Enugu Airport Opening – Absurdity Of A City Mourning The Dead And Celebrating In One Week

By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

THE shattering rattle of gun shots that cut short lives of young Nigerians in the serene setting of Emene, on the outskirts of Enugu, joined a long list of security agents mauling down Nigerians. They do not need to have any reason. That was one week ago.

In the same Emene vicinity, close enough for some of those who survived last week’s attack to hear the pelting of drums, dancing, and the ululation of a people who get so little that they celebrate nothingness, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport is being re-opened, after being shut down for 440 days, just to repair its run way.

People are celebrating. What a day? What an event?

The undried tears for the young people murdered only seven days ago, in the same Emene, where the airport is located, mock smiling faces that thank the Federal Government for repairing the airport with such speed. Have we just forgotten the dead? The gaiety would not accommodate mourning.

Or we have prioritised issues? How do pasted smiles look with tears streaming down faces? Do we pause the mourning to open an airport, so that we can continue thereafter?

What is more important than an international airport? What is more important than the sustenance the airport provides for the South East?

In our cultures, nothing is more important than life. We mourn the departed deeply as part of the respect we accord life, and the living. We are more saddened when the young die in tragic circumstances, especially when the cause of their death remains foggy.

We never suspend mourning for anything, unless to save another live. When we mourn everything waits, even things more important than an international airport, without which we have survived for 440 days.

The Very Important Personalities who represent the South East could not ask that the opening be delayed for some days, at least not to be on the exact day that the young men were felled in Emene. We are carrying on as if we are celebrating the first week of their killing.

Usual personalities in the macabre dances that are defining our people have not disappointed even in this dreary period.

Prince Arthur Eze, also known as Ozoigbondu, loosely translated as the Protector of Ndigbo, could not miss the opportunity of showing how he protects Ndigbo by making a landing at the airport, to claim being the first aircraft to use the renovated airport.

Ceremonial dousing of an aircraft with water was done for him, a ritual reserved for the official opening of an airport. Was the airport opened on Saturday 30 August 2020 when Prince Eze landed in his private jet with the Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika, reportedly from Abuja?

Simple things are important to billionaire Prince Eze. He celebrates them as he pleases. He has his rights to his choices. In August 2013, when the airport’s status was raised to international, Prince Eze pulled a similar stunt, landing a few days before the 24 August 2013 official opening.

His bragging rights were cut when he was reminded that an Angolan football team had used the airport by May 2013, three months before he did.

Of course, it was the Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737-300 that landed on 24 August 2013, and operated the inaugural flight to Addis Ababa on the same day, that was accorded the official protocol of the water dousing.

Prince Eze, on arrival, preached President Muhammadu Buhari’s love for Ndigbo. The evidence was the renovation of the airport. He does not comment on issues like the killing in Emene.

More of messages of gratitude would be heard at the opening of the airport. We would celebrate that we have an airport. We would cease mourning those who died in the neigbourhood of the airport.

An airport wipes our tears in seven days!

It is unimportant whether those killed on Sunday were members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB. Once those killed were tagged IPOB members, the security agents had done a great job. They move on to new areas to enforce the law. Nobody is concerned that mistakes could have been made. No effort is made to forestall such loss of life.

Do lives matter? Do IPOB lives count? Would the security agents have acted differently if

IPOB members were considered human beings? Do they have rights? The killings were meant to sound like additional statistics to loss of lives that has become so rampant these days that few are interested in counting.

What happened in Emene? Would we ever know? The sketchy accounts have been doused with propaganda as each side claims to be the victim. The generally accepted account is that security men invaded an IPOB meeting and shot them. Who was the aggressor? What was going on in that meeting warranted maximum use of force? Who ordered the operations? Was the instruction to shoot to kill?

We are still asking these questions without answers.

Is the opening of the airport the answer that we will get?

Enugu mourning and celebrating at the same time is one of the absurdities of the times. Something worse than the Enugu absurdity is the silence, fear, and compliance that make us compromise our cultures.

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