Why I airlifted Nigerians from South Africa – Air Peace boss

by Taye Paul Olubayo

The Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has urged Nigerian youths to explore the opportunities in the country, saying selfless service could open doors of prosperity.

Onyema said he decided to airlift stranded Nigerians from South Africa because of his passion and vow to God.

He spoke on Sunday at the Trinity House, Victoria Island, Lagos, where he was presented with the 2019 Humanitarian Service Award.

Also awarded were Prof Anya Anya (Professionalism); Prof Bolanle Awe (Female Role Model); Sir Kessington Adebutu (Philanthropy); Seun Awobajo (Contribution to Society); and the late Senator Jonathan Odebiyi (Leadership).

The Air Peace boss, after receiving his award, urged the youths to develop strong faith in their country stressing that, “although the economy might be bad, there was still plenty in the midst of lack.”

He said, “This country is blessed. All you need to do is to exercise patience, trust in God and exercise your brain a little bit.

“I am giving you a business secret here. Find that which is very challenging. Look for challenges people don’t have solutions to and be the first person to proffer solutions to them and you are on your way to becoming a billionaire,” he said.

Onyema said Nigeria was a virgin land, adding that if Europe had one-tenth of the country’s resources, it would rule the world.

He noted that Nigeria’s greatest problem was the division among its 378 ethnic nationalities, adding that instead of the diversity being a source of strength, it had become an albatross.

He said, “So, if you may be wondering, why did I do what I did in South Africa? The truth is that it was not the first time. I have done bigger things than going to evacuate Nigerians.

“In 2005, at the height of the Niger Delta militancy, only 500,000 barrels were being produced for a population of over 180 million people.

“I told my staff that this militancy issue, I must fight it.”

He noted that he wrote a letter to an institute in the United States to train him and 22 members of his staff on how to go about the situation, adding that despite gaining admission, the US embassy in Nigeria denied them visas.

Onyema said he wrote another letter to the institute and requested that the training be done for them in Nigeria.

The training was said to have held, as another set of 250 people were trained.

“After that we went into the creeks. It was a difficult assignment to confront people that the military had not been able to handle and in a terrain that was not good. My message of peace arrested them. It was when Shell saw what we were doing that they came in.

“That was when money started coming in; something that we never bargained for. Chevron joined and everybody joined. The American embassy started visiting me in my office and I even got an award in the US.

“So, sometimes, you can decide to help your nation without looking for money. Money will come when it will come. You don’t need to kidnap or join a gang to make money. But one thing is important always remember God,” he added.

The Air Peace boss added that 503 Nigerians had so far been brought back from South Africa, adding that his firm was awaiting the Federal Government’s instruction to evacuate more.

The Senator representing Ogun West in the Senate, Tolu Odebiyi, while receiving the posthumous award of his father, said Nigeria needed help.

“A lot of things are not going the way they should. Corruption has not just become a cancer, it is now in the DNA of our makeup. If we don’t get up and get involved, we will have issues,” he said.

The founder and Senior Pastor of Trinity House, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, in his sermon, ‘Making Nigeria Great Again; Choosing the Right Leaders,’ said the country needed quality leadership.

He lamented that Nigeria had not moved far because most of the people in positions of authority were accidental leaders, who had no vision.

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