Sunday 27 April 2008

Nigeria: Kick out all foreign British Airways staff

Crowding out the President

It would appear Yar’Adua’s visit to Germany must have done us all a world of good. Whilst he returns to Nigeria, hale and hearty, it appears he must have had a Blackberry keeping him abreast of issues pertaining to Nigerians globally rather than just those in the motherland.

The one agitating the Nigerians in Diaspora at the moment is that pertaining to the maltreatment of Nigerians on a British Airways flight in March that has lead to serious Internet activism calling for the total boycott of British Airways services.

Before I address that matter in much detail, I just have to note that the welcoming entourage for the President included the vice-President which is fine, 8 state governors, party apparatchiks, his children, grand-children, in-laws and God knows what other patronage seeking well-wishers and fair weather ‘friends’ who should be busy at their desks making the life of Nigerians better.

New titles for the chiefs

I could not help but notice that the wife of the vice-President does not have the common and cheapened chief moniker that everyone including the rat in Nigeria has, she is addressed as Dame Patience Jonathan – I would not plumb the depths of unnecessary research to find out that came about.

I suspect before long, chief would be so passé, you will have to be Count, Countess, Lord, Baroness with each ostentatious show of vacuous titles vying against each other in the race to be grander than dog shit, is Nigeria not a republic, who is the monarch dishing out this silliness?

Activism breeds no patronage

Anyway, back to British Airways, it appears they are getting engulfed in a maelstrom; maybe that is a strong word, but there seems to be some movement on the matter, the President has “tasked” someone to get on the case and find out what really happened.

I am glad about that because African governments are rarely interested in activist issues because there is no patronage or incipiently corrupt gain to be had from these matters where there are contracts, privileges and vested interests to serve which help ascribe grand schemes to the name or tenure of the politicians involved.

It also represents why we do not have a maintenance culture because nobody gets praised for maintaining a big project in some backwater, but everyone gets kudos and payback for being part of a grand project especially those dumped on us by friendly international organisations.

Not build for usefulness

The issue is not about keeping things running, it is about having put it there – as I finished the book – Undercover Economist – the author gave an example of a library that was built to raise the status of the school to university level. It was designed by an ex-student architect and it was grand and beautiful but completely useless.

Thankfully, the librarian was a VSO posting who could stand up to the principal, she refused to move the books into the new library because each time it rained the roof served as a funnel that filled the library with water and it would have ruined the books.

The principal still insisted on moving the books but resistance is keeping that from happening – the issue is simple, powerful interests build dams, factories, hospitals and all sorts of things necessary for good-living standards but none are really geared towards improving those standards, they are there for accumulation of kudos of the power brokers.

That is the plague that affects many projects in poor countries, including Nigeria, in fact, the library issue was in Cameroon, we had a similar situation with a hospital burnt down in the North of Nigeria and the governor lamenting his reputation had been destroyed.

When the issue should have been why a hospital finished 18 months before was not commissioned because they had not been able to invite the President to open it.

Send in the natives

I have seriously digressed, but these are issues that need to be aired – when the government asked for British Airways staff to meet to discuss these matters, they sent in two natives when higher management who would most probably be Caucasians should have gone to represent British Airways.

I used the word natives because, the whole issue smacks of outrageous levity and complete indifference to matters that do impugn the dignity of Nigerians. These tin-pot bwanas go to Nigeria and live with the swagger of Colonial District Officers in opulence and receiving obeisance of obsequious, fawning and hapless natives that they would never attain in Great Britain.

The natives would know the language of their kind, the colonial concept of divide-and-rule (just read the topic on the link) returns in the 21st Century, the effrontery is breathtakingly unbelievable, but the reality is clear for all to see.

Kick them all out

They have become untouchables who are answerable to no one and meting out malevolence with the aplomb of a potentate – in my mind, every foreign manager of British Airways in Nigeria should be kicked out, somehow, they would not take this matter seriously till our bark has a good shark bite too.

Next, the British Airways licence to fly to Nigeria should be suspended for at least a month – Nigerians who wish to travel to Nigeria should consider sending money instead of visiting to show off that they have arrived with hedonistic recklessness.

If we are going to get a change from British Airways which appears to have become an embodiment of institutionalised racism, it must hit them hard in both their pocket and the public perception of that organisation. If their senior staff cannot respond to an invitation from our government then they have no reason to be in our country neither should be allowed to profit through commercial activity in our country.

Restitution is beyond costing

The restitution required of British Airways should also include a public apology in National newspapers of the Nigeria and Great Britain – we will not relent till the cancer of ineptitude that eviscerates Nigerians of comforts that others enjoy when travelling British Airways to other places is excised.

Pound for pound and mile for mile, we pay well over the odds for those services, we should expect the service to be impeccable – this requires they replace the dead-ender crew we get with better trained, cultured and understanding people who know the whole concept of service.

Additional Reference

Robert Fisk of the Independent on the British Airways treatment of customers and his personal experiences.

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