National carrier for pariah nation
“Corruption is horrible…but something is worse than that and that is incompetence”… — Prof. Chinedu Nebo.
We are yet to see any airplane for the proposed national carrier but millions of dollars have already been expended for just setting ‘side kicks’ including the mere design of logo that does not fit. So as Nebo said both corruption and incompetence are being fostered on Nigerians in order to boost a weak ego of owning a national carrier that could end up creating more pariah status for Nigeria.
Until you travel wide, you would not know the degree of pariah that Nigeria is subjected to. So, why should Nigeria bother itself with what will expose it more to pariah state. For now more image laundering is required to pull Nigeria out of the pit of pariah outlook and it is by countering the image by allowing those who can be trusted by other nationals to be travelling wide with other airlines till great deal of confidence is restored on the people of Nigeria. I have heard Archbishop Kukah lament once how he was treated in East Africa not minding his cassock; and somehow such constant visits have allowed Rwanda to build some trust in Nigerians after discovering that they are not all bad as painted. National carrier with an infrastructure base that calls for drastic upgrading is also part of the distrusting process of a nation. What is more as just recounted by the Minister of Finance money is smart and can only go where the rate of return is assured hence, even the expected foreign investors, without assurance of returns or good infrastructure cannot come with clean hands; they will come to exploit Nigeria more by any means. Nigeria exited Paris club debt on irreconcilable bills; either they were bills not known by the government or bill illegally incurred in the name of Nigeria. That is also the aspect that makes money smart. Nigerian elite just want to contract any one to come and exploit the nation as long as their pocket could be filled with the proceeds.
Most of the elite parade double nationality and could find safe haven in their second country if Nigeria sinks. Those who cannot keep two passports are strictly checked at any entry point as if they were the condemned of the earth. So, if a carrier is identified as a Nigerian carrier then the checks could be enormous.
I had followed sometimes Gadafy’ national flight well subsidized to get to Tripoli and knows what Nigerians go through on arrival and that carrier is extinct today as Gadafy is gone also. The point is that the promoter matters to the external world. The Maroc carrier is still available and it is struggling to meet up notwithstanding the good image the King parades. I have also been part of following it and know the kind of aircraft made available to convey Nigerians to Casablanca. Again, it is a proof that Nigerians are not cherished except for the quantum of their trade value. In May I was in Dubai on return journey to Nigeria after a conference and Nigerian passengers were made to hang around or stand till their boarding announcement and I wondered if it is not the same standard observed for passengers as even a small town in Afghanistan had its passengers well seated close to the Nigerian desk and it smacked of discrimination. It is only Ethiopia that had shown so far no discriminatory service as I get always lodged in five star hotel when transiting for some hours.
A carrier must be proud of its home facilities and caring to the passengers; and I am doubtful of such in Nigeria. An experience meted out to passengers last year as they were travelling out of Nigeria’s airport was revisited on Nigeria bound passengers the day I boarded that south Africa’s carrier back to Nigeria. No light and people were asked to go and photocopy the front page of their passport at enormous cost. The craft itself was not air-conditioned as the plea was be patient till we are ready to tee-off. Quite surprising to me as it was the first time I was hearing that and according to them it was to save energy as they had to make use of the energy on the tarmac as against the one of the craft. It is necessary for Nigeria to see how benchmarkable Ethiopia could be for the carrier and Nigerian egoistic passengers before thinking of a Nigerian Carrier. Even as that carrier had found friendly tarmac in Lome to avoid complete contact with Nigeria, it still remains a favorite of the Togolese. Can Nigeria boast of such rapport? Lome airport is cute and palatable for passengers to feel comfortable in, and it observes relatively best practice rules.
When an airport is not comfortable for travelers, they could find ways to avoid the carrier owner and its fleets. That is why people join fleets that can boast of good image of their owners in terms of the nation associated with it. The truth is that a leveraged infrastructure commands respect and it could also translate to profitability seen in marginal costing outlook not necessarily average costing; that is for accountants to ponder. In effect the infrastructure could attract other profit making ventures that can contribute to reduce cost of the usage of the carrier or the facilities on travelling passengers. For example I have visited Maiduguri airport that is of international standard but unfortunately the usage is horribly local as mama-put sells there. Well, that was 2009 and the abandonment was glaring.
National carrier for Nigeria is an ego not matched by ingredients that could make for a sustainable superego. Some Nigerians you meet in flights display some sort of arrogance that make you feel depressed. And based on such attitude air hostesses report back on their experience for further discriminatory process of passengers of Nigerian make-up. Imagine boarding once Virgin Nigeria and being disembarked far from the terminus and being conveyed by bus in a journey that is about one hour and also discovering that the desk of such airline as marked Nigeria looks like a cage for processing goats. That was in 2012 or 2013. In effect such experiences could not encourage flying any craft on Nigeria’s name unless it is highly subsidized like Kaddafi’s own. Even if so subsidized what about the safety; just as the mentioned Khadafy own started suffering insecurity before its extinction.
Good Nigerians should prevail on the Federal Government to upgrade Nigeria’s airport facilities before ever thinking of floating a national carrier. It could be dangerous to further expose Nigerians to more pariah state with a national carrier that could be a great debt burden on the Nation as fictitious debts could be tied on it and Paris Club could come again with irreconcilable debt profile of Nigeria.
Ariole, professor of French and Francophone Studies, wrote from University of Lagos.