And can we have another moment of silence?
For brothers who died from black on black violence?
—Nas “Just a moment”
As we worked hard to dry our tears and rest the spirits of the faithfully departed after last week’s tragedy, the agents of darkness in government are working very hard to set the stage for the next tragedy by helping us forget the last one.
In a silly act of populism, the government indefinitely suspended Dana Air from flying without any investigation. I am still wondering if our weeping President will also consider banning the Murtala Mohammed International airport as well. After all, the airport’s tower was radioed by Dana’s pilots about engine trouble before the crash and yet, it still took emergency services such a long time to mobilize a rescue effort thanks to “flooded roads and downed power lines”.
Then to pour salt to the injury, Governor Akpabio became Prophet TB Joshua with his insensitive “I-told-you-so”. Apparently he, the state governor and Chief Security Officer of the state, simply “warned” Dana Air about several complaints he received about a faulty aircraft being used by the airline. I guess we should be grateful enough for his prophetic insight, useless as it was in preventing Sunday’s tragedy.
But you see, it was actually his solution to our unique problem of planes falling out of the sky that infuriated me. The governor, with his taxpayer subsidized intelligence goes on to actually suggest we institute a national carrier. In his words “aviation is a social service which all levels of government should not ignore”. It is only in Nigeria, air travel which is only accessible to Nigeria’s 1%, the flying percent if I may call it that, can be considered a “social service”.
The more important question is what difference in safety a national carrier will make.
Thankfully, we have the long record of Nigeria’s former national carrier, Nigeria Airways, to draw from. In the duration of its existence, it claimed over 400 lives in five crashes, the highest number of any other Nigerian airliner.
Unfortunately, Akpabio is not alone in his forgetfulness. Sadly, there are many Nigerian who like him believe, that the Dana Air crash was simply another case of stereotypical profit-obsessed and ethics-void corporations which cut corners to put the lives of Nigerians in danger. More ironically, they believe more government will solve this problem too, perhaps with a National Carrier. After all, an esteemed colleague made a case for increased regulation in his Front Page column yesterday.
Ironically, a month from today, it would be exactly 21 years since our nation’s largest air tragedy – on national carrier Nigerian Airways. Flight 2120 crashed in King Abdulaziz International Airport, on July 11, 1991, killing all 261 people on board. Some of you, old enough to remember why that plane crashed might already see the connection I am trying to make with the Dana Air crash. For the uninitiated, I owe you the story.
In eerily similar circumstances to the Dana Air tragedy, engineers had insisted on changing the planes’ badly deflated tires before flying out to Jeddah. It never happened. “Management” refused so the plane would stay on schedule. Their passengers were being given to other carriers and they would lose the lucrative pilgrimage air lifting contract if they waited for the tire change. So Nigerian airways staff falsified the logs to indicate the tire pressure was fine. The plane safely landed in Saudi Arabia with the same underinflated tires. Yet, despite several desperate pleas by maintenance engineer, they did not top up the tires. “Management” again “intervened”. In dare devil fashion, the same plane took off and landed SEVEN TIMES without inflating the tires. Even, Jesus must have been on his last rope. Ten minutes into the last flight, 261 lives were lost on the altar of “management” expediency. The underinflated tires overheated during the flight, catching fire and bringing down the plane in a blaze.
It’s a sad reminder of how “far” we’ve come after 21 years.
Fellow Nigerians, we can talk tough on regulation as much as we want but we have to realize what we are really dealing with is a cultural issue. Nigeria and its institutions need to develop an attitude of getting things done right. Until then, we will keep slaughtering ourselves at the till of criminally corrupt negligence; government carrier or not.
I’ll always remember that. I hope you will too.
 I wonder how many more “warnings” Dana was given in spite of the government’s regulatory responsibilities.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.