I was at the domestic wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in Abuja recently and I could not but marvel at the incredibly large red print on one of the pillars: VIP LOUNGE. It was meant to demarcate a part of the departure lounge for people considered to be Very Important People. It was nauseating, of course. But you know the more interesting part of that encounter? The sign was not even adhered to. Everybody just sat where he/she wanted. That begs the question, “why that nauseating sign at all?”
Having a special segment of an airport lounge reserved is not a new thing in our global village. That definitely is not the odd thing here. Usually different airlines have their own lounges specially reserved for members who belong to their flying clubs. It is more of an enhancing package for the airlines. It is not so much a de-classing thing as often witnessed in our national reality where some are meant to be higher animals of some sort. It is quite nauseating, particularly when you realize such aforesaid VIP sings are just there creating eye-sores, with nothing Very Important arising from same except its red, out-of-place letterings.
Given the general drive for ‘change’ which has become the most popular words in Nigeria right now, it would seem not to be out of place to begin to change this sort of attitude where the ordinary Nigerian is not considered as that obnoxious VIP. Realistic as it is to affirm that lounges could be set out for privileged persons (often times political servants of the people who once in office parade themselves as lords), this should be in keeping with best international practices where such clubs or special lounges are marked out in simple and discreet manners. Their presence should never give the apparent impression that they are meant to forge the already nauseating practice of giving a particular treatment to Nigerians, and a better treatment to some ignominious VIP’s. Such signs should definitely not annoyingly and glaringly announce themselves to the discountenance of the seemingly unimportant hoi polio.
To the extent to which the body language of the new government (particularly the frugal and much respected President) does not permeate the several decaying and embarrassing sectors of our national existence, to that extent we have not begun the recovery of our comatose engine. But we know very well that the said engine has been long dead, and it would take some while to rev into life. But the wound never stops hurting anytime it is opened anew with such experiences narrated above.
Of course the VIP conundrum is only an icon for showcasing several other rots in air travel sector. At 13.25 hours I met a man in the lounge who had been waiting for a 7.15 flight. No single explanation from the airline’s desk. Not one. Another young man beside me suddenly expressed a frenzy of anger when he heard the announcement of a flight now about to fly. Why? He had just cancelled same flight after some 4 hours of delay without any explanation or possible plan and bought a new ticket. Of course he lost the cost of the earlier ticket, and now left to wait on end for the new one.
On the way up to the departure lounge where these oddities would eventually unfold we were drenched with rain from leaking roofs. Maybe that should have given enough foreboding.
The point here is not a lamentation because there is a lack. It is a lamentation because there is a lack in the midst of plenty, a situation which has marked our collective existence for a long while.
Now that the new government is undertaken a national rejuvenation process, it is important to turn to these several rots and begin to work on same. Either in the form of infrastructural reforms or policies that would force attitudinal change (for instance a change from such nauseating treatment of some Nigerians as unimportant), this rejuvenation must envelope several aspects of our lives.
One is not oblivious of the apparent staunch resolve of the government, at least thus far, to make a turn-around of this whole mess. One is just hoping that the resolve would germinate fruits and spread round this ordinarily fertile vine called Nigeria which currently gasps for air and waters of vast changes.