hollywood movies. Hollywood is where you come across that type of derring-do. There is no doubt that Daniel is a talented young lad. But his
adventure may be predicated on the discomfort which abject poverty has thrown the family into. It is doubtful if in that environment, he could realise his dreams. The young boy wants to go to America where he believes everything flows. Yes, there are opportunities in America. But as a black man, although Barack Obama rose to become the President of the most powerful nation in the world, many black presidents will come after him? and when? If you are hardworking, America provides you with all you need to reach the top. But many are there too who are barely existing on credit cards and other government largess. So, the likes of Daniel should not think that to make it in life, all you need is to package yourself in a tyre hole and dash to America. There is more to the Eldorado in America. You pay dearly for it.
I will suggest that the relevant government agencies, and public-spirited organisations and individuals should see to the plight of Daniel and his family. He took the risk for a better
tomorrow. That tomorrow should be made possible for him. The mother said she was so passionate about her children’s education. Now have not heard any word from the father. I guess he is away in ‘Siberia’, ‘missing in action’, or marooned somewhere. The bottom line is that Daniel needs help. So also is the family, while the security agents on duty in Benin that day should face the music. It is one security breach too many!

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