The Dana Airline Crash: Another Tragedy of Corruption

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

”After three days of mourning. What’s next?
After three minutes of crying. What’s next?
After three hours of begging and pleading. What’s next?
After three months of investigation. What’s next?
The self generated disaster continues and those that are affected remains hopeless and helpless. The fear of the unknown!” – Olatokunbo Akinsanya, Atlanta, GA on Facebook

Greek mythology tells the story of Icarus, the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, his attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. He ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. The myth shares thematic similarities with that of Phaëton — both are usually taken as tragic examples of hubris or failed ambition and seen as the mythical pioneer in Man’s attempt to conquer the skies.

Man is not designed to fly like birds and a few flying mammals. But God has given Man the power, the intellect to conquer or at least adapt his environment to suit himself. So Man invented the wheel, and thus started the age of communication, transportation, etc from Point A to B and since then, Man has never looked back in his desire to make himself comfortable in his environment. The wheel is the basis for almost all other inventions.

To ensure that he gets from one point to the other as quickly as he can, Man continued to experiment and finally aligned the wheel with animal transportation, and every means of transportation we now know. Of course, there are some costs to pay – loss of lives. But trust Man, to always be inventive and adaptive. The losses of lives are inevitable and will not deter Man in his quest to better his life.

I have always been fascinated with the aeroplane. I always go to the airports and go to the viewing areas just to see planes land and take off. It is exhilarating for me and makes me appreciate technology. Unfortunately, it is not an invention of the black man. I have always wondered at the brains that came up with the idea of throwing such a huge metallic weight into the air, with people and goods inside, and staying afloat in the air, travelling at great speed and defying the laws of gravity. It is one of the greatest feats of Man, or perhaps, the white man.

But such complicated, sophisticated and dangerous way of commuting needs to be diligently monitored, regulated, maintained and serviced. In the Western World, we have these checks in place, as a result of the combination of more responsible people in government, little or no corruption, a definite duty of care and responsibility for their people (and in fact any people), concern for the health and safety of humanity and a respect for human life in general. These are generally and undoubtedly alien virtues in our country, and of course, our notorious and abject maintenance culture, or its lack thereof.

Let’s be realistic here; forget about air travel for now. The fact is we in Africa do not have respect for both human lives and the environment. That is why you see dead bodies on our streets and nobody cares to move them or find out how they got there. That is why you see destitute people and mentally-ill people parading the streets and we just pass by them and governments do not care either.

So here we go again, in Nigeria, at least. Another airplane disaster, two, actually, including the Nigerian cargo plane that killed 10 people in Ghana, the same weekend, which many, including this writer, thought are avoidable, or at least, preventable. The unfortunate (but avoidable) Dana Airline plane crash will continue to expose many ‘hidden facts’ in the Aviation industry in Nigeria, but then haven’t we been here before? Sosoliso, Bellview, ADC air crashes all within the space of 6 months or so in 2005/2006. Then, as now, there were lots of anguish, finger-pointing, investigations, censures, and most importantly, government promises, which were never kept.

In fairness to us – I mean Nigerians as a whole – Nigeria has managed to avoid fatal air crashes since the ADC crash in October 2006, but this is not as a result of diligent and sincere regulations and enforcement by the authorities or the government, just mere luck. (Nigerians will always ascribe that to the love of God for the country, as if they are the only people in the world that God created and loves). Ironically, it is this seeming lull in fatalities that led to complacency, and trust us, complacency is ours anytime, especially when things seem to be going on smoothly, everybody relaxes, and it is business (of corruption) as usual.

Personally, I had given up travelling by air within Nigeria, albeit not because of the dangers or lack of confidence in the air-worthiness of the planes, but due to cost. I simply cannot afford to travel by air in Nigeria due to the high fares, especially following the increase in the petroleum products in January 2012. Underpinning that reason is the fact that ever since 2006; I had a morbid fear of flying in Nigerian-operated aircrafts.

But you see our individualist and selfish attitude and approach to most of our problem is eventually haunting us and are mainly responsible for our failure to progress as a nation or people. In other word, Nigerians are prone to solving collective problems individually and selfishly; for example, take the epileptic electricity nationwide; those who can afford it simply buy generators, and even some who are richer and more influential simply bribe PHCN officials and have personal transformers dedicated to them only installed near their grand mansions.

Another example: our various governments have failed to ensure supply of potable water to their citizens. What do Nigerians do? The rich ones simply construct boreholes to supply their personal water needs. The whole country is littered with millions of boreholes. But we will not collectively call on the governments to do something they are supposed to do; things we elect them and pay them to do.

The same streak of selfishness goes for security, transportation, education, etc. What our bad leaders and governments have failed to provide for their people, their people simply ignore them (and we mostly curse them too) and try and solve their problems individually and not collectively, like calling for the heads of these corrupt government officials, or rejecting them at the ballot. We, the downtrodden masses of Nigeria, even, often, deliberately and despicably, aid and abet these crimes against ourselves.

How many lives have we lost due to plane crashes over the last 20 years? And add those thousands of lives lost on our bad roads, compounded by dangerous, illiterate, untrained and often drug-crazed drivers. The railway system was deliberately made moribund by haulage cabals whose trailers cause havoc and deaths on the roads, not to talk of the economic and social losses suffered as a result.

In the past 10 years of plane crashes in Nigeria, investigations were conducted (or at least the authorities say they will conduct investigations) but how many people know the result of the investigations? What information or learning were gleaned from the investigations into these crashes?

The depressing truth is that nobody does anything; the responsible airspace authority, e.g. Nigerian Airspace Management Authority, NAMA, is a corruption and nepotism-ridden agency, like most government arms anyway. There are also several other agencies responsible for ensuring planes being flown in this country are regularly and consistently serviced and maintained to be safe.

The fact is air travel in Nigeria is unsafe. The roads are even worse and unsafe, and maritime travel is almost non-existent. And rail transport has been deliberately made inadequate and ineffective. Water or marine transportation is largely ignored. The safest means of transport seems to be by walking from Lagos to Kano.

But wh

at do our leaders do? They spend their time chasing shadows, busy with their perfected art of corruption and mismanagement; politicking instead of governing; instead of taking decisive action about a probe that shows the intensity of oil corruption that places a nation of over 150 million in stagnant poverty; waking up one morning and unnecessarily renaming universities without consulting the legislators or referring to history (University of Lagos was established by an Act of Parliament); the Presidency taking his time to reinstate a judicial officer who has been exonerated and which he only took hours to suspend after recommendation from the same body that has now recommended his recall.

But unfortunately, we all have to share the blame, not only the inaptly named Mr Goodluck and his cohorts of mediocre and political jobbers. We are allowing a lot of things to be brushed under the carpet. Our greatest sins are allowing such brutish, corrupt, selfish, invidious, insidious, sinister charlatan, mediocre and murderous opportunists to rule us and then when they are exposed for what they are, we still celebrate them.

How long can a people continue to allow ineptness, inefficiency, mediocrity and corruption to rule and control their future? It is time for a stronger show from the people of this confounding country to their pseudo-leaders that their misdemeanour and folly will no longer be tolerated. All of us are accountable for the bloodbath Nigeria has become because some of us stay silent, some of us benefit directly and indirectly (I laugh when these people call themselves “stakeholders”) from the corruption, and some of us are just no longer interested.

So the government will conduct a probe or two; suspend a few people on full pay; or maybe even fire a few idiots; suspend an airline licence or two; and perhaps even offer a few meagre sums to the families of the victims?

Already some fallout is happening: The government has already ordered the indefinite withdrawal of Dana Airline’s Operating Licence; also a Mr John I. Nnorom, former Executive Director for Finance at Air Nigeria, has warned Nigerians to stop flying the airline until they are sure that its planes are being properly maintained. In a blistering public petition, Mr. Nnorom, who resigned his appointment with the airline recently, blamed the situation on Jimoh Ibrahim, the chairman of Air Nigeria, whom he accused of being uninterested in the maintenance of company aircraft.

The Senate also has passed a resolution on the issue called for officials of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority led by its Director- General, Harold Demuren to step aside and allow for investigations into the incident.

As such, while I hope to be surprised with a positive outcome from this gloom, I hesitate to hold my breath. Confounding Nigeria, will likely brush this incident under the carpet, say it’s God’s doing and you cant fight God, and continue to live their lives, until the next major disaster – Boko Haram massacre, collapsed building, horrific road accident, a severe ethnic clash, etc.

And our politicians continue to dine, wine and laugh, oblivious of the effect of their corruption and ineptitude, and in the words of Stevie Wonder (Village Ghetto Land) “Politicians laugh and drink – drunk to all demands ……Now some folks say that we should be, Glad for what we have, Tell me would you be happy in Village Ghetto Land.”

When shall our so-called leaders wake up to the fact that corruption is killing Nigerians by the thousands everyday, in every sphere of our lives; that the comfort of the tree branch translates to comfort for the chicken that perches on it; that if you throw stones in the market, the person it will hit will be a family member?

Corruption does not really pay anybody; the victim or the perpetrator. We are all suffering the effects.

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