Akanu Ibiam International Airport: Beginning Of A Journey For International Identity And Socio-economic Greatness Of The Igbo-Nigerians

By Mazi Oderaigbo

Gov. Sullivan Chime of Enugu state (right) with President Jonathan when he commissioned the expanded runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

(Public Information: Onitsha Nigeria, 25thof August, 2013)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law is happy to celebrate the news of the launching of the first international flight at the upgraded Akanu Ibiam International Airport located in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria. The Boeing 737-800 Ethiopian Aircraft, marked ET-APL, was reported to have landed at the airport, at about 12.14pm on Saturday, 24th of August, 2013, with fifteen passengers on board and left at about 2.30pm same day. The aircraft has 158-passenger capacity.

Enugu is the old capital of the defunct Eastern Nigeria; one of the original three regions created by the Richards of 1946, on the basis of three major tribes in Nigeria-Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba. The creation was done for the purposes of devolution of political powers and decentralization of socioeconomic activities on the basis of equity and fairness. Enugu (hilltop) celebrated its centenary in 2009. The Igbo Race of today is made of sedentary Igbo or home Igbo-represented by the Nri/ Igboukwu and Arochukwu Dynasties with over 1000 years of recorded existence; pastoral Igbo-represented by Agbor Dynasty with over 900 years of existence; and assimilated Igbo or lost Igbo, who collapsed into other tribes scattered in Edo, Cross Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Benue and Kogi States and a part of Southwest as well as Ivory Coast, Benin Republic, Togo, Cape Verde, Spain and Portugal.

Sadly, the Igbo Race, fondly called “African Scientists of Development”, has no single international airport and seaport for the past 100 years. Despite this age-long maltreatment, the race still engages in the development of various parts of Nigeria especially Lagos in the Southwest and Kano in the Northwest Nigeria. Also despite the innocuous intents of the race, they are labeled, mocked and hated wherever they go so as to reside and develop peacefully. In Kano, which they entered in 1840s, they transformed an area given to them to live and suffer-called Sabon Gari, yet they ended up labeled “Inyamiri”(an Igbo word meaning-give me water, but bastardized and adopted as scornful word by the Hausa-Fulani race).

Today, Sabon Gari is one of the richest, if not the richest city in Kano State and a major source of revenue for the Government of Kano State. In Port Harcourt, South-south Nigeria, the Igbo People were rewarded with “abandoned properties” maltreatment. Lately in Lagos State, they were labeled “destitute” by the Governor and Government of the State after forcefully deporting dozens of them in the hours of the blue law and during the market hours of the spirit world. The race contributes about 40 percent, if not over 40 percent to the State's internally generated revenues.

Though, the epochal event that took place in Enugu on 24thof August, 2013 is a welcome development, but it should be seen from the prism of beginning of a long journey. What the Peter Obi leadership of the Southeast zone has succeeded in getting for the Igbo People does not go beyond securing the Federal Government's license and certification to operate an international airport in the zone with adhoc upgrading and adjustments. Challenges abound. The next step will be “the making of Akanu Ibiam International Airport a reality”. We have demanded and still demand that the Southeast Governors Forum and other core stakeholders should get the Federal Government of Nigeria into making sure that the foreign missions in the country particularly those of Europe, North American, India, China and other Southeast Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council open their consulate offices in Enugu for visa procession and obtainment and related issues. A demand should be made to the Government of Enugu State to provide a land space or rent facilities for the sitting or location of such consulate offices. These should be geared toward resting for finality the hurdles of traveling to Lagos to obtain visas for international travels or traveling to overseas through same route as well as bringing to an end era of age-long socioeconomic slavery in the hands of the Government of Lagos State and its southwest geopolitical zone.

Extra efforts should be made to equip the airport and make it wear the look of a modern international airport adorned with international aviation qualities. This will make it not to attract cabin coffins but internationally certified healthy aircrafts. Another important task which the Obi-led southeast socioeconomic thinkers should perform is provision and maintenance at all times of access routes to the all-important airport. To this extent, the Onitsha-Enugu and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Ways, which are now death-traps, should be reconstructed as a matter of uttermost immediacy. For immediate and effective utilization of the international airport, the five States of the Southeast should jointly fund the reconstruction of the two important roads and seek for refund from the Federal Government of Nigeria later.

Some of the qualities of a modern international airport that Akanu Ibiam International Airport should be adorned with for the purpose of attracting huge patronage locally and internationally, include provisions of sizeable power station, adequate departure and landing wings, underground trains, modern boarding and departure gates, vehicular lobbies, elevators, excavators and manual staircases, electronic boarding pass devices, aviation and access control electronic devices. Others are hygienic and modern restrooms, stretchers and wheelchairs for physically challenged, modern airport clinics, financial houses and shopping malls and sales stores. The service of internationally rated airport maintenance firm should be secured for the round-the-clock maintenance of the airport.

The grand importance of these is need for effective policing including physical, mental and electronic securitization devices, personnel and management. All the routes to the airport and around its premises should be wired. The idea of flooding the said routes and surroundings with armed security personnel should be lowered drastically. This is because it will constitute nuisance and further insecurity, thereby scaring away home and foreign passengers and diminish the potentials of huge resources mobilization needed for further development of the Southeast zone. Instead, intelligence and electronic security should be massively deployed.

Other than the foregoing, there is an urgent need to decongest and decentralize Lagos wharfs. In view of this, conveying container goods to Port Harcourt wharfs, which are more friendly and convenient for traders of the Southeast and the South-south zones, should be encouraged and intensified. There should also be proper dredging of the River Nigeria and construction of medium size wharf in Onitsha. For easy conveyance of goods and services to Onitsha, Nnewi and Enugu, a connecting bridge should be built between the Ogwuikpere- Ogbaru part of Anambra State and the Ndoni part of River State, which, when built, will shorten the distance between Port Harcourt in River State and Onitsha in Anambra State to about one and a half hours. In addition to existing industrial layouts in the Southeast zone, there shall be established new ones to be decentralized and sited in Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi States and they should be provided with modern industrial incentives such as roads, power station, human, physical and policy security as well as tax concessions.

As for the absence of the Governor of Imo State at the historic event, it is shocking. The collective development of the long marginalized Southeast zone ought not to be premised on political party politics. It ought to transcend beyond political party line. Engaging in politics of vendetta or parochial party politics is totally condemnable. This has for years, undermined our collective development as a geopolitical zone.

On the same premise, those who blamed Senator Chris Ngige for not sponsoring a single bill at the Senate since 2011 on the ground of legislative incompetence may be wrong. But blaming it on politics of vendetta and parochial party politicking may not be contestable. Educational capability is not lacking in the Senator. He is more qualified educationally than some Senators from the Southeast zone. But for perceived politics of vendetta and parochial party politicking, he would have sponsored at least ten bills.

By distancing himself and his government from such historic event in Enugu, the Okorocha government and his new party, APC, are losing a rare opportunity available to them to proof critics in many quarters especially in the Southeast zone wrong, to the effect that the All Progressives Congress-APC, largely drawn from the Hausa-Fulani's CPC and the Yoruba's CAN, will visit Igbo Race with “Boko-Haram” and “dead night deportation policies”, voted into power at the State or federal levels, either by live or dead votes.

Finally, the efforts of the Southeast Governors Forum led by Governor Peter Obi, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, Senator Pius Anyim, Ministers Emeka Worgu, Stella Odua, Onyebuchi Madubuike, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu, etc are commended. President Goodluck Jonathan also deserves commendation in this regard. We wish to remind the President that the peoples of the Southeast and the South-south zones are still waiting for the takeoff of the Second Niger Bridge project.

Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chairman of the Board
08033601078, 08180103912
[email protected], [email protected]
Comrade Justus Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk