The Federal Government’s decision to rename the Port Harcourt International Airport in Omagwa near Port Harcourt to Chief Obafemi Awolowo International Airport has got the backing of a former governor of Rivers State, Celestine Omehia.
The former governor, who fell out of grace with the immediate past governor, Nyesom Wike, has backed the Federal Government against murmurs from his people that the airport was not named after any son or daughter of the Niger Delta.
Omehia told newsmen at the airport in Port Harcourt that only the Federal Government has the sole right to rename any airport in the country.
The one-time governor made the observation while answering questions from journalists at the airport.
The past Federal Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari announced the renaming of several airports in the country after prominent Nigerians, shortly before he left office.
One of the affected airports was the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, now to be called Obafemi Awolowo International Airport, Port Harcourt.
According to Omehia who answered questions on the swift change and on why there was no prominent person from the Niger Delta named after any of the airports in the country, only the Federal Government has the sole right to effect any change in the names of any of the airports in the country.
The airports, he noted, belong to the Federal Government and that only Federal Government has the right to rename them to whom it deems fit like that of the late Awolowo.
The Nigerian nation, he noted, is operating on a federal system and not a regional one. He thus said any person could be nominated from any part of the country to bear the name of any of the airports in any part of the country.
The former governor cited examples of the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, and the Murtala Muhammed International at Lagos.
According to him, no one for now knows the yardstick with which the Federal Government renamed the airports and the Niger Delta people have no choice for now but to accept it.
On the choice of Awolowo, the former governor noted that the late chief had been a nationalist right from the colonial days to the day he passed on. Omehia called him an institution in the country.
He called on the Niger Delta people to, in their wisdom, make efforts to build their own people so they could be recognised in future and not destroy them.
“Most people in the Niger Delta still kill or destroy our people. We should build them so that the nation can recognise them as institutions. We don’t have any choice now but to bear it.”