By now, Stella Oduah would have realized that bit of Biblical text in Ecclesiastes that a season for everything is not a heavenly typo. Not that I've been near a church since the last time a friend and his bride lured us there with the promise of cake, rice and chicken. One day the woman is the madam on top, the next day she's madam under fire!
The woman's problem started with a very innocuous statement that air crashes were an act of God. You would think that earth bound journalists, critics and ex-aviation ministers will understand that the minister was probably thinking of two things - a passage in the Acts of Apostles to explain the Associated Airlines' crash but the damned verse got stuck so she deftly put act and God together. Or, she probably feels that since we normally believe God is beyond the skies and planes fly above the clouds it may well be that it is angelic sneezes that sends planes crashing back to earth.
Instead of chorusing what the prayerful minister had probably seen in a vision during one of those boring Federal Executive Council meetings where folks probably pass the time in a prayerful snooze, busy body Nigerians sent a flood of condemnation the minister's way.
I bet it's because she's a woman. Or, the work of nPDP. Or, the work of the opposition.
I actually side with the minister. Air accidents may indeed be an act of God. I've had a few brushes with acts of God myself. They are what people who call themselves intellectuals or street royalties call human errors. Once, a friend got a girl impregnated. It wasn't meant to happen. They were supposed to be on birth control. But, when the heat came, the birth control stuff had taken a walk. A few weeks later, the news came with a pee on a stick. You can't call a baby bad luck. It's gotta be something divine. It's gotta be an act of God.
Not content with attacking the minister, folks are now lambasting one of her agencies, and indirectly her, for buying two N225m bulletproof cars. Seriously, how can this woman please Nigerians! If she was flying from the bedroom to the market, they will blame her for wasting the national resources.
Put yourself in her shoes. Would you fly when planes keep falling down from the skies? You may argue that she's the minister for Aviation and she should put a stop to that. But, that's just wicked and jealous. The woman never told anyone she knows anything planes beyond flying first class. But, what do you do when your country calls you? Simple, you call your bank manager.
If you're the honorable minister would you drive in a car that is not bullet proof? You think people are going to throw flowers at her for overseeing the death of hundreds of their relatives; making thousands of air travellers hypertensive and making air travel in Nigeria more painful to a dentist chair for root canal? If I were in her shoes, I'll drive around in anti-tank cars.
I have a solution for Nigerian aviation crisis. It's called a week without planes. It's simple. Nigerians should stay away from airports and airplanes for a week. It would be like that Occupy thing from a while back. Only this time, while people are voting with their feet, the "understanding" elite class will hop into their jets and fly away. You may hate that but you know when acts of God happen, you would be home in "aluta" mode.
Someone once described flying in planes into Nigeria like daring a man with a gun that has a few blank bullets. You never know when the real thing will fire. And, don't bother with customer service. Those folks exist to make your life miserable. It seems they're sent to school where you learn the art of slow torture.
Take the case of Medview Airlines where I had a stellar experience this past Thursday. I booked a flight to Lagos but within moments of submitting the transaction online I realized I'd picked the wrong route. I called the customer service line and the representative on the other end gleefully told me I would be charged over 10% of the fare just to fix that. In most countries, you have up to twenty-four hours to cancel a flight free of charge.
I got to the airport on time on Saturday, bought my ticket, climbed three stories to the departure lounge feeling someone must think passengers need to lose some weight before their flight. We get into the plane and the attendant at the door informs us, we're making a "quick stopover in Yola to pick up stranded customers".
I thought it was a joke. Who goes from Lagos to Abidjan just to catch a flight to Ibadan! But, the joke was on the passengers. The pilot plainly told the protesting passengers, "if you don't want to go on this flight, get down because once the gate closes, that's it". But, this is Nigeria. We do not protest. Folks complained then strapped their seat belts.
I'd fixed a meeting for Ikeja for ninety minutes after take off from Abuja knowing I'll make it. But here am I, on a three and half hour journey to Lagos. And, I'm thinking, do I ask the airline for a refund? Does the airline even reward their customers for such colossal error? Who is in charge here when an airline can arbitrarily ruin people's day and drive people to hypertensive heights?
I call my meeting to apologize. She smiles and simply says, "welcome to Nigeria, Ose". And, I muttered, "let's hope there's no act of God". She thundered back, "in Jesus name. Amen!" God must be weeping in heaven. The things they blame him for on earth.