In the wake of the deadly xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa by a section of that country’s population, something unprecedented happened: A single individual, a private businessman, brushed aside profit concerns and put aircraft at the disposal of fellow compatriots willing to be evacuated home. It was at no cost.
The offer was free. He charged nothing. That man is Chief Allen Onyema, chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airlines. Onyema did what sovereign countries do when their nationals abroad are faced with threat to life: Send aircraft to evacuate them. But is the Air Peace Airline boss a country? No! He is just a pan-Nigerian humanist and patriot who loves his country and puts it first. Onyema is simply a man who cannot go to bed and sleep soundly when fellow countrymen are suffering. It was not, therefore, a big surprise that, when everyone was practically lost in the maze of thoughts as to how to respond to the precarious situation of Nigerians in South Africa, Onyema stuck out his neck and offered a shoulder for distressed compatriots to lean on. His airplanes were there to offer free services. Such is the depth of his love for Nigeria and Nigerians. Essentially, at Air Peace Airline, a microcosm of Nigeria prevails. And this tells an intriguing story of a man whose worldview goes beyond the frontiers of religion, ethnicity and culture. An Igbo from Mbosi, in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, Onyema does not view Nigerians through the narrow prism of tribe and religion. This boldly reflects in the workforce in Air Peace. Nigerians from different ethno-religious and cultural persuasions form Air Peace’s workforce.In fact, the majority of the top-cadre staff of the airline are not of Onyema’s ethnic stock. Air Peace Airlines is a product of a combination of Onyema’s salutary character trait, hard work, integrity and business savvy. The result is the birth of Africa’s largest privately-owned, indigenous airline. From inception, the airline left no one in doubt that it was out to make Nigeria proud. Today, it has successfully put Nigeria on the international aviation world map. Air Peace Airlines has become Nigeria’s eyes on international air routes. The airline has strategically filled a national aviation void created by the death of Nigerian Airways. Consequently, in the absence of a national carrier, Air Peace Airline’s commencement of the Dubai route marks a turning point in Nigeria’s chequered aviation history. Air Peace is noted for efficiency, professionalism and class. This explains why it deployed one of the best in its fleet, the awesome Boeing 777, for the Dubai route. As the airline now flies into Dubai and in grand style, with attended incentives, the new flight operations come with an irresistible touch of excellence. The London route is strategic. And Nigeria must not be found wanting, say industry stakeholders. They opine that an indigenous airline with international, professional standard should step in and write Nigeria’s name boldly on that route just as the British Airways bestrides the London-Nigeria route. It is for this reason, therefore, that aviation watchers insist the cap fits Air Peace perfectly.
Notedly, the London route falls within the ambit of Air Peace’s international route expansion purview. Aviation stakeholders are agreed that Air Peace Airlines has the capacity and competence to begin operations on the route. As the airline continues to receive effusive praise on the South African evacuation operations, nationalist fervour among Nigerians, especially, the evacuees, is on the upward swing. A broad spectrum of Nigerians believe Air Peace is a unifying and bonding factor in a country beset with ethno-religious and political divisions.
Essentially, observers maintain that, with Air Peace, not only is peace of mind on flights assured, but Nigeria’s enviable place in the comity of big players in the global aviation sector is assured too.
•Osigwe is MD/CEO, Full Page Communications Limited