In my over two decades experience as a tourism journalist, I have carefully avoided the pit of franchising or giving out awards to industry players. Sufficiently aware that many are either just passing by, mere hoods, not tourism monks, or simply showing appearances without visible sustainable structures, the best I have always done is to be on the side of sanity, rejecting several temptations to even agree with those who list out questionable characters as best tourism soldiers.
Moreover, I have a list of true tourism legends, living and dead, a process not driven by pecuniary measures and sanctifications but through detailed and patient research process oiled through visible and sustainable tourism engagement(s) and gains beyond mere profits. People and Tourism, my patent platform to provide interface, interaction and interrogation to all segment of the sector, was truly born to drive the gap created by tourism reports and facilitation not only in Nigeria but across the world.
In the discharge of this obligation, we task ourselves to bridge the various but avoidable disconnects between all the key sectors in the industry, again not excluding the players who stood their ground to keep the Nigerian tourism value chain in focus. Breaking grounds today, which would possibly open up a new vista in managing the need to reward and recognize our legends, we bring you Barrister Allen Onyema, the chairman of Air Peace, a fledging Nigerian airline showing promises of a better tomorrow for national engagement in commercial aviation.
Until his timely and sacrificial deployment of his aircraft to Jo’borg to bring back Nigerians caught in the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, I had not really bothered to position this patriotic Nigerian in my heart even though curious to know why most of his aircraft bear the names of members of his family. Indeed, Onyema is a study in certain critical economic positions as well as the challenging development in our aviation industry of which I am a very keen observer and a frequent flyer with most of the airlines, Air Peace inclusive.
My experience with Air Peace as a commercial aviation service provider could be likened to that of a lover cheated by a partner, yet always willing to forgive and overlook perceived wrongs. Sometimes, I have found myself giving excuses for many of Air Peace’s delayed flights, standing in the gap to convince others to be patient with them, pointing out their safety record and the professionalism, which they tend to showcase.
Does the Air Peace aviation challenge and ambition to provide Nigeria a flag in the international arena define its chairman, Onyema? This Warri, Delta State-born man of Mbosi parentage from Anambra State came out from nowhere to define his humanity and not business sense in the evacuation of Nigerians from the strangulation of South African human hounds.
Ifechukwu Allen Onyema did not just stay in Lagos but accompanied the aircraft, wept like Moses for his fellow compatriots who needed succour and care. It was touching to see the big man shed tears publicly, held on like a father to the very young ones, children who possibly would not understand for now why a man they may not know, may not meet again, would come to evacuate and give them a lifeline to contribute to national development in the nearest future.
Some of the beneficiaries, not excluding some very angry Nigerians disappointed by the xenophobic treatment in South Africa, may not readily capture the true essence of this cultural sensitivity to sacrifice profit and business opportunities in order to save lives and the future of the brotherhood.
To me, Onyema is my tourism living legend of the week, not just for deploying his services for our national presence on the West Coast of Africa and many other parts of the world, but for rising to save our distraught people and nation from the rampaging and wicked bloodsuckers of South African.
Otunba Segun Runsewe, the director-general of National Council for Arts and Culture, joined the unending articulation and expression of gratitude to this exemplary Nigerian who placed kinship and brotherhood above pecuniary gain.
Before now and unknown to many people, Runsewe has privately kept his eyes on Onyema. He took to flying Air Peace and would never complain about certain operational hiccups by the airline. It has always been Air Peace whenever his official engagements took him out of Nigeria and Air Peace on such routes.
Runsewe believes Onyema deserves our tourism living legend of the week award.
“He has done what many could also do but he did it differently,” Runsewe told me and called on other notable Nigerians to think of what they can do for Nigeria and Nigerians differently.
“Our kind gestures define Nigerians culturally and differently from other black people in the world. Maybe that’s why people envy us and our achievements. Indeed, Allen Onyema stands as a worthy cultural model and influencer,” Runsewe explained further.
The series on tourism legends would continue, devoid of self-glorification, business gain or pecuniary advantage, but a lifeline process to change and position narratives on the deserved achievers in Nigerian tourism business.