A few years ago, I went on a short family trip to Costa Rica. One of the instructive things that I noticed was how that little country managed its resources. Right at the airport, you are told plainly that for every tax you pay at the airport, one dollar is meant for upgrading and maintenance of the facilities. Not only that, the entire development plan and its timed phases were boldly and transparently displayed around the airport to give a quick snapshot of what was to be achieved. I saw a similar case in the Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa with even more detailed development plans. At the Dubai Airport, frequent travelers will agree that about 3 years ago, Lagos bound passengers had to board their flights from the tarmac, after being conveyed on a bus. However, today that is not the case because they have fully implemented a plan, which was public knowledge about creating new boarding terminals.
Every time I have the rare privilege of traveling and seeing these possibilities in other countries, it simply points to the fact these countries are working and precious hard-working people make it so. Development is not difficult if those responsible are willing to mire their hands in the very difficult task of planning and working the plan DELIBERATELY till it is thoroughly executed to the last detail. If we have this in Nigeria, without noise our infrastructures will flourish with relative ease because people are doing what they have to do behind the scene.
I have visited many Ministries, Departments, and Agencies and sadly you can smell the culture of sloth all around. Several people come in and pursue their private initiative and have very little concern for the Ministry goals, neither do they have a ‘jig’ or ‘saw’ to complete organizational ‘puzzle’. This tells you the kind of deliverables that will come out of these government establishments. For everything that works well, check it, there are efficient people behind the scenes making the positive outcomes possible. When this is not the case, check it, it might be as seemingly insignificant as a secretary not expediting action on a simple letter of reference.
But a few weeks ago, I was heading to Lagos from Abuja on the last Aero flight when I noticed that we had to board not from the usual disorderly local terminal. We were directed to the international airport and then went through a properly renovated terminal. Although I didn’t appreciate climbing two flights of stairs with my carry-on bag, I did it with pleasure because of the modern walk through of the terminal and it clean appearance. I went up and sat in the refurbished waiting lounge, and later boarded the flight simply walking out and into the aircraft. This is the kind of dignity with which Nigerians flying locally should be treated. Not after huffing and puffing from civil service work, you then appear at the airport to workout again through a maze of passengers and airport touts, all packed into a crammed and smelly terminal.
With this, I quickly admitted that someone is doing her homework well and it is very clear. Before Mrs. Stella Odua became Minister of Aviation (although I think the Ministry should be scrapped), someone else was in that role. Clearly he or she was sleeping. I should not be writing on this because these issues are not meant to be issues for public discussion. Monies are voted for public works and some of these public utilities generate income enough to also properly service and maintain them. Something is wrong somewhere and it is not demons or curses that are responsible. Incompetent people are. The human factor remains the only problem with our country, and until we are resolved to firing incompetence and hiring competence, we will decay as a country and our public infrastructures will one day be inhabited by wild animals or maybe captured in poetry like the legend of Ozymandias.
I have looked in detail at the proposed 2012 budget and seen how much is proposed for infrastructural development for the year. It would be interesting to assess which of these have been properly executed and who is responsible. I think for every development initiative, all MDAs should be requested to present a graphic plan to Nigerians, including the detailed plan and phases of execution. The FOI bill should make this a possibility, with a stringent requirement for these to be sent to every press office in the country. Nigerians should walk into any airport and know what will be happening to their facility. They should be aware of what new developments will be going on there, and how much of their airport taxes is dedicated to ensuring that the airport is a place of instant comfort when one steps in. I can’t imagine the horror of having a 12 hour layover at MMA Lagos. Or maybe I am stretching my imagination too far. The time of abracadabra governance is over and we want to see where our money is going. Shikena!
I started writing this because I wanted to tell Stella Odua that I support her hardworking effort. Although this is why you are there and we shouldn’t be praising you, I recognize that others before you were not willing to do the work that you are currently doing. So thumbs up!