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Opinion

Air Peace’s Turbulence Of Bigotry -By Ochereome Nnanna

Some Nigerians are always waiting to display their low and miserable natures. To those who are psychologically infirm, even the most joyous moments must be exploited to spill excess bile and foul the air, especially when it comes to matters of tribe and religion.

It seems as though this gentleman of Igbo ethnic origin, Maazi Allen Onyema, is incapable of pleasing some Nigerians despite the fact that, perhaps out of a feeling of insecurity, he is always courting national acceptability. Onyema’s business acumen is beyond debate. From a couple of aircraft some ten years ago or so, he has grown Air Peace to the largest fleet in our aviation industry.

The airline is still bedevilled with infuriatingly sloppy services such as expensive flight delays, cancellations and shylock tariffs, especially on Eastern routes during and off holiday season. However, Air Peace is the traveller’s choice in terms of comfort and style. On several occasions when we were faced with emergency situations abroad, Onyema volunteered his aircraft for the evacuation of stranded Nigerians. If you argue that the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa was because majority of the beneficiaries were his Igbo kinsmen, what will you say of the Sudan rescue mission when most of the beneficiaries were Northern Muslims?

Onyema is always beating the drum of patriotism from the rooftops in a manner that raises suspicion among Nigerians with painful hearts. There are some Nigerians who suffer from incurable chest pain any time they see an Igbo person come out in a special way, which is always happening, anyway.

Air Peace, which has been struggling to fill the gaping slot of a Nigerian national carrier on international channels, recently made a debut on the London route with Gatwick Airport as its docking point. From over N4m charged by foreign airlines, Air Peace slashed the fare to N1.2m. This forced other international airlines to begin adjusting their fares downwards to be able to compete. Many well-meaning Nigerians – even those who were not immediate beneficiaries – applauded the airline.

No one on that brand-new Boeing 777 aircraft to London on Saturday March 30, 2024 with Onyema personally on board, complained of any sloppy service. The point of contention was the uniform the crew members wore! Air Peace’s colours are blue, white and red. Some of the crew (who were 

suitably qualified Nigerians from different ethnic backgrounds) were dressed in jackets sewn with the “traditional” Igbo red Isi-Agu fabrics. The children of bitterness, pain and misery questioned use of the Igbo ethnic fashion to outfit the Air Peace crew.

Some of these wretches not only started a fruitless campaign for the “boycott” of Air Peace on the social media, some even went as far as wishing that the aircraft burn in the skies. They forgot that should their nightmare ever come true their family members could be in the flight.

People never choose their airlines to travel based on the uniforms of the pilots and crews, or the ethnicity of the airline’s owners. People first of all check their pockets, then they consider the reputation of airlines, especially safety, comfort and service records.

Booking a flight is purely a market-based, utility decision. It strictly is a game of willing buyers and willing sellers. My Abiriba people have a saying: Azugh m, eregh m, adigh apu uka(I no buy, I no sell, no dey cause fight). You cannot fight someone for refusing to buy from you or sell to you. The chances are very good that those tearing their hair and eating sour grapes over Air Peace’s crew uniform are not flyers, have never flown, and may never fly, especially internationally. Former Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, once wondered aloud why people who have no cars were disturbing him to complete the Umungasi Flyover Bridge, lol!

So, those who are threatening Air Peace with boycotts are comedians. A good market sells itself. If you have the best quality goods or services on offer, people will be begging to buy from you. People will bribe Air Peace staff to buy their international tickets if their quality of services and safety remain second to none. If you see any restaurant where many customers’ cars are always parked, you will know they sell excellent meals there.

The only problem Air Peace may have is, Air Peace itself. Now that other airlines are cutting their tariffs to remain in the market, Air Peace cannot afford to transfer its domestic chaos to its international routes. If they do, their enemies will rejoice.

Coming to the matter of the Isi-Agu as Igbo traditional dress, we need to put a few things in their proper perspectives. All ethnic or cultural groups in Nigeria adopted what they now call their “traditional” fashions, mainly from foreign sources. The Isi-Agu (or Isi Enyi) fashion was originally copied from European sailors by the nobles of Bonny (Ubani). Abiriba merchants and smiths introduced it into upland Igboland. I was born to see my fathers and grandfathers decked resplendently in the Isi Enyi regalia during events. Before the civil war, only the Bende Igbo wore it.

Anambra and Enugu people wore buba and agbada/babanriga which they copied from the Yoruba and Hausa, who copied from the Sahel cultures, who copied from North Africa. For something to be truly the traditional dress of a people, it must have originated from them. These fabrics are woven in Europe and sold to us. Even our George, laces and other expensive fabrics worn by our women in the South-East and South-South are woven in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, yet we use them to make our “traditional” attires. Similarly, the fabrics used to sew the agbada and babanriga are woven in Europe and the Middle East.

So, children of ignorance, bigotry, pain, bitterness, and Igbo phobia, go and drink your medicines!

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