This Peace We Must Own

By Frank Meke.

Sometimes, history are made out of ashes. When hope is held on the tapestry of faith and strength. History comes out of the cloud of determination and grit and usually owned by those who must put their backs to wall to push forward and conquer.

Thursday, February 22, the main hall of the prestigious Sheraton hotel Ikeja, was literally overrun by members of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies ( nanta) who came to be part of a history dressed in a peaceful attire, a dream turned reality.

Since the advent of COVID 19, and now, the Nigerian travel community has gone through one of most excruciating time outs, looking out for bail outs, for a Messiah.

For Nigerian travel trade professionals, those with little faith collapsed their shops and the resilient ones held strong, praying and waiting for a breakthrough.

In the global travel space, Nigeria has no strategic presence despite being one the life wire, the artery for the survival of foreign airlines operating in Nigeria.

Our flag was in torn to pieces, to shreds in the most despicable manner, and the attempts at the center to fly us a national carrier was taken to ridiculous adventure.

We were literally at the mercy of foreign airlines who are in business not to show mercy. And since the currency of trade in this business to which Nigerians are known patrons, is in dollar, Nigerians, particularly those with children schooling abroad and those with medical tourism challenges, grumbled to access travel opportunities.

There’s no doubt that global travel is business and also enamoured in highwire socioeconomic and political tapestry, nations, even smaller geographical entities, would fly their flag not just for pride but to check and keep their eyes on capital flights which is germane to sustaining a healthy economy.

To Nigerian travel trade operators, one of the accusations against their trade, revolves round being the drivers of foreign exchange flight out of the country, yet those who parade such narratives forget that any trade such as sales of air tickets must be done in naira and not in any foreign currency.

For both travel trade operators and the Nigerian travelling public, little or no opportunities exist for a sustainable industry experience and values under certain extreme conditions and obnoxious trade rules, especially as pushed into the Nigerian market acclaimed as vibrant and blue chip.

Nanta, led by its Amazon and president Mrs Susan Akporarie and her executive, spent greater part of their time, squaring out in the rings of negotiations and sometimes outright boxing contest with the foreign airlines and their octopus godfather, the International Air Transport Association ( IATA) just to find a breather to survive and also give the Nigerian travelling public a window to reasonable airfare pricing.

So it was not a surprise to see the huge human traffic at the agency forum of AirPeace Nigeria, prior to their Lagos to Gartwick, London flight operations.

Trust the resilient nanta members led by their Board of Trustees chairman, Dayo Adeola, president, Mrs Susan Akporarie and immediate past vice president, Lagos zone of nanta and also member, nanta executive, Yinka Folami, it was a day to show solidarity to a Nigerian brand, the dream and vision of one Allen Onyema to birth a Nigerian centric air carrier on the london route.

Though there is no doubt that AirPeace has dominated the Nigerian domestic market, its UK flight operations came at time, Nigerians truly desired for libration from the strangulating hold of foreign airlines and other competitors.

Allen Onyema spoke little at that occasion but interestingly insisted that parents with children schooling in the United Kingdom and Europe now have opportunities to bring their kids back home during vacations in order not to lose them influences of foreign values which are inimical to our culture.

If the Gartwick operations runs successfully, AirPeace Nigeria, will also take to the New York, United States route with assurance to partner with registered nanta members to drive the initiative.

It was a carnival, not just a forum. It was clear and glaring that nanta, led by its BOT and president, tabled and got a bargain for mouth watering commission to all trade professionals irrespective of their status and to those that will go more than the extra mile to fill up the AirPeace flights which are expected to run daily Operations from Gartwick, a backend incentives awaits their sweat and effort.

To show their commitment and support, nanta president aroused the patriotism of Nigeria travel trade operators through one of the ingenious slogans I have ever heard. As she held the microphone and held her breath like a tested trade amazon, she told the excited and cheering crowd that when she mentions AirPeace, everyone should acclaim,,” it is our own! “

The sophistry of the delivery, the acclaimation and affirmation of the new slogan for AirPeace is indeed a history in the making and beyond the business of air transportation, it’s a day Allen onyema knew he is not alone in the desire, quest and vision to contribute to the growth of Nigerian aviation industry and indeed to a new Nigeria.

Speaking to me on sidelines of the AirPeace trade forum, Mrs Susan Akporarie who flew in from Abuja that morning, disclosed that the airline deserves the support of all Nigerians and in particular nanta members to deliver on the london Gartwick route.

She explained that nanta members were excited by the AirPeace show of strength and would work out a formidable partnership, crediting the effusive” AirPeace na our own” slogan to Yinka Folami, the immediate past vice president, nanta lagos and the Nanta April national presidential election hopeful for the catchy patriotic phrase.

When next you are London bound, just remember that there is a Peace in the air, and it’s owned by Nigerians.

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