Responsible Fathers, Airports, and the Orphaned Roads of Nigeria

April 24, 2017 Africa , Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo



Prince Charles Dickson

In the country of Armenia, in 1988, Samuel and Danielle sent their young son, Armand, off to school. Samuel squatted before his son and looked him in the eye. “Have a good day at school, and remember, no matter what, I’ll always be there for you.” They hugged and the boy ran off to school.

Hours later, a powerful earthquake rocked the area. In the midst of the pandemonium, Samuel and Danielle tried to discover what happened to their son but they couldn’t get any information. The radio announced that there were thousands of casualties. Samuel then grabbed his coat and headed for the schoolyard. When he reached the area, what he saw brought tears to his eyes. Armand’s school was a pile of debris. Other parents were standing around crying.

Samuel found the place where Armand’s classroom used to be and began pulling a broken beam from the pile of rubble. He then grabbed a rock and put it to the side, and then grabbed another one.

One of the parents looking on asked, “What are you doing?”  “Digging for my son,” Samuel answered. The man then said, “You’re just going to make things worse! The building is unstable,” and tried to pull Samuel away from his work.

Samuel just kept working. As time wore on, one by one, the other parents left. Then a worker tried to pull Samuel away from the rubble. Samuel looked at him and said, “Won’t you help me?” The worker left and Samuel kept digging.

All through the night and into the next day, Samuel continued digging. Parents placed flowers and pictures of their children on the ruins, but Samuel just kept working. He picked up a beam and pushed it out of the way when he heard a faint cry. “Help! Help!” Samuel listened but didn’t hear anything again. Then he heard a muffled voice, “Papa?”

Samuel began to dig furiously. Finally he could see his son. “Come on out, son!” he said with relief.

“No,” Armand said. “Let the other kids come out first because I know you’ll get me.” Child after child emerged until, finally, little Armand appeared. Samuel took him in his arms and Armand said, “I told the other kids not to worry because you told me that you’d always be there for me!”

Fourteen children were saved that day because one father was faithful.


Normal aviation services resumed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, (NAIA), Abuja as the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika reopened the facilities a day earlier than the April 19 schedule.

The airport was shut for six weeks to enable the contractor to repair its failed runway with Abuja-bound air traffic diverted to Kaduna during the period.

President Muhammadu Buhari commended the efforts of the relevant ministries, the security agencies, Kaduna State government, the contractor, Julius Berger, and others, over the successful completion of the repair, 24 hours ahead of the time limit.

The president, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said that he looked forward to such display of inter-agency cooperation and efficiency in the operation of the entire Federal Government machinery.

To realize the program of works within the highly challenging timeframe, Julius Berger, through its Head, Media Relations said it pooled its resources, mobilizing equipment, highly skilled specialists and technical teams from across its operational hubs in Nigeria to achieve a record breaking pace of work. “The 400-person strong site team worked around the clock at various stages to complete the milling of 175,000m2 of asphalt and subsequent re-laying of 56,200 tons of new asphalt, at a speed of 4,600 tons per day at peak performance, as well as the installation of 82,300m2 of special fibre glass grid for asphalt reinforcement and the renewal of the runway lighting and markings”.

The company noted that while the construction itself was intensive, project challenges began long before the first machines started their engines. Thorough design studies, seamless planning, scheduling and logistical coordination were all essential aspects of the meticulously planned time schedule. Julius Berger’s global resource network ensured fast track procurement and shipping of 160 tons of project related materials via a fully chartered Boeing 747 cargo plane as well as four additional cargo flights which, together with the sourcing of materials domestically, ensured prompt delivery of required materials to site, making what many thought was impossible, possible.

“In preparation for the diversion of flights, the federal government rehabilitated the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. The Kaduna State government complemented this by repairing the Western Bye-pass of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway and constructing a new 5.2 kilometers road to link the airport road with the Rigasa Train Station.

“They also installed street lights on major roads leading to and from the airport to facilitate the movement of passengers between Kaduna and Abuja.“

In the last 20 years, is there any Nigerian road motored by the ordinary Nigerian that has received this kind of construction, rehabilitation or repair. Is there a possibility that roads like the Lagos/Ibadan, Lokoja, Benin, and Southeast roads will get any treatment near this?

Are congratulations in order? No, because we have simply shown what many of us already know; which is that Nigeria and Nigerians are very capable of getting it. Yes we can, even if the cost was unimaginable, expensive and rooftop, the fact is the job was done. Whether in other climes it could have been cheaper and faster, by Nigerian standards this was a near first. We gave out money, and the job was done on time.

I know that the airport project is a near bourgeois endeavor but many an airport reveals loads about a nation whether it’s Gatwick, Washington Dulles, Charles De Gaulle, or Bole International Airport, it speaks volumes about a people. A good functional airport is a big economy spinner, but should we leave our roads as orphans, or can we apply the same grit and endeavor that saw the Abuja Airport repairs done on time to other facets of the Nigerian project or continue the status qou; our choice—only time will tell.










Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.


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