Air transport has been described as the most effective diplomatic weapon, which small and big countries use to negotiate their importance in the world.
Travel and tourism expert, Ikechi Uko, who made this observation said Nigeria could not be the centre of Africa's diplomacy without effective airline to serve as its national carrier.
"Aviation is the biggest diplomatic weapon in the world today. The smallest countries in the world which want to extend their power are using aviation, sports and tourism. Name them: Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Singapore and others. UAE is actually running five airlines. Every country is trying to extend their power beyond their shores and the easiest way is through aviation."
Uko, who is the CEO of Akwaaba African Travel Market said that it was impossible for Nigeria to lead Africa without a national carrier, recommending that diplomats and aviators must work together to create a synergy towards using Nigeria's air transport advantage to further its interest in the world.
"Nigeria cannot be the centre of African diplomacy without effective airline. It is impossible for Nigeria to lead Africa without a national carrier. It is impossible. Unfortunately we have diplomats that understand diplomacy but do not understand the extensions of diplomacy. We have aviation people that only understand aviation but they do not understand the travel and diplomatic import of aviation. So they are experts of their own nuclear environment but they do not understand the interdependency of these things."
Uko lamented that in Nigeria those in aviation do not work with those in tourism but ideally they should work together to promote the country.
"The aviation person doesn't think he needs tourism; the foreign affairs person doesn't think he needs aviation, but unfortunately we have some of the best brains, but nobody has been able to figure out the simple truth, Nigeria cannot be an effective political power in Africa and in the world without an airline base. If you want to do espionage are you going to be flying your spies around with other people's carrier? So you cannot grow your tourism on other people's carrier. There are so many things you cannot grow on other people carrier," he said.
He therefore suggested that if Nigeria accepted that it could not grow its own national airline, then it should buy into successful airline operators in Africa like Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways or South Africa Airways and adopt them as the nation's national carrier.
He said: "It is the normal Nigerian mentality that if I don't have something nobody should have it. So the opposition to national carrier is similar to the opposition to government's plans to privatise Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The same thing that killed NITEL, which is that Nigerians don't want somebody to own anything that belongs to us, instead let it die. The same thing that killed Nigeria Airways Limited, killed NITEL and now it is killing NIPOST and it is killing PHCN. The fact is that there is this Nigerian thing about us; that we would rather suffer than allow one of us to succeed."
"I see the opposition to national carrier as not well informed. We don't have to create one wholly owned by government, but we need a national brand. Government can invest money in Arik, if that is the choice; it can invest money in Air Nigeria or Aero or we go into partnership with one of these African carriers," he added.