It is rudimentary to expect grieving family members, friends and associates of the June 3rd, 2012 air disaster that claimed over 150 inflight lives and numerous on the ground victims to subside after the initial shock of the accident.
It was a live replication of typical Hollywood hellish scenery without the trapping of a “superman” to rescue the burning victims. Nigerians of all social and economic strata wept bitterly and complained on the emerging disclosure of suspected negligence by the airline. The President and the governor of Lagos state both visited the scene and were visibly speechless. The President in fact “wept.” The question is what next? Will this be a departure from anarchy land?
My initial inclination was to title this piece “The Hypocrisy of the Elite and the Gullibility of the Masses” based on my appreciation of the preferential mourning usually accorded plane crash victims when compared with other accident casualties. It is on record that about 1,682 lives have been lost to air disasters in Nigeria. This dims into insignificance when placed side by side with the carnage on our highways and the corresponding lives lost. The sanctity of life is not by any means a discriminatory injunction hence it is baffling to elevate a particular loss over another.
We have decayed road and public transport infrastructures all over the place, yet nobody appears bothered. I am tempted to situate the lackadaisical attitude towards road maintenance to the non-usage of such facilities by policy makers. There is no doubt that most people will arguably travel by road if minimum safety standards are kept. This is the first obtuse side of the “crocodile tears” we are witnessing from policy makers.
The second absurdity is the prejudiced condemnation of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor over his coronation as Danmajen Kano. In a week that witnessed the army commander’s conference in Ibadan, which was a scheduled event prior to the air mishap, it smacked of extreme hypocrisy to malign Mallam Sanusi for going ahead with a scheduled coronation. How many Nigerians advocated for cancellation of programmed events as a result of the terrorist attacks visited on innocent Nigerians in Kano, Suleija and Jos?
The charlatanism was stretched to Ndako Mijindadi, a young man who lost relatives in the disaster. Holier than thou hypocrites shouted to the sky and rubbished the young couple for going ahead with the wedding. In their haste to cry louder than the bereaved, they collectively forgot that the two families involved must have jointly agreed for the ceremony to go ahead as planned. The simple truth is that further criticism of the couple amounts to subjecting them to unquantifiable agonies. Did the critics consider other family members who traveled down for the marriage ceremony? The lesson here is that we must respect the man next door to make decisions that affects his life as long as it has no direct bearing on our lives.
The third obtuse side of the air disaster is the current half-hearted measures to curb future occurrences. The entire nation has been engulfed in the predictable endless ritual of focusing attention on the airline and its Indian owners. Have we paused to subject our air navigation infrastructure to reasonable scrutiny? Our disposition to bandwagon orientation is indeed legendary. We condemn because others condemned, scapegoat because others scapegoated and rationalize because others did so. In our haste, we play into the hands of powerful individuals with entrenched interests in the sectors where changes are necessary. As usual we glossed over the near mishap at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport a few days ago. It was reported that British Airways almost crashed due to the poor facilities at NAIA, yet we are minding our businesses as if nothing happened. The government should close down the airport if the maintenance work there will put flights and humans at risk. Are they waiting for more avoidable fatalities to prove to us that they care?
Fourthly, we have perfected the practice of recalling “dead woods” in guise of experts to proffer solutions to disasters without considering their deliverability quotients. It is absolutely nonsensical mandating retired officials that were culpable in the destruction of the same system they are expected to refocus. This approach is simply tantamount to kneejerk reaction designed to throw dusts into our eyes. The Dana air crash panel is not peopled by men and women that are capable of unraveling the immediate cause(s) of the disaster and at the same time set us on a path to minimal air disasters. A Judicial Commission inquiry with the powers of High Court could have been an effective means of extracting concrete answers.
Finally, our plight as a nation in unearthing the remote and immediate cause(s) of the Dana air disaster has been further muddled by the bribery scandal involving Hon. Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola. This national disgrace has in a way “tidied” up the mess Dana Air and our aviation managers were into immediately after the crash. Relying on our antecedents, I will be surprised if our collective attention is refocused on the flying coffins that pervade our air space and the regulatory undertakers posturing as aviation experts.