Outsourcing the cabinet
I once sat next to a member of the House of Representatives on an Abuja-bound flight from Benin. That honourable member was the same stormy-petrel who had stoutly defended the integrity of his colleague who was alleged to have collected hush-hush money from a businessman over petroleum products subsidy probe. As was my habit, I took a window seat, which was to the left of the aircraft. The honourable member mechanically sat to my right; we exchanged the barest of pleasantries. This is a common observation in air-travelers; the anxiety over flying tens of thousands of feet above the ground at hundreds of kilometers per hour, in some less-than-perfect man-made device is ever present in every person, irrespective of how frequently one undertakes air travels.
From force of habit, I looked fixedly through the double-glazed oval window as other passengers took their seats. I remained in that attitude even as a cabin crew read out the safety procedures, with the twin-engine Bombardier jet taxiing towards the runway. Minutes after, the Bombardier briskly lifted and gained altitude at a breathtaking rate. (The Bombardier is my impression of a fighter jet and commercial jet hybrid) The aircraft’s slim fuselage swiftly cut through the clouds, revealing the deep-blue sky. Helplessly, l once again drank in the unending mystery of nature. Shortly after clearing the clouds l sensed the plane leveling off as it attained cruising altitude; l subconsciously stole a glance at the honourable member, who seemed still abstracted.
Resuming my stare through the window, the aircraft’s public address system suddenly broke the deafening silence in the pressurised cabin. It was the captain’s voice, apprising the passengers of the thirty-minute flight details.
From my earliest experience with flights, and as other air travelers would agree, the quality of pilots lay in their proficiency in handling landing procedures. Taking an aircraft off the ground appears routine for pilots. Landing an aircraft presents another kettle of fish, evidently; this is the reason aviation accidents occur more during landing procedures. There are reported cases where aircraft have broken into parts on impacting the ground due to less-than proficient landing procedures. Burst tyres and collapsed undercarriages (landing wheels and gears), both of which severely threaten passengers’ safety, are common with rough landings. At the other end of that spectrum exists genius of pilots who could land aircraft with the softness of wool landing on stone. (A veteran pilot of the defunct Nigerian Airways Corporation won acclaim for his unfailing ability to land jumbo jets with the smoothness of a butterfly seeping nectar). This is the reason for my curiosity about aircraft landings.
The Bombardier jet was now bouncing through the clouds on descent; from the corner of my left eye I caught a glimpse of the huge wing extending its width as the labouring sounds of hydraulic pumps carried to my ears. Abuja’s hilly environs could be seen in the distance. The clouds were once again overhead. Then the all-too-familiar thudding sounds of the undercarriage, shooting out under hydraulic power. Seconds later, the captain’s voice reverberated again in the fuselage, “Cabin crew take your seats for landing.” I stared with increasing intensity through the window as we counted down to touch-down. Ten; nine; eight; seven; six; five; four; three; two; one; BANG!!! The aircraft’s entire framework went into a cardiac-arrest inducing vibration as it strained for ground stability.
“My God!” someone nearby uttered in a suppressed scream; I instinctively turned my gaze in its direction. The honourable member looked rattled and upset. “What a terrible landing!” he fumed, his eyes darting about as though looking for sympathizers. Though unsettled by the landing, I managed to restrain myself from commenting; and thankful that there was no mishap. But the stormy-petrel was not done yet. “We can do better than that! he further blurted as though soliciting my opinion. “One of those things, honourable; thank God we made it in one piece,” I volunteered.
My long hours of window-seat experience come with a catalogue of aerial views of cities and towns. An aerial view shows at a glance structural organisation or the lack of it. Flying into an airport in an organised country presents a chess-board like aerial view, with every segment of that chess-board evidently well-thought-through. Even the peripheral wildlife, including hills, deserts, rivers, lakes, and all, are thoughtfully manicured and harmoniously integrated into the city’s motif. As the aircraft approaches the airport’s runway, one cannot help but be impressed by the virtual flawless ebb-and-flow of human activities on that “chess-board.” It is usually an overpowering experience for me. As you finally step into an expansive and exquisitely clean airport building, everything you see, hear and touch speaks loudly of painstaking organisation. There are even toll-free telephones to call anywhere within the particular city.
On such occasions, I often wonder how long it would take Nigeria to attain such enviable levels of societal organisation. Also, on such occasions, l often wonder whether our national leaders who are wont to take frequent trips to these well-organised countries, ever reflect on these unacceptable systemic differences between Nigeria and those countries. However, recent very telling disclosures have caused me to stop wondering thus. It is now safe to say our leaders don’t meditate on those systemic differences; because if they do, they wouldn’t indulge in schemes that result in net financial outflows from Nigeria to private vaults in developed countries. If they do meditate on those differences, they wouldn’t be storing up their spare-change in foreign currencies, hidden in some fire-proof safes, or buried in some remote farms!!!
Nigerians mustn’t fail to learn the relevant lessons from these disclosures: those superlatively educated, highly-placed and seemingly cultured persons whom the masses look up to for the development of our national economy, have a grossly corrupted notion of wealth. Their concept of wealth is diametrically opposed to the only known means of growing an economy, i.e. increase the velocity of money circulation! So, on our leaders’ tragic lack of organisational capacity is superimposed a corrupted notion of wealth. It is time we owned up to some bitter truths about our collective quest for a truly great Nigeria: Indigenous capacity on political economy is seriously suspect. Let us consider outsourcing some critical portfolios to the U.S. and to Europe for at least a generation. Suggested ministries include: Petroleum Resources; Finance; office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Minister of Defence…
Nkemdiche is a consulting engineer based in Abuja.