Tuesday 21 May 2013

Akanu Ibiam Airport: President Jonathan’s Master Stroke

Aviation Nigeria

By Yakubu Dati

In his book on visionary leadership, Burt Nanus made an apt quote that pertinently captures what is currently happening in Nigeria’s aviation sector. Nanus wrote “there is no more powerful engine driving an organisation toward excellence and long range success than an attractive, worthwhile, achievable vision for the future, widely shared”.

For several years, the airports in Nigeria deteriorated into nothingness and became the poster of our collective shame. The worse of the lot of these critical aviation infrastructures were the smaller airport terminals –especially the ones erroneously referred to as un-viable routes.  However all that is in the past now as all airports across the length and breadth of Nigeria are receiving the requisite attention irrespective of geography, most importantly strategic partnerships are being formed by stakeholders to ensure that their functionality is sustainable. They greatest strategic thinking however is the marriage of agriculture, aviation and commerce. The trio of these are set to transform the small holder farmer from a life of despondent subsistence farming to a life of reaping bountiful harvests of immense values for what was sown.

In the weeks building up to the commissioning of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu political naysayers whose stock in trade has become the onerous task of revisionism and re-writing the trends and transformation strides of the current government; they found it expedient, latched on the familiar band wagon of negativism that the airport commissioning and subsequent town hall was done strategically to gain and garner South Eastern votes in the coming 2015 elections. The subtle question however to these naysayers is that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the President of Nigeria and as such since he has sworn to protect the integrity of the constitution, then it has become a mandamus to spread evenly the dividends of democracy.

As the President rightly pointed out, the South East Zone, as an industrial and business hub needs the requisite aviation infrastructure to function. No serious business region all over the world will overlook the imperatives of air travel.

As he made to cut the ribbon, to launch the terminal and its facilities, the President, wearing the resplendent black Kaftan, adorned the ubiquitous red cap of pristine honour associated with nobility in the South East declared “I commission this airport terminal for the entire use of the region”. This statement typifies the present government’s commitment to further grow Enugu into a hub of air travel.

On completion, International Terminal has a total floor area of 25,000 square meters and the capacity to handle 500,000 passengers per annum. The entire project will cost 13.3 billion Naira and it is expected that it will be completed within 24 months.

According to the Minister of Aviation, “the five terminals across the country are not the only elements of this transformation process; even  before starting these five new projects we started remodelling all 22 current terminals in FAAN network. In fact, next week we will witness the commissioning of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport Owerri Terminal and the Yola Airport Terminal”.

The transformation flight of the Ministry of Aviation of which the minister, Princess Stella Oduah, confessed that the President Jonathan is the motivator and inspiration is not done yet, the flight’s trajectory continues to transverse the length and breadth of the country, seeking to sustain the positive turning fortunes of the ministry. In the parochial and irrational thinking that sometimes pervades Africa it is often assumed that women cannot deliver when entrusted with the task of delivering dividends of democracy. However President Jonathan’s leap of faith by appointing several female ministers is paying off in sectors such as finance, housing, education and above all aviation. One doesn’t need to go far to see why Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah is referred to as the amazon. She is bequeathing diligent service and a robust functional aviation sector  to Nigeria and Nigerians.


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