Mine is not an entirely new thesis. Over and again, we have all had experiences that underscore the fact that,
where sound leadership is lacking, innocent people suffer and even bystanders bear the brunt.
The departure hall was overcrowded with exasperated passengers. No thanks to the hot humid unforgiving atmosphere. In the hall, the temperature was well over 380C. The few humming air conditioners and fans made no difference. The fans were just blowing the hot humid air from one corner to the other. Some of the passengers have been at the airport since the early hours of the morning. That was over 9 hours ago. As the day wears on, I was to fare no better. My originally scheduled 5.30 pm flight has now been delayed for over two hours already. Over and again, intending passengers resorted to the attendants stationed at the exit leading to the tarmac to make inquiries. “What’s going on? “, “Are we still making the flight today?”, “None of your other two flights have arrived since the first flight from Port Harcourt arrived this morning. Why? And why are you not talking to us?”
A fellow intending passenger quipped that London bound travelers with a flight time of about 7 hours should have arrived by now. Whereas, the Port Harcourt flight of less than 1 hour has already been delayed for over six hours and still counting. On my previous flight just 4 days back, the Port Harcourt bound flight arrived from Lagos and departed from Port Harcourt right on time. Now confusion abounds everywhere. What were the excuses given? “Bad weather at Kano.” Few minutes later Kano bound passengers were asked to board their plane. While they were still on the queue, the boarding announcement was made for the Benin bound flight. At other times, the excuse was that they were looking for fuel. Looking for jet fuel to power the plane for the flight. That was around 9pm in the night. These people have ran out of excuses. It seems they are not serious about this business.
One of the passengers was furiously venting his anger at one of the attendants – a lady. The lady was calmly looking on and taking it all in good composure. It was then I rose up. Gentlemen and ladies, it seems to me that we are really “attacking” the wrong people. These flight dispatchers and their assistants are equally frustrated and worn out. The people whom we should and ought to be addressing our complaints to are not even here. They are seated in their offices on the other side. Let us go and meet them. If this flight is not going to be, they should at least refund back our money so that we can all get back to our various places of abode in Lagos. We don’t want to wait until 11pm or 12 midnight before we are told that the flight has been cancelled. Getting out of the airport may be unsafe by then. Several of the passengers were in agreement. “Yes. Let’s go and meet them.” But when it was time for us to go and meet them, more than half of the pairs of feet began to shuffle and lag behind. The laggards were reluctant to show their faces. Undeterred, the other group eventually stepped out to “confront” them.
Outside the departure hall, most of the other attendants at the weigh-in points were already closed for the day. We were not even sure of whom to talk to. Luckily enough, an ofwficer (in mufti) who was watching surreptitiously, walked up to where we were. “Gentlemen, what is the problem. I am in charge of security & anti-terrorism here…. What is the problem? ” “Our flight has been delayed for several hours and right now, we are not sure if we are still going to make the flight or not. All we want now is a refund of our money so we won’t have to sleep here… ” “OK. Just exercise further patience while I go and make further enquiries. If they have been lying to you, they dare not lie to me. I’ll be back in less than 5 minutes with an answer.”
To-go or not-to-go? True to his words, the officer was back in less than 5 minutes time. “Gentlemen, you can all match back into the departure hall. The airline officers have reliably told me that your flight will be departing in about 15 minutes time.”
“Thank you. Thank you sir.”
And so we all trouped back into the departure hall. The queue for the bus ride to plane on the tarmac was already building up. Disorderly group of passengers were already hustling to pass through the narrow door. Several passengers were struggling to pass at the same time.
The Arik Air Bombardier plane took off from the runway at about 9.30pm. We touched down at PHC less than 1 hour later. It was already past 11pm when my son opened the gate to welcome me back home. All was well. Thanks be to God, all ended well.