APC chieftain puts politics aside, endorses Akwa Ibom-owned airline

Mr Anietie Usen
Mr Anietie Usen

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr Anietie Usen, has described Ibom Air as the “newest and the freshest aircraft” in Nigeria.

Mr Usen, a renowned journalist and former editor of Newswatch magazine, endorsed the Akwa Ibom state-owned commercial airline recently after flying it for the first time since it started operation on June 8, 2019.

Mr Usen’s comment on the new airline underscores Governor Udom Emmanuel’s drive to shore up local businesses and industrialise the state for the benefit of the people, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic affiliation.

Below is Mr Usen’s comment which he wrote on Facebook, June 15, 2019.

Flying Ibom Air!

Two weeks after it began business, I flew Ibom Air today. I did not plan to. My plan was to fly Air Peace to Abuja and connect a flight out of the country. Scheduled for 12:05, I booked Air Peace in advance and paid for it about a month ago, May 20, at 1:44 am; just as I was booking my international flights.

A week later, Air Peace sent me an ‘Dear Esteemed Customer’ email to reschedule the flight for 1:00 pm. Another week later, Air Peace sent another email to reschedule that same flight for 3:50 pm. Somehow I still managed to keep my cool. But three days to the trip, Air Peace again changed its schedule twice in three days, first to 5:10 pm and back to 4:00 pm. At that point I lost my cool and became frantic. Uncountable Nigerians have missed their international flights because of erratic domestic flights.

Hurriedly, I called my friends working for airlines both in Port Harcourt and Uyo for a quick alternative flight, while I went online myself scavenging for anything that could fly me to Abuja for my international flight.

Effiong in Uyo Airport made an offer and proposed Ibom Air.

Ibom Air? Yes Sir, Ibom Air, Effiong said. No, I replied. But, by the way, what are passengers saying about Ibom Air, I asked. Sir, some say it’s good, some say the aircraft is small.

Born into the bad weather of last general elections and mid-wifed by a governorship candidate, Governor Udom Emmanuel, the airline was seen mainly through the prism of party politics, praised or rubbished along partisan lines.

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So here is Anietie Usen of APC, a well-known Buharist, close friend of Nsima Ekere, John James Udoedeghe, Umana Umana, Ita Enang and Aloysius Etok, seated in Ibom Air aircraft, a Bombardier CRJ-900, Flight Z40206, Saturday, June 15, 2019.

In Akwa Ibom State, it’s nearly impossible for me to hide. So I had a somewhat tough time acknowledging greetings and shaking hands with known and unfamiliar faces.

My first surprise was the freshness of Ibom Air aircraft: very fresh, very clean, very clear leg room, very comfortable seats, feels like ‘tear-rubber’, very friendly crew and uniquely packaged and presented snacks in State colours of orange, green and white.

I am very much at home with the Nigerian aviation industry, dating back to 1976, when I boarded my first flight from Calabar to Lagos with Nigeria Airways. As Aviation Correspondent of Newswatch Magazine in the mid-80s, I went to work at the Lagos airport virtually every day, flew to all Nigerian airports, wrote extensively about the industry and has remained a close watcher of the aviation sector. In 43 years of flying around the world, with commercial airlines, private jets, military carriers (C-130), this is the newest and freshest aircraft, I have flown in Nigeria.

And then, just as scheduled, at exactly 9:00 am, Ibom Air taxied off the Apron unto the runway. Phew! It was seamless. Take off: smooth. Flight proper: smooth. Landing: smooth; just as I prayed. I turned to Sam Akpe, sitting by my side. We have not met for quite a while and we had spent the better part of the flight chatting, sometimes too loud for the comfort of others. He is a professional journalist, highly respected by his peers, my dear friend, who was actually my best man on my June 13, 1992 wedding. I asked him: “Samak what do you think? “Oh! It’s very good. This is my second time in the flight. It’s the same good feeling I experienced last week. The pilots are really good,” Sam said. Not too far away from us was Dr. Henry Akpan, an urbane medical doctor and fine gentleman. He joined the discussion. “It is impressive…see the carpet”. He couldn’t stop talking about the spacious leg room that took care of his robust frame and the truly Nigerian crew. Sure, the crew were not just a matter of ‘tiwantiwan’, ‘nyinnyin’ or Akwa Ibom names.

But will they manage it well as business, another man said from behind? Will government officials and party stalwarts fly free of charge? Will politics consume Ibom Air, as it does every good thing in Nigeria? Said a smiling elderly woman who was flying in the company of her daughter, as we landed: “I love this plane. It’s so beautiful inside. God bless Akwa Ibom o”.

For me, Ibom Air made my day. Am happy! Don’t know what I would have done today, without Ibom Air.

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