By OSITA CHIDOKA
After a short exchange of pleasantries, I headed to my seat and he asked “where is your seat?” I pointed to the economy section. “Please sit here sir,” he said pointing to the only vacant seat in the business class of the 737 aircraft. I protested and said, “No, my brother I won’t take your seat.” He insisted and said, “I am not flying you can have the seat”. This happened yesterday between me and Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace Airlines.
Allen gave up his business seat and went to sit on my seat 9C in economy. When I noticed that he was flying with us, I resumed my protest but he insisted. I was deeply touched. He is a good man. I was and still convinced that Air Peace will be a dominant airline in Africa. Allen Onyema has what it takes to champion an indigenous national flag carrier. I will discuss this another day.
He had previously told me that he would never forget how I treated him when I was Minister of Aviation. I believed him but thought it was one of those things people say without meaning it. The first time we met was innocuous to me but I remembered his humble and down-to-earth manners and how agitated he was that day.
Air Peace was new in the market and was under existential threat from other operators that almost crippled its operations. He came to my office and was ushered in to see me without delay. That surprised him as we did know each other previously, I explained that our standard procedure required that all direct customers are prioritised. A carry-over from the process-driven approach we started at FRSC.
On our first day at the Ministry of Aviation, I met with my Assistants, secretary, security details and protocol officers to determine who were my direct customers and we identified Airline operators, Unions, and some Industry stakeholders as direct customers and gave them unfettered and quick access to me.
After pleasantries, I listened to Allen and we sorted the issues out decisively. Other requests he made subsequently were attended to without him needing to see me. He appreciated my little help then.
Eight years after and he is still appreciative is quite admirable and a testament to his character. For me, it is what makes public service worthwhile. The few acknowledgement, by people, that you delivered service with fairness and integrity. I had and continue to enjoy that acknowledgment over the past 8 years.
When I see the behemoth that Air Peace had become, I wonder what would have happened if the threats of their early days were not checked…..I wonder.
CREDIT: Osita Chidoka Facebook Page.