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There are some flights you just don’t forget. Whether it’s your first flight, your first flight to a foreign country, a family trip, or your flight locally within a country, any number of things can stand out.
This morning, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Ondo State who flown from Akure to Abuja onboard an overland airline, shared his tales of flight woe with Starnews Nigeria in a personal article sent to Starnews Nigeria’s WhatsApp.
Considering the intolerable insecurity situation in Nigeria, travelling for the fun of it, is out of the question. If the need is not compelling, nobody wants to leave his abode.
Apart from insecurity, the condition of the roads are so deplorable that a trip from Akure to Abuja will necessitate your visiting the mechanic, any time one tries it. The option of public transport is completely out of the question because the vehicles they put on the road most times are unworthy for roads and driven most recklessly.
In the circumstances, therefore, air travel is no longer the exclusive reserve of the privileged. Even persons of average means travel by air, out of economic sense and security considerations.
On Tuesday, 5th October 2021 my flight from Akure to Abuja, Overland Flight 1199 was initially scheduled to leave Akure at 11.40 a.m. The flight was delayed till 12.45 p.m.
My first disappointment was the air-conditioning that looked more like a fan instead of an air conditioner. For an enclosure, the discomfort was intolerable. A baby carried by his mother behind my seat cried all through the flight. That was the only way the baby could express himself.
Shortly after the pilot announced that the aircraft will touch down in Abuja at 1.40 p.m, he uttered some inaudible announcement that soaked all passengers on board for almost thirty minutes.
It was already 1.40 p.m and we had not touched down. That was when passengers started asking what exactly the pilot said when he spoke through the cabin radio. No answer was coming.
The nearest was from one of the hostesses who said no one can use the aircraft lavatory and we should fasten our seat belts. By 2.05 p.m nobody was comfortable. Those who could no longer hold their peace started shouting at the hostesses for a situation update. Others merely resorted to prayers. It was not clear as to what exactly the pilot said, so anxiety was the order of the day as the aircraft hovered around Abuja for minutes unending.
Within this short period, l have silently uttered my last prayers as l began to play the tape of my entire life in my mind’s eye. My wife who l had called to announce that we have started boarding appeared first. Then, my children and grandchildren all occupied my thoughts.
I looked around the aircraft, l saw Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the two-term Governor of Ondo State, who just celebrated his 67th birthday. My friend, former House of Representatives member, Debo Olugunagba with who l shared jokes at the Departure Hall, in Akure were thoughts that started running riots in my head.
Because l sat on the window side, l constantly took a view of the topography and the rocks beneath the aircraft and was wondering what will be next.
Perhaps, more agonising for me was the question ” So, we can’t even fly again, how do we travel in this country”?
The anxiety time was short, but enough for one to lose his sanity. Then, suddenly we started descending to Abuja until we finally touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at 2.15 p.m. Shouts of “Praise The Lord” were what welcomed us to Abuja.
It was only after arrival that we got the details of what happened. Others like us were in the air perhaps for the same time or less. President Muhammadu Buhari was said to be either leaving or coming into the airport, which meant that no plane could leave or arrive until he was done. That was the second time l was going to be trapped in this kind of abuse of power. The first time, some African Heads of States were arriving in Abuja, and for 45minutes, the plane that had been cleared for take-off waited at the tarmac until the last of them had left the airport.
For Abuja residents, if you are unfortunate to be caught on the same road where the President wants to pass, if you are not harassed by overzealous security men, you may have to wait for as long as 25 minutes or more to continue your movement. This is what citizens get from a leader who has practically made it impossible for them to live a decent life.
Kennedy Ikantu Peretei is the State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State.
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