BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Onyema, Air Peace and the national carrier

The recent xenophobic attack in South Africa is not the first but the most severe in the last decade. The South Africans have shown prejudice against people from other countries, destroying properties and killing fellow Africans in the process. Many Africans have been murdered in Diepsloot, Cape Town, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Pretoria and others. In Gauteng province alone, there have been over 212 attacks between 1994 and 2018.

The reasons for these needless attacks have been attributed to the poverty among the people who claimed foreigners had stolen their wealth. But the real reason is that people who attacked others are lazy, unimaginative and have failed to take the opportunities available in the economy of South Africa.

Nevertheless, the response of Africans condemning the attacks is commendable this time. South Africa might have the biggest economy in Africa today, but the fact that she is a baby of all other countries cannot be ignored. Almost all African countries contributed to the end of the apartheid which led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the beginning of the democracy in the country.

Among the responses, the action of Allen Ifechukwu Onyema and his team at the Air Peace is noble and commendable, especially given our records when it comes to emergency and disaster recovery in Nigeria. His decision to put lives before profit by airlifting Nigerians caught amid the attacks is a personal and corporate social responsibility action, second to none.

At first, Air Peace was said to have been established when Allen got to know that starting such a venture with aa single plane could employ over 150 persons. His vision is to see people engaged, giving them the ability to provide for their families and contribute meaningfully to society.

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The decision to voluntarily rescue 188 Nigerians without thinking of the implications to the bottom-line, is an indicator that Air Peace and Allen have been able to sustain the foundational intent of creating the company. This is unlike many corporate entities where there has been a drift from the initial concept, due to the increasing greed of the owners to be on the Forbe’s list or the sycophancy of the people engaged as the custodians of the noble idea conceived when the stake and the wealth were low.

Let’s imagine there is a need for our government to take similar action. Would it have been done without unnecessary delays – like waiting for the approval of president or lawmakers? Is it likely that a wholly owned “Nigerian Airways” would be in South Africa to rescue Nigerians without wasting time due to the CEO’s delayed approval? The CEO of the imaginary national carrier will be a political appointee and would rather wait endlessly for orders from the “oga at the top” rather than take an initiative that would jeopardise his office and the perquisites of being in that position.

Onyema and Air Peace without any hype have lived up their vision to be dependable connections for Nigerians, especially in time of dare need. I doubt it if a national carrier will be that effective in saving the lives of Nigerians

 

Onyema and Air Peace without any hype have lived up their vision to be dependable connections for Nigerians, especially in time of dare need. I doubt it if a national carrier will be that effective in saving the lives of Nigerians. I wonder if there is any need for any national carrier whose efficiency will be limited by excessive bureaucracy, where employment will be for those with connections and recommendations written on the complimentary cards of politicians.

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A national carrier that may not allow the private partners to function based on commercial and ethical terms but religious and ethnic sentiments. Do we need to go in search of a new partner when a Nigerian company has shown to be the national carrier we need at this time?

I don’t know where the project to start a new national carrier is. It was said at a time that the federal government would be partnering or had agreed with Ethiopian Airlines or so. With what Air Peace and its leadership have done, we need not look for any unknown affiliation in forming a national carrier, if one is necessary. We should profile our existing domestic airlines and go into a commercial partnership with them to be on standby in case of a national emergency like the xenophobic attacks.

We have many Nigerians who will act like Onyema and put the national interest before their business interests. Our governance and political system have encouraged people who think in terms of what they can get from the commonwealth rather than what they can contribute to the country.

The mindset our political structure has created is giving boldness to the greed of some people, including those who are demanding to buy N5.5 billion cars in a recession. It is time we reorient our political belief and what we celebrate as heroism.

 

The heroism of Onyema and Air Peace is an effort that must be imbibed in all Nigerians to change the entitlement mindsets of our leaders and breed people with contribution mindsets at all levels of the society. Without, giving an undue reward, I think we have a national carrier in Nigeria, and that airline is Air Peace, the friends of Nigerians in time of need.

BABS OLUGBEMI

Olugbemi FCCA, the chief responsibility at Mentoras Leadership Limited and Founder, the Positive Growth Africa. He can be reached on babs@babsolugbemi.org or 08025489396 

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