· Wants name of an indigene
By Our Reporter
The dust raised by the renaming of the airport in port has continued unabated.
The FG had renamed it ‘Chief Obafemi Awolowo International Airport’ but some persons in the region think the Niger Delta people have been slighted.
Ogbakor Ikwerre USA/Canada (OIUSA/Canada), a socio-cultural organization of Iwhuruohna indigenes of the Niger Delta who are resident in North America, has joined the fray.
They have faulted the re-naming of Port Harcourt International Airport after a non-indigene of the Niger Delta. The Muhammadu Buhari administration, in its last day, did the renaming.
The North America-based diaspora organization rose from its international emergency meeting on Monday, June 12, 2023, wondering why the airport was not named after a prominent indigene of the Niger Delta geo-political zone where the airport is located.
Members of the organization recalled that OIUSA/Canada and other diasporic organizations had made appeals in the past for the naming of the airport after late Senator (Dr.) Obi Wali, a prominent citizen of the area where the airport is located.
The president of the U.S.A./Canada-based organization, Mr. Patrick Anyawoke, recalled that as far back as September 6, 2021, the North America- based Niger Delta indigenes forwarded a proposal and a letter to the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Executive Council, urging the government to name the airport after Senator (Dr.) Wali. He recalled that OIUSA/Canada made a similar appeal to the federal government in 2004.
Anyawoke said that naming the airport after Senator (Dr.) Wali was the proper thing to do in view of the late Senator’s extensive and remarkable contributions in the creation of Rivers State, as well as his immense and enormous self-sacrifices, even at the expensive of his life for the unity of the country during the Nigerian civil war.
Senator Wali was among the prominent indigenes of Rivers State who vehemently opposed the secession that led to the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970. A member of the North-America-based organization, Mr. Adolphus Omodu, noted that: “By his unequivocal opposition of secession, Senator (Dr.) Wali put his own life on the line during the period of hostility when few had the courage to do so. “Naming the airport after Senator (Dr.) Wali will be a befitting posthumous reward to brave a nationalist?”
Another member of OIUSA/Canada, Mr. Chindah Wami, noted that: “Most airports in Nigeria are named after prominent indigenes where those airports are located. For instance, Enugu Airport is named after Akanu Ibiam. Owerri Airport is named after Sam Mbakwe. Kano Airport is named after Aminu Kano and Calabar Airport, after Margaret Ekpo.” He wondered why the Airport in Omogwa would not have been named after such a prominent figure as Senator (Dr.) Wali.
Another member of the North America-based organization, Mrs. Vera Ezeronye, recalled out that Senator (Dr.) Wali risked his life on several occasions for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war, adding that: “OIUSA/Canada strongly and unequivocally believes that naming the airport at Omagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area after Senator (Dr.) Wali is the most appropriate thing to do. This is especially because of his contributions to the development of Nigeria and in drafting the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as being a member of the Constituent Assembly.”
Anyawoke contended that other compelling rationales for naming the airport in Omagwa after Senator (Dr.) Wali include the fact that he was not only a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly that ratified the Constitution, adding that being the Senate Minority leader during the Second Republic Senator (Dr.) contributed to the political stability and democratic development of the country.
Members of the Diaspora organization further argued that naming the airport after Senator (Dr.) Wali was more appropriate in view of the late federal lawmaker’s contributions in the federal government’s rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation initiatives in Rivers State which was affected by the civil war.
Anyawoke argued that it is in view of these compelling rationales that OIUSA/Canada was dismayed that the airport should be named after Dr. Senator Obi Wali. He said, “This is why we are calling on the Federal Government to reverse the renaming of the airport,” adding that: “It is not late or unusual to rename this airport properly. University of Lagos which was at one time named Moshood Abiola University was later reversed and named properly as University of Lagos. This is the more reason why the government should reverse the naming of Port Harcourt International Airport immediately.”
(For further information, contact: Chris W. Ogbondah, Professor of Journalism, Department of Communication Studies, 339 Lang Building, University of Northern Iowa; Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613
Phone: 319-273-5913, Fax: 319-273-5913)