By C Don Adinuba :
1. The Anambra State Government has noted with joy the launch on Friday, February 12, of Nigeria’s latest scheduled air carrier, United Nigeria Airlines, headed by a well-known business leader, Dr Obiora Okonkwo, who is also a worthy son of Anambra State. The inaugural flight took off from the domestic wing of Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja, Lagos, and landed at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. Only a courageous and audacious entrepreneur can launch an airline anywhere in the world today in view of the state of the industry worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic has since last March dealt a serious blow to the airline sector in particular and the entire travel industry in general.
2. Dr Okonkwo deserves commendation for the bold move. He is following in the footsteps of another great ambassador of Anambra State, Chief Allen Onyema, chairman Air Peace Airlines, who is increasing his fleet from 27 to 40 aircraft, despite the current turbulent state of the global airline business. The Government and people of Anambra State are proud that while most airlines are struggling and making use of old and second-hand equipment, Air Peace is deploying brand new machines in its local, regional and international operations. We are supremely confident that United Nigeria Airlines will take the aviation industry by storm, as Air Peace has done since 2013, especially with regard to the safety record, schedule integrity and quality ground and inflight services.
3. The Government and people of Anambra State are happy that both United Nigeria and Air Peace are committed to the right values. While Air Peace is irrevocably committed to peace in Nigeria and elsewhere, United Nigeria Airlines is unabashedly dedicated to Nigeria’s unity and integration. Nigeria needs peace and unity more than other things at this point in its history. Without peace and unity, no nation can achieve progress. This is a profound point which such international statesmen as the Great Zik of Africa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King spent their noble lives trying to let the world appreciate. To be sure, both Dr Okonkwo and Chief Onyema are ahead of most people.
4. Much as United Nigeria Airlines has thus far demonstrated reasonable social consciousness, we would like to highlight a message which strikes a harmonious cord in the people of Anambra State and has become a key component of the strategy driving the phenomenal progress which our state has experienced in the last few years: Aku lue uno, or Think Home. Chief Onyema, for instance, has pledged to build a hanger at Anambra International Cargo Airport still under construction. The hanger will cause a lot of local and international carriers to bring their equipment to the airport for maintenance and repairs. What is more, Chief Onyema is already working with the Anambra State Government to get Embraer of Brazil, the world’s fourth largest airplane manufacturer, to locate a service centre for the African region at Anambra Cargo International Airport which will be commissioned later in the year.
5. Dr Okonkwo needs to consider making Anambra Airport the headquarters of his United Nigeria Airlines operations. When Sosoliso Airlines made Enugu, rather than Lagos or Abuja or any other place the hub of its operations in order to decentralize development in Nigeria, it turned out to be a critical success factor for the air carrier. Incidentally, both the Sosoliso chairman, Chief Victor Ikwuemesi, and Dr Okonkwo hail from Ogidi in Idemili North Local Government Area and were the best of friends until Chief Ikwuemesi died last April in London.
6. United Nigeria Airlines is most likely to be a huge success, and the people and Government of Anambra State will be glad to work with it to achieve its goal. The carrier and its founder are worthy ambassadors of Anambra State.
God bless Anambra State, the Light of the Nation. (MOI)
Mr C. Don Adinuba is currently Anambra State Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment