Many of us have complained about the junketing of President Muhammadu Buhari. In a recent article this writer tried to give reasons why the president is always airborne and posited that PMB did not trust his chosen officers and was trying to do everything by himself (http://chatafrik.com/articles/nigerian-affairs/the-true-story-behind-president-buhari-s-frequent-overseas-travels#.Vw-eezArLIU). Writer Okey Ndibe in a Nigerian Village Square article tries to demonstrate that PMB has enough work at home to preclude the accumulation of frequent traveler miles http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/okey-ndibe/if-i-were-buhari.html
The Igbo say that to find the real reason why a murder was possible one would have to go the black smiths (machete and gun manufacturers).Both Mr. Ndibe and Aduba come from villages that know a thing or two about blacksmithing. The real reason for the travels of Mr. Buhari’s, and GEJ before him, and OBJ before them can be traced to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mr. Obasanjo amassed a fleet of Executive Jets under the name of Presidential Jets. He equipped the plains with luxury including beds and sitting and conference rooms and kitchen, stuffed with luxury foods and servants. He hired well trained pilots and maintenance crew and made sure that the tanks are full of jet fuel and always ready to fly at the snap of his fingers.
Remember what happened when you got you first car? There was always some emergencies that required you to drive: work, a call from one of your friends, your girlfriend needed something, a concert in Enugu Inyi or at Orumba or Onitsha or at UNN. They became a must go and you drove.
Well if there is a luxury jet, fuel in the tank, ready pilots, etc., why not go to China; why not go to the United Nations Conference; or consort with the King of Saudi Arabia on oil? These are urgent state matters requiring the attention of a Head of State.
Just as you did with you first car.
As long as these conditions exist, Nigerian Presidents will be flying around the globe attending to urgent STATE BUSINESSES. For all of the presidents it is the first time in their lives that they had a plain at their disposal. And also cost free.
Or are they? Really?
Meanwhile the former Nigerian Airways is diseased and probably rotting in hell. Their pilots and crew forgotten and owed arrears of pensions if they had any. Meanwhile international airlines are making a killing on Nigerian routes charging twice the cost of flying to Beijing from London for the four hour flight from London to Lagos. Meanwhile Nigerian business men and poor students pay but receive poor customer service for their high fares.
Suppose. Just suppose that the presidential fleet is loaned to Nigerian airways with the crew and the luxury cabins converted to regular passenger seats and put on London and New York routes even for just once a week trips and they charge reasonable fares. What do you think will happen? How long will it take to earn back the cost of this investment if they are well managed? What if Ekendilichukwu and Dangote are asked to invest in this business and Nigerian workers are encouraged to buy just one share each in this Private/Public Partnership.
My guess is that such frequent flyers like Nwachukwu Anakwenze will buy up to three shares.
The seizure of the presidential fleet by Nigerians for Nigerians will reduce the urgency of international business for Nigerian presidents and may even refocus their attention to some domestic duties which Mr. Ndibe allege were being neglected. Just like when your dad took back the car he had made available to you. Your college grades went back up as those emergencies suddenly ended and you re-focused on classes, home works, and setting the tables for dinner.
Managing a nation is not an easy task and the leaders of nations should be allowed to perform these difficult tasks without killing themselves. When there is a real need to travel overseas, the president would be allowed to borrow one of the planes for a week or so. But to lease all of them permanently to the president and allow them to sit on the tarmac is a gross waste. To let the pilots be paid for flying twice a month is a luxury Nigeria can ill afford. British Prime Ministers, Israel PM’s and other world leaders fly first class in their nations airlines and there is no evidence that they have had less impact on world affairs.
Nigeria should do likewise.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
April 14, 2016
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