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I met him five years ago. He was the chairman at the 10th graduation ceremony of African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development’s Leadership School in Abuja in April 2019. I was the Guest Speaker. He struck me as visionary, cerebral, humble, humane, detribalized, patriotic and nationalistic. At that event, he shared his motivation for establishing Air Peace. It was not essentially for the money, he said. He was in search of a business that could employ as many young Nigerians as possible. It was during his quest that he discovered that putting just one plane on domestic flights can employ almost five hundred people directly and indirectly. That singular revelation he said, gave birth to Air Peace in 2013. He shared so much more that day. Enough to leave a very positive impression on me. Enough to make me know that he was going places. Little did he know that my first experience flying Air Peace from Lagos to Abuja was such a scare.

Sometime in late 2014, I had flown Air Peace from Lagos to Abuja in company of a professor for a meeting with the then Director General of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. The flight was so turbulent and the landing so noisy that my co-traveller ‘warned’ me never to put her on Air Peace flights again! I tried explaining to her (despite my own fears) that turbulence was no respecter of any aircraft. But, as far as she was concerned, the plane was not fit to fly. Needless to say that she used another carrier for her return flight to Lagos. Ten years after, Air Peace has evolved into the largest aviation operator in Nigeria and is on the way to becoming the biggest in Africa. The airline’s inaugural flights to and from London signposts that ambition. Of course, a lot of thorns will be strewn on its way but the Allen Onyema that I know has all it takes strategically, tactically and humanly to brave the odds.

However, Air Peace and other carriers on the international route will need the continued support and encouragement of the Nigerian government and citizenry. The attempt to enact a law compelling government – sponsored foreign travels to be made on Nigerian flag-carriers should be pursued to fruition, in a way that would not make them (flag-carriers) complacent.

Furthermore, the Federal Government should see Nigeria’s participation in the global aviation space as a means of soft power in international relations. Therefore, every barrier put on the way of Air Peace and others must be adequately repudiated and retaliated under the principle of reciprocity. There should be fair implementation of Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA) by all signatory countries. Never again, should Nigeria be shortchanged on issues of flight frequency.

On the part of Nigerians, as much as it lies within our power, let us continue to patronize Air Peace and others on the international routes. This, of course will be subject to the airlines’ continued competitiveness. Let us stick with them in the face of anti-competition acts of some of our destination countries. Let the foreign airlines know that we will not be stampeded, hoodwinked or blackmailed into their flights. We will only use them by choice.

Viva! Nigeria!

P.S. I love the Isi-agu apparel of Air Peace’s cabin crew on the London route. It’s proudly Nigerian.


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