By Garba Deen Muhammad
- “My heart goes out to the immediate families of all the Nigerian and foreign victims of the crash. We continue to pray that God Almighty will grant them divine solace and consolation. I have directed that the fullest possible investigation be undertaken into the remote and immediate causes of the crash with a view to ensuring that the proper lessons are learnt from it, and that, going forward, every necessary measure is effectively implemented to enhance the safety of air travellers in Nigeria.”
That was President Goodluck Jonathan speaking during last week’s special Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held in honour of the victims of last Sunday”s Dana Air tragedy which killed 159 passengers and crew, and another 10 persons on the ground of the densely populated neighbouhood in Lagos where the aircraft crashed. The FEC meeting was held at its usual venue, Aso Rock, Abuja. Before the meeting the president had visited the accident site barely 24 hours after the crash, which was proper, particularly because such empathy is not one of the president’s strongest points. People who have lost loved ones in multiple road accidents, bomb blasts and random shootings elsewhere across the country can attest to this.
To demonstrate just how sad he was, the president wore all black attire and, naturally so did all members of his cabinet. The president, and later the Minister of Aviation after him, took the trouble to modulate their voices to the appropriate soundbite to convey just how mournful they felt.
Okay Mr. President, you’ve tried. But you know what? Nobody is impressed, at least not a single one of the relatives of those innocent people that perished in that tragedy. Your speech, part of which was quoted above lacked conviction. Did you say your “Heart goes out” to the families of the victims of that tragedy Mr. President? And yet you couldn’t ask your Minister of Aviation to resign as a sign of your seriousness and a mark of respect for the number of lives lost under her watch? Ten people in Ghana and more than 160 in Nigeria in less than a week? Yours must be very strange heart indeed, and certainly not the kind of heart that can provide succor to the bereaved families of the victims of those accidents.
Mr. President, every Nigerian is mad at you at the moment, and it is largely due to fear of persecution (for which your government is slowly becoming notorious) that people are not throwing invectives at you from every direction, but believe me if the people who are shielding you from reality would let you read the newspapers, or run through the social media for just one day, then you would probably offer to resign along with your powerful Aviation Minister. Of course that is a long shot, the chances that you would get to see, let alone read even this helpful presentation is about a million-to-one; but who cares? At this point, most Nigerians address their worries directly to God. And we all send our wish list to God firmly believing that He listens and will intervene decisively on our behalf at His own Time. You just wait; we too are waiting.
And how on earth does the president expect us to trust him that the investigation he had ordered over the Dana Air crash would be anything beyond a useless mechanical exercise? When the president took oath of office after the death of Umaru Yar’Adua, didnt he promise to rule with the fear of God, to be honest and fair to all? But what did he do the first test that came his way? He broke an agreement he signed with his own hands in his own party’s power rotation arrangement and went on to emerge as the most controversial and divisive presidential candidate in the history of the political development of the country.
The consequences were the death of hundreds of Nigerians and counting. Again didn’t the president promise a free and fair election, and ended up rigging it so surgically that at first even some election observers were deceived? It was only later, when the INEC refused to release rigged ballot papers, which the opposition demanded in court that everybody got wise to the fact that the whole election was a sham.
Was it not the same president that promised to defer the removal of fuel subsidy until April of this year, only to execute a coup against the people by removing it in January of the same year and plunging the country into more than a week of protests which led to the death of several innocent Nigerians? Was it not the same Jonathan that promised to tackle corruption, but now even his own aides, the most hypocritical ones among them in particular, have graduated from being corrupt, and are now corrupting journalists in hard currency; not to talk of the theft of a whooping N2.6tn in the form of fuel subsidy, a situation that has impoverished the country to the extent that for two months now federal allocation to the states could not be met?
Trust Mr. Jonathan? Again?
As for Dana Airline, it was a disaster waiting to happen, and it was obvious to all but the most gullible Nigerian. From the moment I found out that Indian businessmen own Dana, I decided to stay as far away from it as possible. I have nothing against Indians, but I have everything against anybody that is so cruel, so unscrupulous that he or she would sell fake drugs to a sick person without any qualms. Last year, NAFDAC revealed that most of the fake drugs in the country came from India and China. Since China does not operate a domestic airline in Nigeria, it doesn’t count in this instance. But an Airline company operated by Indians was the ultimate flying coffin if ever there is one. Facts, rumours and stories emerging now are too strong to be ignored. Some facts, such as the age of the aircraft that crashed (28, eight years above legal limit) are in fact not even debatable. On the strength of that alone the minister and heads of the regulatory agencies should have the decency to step down to allow for unfettered investigation. Dana Air’s Nigerian partners should also be made to submit their international passports during the period of investigation.
Until such steps are taken, the president should spare us the ritual of a “thorough investigation”. We’ve heard all that before.
May God have mercy on those that lost their lives in this needless tragedy, and may He grant courage and faith to their survivors to come out of this painful trial stronger believers in God. And may God intervene between our oppressors and us.