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Presidential jets and the rest of us

By Nick Dazang   There is an apocryphal story animating the social media. And it is doing so with a frenzy. It is to the…

By Nick Dazang


There is an apocryphal story animating the social media. And it is doing so with a frenzy. It is to the effect that the presidency had since allegedly acquired two jets via the Chagourys; and that the jets were being allegedly configured in lieu of their delivery to Abuja.

Even though this story appears outlandish and not in consonance with the latest reports in the mainstream media, – that the presidency is considering auctioning some of the aging aircraft in the presidential fleet to make up the money to buy a new one, the said exaggerated story speaks eloquently to two salient and concerning issues.

First, the story aligns with this government’s propensities and modus operandi. This is a government that foists itself, rough shod, on the people. It hardly consults. It is also supercilious and all-knowing. Witness the capricious withdrawal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the Naira. Witness the lightening speed with which the old national anthem was resurrected, passed into law and was assented to by the President.

Second, it speaks clearly to the fact that Nigeria’s “leadership” prioritises itself to the detriment of the people, which it ought to serve, with utmost diligence and humility. While the people are immersed in unspeakable destitution, and are killed by poverty-induced epidemics, the “leadership” obsesses itself with luxury and the appurtenances of office.

It is valid that jets, such as we have in our presidential fleet, serve utilitarian and prestige purposes. As the Commander-in-Chief, and in moments of crises, the President ought to be nearly ubiquitous and ever-present. In moments of joy or grief, presidential presence is required. In moments of grief, especially, and these are inevitable, the President becomes the nation’s Comforter-in-Chief. To accomplish this crucially compassionate role, he requires logistics.

Other key diplomatic assignments or missions call for the highest representation and the President’s imprimatur. He cannot delegate. Or at best if he does, he does so only to his Vice.

Also, in some cases, the matter of presidential jets, vain as they may seem, are a projection of national power and prestige. Apart from the caravan of aircraft that escorts the U.S. President, his official jet is famously called Air Force One. It doubles as a mobile office and a military high command centre.

From the foregoing, it is clear that having airworthy jets in our presidential fleet is a necessity. In underscoring this, the increasingly craven and self-serving National Assembly has set the stage for the purchase of new presidential jets. In May this year, the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence had recommended the acquisition of two new aircraft. The Committee argued that it was “of the strong and informed opinion that considering the fragile structure of the Nigerian federation and recognising the dire consequences of any foreseen or unforeseen mishap that may arise as a result of the technical or operational inadequacy of the presidential air fleet, it is in the best interest of the country to procure two additional aircraft as recommended.”

Apart from providing a fitting alibi and justification, the presidency has latched onto the Committee’s recommendation, not only to present the country with a fait accompli, but to cast any opponent(s) of the purchase of new aircraft as wishing the President ill. Recent unfortunate mishaps in Iran and Malawi are being deployed, with gusto, as further justification. This is in spite of the fact that reports suggest that these accidents were occasioned by bad weather.

Desirable as the procurement of new aircraft may be for the presidential fleet, the desperate quest to acquire them, and the snide methods being used, only help to emphasise, to the chagrin and dismay of Nigerians, the tendency of this government to prioritise its comfort and convenience over the survival of its compatriots who are facing an untold and unprecedented catastrophe wrought by the political class.

Apart from acquiring Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for members of the National Assembly, renovating the Presidential Lodge in Lagos and constructing the Vice President’s quarters at N57.6 billion, N22 billion and N7 billion respectively, another huge amount was reportedly expended over our reverting to the national anthem bequeathed us by the colonial masters.

Even in good times, these expenses are humongous and mind-boggling. In these incredibly hard times, when inflation and food price inflation are stratosphere-bound, these expenses are simply misplaced, reckless and obscene.

The government’s resolve to procure two new additional presidential jets is coming at a most inauspicious and inopportune time. Besides, it has not been appropriated in the 2024 budget. Additionally, one must wonder what power Nigeria intends to project at a time when it is burdened by a debt of N121 trillion. Nigeria has lost its lustre, having plunged precipitously to the position of the fourth largest economy in the African continent. Heightened insecurity buffets it on a daily basis. Hunger, arising from heightened insecurity and bad governance, looms. Thousands of hectares of arable land remain fallow because farmers cannot access them on account of wanton banditry and kidnapping. Foodstuffs are out of the reach of hundreds of millions of Nigerians. Nigerians are compelled, as a consequence, to keep an unfortunate and curious feeding regimen that only invites acute malnutrition and slow death.

The Nigerian economy, once vibrant and the envy of others on the continent, has since become comatose. In spite of government’s frenetic efforts, it is yet to respond.

In these dire circumstances, and considering the horrid destitution which millions of Nigerians face, surely even the least important of the country’s priorities cannot be the acquisition of new presidential jets.

Better-heeled countries, such as Great Britain, do not boast of presidential jets. Britain, with a mere population of 69.961 million, boasts of an economy of $4.024 trillion. Contrast this with Nigeria’s population of 230 million and an economy of $252.73 billion. In spite of its vast wealth, the British Prime Minister flies commercial planes.

Why can’t we cut our court according to our size? Why can’t we borrow a leaf from Britain’s frugal ways? Thankfully, Nigeria boasts of two star-quality airlines, Air Peace and Ibom Air. The presidency should use their services pending when we can afford new jets for the presidential fleet. After all, the hard work that needs to be done is on the home turf. It is not in gallivanting to world capitals and inflicting ourselves on our squeamish hosts.

We should prioritise the welfare of hundreds of millions of ordinary folks. Their condition is appalling. The comfort of a minuscule and entitled few at the helm of our affairs can always wait.

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