The recent announcement from the Presidency renaming 12 airports in the country has been generating serious concern among the populace. To say the least, the airport renaming saga is a demonstration of the insensitivity of the new leadership in Abuja, which is attempting to gloss over and trivialize, the huge challenges confronting the country at the moment.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu rode into office through a controversial process that is yet to be accepted by the vast majority of the populace, a fact that he himself has acknowledged in several outings.
Therefore, it is expected that his actions and pronouncements would, in the least, try to assuage the feelings of the citizenry, who are eager to see a government that is determined to restore the people’s hope and confidence in government after going through eight years of agony in the hands of the immediate past federal government.
Since he came on board, the president’s moves have done more to aggravate the pains rather than soothe the nerves of the people.
The bombshell of the removal of fuel subsidy, which he dropped on the day of his inauguration without having a plan in place to address the upheavals it would have on the people, is still locking the breath off the people, who have since then been thrown into increased hardship.
Yet on a daily basis, the presidency is churning out policies that will further strangulate the people rather than improve their lives. It was thus, shocking that in the midst of this pain, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission boldly announced to Nigerians that a government that is reluctant to improve on the wages of its workers was ready to increase by 115 percent, the salaries of the President and other top political functionaries of government. This is coming while there are agitations that the weight of governance has become too heavy and people are calling for cuts in that sector.
The outcry over this was still being managed when in an uncaring manner, the same government announced a shoddy renaming of airports, a clear triviality meant to divert attention from the real issues confronting Nigerians.
The most annoying aspect of the airport renaming is the ‘transportation’ of the Awolowo title to the Port Harcourt International Airport in the Niger Delta. The people have already risen in serious condemnation of this disrespect and disregard for the zone and its peoples. Niger Delta has a rich array of heroes who have impacted both the region and Nigeria.
It is on record that when former President Goodluck Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos in 2012 after Chief Moshood Abiola, the hero of democracy and winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election, people from the South-West zone, led by now President Tinubu, rose in total rejection of it. It is therefore, surprising that the same President Tinubu would rename a critical monument in the Niger Delta after a figure that played no role in the cause of the people.
If anything, it was Chief Awolowo who spearheaded the Petroleum Act of 1969 that took away the rights of the Niger Delta people over their crude oil and vested it in the Federal Government when he was the federal commissioner of Finance and deputy chairman of the Federal Executive Council.
That law and policy totally extinguished the rights of the Niger Delta states and people to use resources derived from the oil found in their land and waters for their development. The crude oil extracted from the Niger Delta became the exclusive property of the Nigerian government that has since then, failed to plough back proceeds from it to develop the region. It took many years of struggle by the people to get the federal government to concede 1.5 percent as derivation to oil and gas producing communities during the Second Republic, three percent during the government of General Ibrahim Babangida and 13 percent in the current Republic derivation to oil producing states.
If the presidency must rename national monuments in the Niger Delta after iconic Nigerians, it must look for heroes of the Niger Delta; icons that the people know and feel have contributed to the advancement of the cause of the region and honour them with monuments in the region. The people want to see such icons immortalized within the region so that they can see and be reminded of the role such people played in their lives. Awolowo is certainly not that hero and so the renaming of the Port Harcourt International Airport after him must be reversed.
Moving forward, Tinubu should stop the diversion game and sit down to squarely address the policies that can address the anomalies in the system and halt the panic migration of Nigerians youths and professionals daily to other countries.