Many Nigerians would be ready to roll up their sleeves for a heated debate or even a fight, pertaining to the fact whether the advent of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2015, meant change and progress for Nigeria or not. That this debate would be heated or even turn into a brawl is in the character of democracies and one thing no one can take away from the government of Buhari in the last two years, is that it has striven hard to remain essentially, democratic in outlook and substance. One agrees like any well-meaning Nigerian that the change expected from the administration could be better but one fact that cannot be denied the person and administration of the former military General is that in more ways than one, Buhari has delivered change or made effort to ensure that things are done differently and better, unlike what we have been used to. Some qualities of leadership which President Muhammadu Buhari, has brought to governance in the last two years, are resoluteness, determination and sense of urgency. Acutely aware that Nigeria, as a leading African country has not done well in many areas, PMB has introduced a sense of urgency, laced with meticulous service delivery, which if maintained by future administrations would radically alter the development accomplishments of the nation. In the next couple of days, the government of PMB would deliver a brand new airport run-way to the nation’s aviation sector at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. This runway was constructed 30 years ago and had been in poor service condition for more than 20 years! In his no-nonsense way of doing things, PMB convinced that the runway needed upgrade and modernization, gave the order that it be done no matter the cost, put at N5.8 billion. That is the hallmark of good leadership, the stuff that PMB is made of and the quality that stood him out making Nigerians to go for him in 2015. It should be noted that aside President Buhari, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, and his Minister of State, Hadi Sirika, deserve commendation for their single-minded conviction and resolve to get the nation’s strategic international airport in Abuja, a befitting and brand new runway, up from the initial desire to carry out maintenance work. Hadi Sirika, particularly deserves accolade for his commitment to the project and his willingness to stake his office on the completion of the project on time against the disabling criticism of the doubting Thomases! Hadi Sirika, as the man directly in charge of Aviation in the Ministry of Transport was forced to pledge to resign from office after the Senate Committee on Aviation expressed doubt about the contractors and the Ministry meeting up with the delivery date. This is the magic that the administration of President Buhari has done to public service in Nigeria; a serving Minister publicly vowing to quit a much-coveted office if a public infrastructure project was not delivered on schedule, not minding the likelihood of sabotage! Anyhow, on April 19, 2017, when this all important runway, is delivered and opened for the resumption of flights, Hadi Sirika, would have consolidated his reputation as one of the shining stars of the Buhari administration. The brand new runway to be unveiled on April 19, 2017, would indeed be a shot in the arm for the nation’s aviation industry which has been ailing for a long time. The runway is an investment for the future and never again would the nation be subjected to the humiliation and embarrassment that attended the issue of its reconstruction. First, the realisation that the runway ought to have undergone maintenance work for the past 15 years or more was cheeky enough and showed the careless manner public policy is handled in Nigeria. Second, during the debate on whether or not to commence the work of reconstruction and rehabilitation in view of the disruption it would have on aviation traffic, in and out of the Federal Capital Territory, for political reasons and to avoid giving credit in the event that the work was successfully carried out, there were many Nigerians who wanted the work not to take off. These people were not prepared to give the Transport Ministry any chance, as they bandied the issue of passenger discomfort from Kaduna, the lack of willingness of foreign airlines, the issue of security along Kaduna-Abuja expressway as well as the long distance between Kaduna and Abuja as their reason. It should be noted that it was political considerations and unbridled partisan interest that prevented a second runway from being constructed as originally planned by the administration of late President Yar’Adua. During Yar’Adua’s time, the non- cooperation of the then Aviation Committee of the House of Representatives caused the money already earmarked for a much-needed second runway to be diverted to other aviation infrastructure. The result is that the Abuja airport was left with only a single runway for many years which the administration of PMB is now compelled to reconstruct to restore confidence and safety to the airport. Three, when we said above that the project is a future gift to Nigeria’s aviation by PMB and his aviation sector chiefs, we have in mind the multiplier effect and the exposures which debate and work on this project has lain bare. One is the need for all airports in the country to be in top shape, provided with the latest aviation gadgets so that in the event of an emergency, the country would not be found wanting. Uncertainty about the capacity and readiness of the Kaduna International airport to be used as an alternative airport nearly stalled the runway project. Second, is for the airports around Abuja, including Minna in Niger State, to be in top shape and the connecting roads from Minna to Abuja to be serviceable at all times. Heartily, the Niger State government has realised the importance of this and the benefits that can accrue to the State and pledged to put the Abuja-Minna road in good shape. Third, future plans for aviation expansion should consider the possibility of another airport closer to Abuja along the Abuja-Lokoja road. Such a project if considered now and given a 20 year delivery date would bring the needed flexibility and international confidence into the aviation sector in view of the importance of the sector in the movement of goods and people, investment inflow and tourism with its revenue and employment generating potentials. Five, the construction firm Julius Berger deserve commendation for being in tune with the Federal Government to make the job a priority. There is no doubt that Minister Hadi Sirika would not have exuded confidence on the certainty of the work completion without assurance of the construction giant. Six, the security personnel have not disappointed. Most people would not believe that the notorious Abuja-Kaduna expressway would be incident free to the delight of air passengers and other Nigerians who ply the route daily. This means that our security personnel can do a good job when they are motivated and appreciated. Thus as international airlines return to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport on the 19th of April, 2019, a new chapter would have opened for the nation’s aviation sector. The new runway and other improved landing facilities provided by the government should create a new regime of confidence in the sector that should rub off positively on the nation’s development. Okoroma, a political analyst and media consultant writes from Abuja and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: Business Day Online