#DanaCrash: Politeness is killing us by Toni Kan

Toni Kan

Since Sunday June 3, 2012 I have come to realize that we fly across Nigeria borne not on planes powered by Rolls Royce made turbo engines but on faith.

Every passenger that boards a Nigerian airliner is dead until proven alive and it is such a sad thing.

I know that many would say that that is not a polite statement to make and I agree because my darling mother taught me to be polite. My wife and I are teaching same to our children. But sometimes politeness can kill you as it did the 153 people who died in that Dana plane crash on Sunday June 3, 2012.

And I will explain.

Imagine if any one of those people who have written on twitter or on Facebook or even the Dana official who spoke to Channels TV had made some noise on the plane, refused to fly, been arrested and made the headlines. Maybe, just maybe, Dana would have been forced to fix that plane.

But no. Each time we flew Dana and noticed that there was a problem, we would all say thank God, pick our bags and file out politely.

In Nigeria, we live with poor quality of service. You go to the bank and a bank teller speaks to you rudely, you sigh and walk away politely. You are in traffic, a bullion van blasting its siren tears off your side mirror, you sigh and drive away politely. You queue for food at a fast food restaurant, you ask for something and the waitress screams at you; you sigh and walk away politely.

Politeness is killing us. With 153 people dead, it is time to stop being polite. It is time to speak up if you notice that politeness will endanger lives. Curse out that bullion van driver, refuse to move if the bank teller insults you, demand to see the manager if the waitress is rude to you.

I do all the time and I feel good for it. Maybe I may have even helped save lives.

The month was March. We were in the thick of preparations for an 8 week project for our client. We were flying Arik from Benin to Lagos. My partner and I were seated and there were over 100 other people on that flight that day.

The plane was full, doors were locked and the plane was beginning to taxi when suddenly the plane lurched backwards then almost all of us were propelled out of our seats the way you would if someone applied the brakes too fast and too hard.

There was a collective scream from passengers then there was quiet, even if uncomfortably so, with everyone looking at the man in the next space.

We waited but nothing happened then the air hostess came on and began to reel out the safety procedures.

That was when I lost my politeness. I stood up. I told her to shut up and explain to us what had just happened. I said the plane would not take off until we were told what had just happened and why almost all the passengers were thrown out of their seats.

Speaking up was like a call to action as other passengers began to scream and shout too and demand that the pilot explain what had happened. With our voices creating a din, the air hostess beat a retreat into the cockpit and then the pilot came on and tried to make a joke as he explained that some hydraulic issue had occurred.

I didn’t fully get what he said but the mere fact that he had deigned to speak to us and assured us that it was nothing serious helped calm our nerves and we did eventually take off and we landed safely in Lagos less than an hour later.

I am not sure whether any other frequent flyer has ever experienced that on any other plane but when I heard about the Dana flight and began to read about people who had flown on that same plane and experienced issues I felt good that I had stopped being polite and spoken up that day.

Maybe, if others had spoken up to, asked Dana to let them off, kicked up a stink and gotten themselves arrested maybe the airline would have been shamed into fixing that aircraft.

When that plane crashed into those houses on Sunday, I received quite a few calls from family and friends asking inane questions but ostensibly calling to see whether I was ok. I sure that many of those on board that plane received the same calls but unlike me and my partner, were unable to answer because they were gone.

But it was on Monday that I received a text from a dear friend which brought it all home to me. It was simple: “I was afraid to call you yesterday. I hope you are ok?”

For the kind of business we do, my partner and I travel a lot and she always preferred to fly Dana. I prefer Arik and Aero but since Sunday June 3, 2012 I have come to realize that we fly across Nigeria borne not on planes powered by Rolls Royce made turbo engines but on faith.

Every passenger that boards a Nigerian airliner is dead until proven alive and it is such a sad thing.


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Comments (5)

  1. Yes bro. We must speak up now and save the future. Bless u

  2. This piece is just breathtaking!

  3. spot on…In Nigeria it's almost a crime to complain about bad service..a country where even though we pay for a service we are treated like pests…

  4. Mr Kan will always say it as it is…niece piece. Indeed, our politeness is killing us slowly…i always make it a point of duty to confront anybody who tries to cheat/deceive me when I notice. I think Nigerians should adopt this approach, always speak up.

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