It was very exciting to learn of the project of Amazon to begin the use of drones for distribution of books in the year 2015. Usually drones are used either for aerial surveillance or for deployment of unmanned bombs and missile strikes. They have been popularly used by the United States in the Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Recently there has been a surge in its use for these warring purposes, sometimes leading to the death of civilians. Just last week Friday the Afghan President bitterly complained of the negative effect of the use of drone in his country, killing a 2-year old child and wounding two women instead of the targeted Taliban. It is therefore a relief to learn of such efforts by corporate institutions like Amazon to commit drones to more positive use as simple as delivering of parcels.
Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, hoped this great initiative which has taken a number of years of investment and research would spread to other countries thereafter and offer cheap means of distribution. The practical consequence is that you could order a book or any other stuff on Amazon and “within half an hour you can have a drone land on your front porch, drop off a little box and off it goes.” Truly amazing. This of course is in addition to its green value for the environment since it would greatly reduce the fumes which would ordinarily be produced by thousands of trucks now to be replaced by few, energy-efficient drones. Such news is always heart-warming and I do look forward to them. It is a further exercise of man’s ingenuity. No wonder Albert Einstein had opined we only use just a little of our mental capacities. What the human mind is capable of achieving is best left to imagination.
While basking in all these awesome and elating thoughts, my mind does not cease to come back home to Nigeria and her struggles with the basics. I wonder particularly how we manage to make some few strides forward in several national issues including aviation matters (but not limited to them) only to commence a long sprint backward. The simple definition of these inconsistencies is “retrogression”. Several instances illustrate this point and call us to deep reflections on the path to development in Nigeria.
For instance a friend of mine got back to the country a month ago and narrated how small buckets dotted the inside of our prestigious Murtala Muhammed Airport. Reason: the roofs were licking. This is just some two weeks after the minister of Aviation in the country, Mrs. Stella Oduah, was accused of buying two saloon bullet-proof cars with national funds to the tune of 255 million naira ($1.6 million) for her official use. Does that not leave you staggering? Governor Fashola has rightly described this development as a “grave irony” in a country with so many needs. Till date nothing has been made of the indictment of the minister by the House committee and on the recommendation of the committee.
But indeed that seems to be the tune of our music in the country, always a “grave irony”, and macabre too. We dance forward with one step and take two backwards. And more so with this very strange culture of silence from the presidency when burning issues like these are at the forefront of our national growth and development. It does seem as if they are small matters, but these are the very matters that determine path of growth of a nation. I mean, if an aviation minister does not give a hoot to buy 2 security cars for 255 million naira, even without any statutory law supporting her actions, and the federal government does not rise to act and is seen to act, how do we expect such lofty thoughts about using a drone to make deliveries to be as much as dreamt about in the future agenda of aviation in the country? While Amazon, in realization of the impact of continuous research on growth is making such a huge commitment of funds, our minister is also making a great use of funds, but more to an office than to a national sector. That is a very unacceptable obstacle to national development.
The point is, if we cannot handle the very basic issues that are apparent and simple enough with a good measure of prudence and responsibility, how could we ever propagate developmental ideas which are more demanding of prudence and responsibility? If prudence does not call us to spend in consonance with our needs, how could we ever achieve any heights? An aviation minister could unilaterally and unlawfully appropriate 225 million naira from national coffers through proxy institutions like Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to buy transportation means at the cost of 255 million naira. Yet the very obvious repairs at the airport which would most possibly cost less than the 55 million on top of this ridiculous vehicular expense is ignored. Is this not some sign of a social pathology which goes beyond the singular action of such a minister but renders questionable a society that could allow such a drama? The very funny response of some individuals from the same geographical area with the minister not to “persecute their sister” makes the impression that this is a societal pathology more plausible.
To digress a bit, it is worrisome to know that even the constitution seems to back such mediocrity arising from this social pathology with its recognition of the much-touted “federal character” nonsense. When you talk of filling a national position, the first thing put to consideration is “to what part of the country does this post belong for now?” This is a deplorable part of our governance that should be expunged soon for the sake of excellence. Reason dictates that a struggling country like Nigeria needs the very best of hands on deck, and now! But we digress.
The truth remains that this is not a matter limited just to a particular ministry in the country. The Aviation ministry has only served as an example, but in many other spheres of our polity we witness such crude cluelessness of development steps. Yet there are several great and selfless minds in this country that never get an opportunity to make their contributions, all because the arena is highly politicized and filled with more chaffs than wheat.
The fact is that we are too big a country to continue dancing this very sad music. An irresponsible usage of the country’s resources while leaving the same country in penury in different areas of her life is just irrational. We cannot continue to meddle with mediocrity while the world is moving towards great ideas. Come on, we cannot even begin to think of a “d” talk less of a drone if the first thing that welcomes visitors to the “giant of Africa” is a leaking airport!