Apart from Abia State, there is no state in Igbo land which does not boast of an airport. This is one area the Igbo will no longer complain of being marginalized. We thank God for that.
We have airport at Emene, Enugu State; we have airport at Owerri, Imo State: we have airport at Asaba, Delta State; we have a brand new airport at Umuleri, Anambra State; and we have airport now under construction at Ebonyi State. Kudos to all those responsible for these airports.
But apart from the Enugu Airport, now rechristened Akanu Ibiam International Airport, which has been there since the colonial times, all these other airports are state owned, that is, they were built by their respective state governments. Interestingly, each of these airports bears the tag: “International Cargo/Passenger Airport,” which means that international aircrafts will be landing and taking off from these airports, carrying along with them, foreigners and bearing foreign goods, and also taking us to different overseas countries. This is wonderful.
Thus, from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, you will hop into an aircraft that will take you to Ebonyi State International Cargo/Passenger Airport, and before you close and open your eyes, you are at Ebonyi. You will jump down, transact one or two businesses, climb back to the same aircraft, and within the next ten minutes, you will find yourself at Sam Mbakwe International Cargo/Passenger Airport, Owerri.
After you finished your business in Owerri, you will jump back into the same aircraft, and in the next ten minutes, you will land at either Asaba International Cargo/Passenger Airport, in Delta State, ọr Anambra State International Cargo/Passenger Airport, at Umuleri.
From our calculation, in less than thirty minutes, you would have made a circuit of these four international/cargo airports in the South East, and the one in Asaba, Delta State. This would be interesting and innovative.
In terms of landmass, the South East is the smallest of all the six zones in the country, yet it has more airports than anyone could envisage. That is why we see our governors to be very thoughtful, foresighted and ingenious in conceptualising and building these airports. From these airports we would be flying out and in to Nigeria anytime we wished. This shows that we are progressing. It is a sign of development, and of better things to come.
We are happy that our governors really know what we need: they know the importance of airport in social and economic development; they know that airport enhances development, and quickens movement of people, goods and services. That is why they spared no effort in embarking on these projects, and making sure that they were delivered as soon as possible. We commend them.
But in real sense, is airport priority in every state of Igbo land? While some people may vote in the affirmative, and claim that because Igbo people travel a lot, they need airports to hasten or facilitate their movements, some other people may think otherwise, pointing to the poor state of many roads in Igbo land, which nobody seems to be doing anything to fix.
Igbo land, or the South East, has one of the worst road networks in the country, which is seriously hindering social and economic activities of the area. Yet, our governors and other political office holders hardly bothered, since they all travel by air. When you complain, they will tell you that they do not have money to fix the roads, and that these roads belong to the federal government.
Now, they have enough money to embark on construction of airports, which are on the federal exclusive list. Before any of these airports they are constructing becomes operative, the state governments would have paid huge amount of money to the federal agency concerned, to give them operating license.
What is the average distance between each of these states in Igbo land, and what special goods do each of these states produce that would warrant the building of “international cargo/passenger airports” everywhere, at less than fifty kilometers apart? Instead of supporting the existing airports in the area to grow, every hamlet would be establishing its own airport.
Beyond the media blitz showcasing the landing and taking off of one or two aircrafts during the inauguration of the airports, one hardly sees any other aircraft land and take off from there anymore. In other words, how viable would these airports be in the long run?
These governors who embark on building international airports always tell us that because the economy is bad, they cannot meet their social contract with the people, like giving jobs to our jobless youths, and paying salaries to their workers, pensions and gratuities to their retirees, etc.
Every day you see thousands of young men and women pound the streets in search of non-existent jobs. In no time, they join the gang of bad boys and girls and become “bandits”, “unknown gunmen”, “kidnappers”, “rapists,” and start harassing us. Others will go into prostitution, to sell their bodies, in order to keep body and soul together, and our political leaders would be mopping.
Thus, while we hail our governors for building international airports to enhance movement of people, goods and services, we also will not lose sight to the fact that 98 percent of the population would never make use, or benefit from these airports.
Airports are elitist project meant to benefit an insignificant percentage of the population, massage their ego and prestige, and give them comfort. Ironically, while majority of the people have been pauperised because the money meant to provide them with their basic needs was used to build the airport, for the benefit of very few individuals who have been smiling to their banks, as a result.