Looking at the other side of the story-By Tony Alika


Dino Melaye                                     Aviation Minister-Stella Oduah

I have been trying all morning to get Chimamanda’s exact quote on the danger of a single story. Well my laziness got the better of me so you won’t be getting it exactly. 

There is clearly a danger in listening to a story without allowing the next person, or yourself, look at the other angle or angles to it. If I were a writer, I would put it down to narrow mindedness or lazy brained syndrome which I suffer but am relaxed in the knowledge that most Nigerians suffer also.

The brouhaha in the last couple of days and now stretching into weeks over the cars the aviation minister bought or ordered bought or was seen to have bought…brings up one huge flaw that I have observed over the years in our way of thinking. I had posted earlier about our tendency to go tribal on national issues and before that, our inability to look beyond the foreign religions foisted on us.

My other observation is not on these however, even if these ones help to stoke the fire.  As a kid I recall being on the road with my father when a bullion van with police vehicle escorts sped past and knocked a woman into the gutter. This was in Lagos. I had then asked my father why they drive like that. The simple answer was that they were carrying money. From then on, I have wondered up to this moment how we could place the value of money above every other consideration. I don’t know why my mind, like I noticed so many other people have, has not been able to rationalize, understand and agree with this way of doing things.

I think in little ways, we have been taught and now we demonstrate that the news about money, the people around money, the things about money, etc, are the most important things. The Press are the worse culprits and perhaps the major reason this happens. If 100 people die today somewhere in Nigeria, and on the same day a hundred million Naira is missing somewhere, the banner headline in 90% of our dailies would rather talk about the money than the human lives. If weather forecast says there will be flooding in a region of Nigeria but on the same day there is news that a governor has bought a billion Naira plane, we’d sooner see the plane story than the impending flood in our dailies.

Now while there is talk of a possible Niger Delta uprising if Jonathan does not contest and win, in the Niger delta, and there is unequivocal statement coming from quarters in the north about the country being in turmoil if one of their sons is not president, we would rather expend energy in the things that hardly matter. Dino Malaye or whatever his name is did not lead a protest match to demand the arrest of the people heating up the polity. No, he would rather do a BMW protest. HAHAHAHA

I have my issues with the said BMW cars anyway. My issues with madam minister or whoever thought it was wise to buy such vehicles, is quite simple; if you use such vehicles to move foreign dignitaries of the aviation industry around, and this is to impress them, shouldn’t you first address the ugly sights they must see while landing, the carcasses of old planes, the disorganized cargo handling sections and even the decrepit looking detachable boarding tubes? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them see a lovely airport terminal, and when they exit, they wouldn’t behold 10 thousand airport touts harassing them for all sorts of things? If they were to ride in a Peugeot 504 car but are greeted with good roads and there are no beggars or hawkers on the road wouldn’t they leave more impressed with us? It is still down to doing the wrong things and placing money value above all else. It would seem the buyers of these vehicles think the rest of the world would think like them…”oh, did you see the look on their faces when they entered our car? Kai they will have a big story to tell when they reach their country”

But hey, if the big people in IATA and the other bodies governing air travel are worth anything, they wouldn’t be impressed with that. They wouldn’t be impressed with a car while the conveyors in your international airport hardly work. They wouldn’t be impressed with a BMW when ordinary ACs in your airports don’t function. They wouldn’t be impressed when they see the sight that greet them as they walk towards these monstrosity of vehicles, no I’d rather think they would be chuckling at our stupidity.  At the people that would always talk about costs and make comparison with the outside world; there is absolutely nothing wrong to have vehicles costlier than the one Obama rides or Cameron rides. The wrong things are what I have stated above; the priorities were wrong. 

Dubai police have Ferraris and I think one or two other exotic cars. But yes, they had made the place beautiful first and solved most transport needs. The Ferraris add to the attraction, not to ridicule. The Los Angeles police departments and such other places have gizmos too, not only for crime fighting but also to add to the city allure and aid tourism. In all of them, the very first things had been done; functional facilities, aesthetic surroundings and secure environment.

When next a Dino Maleye leads a protest, let’s see whether it is for ASUU strike, or because the monarch of Aluu that had just been released after 4 young men were hacked down in their prime on his orders, or for the continual face-off between the president and governor of Rivers state for which a lot of people in rivers state are currently suffering. Let us see him protest the Lagos/Ore road that is now cut off and has been under construction for as long as I can remember. Let him lead a protest on the despicable state of the East/west road leading to Nigeria’s largest oil, gas, fertilizer, energy and aluminium investments. Let’s see him do all these. 

If someone leads you on a protest, be sure to know the other side, or sides of the story!!

Tony Alika