By Olajide Fashikun
Former Head of Government Relations in the then Virgin Nigeria, Mr.Nuhu Imam-Adam, has charged his former boss, Sir Richard Branson, not to say he will never do business with the nation again due to the greed of politicians. To him, the politicians are not to be blamed rather it’s the technocrats who should be held responsible.
Reviewing the events, Adam noted that Yar’Adua took a nationalistic position based on reports from the technocrats and the Ministry of Aviation which ordered the immediate relocation of Virgin Nigeria domestic operations from the international terminal.
He strongly feels his former boss was wrong to condemn politicians whereas, the technocrats and opportunistic special advisers are the ones who should be held responsible for the calamities befalling the industry.
Speaking in cool tones until he got revved into anger, he said, “May the soul of former President Umar Musa Yar’adua rest in peace in his grave. He asked, repeatedly, what security reasons there was to the haste with which Virgin Nigeria was being dispatched out of the its Murtala Mohammed international airport as a budding hub for the sub-region, then. Disappointed, he could not be convinced,” he said of Yar’Adua. He predicted hence, “Nigerians will soon get to the root of the factors.”
According to Adam, “such comment coming from a renowned world successful entrepreneur was a big dent on the image of Nigeria and it would go a long way in discouraging potential foreign direct investors who may want to do business in Nigeria.”
Branson was reacting to security reports from the Federal Government which said that it was not safe for Virgin Nigeria to continue its operations of domestic services at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport and forced the promising airline to move to the newly completed domestic terminal, known as MMA2, built by Wale Babalakin’s Bi-Courtney.
That decision remained a questionable one because in other parts of the world both international and domestic passengers can use the same airport facility for passenger convenience as long as proper security measures are taken and such security measures were not alien to Nigeria at the time the airline was asked to move its operations.
Today, is the Nnamdi Azikwe international airport in Abuja not servicing both domestic, regional and international passenger interest which the Lagos airports were so designed? Are Nigerians not aware that after the cabal pursued Virgin Nigeria out that the MMA2 was configured for both regional and domestic operations due to the dollar component of passenger service charge revenue?
He is of the view that “it was that decision to force the airline that laid the foundation to its demise because shortly after the move it started having problems created by the cabal. It is on record that Branson wanted to invest about $600 million into the airline before government took the decision to force it from its operational base thus jeopardising the bigger picture of making Lagos the hub of the industry for West Africa.
Looking at the whole incident with hindsight, none of those who played significant roles in moving the airline would be proud of what they did. They cannot beat their chests on that rather, they will scurry to hide in their arguments to defend themselves and their inane reasoning.
Nigerians needed to ask why and how Arik Air not changed over to the MMA2 when other airlines were so forced. The truth will someday some time come to the fore and then, it will be obvious that technocrats killed our nation with their servile loyalty.