PHIA is a short way of referring to the Port Harcourt International Airport at Omagwa. But I’m afraid that the acronym sounds rather bogey; exactly the same as fear itself. And besides, the naming of airports after the towns and cities in which they are located is fast going out of fashion.
In the United States, for instance, the two main international airports in New York City were renamed after two of the country’s notable men, namely President John F. Kennedy and a former Mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia. Washington DC has Dulles International Airport, Chicago boasts of its O’Hare Airport while LAX International is found in Los Angeles.
Similarly, in England, none of the two major international airports in the City of London is named for the British capital. They are rather referred to as Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. The same goes for the French capital, Paris, where their topmost airport is the Charles De Gaul International Airport.
Here in Nigeria, among the five biggest international airports, only that of Port Harcourt is still named for its host city. Abuja has the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; Lagos international airport is named after Murtala Mohammed; Kano is serviced by Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport; while the newly reworked Akanu Ibiam International Airport is located in Enugu.
In addition to these, the airport in Calabar has since been renamed as Margaret Ekpo International Airport; Imo Airport in Owerri is now Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport; and Victor Attah Airport in Uyo was originally conceived as Ibom International Airport.
It could also be argued that this latter group of Nigerian airports comprises mainly state-initiated airport projects which were later renamed by their owner-states before being handed over to the federal government. Yes, even our sister state, Bayelsa, was said to have embarked on a similar venture which may also be christened for one of her senior citizens before possibly being surrendered to the nation.
Why there had not been a serious attempt over the years to request that the authorities in Abuja rename the Port Harcourt airport for a prominent Rivers personality (living or dead) still beats me. At best, it is either that we are feigning ignorance of what is trending elsewhere around us, or that we are simply not interested.
Another viable postulation could be that the federal government may have decided that none of our statesmen and women is worthy of such honour, even if post-humously.
To be sure, Abuja cannot claim to have forgotten so soon the immeasurable contributions to state and nation of such Rivers statesmen as Harold Dappa-Biriye, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nwobidike Nwanodi, Rufus Ada-George, Peter Odili, Tonye Graham-Douglas, Sumner Dagogo-Jack, Claude Ake (who incidentally died in a plane crash), among several others.
Going by what successive governors had done in the state, especially in terms of naming some new and remodelled projects after prominent Rivers sons and daughters, there is no doubt that if the civil aviation facility at Omagwa was the result of a sub-national undertaking, it certainly would have been renamed for one of us. After all, there already exists a long list of eminent Rivers people for whom legacy buildings and institutions have been renamed.
Furthermore, I would not be driven to believe that politics has anything to do with it. Nobody should even contemplate such. Else, how can it be explained that between 1999 and 2013 when Rivers State belonged to the then ruling party and, even at some point, had a friend, brother and in-law as the president of this country; yet no one thought of raising this issue. Of course, the state still has one of her sons as transportation minister in Abuja. So, when else can be considered most appropriate to push this demand, if at all?
Looking beyond Rivers State, who said that naming the Omagwa airport for Alfred Diete-Spiff, Melford Okilo or even former President Goodluck Jonathan (all from neighbouring Bayelsa) would be indigenously incorrect. Was the earlier-mentioned JFK Airport in New York not so-named to immortalise slain President Kennedy who hailed from the nearby State of Massachusetts? Again, Abuja is not native to Azikiwe, just as Lagos is not Murtala’s home state. The same is equally true of Akanu Ibiam who hailed, not from Enugu, but Unwana-Afikpo where a federal polytechnic is also named after him.
Honestly, Jonathan deserves far better than mere mention at a glorified railway station somewhere in Delta State (even if for now) after six years of rendering meritorious service to this nation. For crying out loud, we are talking about the first South-Southerner to occupy the all powerful and highly coveted presidential seat in the Aso Rock Villa. And, like it or not, ex-President Jonathan still represents for us in the South South what his former US contemporary, Barack Obama, means to Blacks and other people of colour in America.
It will, therefore, be extremely delightful to stand on the tarmac of the Port Harcourt airport some day in the near future and see, for example, ‘Goodluck Ebele Jonathan International Airport’ emblazoned across the front of the new terminal building at Omagwa. Or, what do you think?
*This column promises to remain thought-provoking and a reader’s delight every Monday. Thanks for reading.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
Kyari Syndrome And Nigeria’s Unity
Former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was reported to have expressed regrets that efforts by past leaders to foster genuine unity in the country have not yielded ideal results so far. Obviously unity is desirable for an ideal nation, but unity does not stand alone, neither does it come by accident. It is obvious that mutual trust and confidence, fostered by social justice and fair play, are quite necessary for unity to grow. There must also be some common goals and interests to serve as unifying agenda. Many Nigerians must have pondered and asked why unity has become illusive in the country, even when it is considered desirable for a healthy nation building. While some serious-minded Nigerians were discussing this issue recently, the plight of Senator Ike Ekweremadu came up also. It was during this discussion that the “Kyari Controversies”, introduced by someone, caused two public notaries in the venue to leave. It was sensed immediately that the two gentlemen did not want to get involved in the issues being discussed.
Kyari syndrome became an alternative caption for Kyari controversies, with someone in the group requesting that the issues under discussion be expanded and made public. Almost like editorial board meeting, issues pointed out in a private discussion were vital and serious enough to be shared with the public. While Ekweremadu’s plight and Kyari controversies provided the pegs, there was nothing personal about the points made. But it was considered expedient that the public be made to share in what was discussed privately. Issues and controversies about ethnic domination, sectional hidden agenda, Islamisation and Fulanisation mission, etc, have featured in private discussions across this country for a long time. It has become needful that these issues be brought up for open and sincere discussions, with no holds barred, rather than pretend that these are no issues of mass vexation. Whether real, false or imaginary, such issues are the grounds for mutual suspicion, distrust and skepticism. The sooner the issues are accepted as real and discussed in the open, the better for the unity of this country.
Without mincing words, sour-grape syndrome accounts for a part of the jinx holding Nigeria down, whereby embittered persons try to denigrate or destroy what they lack. It goes beyond envy to seek to undermine what is noble in others, as an expression of personal deficiencies. Especially where the gap is quite wide, it gives sadistic joy to pull down what is noble, rather than strive hard to attain to such nobility. Light and darkness have little in common, neither can they blend and work together!
There is one Abba Kyari, whose extradition order to answer some criminal charges in the United States of America, has placed Nigeria in a state of controversy in the eyes of international community. There is another Mele Kyari, whose continued headship of a privatised Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, despite demands for him to quit the post, has exposed much of the shenanigans in the oil and gas industry. Then the plight of Ike Ekweremadu over organ harvest also serves as a further exposure of the intrigues playing out in Nigeria. While it may be wrong to assert that the case of Senator Ekweremadu would have been different if he were a Fulani man, a strong critic of the Buhari administration used it as a peg for comparison. It was pointed out that there are different measures or strokes for different persons, with special reference to Nigerian experiences. From rodents and termites breaking into strong-holds and eating up vouchers and documents relating to N17.1 billion, to granting of presidential pardon to looters of the nation’s treasury, there are usually different strokes and measures for different persons. Join them, if …!
It is of particular significance that Miyeti Allah, an umbrella body of cattle breeders that received a gift of N150 billion not long ago from President Buhari, should raise the issue of Biafra as a reason why Peter Obi cannot be a President of Nigeria. The same Miyeti Allah and Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) have continued to use Islam and cattle as instruments of undermining unity in the country. But for vehement protests from various quarters, the antics and strategy of grazing affair as means of pursuing some sectional agenda, would have succeeded. Nigerians getting wiser! With regards to security situation in the country, it is obvious to discerning Nigerians that there is more to it than meets the eye. Do we not see evidence of double standards as well as some deliberate but clever measures to shield certain groups of persons? With acts of brazen audacity and impunity, some cattle breeders have told Nigerians by their body language, that they have a patron who would look the other way, when they are on the wrong side of the law. Southern Governors as jokers!
Nigerians are watching with keen attention and interest the slant of the Buhari administration, which is evidently sectional in nature. From political appointments to body language, a few honest Nigerians, including Rev. Matthew Kuka, have told President Buhari that the pursuit of sectional agenda is putting the unity of Nigeria in jeopardy. From the shenanigans playing out in the Abba Kyari case over his extradition to USA, to the continued headship of a privatised NNPC, by another Kyari, it is obvious that there are some hidden agenda. The law in America and England is not a respecter of persons, which is not the case in Nigeria. What act of corruption and injustice can be worse than to take the oil and gas from the Niger Delta people via the Petroleum Act and make it a national asset, and under a Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), hand it over to a few private entities? This is what is playing out in the oil and gas politics in the guise of privatisation and with Kyari as a mid-wife in some grand agenda. People of the Niger Delta may clap for themselves for giving them three per cent annual allocation of oil profit, while 30 per cent goes to Frontier Oil Exploration in the North.
Therefore, the Kyari syndrome represents a pre-dilection of a government to use double standards to address issues rather than the use of social justice. Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure would tell us that “Thieves for their robbery have authority when judges steal themselves”. This would mean that “when law can do no right, let it be lawful that law bar no wrong”
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
2023: The Frenzy, Hopes Of Common Men
The tension is palpable, regardless of the rancour, as candidates intensify their consultations. Although vigorous campaigns are about to start, they provide snippets of what they have in stock on policies and programmes. While some are inspiring, there is little to cheer in others. In the same vein, while some, outside the political class, watch the unfolding events with vague interest, others do so in despondence and outright disdain. Without mincing words, the political leaders, to whom so much had been entrusted, made it so. There is no doubt that the increasing frenzy has rekindled some measure of interest in the populace. The existing despair provoked by the general state of affairs has given way to a new hope, come 2023. In time past, seasons like this elicited communal excitement, across all strata of society. Expectations were high, as the standard bearers, during campaigns, provided assuring glimpses on policies and programmes they intended to pursue if elected.
They raised and addressed issues that touched on the common good. They were colourful, within and outside, and far more selfless than their imperial successors today. It was an era when ideas, not might or ego dominated political discourse. They .were driven by a rare passion for genuine change. In their time, political campaigns were a delight to watch, as the candidates struggled to out do each other in grandiloquence, rhetorics and oratory. The grandstanding had little room for defamation. It was a golden era. The Fourth Republic promised better deal after decades of uncouth military dictatorship. Regrettably, more than two decades after inception, the reality on ground, given the performance of the actors, has little to cheer. And brazenly they continue to hold sway, with little or no interest in what matters most. From the North to the South, East to West of the country, the story is the same, at least for now. The economy, according to the experts is in tatters, with no visible or tangible sign of a rebound.’ In present day Nigeria, even the fit, finds it difficult to survive, while the masses live in dejection and palpable misery. Meanwhile, insecurity walks on all fours, as terrorists and other allied criminals become more daring and bold each passing day. The impact of their obnoxious activities on the economy and general life of the common man, in a dispensation that promised “change”, is huge.
Beside these, the disaffection and widespread apathy, triggered by unfulfilled promises by some leaders is immeasurable. The people feel betrayed, abused and taken for granted. To Bishop Mathew Hasan Kukah, the Diocesan Bishop Sokoto, “this is the worst phase in the history of our Nation”. Only a few in the pack have tried to give meaning to leadership.
But be that as it may, the common man in Nigeria, with uncommon survival instincts, will not cease to hope for the best and a better tomorrow; at least for himself and his immediate family.
In the words of Bishop Kukah, “We cannot survive another phase of this death in installment”. As the candidates junket, expand and intensify consultations, the common man in 2023 looks forward to quality leadership, that will guarantee “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as we find in American. In simple terms, he desires and deserves selfless and committed leaders, who are driven by ideas, and with the capacity to translate them.
Nigerians need leaders who will rise above primordial sentiments, including the ability to promote communal bond; they desire leaders, who will fix the dearth and the rot in almost all facets of our national life. In particular, is the prostrate economy and insecurity that keeps worsening the living condition of the common man.
In the social sector, an effective and efficient system that well ensure his offspring attend public schools uninterrupted, including unhindered access to health and functional facilities is desired. Above all, they crave for leaders with the fear of God in their actions and dealings with fellow man.
As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prepares for the elections, irrespective of the obvious challenges, it is our hope that the elections will be peaceful and transparent. Given previous ugly experiences, it is very necessary for the electoral body-to initiate and put in place good measures that will check impunity and brigandage of overzealous party faithful and agents. In 2023, we all hope for the best.
By: Tonye Ezekiel – Janewari
Ezekiel-Jenewari is a retired Director in the Rivers State Civil Service.
Buhari’s Vault Face
Since the end of the ruling party’s presidential primaries, and the selection of a Muslim running mate by the party’s standard bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the voice of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, has been the loudest and the most critical, even though he is a member of the ruling party. He has posited that fielding a Muslim – Muslim ticket is an anathema in a multi-religious country like ours and a marked departure from nation-building. The former speaker is fully aware of the delicate balancing of geopolitical, tribal, and religious interests for the purpose of national cohesion and unity.
Dogara’s position is right on point, and he continues to espouse it boldly, even to the vitiation of his political capital. Unfortunately, Tinubu’s decision to choose a fellow Muslim was nothing new, rather it was a reenactment of what President Buhari started in 2015.
Since May 29, 2015, Nigeria as a country stopped making any significant effort toward nation-building. He might have exuded a frail visage, but his appointments were bold and telling. From the outset, his policies clearly signalled a Northern agenda. In hindsight, it is clear that President Buhari was lying in his inauguration speech, when he said, “I belong to no one, I belong to everyone”.
We know better today. At no time in our history has this country been so close to the precipice. Armed men with more sophisticated weapons than the Nigerian Army have flooded our country, ravaging lives, destroying farmlands, raping our women, kidnapping for ransom, and impoverishing our people. As if that was not enough, we were recently ranked as the second most terrorised country in the world. Buhari’s government has repeatedly told Nigerians that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. They have been lying all along, and they know it. They also know that we know that they are lying. Sadly, that is the ministry of Lai Muhammed. Even the Nigerian economy is on the brink of collapse, and the exchange rate of $1 for N1000 is at hand.
Nigerians already know that we are operating phony federalism system. They are aware that our oneness as a nation has a certain uniqueness to it. For instance, the penal code is the judicial system in the North, while the South operates the criminal code. It is so seamless that most Nigerians are unaware of it. Is it bad? No. In fact, it makes for inclusivity, and it accommodates our diversity. However, the issue of insecurity, terrorism, and banditry is an entirely different kettle of fish. Since 2015, the clamour for state police has increased tremendously, sadly, the North heavy (borrowing the words of Governor Wike) National Assembly had hindered the debate from gaining traction. Even President Buhari’s comments and body language on the issue have not helped matters. Fortunately, on January 9, 2020, the governors of the South West forced the issue by setting up a regional security outfit tagged the Amotekun Corps to develop indigenous solutions to local security challenges. However, Amotekun Corps was denied the licence to carry arms.
Interestingly, the viral training video of a similar outfit set up by the home state of the president is about to change all that. In the video, Kastina State Vigilante recruits were seen parading the same AK-47 rifles that the federal government has refused Amotekun, even though the North West and the South West are facing the same existential threats. In his response to the viral video, Governor Rotimi Akeredulo of Ondo State accused Buhari’s administration of running one country with two systems. According to him “the video making the rounds showing the equivalence of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun Corps) in Katsina obtaining Federal Government approval to bear arms is fraught with great dangers,” “Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism, which we have been clamouring for. That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of an AK-47 means we are pursuing a one-country, two-system solution to the national question.
In his effort to extricate the police from any connections with the State Vigilante outfit, Isah unwittingly confirmed the obvious, because he said the vigilante in the state was not licensed to carry AK-47s, but they were only trained to use them. The follow-up question should have been, trained by who? Who has been licensed by the federal government to train people in the use of such sophisticated weapons? Further comments by the spokesperson made it difficult to believe neither the police IG, nor the federal government was not involved. In his words, “The Vigilantes were trained on other arms and combat maneuvers. It is not that they were given a licence or that the federal government has approved that they should use AK-47 Riffles. They were just trained on how to defend themselves. And to be categorically clear, there is no member of vigilante in Katsina that is using that kind of weapon. It wasn’t issued to them by the Federal Government or State Government. They were just trained on how to defend themselves.
“It wasn’t the police that trained them, the police were not there when they were trained, we didn’t participate in the training, but what I know is what I am telling you. They were not issued with AK-47 riffles, but they were trained on how to defend themselves because bandits and terrorists are using AK-47 riffles.”
There was another viral video last week, this time from the terrorist group known as ISWAP. The content of the video portends danger for the people of the South West. The video showed ISWAP celebrating the attack on a police vehicle at Ipele in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State. The video was in fact a statement by ISWAP signalling their presence in the South West. The video has given credence, and urgency to the demands of the Governor of Ondo State to arm the Amotekun Corps. As a governor, his first primary duty is the protection of lives and property; and with the freshness of the Owo massacre of June 5, 2022, in our memory, no one can question the audacity of his next line of action. We are in cusps of a showdown between Ondo State Government and the FG, and the fallout might answer the state police question once and for all.
By: Raphael Pepple
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