Helicopter crashes and the carriage of hope

(By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi)
If all Ministers and Commissioners for Works had made it a point of duty to construct a state-of-the-art 10-lane road linking Bayelsa to Rivers State or had ensured that the waterways in these two states were equipped with technologically viable boats, or had seen to it that public figures lived above board by using workable public transport like the vast majority of the people, perhaps these deaths would have been avoided.

IT was yet another sad day in the history of the country as some prominent Nigerians lost their lives in an ill-fated helicopter crash some weeks ago. It was one crash too many, especially at a time a bleak year was coming to a close. Several comments and opinions have been going round in the aftermath of the crash as to what went wrong and why such happened.

It is pertinent to state here that whatever befalls man must be taken with sincere faith and belief that divine will had intervened. There is no questioning the fact that it is from God we all have come and to him we shall return. Death is a leveller and an inevitability.

As Nigerians in Nigeria, air mishaps are nothing new. Altogether, there have been 112 aircraft accidents witnessed in the country from 1944 to 2012. It has been a recurrent feature and, therefore, witnessing one is like witnessing the dawn of a new day. Just last year alone, we were inundated with the sad story of a Nigerian cargo plane that veered towards a road in Ghana, killing in the process at least 10 people instantly.

Not too long after, a commercial airliner crashed in the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos, killing all 153 passengers on board plus the crew, and some other people on the ground, in the worst air disaster in nearly two decades. As if that was not enough, just some few months back, an unfortunate, yet avoidable air crash happened in far away Adamawa State.

One would have thought the casualties were “unfortunate Nigerians” (as the political/aviation system seems to agree with this notion), but to everyone’s chagrin, the casualties were a serving governor and his retinue of aides. The Adamawa crash, in particular, makes interesting reading to keen observers simply because the governor involved was known in government circles to have spent billions of naira procuring choppers and building airstrips or heliports, surprisingly not for the development and betterment of the vast majority of the people, but for self-aggrandizement.

The governor was known to have suddenly developed a passion for flying, enrolled in aviation schools both at home and in the United States, got certification and began junketing the airspace like a colossus. Many in the state noted that the governor, ever since then, had blatantly refused to hit the road with his large convoy but would rather personally fly the supposedly state-owned choppers to functions within and his state and in neighbouring states.

Such was the lust for power, money, control and the “things of the airspace” that matters of the state were recklessly left unattended. It was the height of abuse of power, yet praise-singing and world class medical services were accorded a man who had used the instrument of state for personal ego massaging rather than for the masses of his people. It is no wonder want, deprivation and lack permeate Northern Nigeria simply because those entrusted with political power misuse it for their own sake.

As the late governor and others were buried, typical of us, we began to conjure up unworkable conspiracy theories or even spring up unrealistic rumours. Thanks to Gen. Yakubu Gowon who came to the rescue by swiftly debunking the theories, because such rumours have never taken us anywhere in this country. They are in fact ill winds that blow nobody any good; therefore, we must do away with such and others that may heat up the already fragile peace in the land, especially in Kaduna State.

The death of these individuals should be a means for us all to seek redemption and reminisce on our own lives. It should be a means, especially for the political elite, to understand that life is short and power is a trust that must be guarded jealously. The late Patrick Yakowa, Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi and others did not die because of the so-called conspiracy theories, as many were wont to make us believe, they died because someone in government refused to do the right thing at critical time and because someone entrusted with power refused to pass the right and beneficial legislation to fix our roads.

If all Ministers and Commissioners for Works had made it a point of duty to construct a state-of-the-art 10-lane road linking Bayelsa to Rivers State or had ensured that the waterways in these two states were equipped with technologically viable boats, or had seen to it that public figures lived above board by using workable public transport like the vast majority of the people, perhaps these deaths would have been avoided.

If a super-sonic railway system had been constructed to link all South-South states with federal, state and local council officials mandated to use such, perhaps fewer deaths or accidents would have occurred in the air or on land. It is, therefore, the more reason all hands must be on deck to avoid such needless deaths as those that consumed one of the finest military officers and a detribalised governor in the country.

On a final note, the vast majority of the people would wish to know those that are entitled to use Navy planes or helicopters. If, according to sources, the Nigerian Navy’s Augusta helicopter marked NN07 was used to fly highly placed Nigerians to and from a funeral in Bayelsa State, then the question we should be asking ourselves is how the equipment or machines belonging to the Nigerian Armed Forces become tools for public transport?

Why were these helicopters used to fly those it did, excusing the usual road transport? If the Armed Forces are using their equipment for the wrong reason, then they need to be called to order. The death of these patriots must be a reminder to those who sit at the top to begin the process of change and finally learn from history. We must not face this unfortunate incident again, and getting this done starts with us all.

Raheem Oluwafunminiyi is a social commentator and public affairs analyst.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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