Stop Playing Politics with Kano Airport,By Garba Shehu

Garba-Shehu1-580x340My recent experience, using the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, MAKIA for international travel has left me wondering how the government’s much touted transformational agenda in the airport works.
The airport has a “re-modeled” international terminal building majestically spread across the apron in bright red colours. It has been lying in disuse. There is equally a domestic terminal, named after one of aviation’s towering giants, Muhammadu Adamu Dankabo. After its completion, it lied fallow until the Central Bank of Nigeria, through its Corporate Social Responsibility Schemes came in to furnish its lounges. As an aside, a CBN director once narrated the story of how they fought severe pressure from the barons (and baronesses) of the aviation ministry to keep the furniture items in Kano. The lords in the ministry wanted them for Abuja or Lagos.
Then there is a third terminal, the Hajj terminal, which is currently being used for international arrivals. It parades a few metallic seats and toilets that are sometimes flooded and they don’t flush. The stench of urine welcomes you into the arrival hall. Passenger luggage is spread out on a lamp-lit surrounding. Because the lights are poor for night arrivals, torch- lights come in handy for the identification of luggage tags. Thank God, those cheap Chinese telephones function as torch-lights as well. You push and shove to pick yours and have to squeeze yourself through sweaty touts and security men to leave using narrow outlets in a tightly-held gate opening.
Of late, there have been several outcries by stakeholders including the Kano Chamber of Commerce that the white elephant standing as international terminal building be opened to the public for their use. After all, the government that built it said it has finished work on this airport and its attention is now on Lagos, Port Harcourt, and other airports. Amidst flamboyant ceremonies, the Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi commissioned the project at an event in which he praised the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for doing something governments in the past had failed to do.
In its comment on the issue, the Kano Chambers of Commerce raised a simple question: How can all those airlines desirous of landing in Kano come when the infrastructure and basic facilities for their use are unavailable?
Our public officials who are never known to accept responsibility or be accountable to the citizens they are to serve have since been reacting very angrily to the people who ask for no more than to be treated as human beings.
Mr. Yakubu Datti, a very effective media coordinator of all Aviation agencies and a former commissioner in Governor Joshua Dariye’s government, has not been kind at all to Kano people over this issue. This is a man I would describe as a gentleman with whom I shared moments when our bosses left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the opposition Action Congress. He along with some directors in the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria have taken turns to accuse the Kano stakeholders and the newspapers that cover their views as engaging in politics of blackmail. They have put a spin of conspiracy on a simple request for human dignity and the restoration of the glory of the once-successful airport.
Datti looked at the Kano people in the eye and told them that their attacks on the project were political: “Attacks against the project (MAKIA) in some sections of the media are to score cheap political points” as the criticisms stemmed from “ignorance and mischief of some anti-progressive elements”.
He then offered that “airport viability and utilization is dependent on passenger movement” and added, in a rather outspoken manner, that it would be “difficult for economic activities to go on under threats to lives and property”.
To rub it in – in a manner callous and irresponsible – he said: “if the terminal or the airport is alleged to be dormant, it means there is low passenger movement and it is not the responsibility of FAAN or the Ministry of Aviation to attract passengers to the airport”. Really?
Datti wrote off the Kano airport as insecure and in his words, “the problem of Kano airport, in the issue of security,” and then went on to lecture newspapers reporting the under-utilization of the airport to write daily editorials security which he had identified as the problem.
While it will be dishonest of anyone to deny that Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria had caused much damage to Kano, it is not right for an official to blame the fortunes of the airport as regards to its non-usage to insecurity. More so when for Kano and much of the North, the worst is now over.
In addition, the Boko Haram was just one type of insecurity out of the myriads that confront the nation. Have kidnapping (and) sabotage stopped anyone from accessing the terminal buildings of Lagos, Jos or Enugu airports?
Besides, FAAN and the Ministry cannot wash their hands off what has happened to MAKIA. When the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos was notorious for surging touts that overcrowded the entrance to the terminal building as observed by two Guardian writers, Wole Shadare and Goodluck-Ogazi, the Aminu Kano Airport’s entrance was noticeably well–managed with a systematic boarding pattern. Kano was the choice of many travelers to and from Nigeria before the mid 90s. It is only when the Aviation Ministry does its own part that they can blame others for not doing their own.
To blame “unseen hands” for influencing newspaper reports calling for the completion and utilization of the Kano airport is nothing short of blackmail. Imagined conspiracies cannot be a substitute for the political will to do things right at first. It is unpardonable not being able to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate a worthwhile government project.
All things said, this government should take the full benefit of the suffering being visited upon international passengers using the Malam Aminu International Airport.
While these men may be associated with some shortcomings as are all other human-beings, what Kano people do not lack is entrepreneurial and business skills but without the needed infrastructure, these alone cannot bring about the transformation the government wishes to achieve.

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