The Dana Air crash — the morning after
ON Sunday 3rd June, 2012, a Dana Aircraft flight 992 coming from Abuja crashed in Lagos. All the passengers and crew members died in the crash. It was a tragic moment for Nigeria. It was indeed a day of sorrow, agony and anguish. It is not normal to experience an aircraft crash more so that air travel is regarded as the safest way to travel.
Human life is precious. The holy books the BIBLE and KORAN give respect and sanctity to human life. A developing nation like Nigeria certainly cannot tolerate a situation whereby near 160 of its citizens will perish on one day. The Dana crash was certainly bizarre for Nigeria.
Apart from the daughters of three people closely related to me in the crash, I have been much upset by the names of casualties that were reported to have been involved in that disaster near Iju, Lagos. When the manifest was released, it was a hard pain for me to read that the daughters of Senator Dipo Odujinrin who has been known to me since our days at Ebute-Metta in 1963, Seke Somolu who was a Unilag undergraduate with me in the late 60s and Major Abbey Doherty who worked with me at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) when I was a Federal Minister under the late General Sani Abacha regime in 1994 were among the casualties of the air tragedy. Dr. Levi Ajuonuma who when he was on NTA before going to become the Chief spokesperson for the NNPC had invited me for his weekly programme many years ago, was also one of the casualties.
And so many others.
If you have been a victim of near air mishaps, you will fully understand the horror and the gloomy situation, all the passengers on board of the Dana plane would have passed through moments before they all sorrowfully departed this world. Fellow countrymen and women, the last pains of the passengers would have been too tragic to recount.
I was a victim of a near air tragedy two years ago. I escaped death with the other passengers by the grace of God. This is why, I have not had a decent sleep since June 3rd when this air tragedy occurred?
Sometime in May 2010, I had boarded an Aero Contractor’s plane from Abuja alongside others on a trip to Lagos. The flight was equally on a Sunday. Some passengers who had boarded the flight with me included Papa Osawaru Igbinedion, the Benin multi-millionaire and my friend and fellow Osun State citizen, Professor Olu Aina.
As the plane entered its descent into Lagos, hell was let loose. Gbam, Gbam, Gbosa the horrible experience started. The pilot and the crew members stopped talking to us. Suddenly, the plane flew up again and for some few minutes, there was no horrible sound heard. Each time, the plane attempted to descend into Lagos, the chaos started afresh. Weeping, praying, agonising cries rented the entire plane. I remember vividly that each time I shouted to the cabin crew; “The weather is bad. Please return to Abuja”. I was greeted with hysteric reply by a woman sitting at the back seat to me shouting ‘No, the weather is good. God will deliver us”
It was later the woman told me after we had landed by the special grace of God that as a Pentecostal Christian, she had been told that in such a bad situation that we had found ourselves, any good Christian must not profess negative words in the supplication to God. She said that was why whenever I shouted “The weather is bad” she would reply me instantly with the words, “The weather is good”.
A journey meant to take 50 minutes from Abuja to Lagos, took us over 85 minutes to accomplish. Till this day, I never knew how the Aero Contractor’s plane touched the ground. When it did, I just saw myself running like an antelope to the toilet to find out whether I had in the process of the near air mishap defecated in my pant. I was later told that an air hostess in that near plane tragedy had fainted when the crisis began. It was indeed horror in the sky.
My journey with Dana airline started with that terrible experience. When we landed from the Aero Contractor’s plane, I still met some Dana passengers at the Airport. We had left Abuja near 20 minutes before their Dana plane took off.
When they told me they had experienced a smooth flight from Abuja, I nearly lost my sense of balance when I had known that our own flight would have ended in tragedy for us, our families and Nigeria.
That was how I found myself a convert to DANA Airline as a traveller. For the last two years, I had flown with DANA to all my destinations in Nigeria. See what has now happened. When I was flying back from Abuja to Lagos on Tuesday 20th May to deliver a Democracy Day Lecture to Lagos State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it was the same DANA Airline that had brought me and others to Lagos.
I remember vividly a lady member of the Cabin Crew telling the passengers in the usual ceremony that usually preceded the take off of all flights that she was Vivian, the purser for our flight. I hope it is not the same Vivian that the news papers had published the picture of being one of the casualties of the Dana Flight 992 disaster on 3rd June.
Fellow countrymen and women, anyone could have been involved in that calamity. May God bless the memories of all our compatriots who died in that crash. It will take years before the agonizing memories of all these Nigerians will get out of our minds.
It was a most painful experience.
I have continued to ask myself the vital question; why must we in Nigeria continue to witness air disasters claiming the precious lives of our fellow Nigerian citizens? Within the last six years, we have experienced tragic disasters involving Bell View, Sosoliso and ADC planes.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Pastor (Mrs.) Bimbo Odukoya, Mrs. Maria Sokenu (the wife of my classmate at Igbobi college, Lagos, Femi Sokenu a.k.a. Soki Lapatine and a former Managing Director of Peoples’ Bank in Nigeria) and several Nigerians died in these air tragedies. Why, dear God, is our country Nigeria experiencing these bad situations?
These tragedies are definitely avoidable. These tragedies can be considerably reduced. Why for goodness sake do we allow our fellow citizens to roast in the skies with these air carnages? As a former Transport and Aviation Minister in Nigeria, I maintain in all humility that we in Nigeria have got the capabilities to avoid these air mishaps.
I plead with all, that we must never allow the June 3rd Dana disaster to simply die off from our minds. We must now rise up and debate hard what our country must do to ensure air safety for Nigerians.
Our aviation industry is sick, very sick. We parade coffins in the country’s air space. We just cannot continue with this messy situation.
Yesterday it was Bell View, Sosoliso and ADC plane disasters. Today, it is DANA air crash killing our own children that we are mourning. Why must we remain a nation of mourners ever afraid to rise up to meet the challenges of air travel in Nigeria?
What must we therefore do to attempt near solutions to these air tragedies?
May the souls of all our departed ones in the DANA flight 992 disaster rest in peace. We must never forget them as they did pay supreme sacrifice of service to our country. We will sentence our country to a history of doom, if we ever allow them to have died in vain.
This incident is definitely CRY HAVOC (apologies to Uncle Bola Ige).
TO BE CONTINUED
EBINO TOPSY – 0805-500-1735 (SMS ONLY PLEASE)