When Nigerian Aviation Greats Could Not Keep Mute About Nigeria By Frank Meke 

On Tuesday, April 25th,  Ebenezer Soji Amusan unveiled his book, ‘Travel Agency Operations in Nigeria: The Historical Perspective ‘. I was on duty as the compere of the event and just wanted to get it  done quickly and disappear.
I had left my Surulere home early to avoid the Lagos’ notorious hold-up and to which is being criminalised by lagos traffic merchants.
When you are invited to an event by aviation greats, teachers and mentors such as Soji Amusan,  a man trained by the Germans,   you have no choice but to shape up.
Needless to keep you distracted,  I walked into the beautiful boutique Golfview Hotel in Ikeja, and as expected,  Soji Amusan was already sitted.
We waited. Lagos traffic was on my mind, and I knew we had to find a way to keep this book outing  in focus as key guests may come late.
These are usually unseen problems for masters of ceremonies as they need to navigate carefully before early birds who may have scheduled other events for the day would  start shifting uncomfortably on their seats.
I walked close to the window of the hall, situated on the third floor, and soaked in the beauty of the golf course across the road.
I was joined at  the free view point by Soji Amusan, and we discussed the rising interest in golf in Nigeria and the demystification of golf as a game for the rich only.
Now, I am getting  my attention shifted away from the business of the day, but in truth, I am trained to see a story in everything, such as the baking of this piece.
Back to the book affair, our guests trickled into the hall with some family surprises for the celebrant and latest author in town,  soji Amusan.  Chairman of the occasion and  Amusan’s personal person,   Elder( Dr )Gbenga Olowu sauntered into the hall, a clear sign to flag off the event.  The guy got some swag and his attire, some good money well spent. How do I know? I ran my trained eyes from his shoes and to his wristwatch and all.
I did at my cost. The microphone gave my voice a different slant, and I prayed away the nuisance. Gbenga Olowo  invited to open the business of the day,  simply became a comedian,  seriously!
He knew everyone in the hall, from the Royal father of the day, Oba (Barrister Femi Ogunlewe, former spokesman of defunct Nigeria Airways,  the Amusan gang of Femi Adefope,  Yomi Jones, and offcourse,  the Aviation Round Table community.
One face I cherished growing up as a reporter,  Mrs Adeola Yesufu , formerly of  Air France, was part of the crowd. She encouraged me while finding my feet as a travel reporter in my days at Vanguard newspapers.
Yomi Jones did, too, indeed, as lufthansa Airlines’ boss in Nigeria at that  time, he   offered me  an all expenses paid trip to Germany,  Frankfurt to Berlin, and I can’t forget Lufthansa techniks.
Back to the beat,  Dr Gbenga Olowo, as chairman of the occasion, must flag off the event.  I was afraid he would stray  off the script, and I was dead right.
These guys,  the big  boys of yesterday’s aviation school,  Soji Amusan,  Yomi Jones, and Gbenga 0lowo, are certified humour merchants.
In their midst and company,  you don’t need the likes Ali Baba to get your eyes streaming from tears of joy. On this day,  I couldn’t hold back Gbenga olowo as he went from one table to another,   poking fun at the guests,  many who were old pals and must have gotten used to the below the belt   home made banter,  exclusive to these old young men.
Amusan is in his eighties and must have infested the team. Gbenga olowo was 70 years old last year,  and Yomi Jones, ever looking boyish,  must be on the 7th floor.
Femi Adefope, too, though not an aviator by profession, but a trained forensic expert,  turned travel trade guru,  made up the team.  Now, I know why these gentlemen kept wrinkles at bay! They can poke fun at anything, even Nigerian aviation.
 However, behind those facades  of humour and comradie lies fearless and courageous strongmen.  In between them,  these aviators had seen the best of the industry,  were trained by the best, and retired from the wings with their integrity intact.
I have had several close encounters with these guys, and in truth,  I know their weakness,  the love  for the Nigerian aviation sector, and, in particular,  travel trade.
Gbenga olowo as President,  Aviation Round Table, powers towering influence to shape best aviation practices,  particularly on policy matters. Femi Adefope was the most fearless and fiercest,  pound to pound critic of government and foreign airlines oppressive treatment of Nigeria Travel Agents in his time as President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies  (NANTA).
He wears those custom-made smiles, but behind the measure of friendliness is a  tested lion,  a fighter for the good of the industry.  Some people, however, note that old age is beginning to tell and including maybe the huge portfolio influence and investment in the downstream of the aviation sector and tourism.
On this Tuesday, his presence in the hall was whispered into my  ears, I invoked my powers as the compere of the event and got him standing to a rousing ovation from those who should know.
He cornered me afterwards and warned me in his usual bantering style from troubling his retired spitfire tongue.  Yomi Jones was a revelation with his ladies’ killer demeanour.
Gbenga Olowo poked him endlessly and dubbed him the “liquidator”of Nigeria Airways.  It was a joke, though,  the type that could trigger off a civil war among competitors but not from these age long pals.
Trust me, I robbed in the salt and balm but came to the defense of Yomi Jones,  who as the last managing director of Nigeria before its liquidation by government,  tried and made spirited efforts to revive Nigeria Airways.
Edmund Abayomi Jones didn’t know he was up against Nigerian power brokers who really wanted Nigeria Airways dead and not back in the air.
I was with Yomi Jones when the stop work order on Nigeria Airways came from the hunters in Abuja.  Yomi Jones wanted to fight the clique but thought otherwise.  Jones is alive today because he kept his emotions in check.
And to the subtle response to the dark days of Nigeria Airways,  he likened  Nigeria to naked man, who struts around,  pretending to be clothed.
Jones spoke in tongues,  and for the sake of those who must appreciate our stupidity on how not to manage our immense national resources, Jones explained that the abundance of our gifts and mercy of God,  remains our “coverings” which has kept us from shame and disgrace.
Gbenga Olowo poked in with a hard  bite and wondered why Nigeria could not support AirPeace as a flag carrier and save capital flight out of the country.
I could sense the coming of tsunami from these accomplished Nigerian aviation greats.  They are bold,  experienced, and fearless. I had to stop the warm-up  and let the Amusan book  contribute to the knowledge gap in the sector.
These guys know their way around our aviation industry, and we can not pretend we don’t need their help.  If you want to know more about Nigeria Travel trade business,  the history of Nigeria Aviation, and about  Ebenezer soji Amusan,  go get a copy of TRAVEL AGENCY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA;; HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES.
* Frank Meke, a Media  and Tourism Consultant writes from Lagos.


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