The hope of never again has once more been dashed by the grim realities of the ADC crash in Abuja. My heartfelt condolence goes to the family of all those who lost their lives, most especially the people of Sokoto State who bears the heavy brunt of our current national grief.
I must admit that another air disaster in Nigeria did not come as a surprise. This admission is borne out of my recent experience taking a domestic flight from Lagos to Abuja in June 2006. Even though I enjoy driving and relished the thrill and adventure of an 8 hour drive to Abuja, the hazards of the roads and the menace of armed robbers dissuaded me from embarking on such a venture.
Considering that my trip was coming not too distant from the tragedies of the Bellview and Sosoliso crashes, my insistence to go to Abuja by air meant succumbing to pressures to fly no other airline than Virgin Nigeria. As the new flag ship of Nigerian aviation, the air service I received from Virgin Nigeria spoke volumes about the sad state of affairs of our domestic aviation industry. The flight was delayed for two hours without any information and explanation to the waiting passengers. Eventually, when the plane arrived and we boarded, I was horrified to discover that the plane doused in the colours of Virgin Nigeria was an old plane, leased from the defunct Balkan Airlines, with the emergency manuals written in Serb or Yugoslav languages.
My experience, and the recent crash therefore begs the acclaimed reformation of the aviation sector, and aircraft worthiness checks carried out at the end of the Bellview and Sosoliso crashes. My friend Rima Shawulu, in his article “Plane crashes: Politics of reforms and preventable deaths” reiterated that Nigerian Airways pilots were renowned to be the safest pair of flying hands in the aviation world, even when flying planes that others have discarded. So, what has gone wrong?
The rot in the aviation industry is a reflection of the Nigerian society at large. We have become a very unruly nation. Have you ever taken an international flight with Nigerians on board? We do not need any introduction. We are the ones who would not switch of our mobile phones when passengers are asked to. As soon as the plane touches down, before it reaches the hangar and the seat belt signs are turned off, we are the ones who would have bolted out of our seats, turning on mobile phones as if the extra ten minutes for the plane to come to a standstill is more precious than our own safety and the lives of other passengers on board.
Thus, when the Aviation Minister lays blame for the recent crash at the doorstep of the pilot (if it is truly his fault), one can understand the consequences of playing God by being self-centred and making decisions that has ricocheting consequences for hundreds and thousands of human lives.
In essence, making money in Nigeria by individuals and corporate organisations, means trading in human miseries. Every one is busy cutting one corner or the other to maximise profits and gains, or to become wealthy. The mad rush to make money, acquire power and project an image of arrival ends up being at the expense of human lives.
Until we go back to our roots, and we start individually to have respect for the dignity and sacredness of human lives, I am afraid to say that the seasons of grief may not yet be over.