Reactions trail renaming of airports after Buhari, Awolowo, others

THE renaming of 15 airports in Nigeria by President Bola Tinubu has generated diverse reactions among individuals and groups in the country.

The Federal Ministry of Aviation, in a memo dated June 1, 2023, signed by Director of Airport Operations Joke Olatunji, announced the President’s decision to rename the airports as part of reforms in the aviation sector.

The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was directed to implement the decision.

The Maiduguri Airport was renamed after the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Port Harcourt Airport after the first premier of the defunct Western Region, late Obafemi Awolowo, while the Nasarawa Airport was used to immortalise the late founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman Dan Fodio.

The Benin Airport was renamed after late Oba of Benin, Oba Akenzua II; Ebonyi Airport after late Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, and the Ibadan Airport after late Premier of the old Western Region, Ladoke Akintola.

Other airports affected by the renaming include Akure Airport, which now carries the name of Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, and Dutse Airport, renamed after Muhammad Nuhu Sanusi. Gombe Airport has been dedicated to Zakari Maimalari, while Ilorin Airport now bears the name of a late military general, Tunde Idiagbon.

The Kaduna Airport was renamed after Hassan Usman Katsina, and the Makurdi Airport after Joseph Sarwuan Tarka. Minna Airport was renamed after Abubakar Imam, while Osubi Airport was dedicated to Alfred Diete Spiff. Yola Airport now carries the name of Lamido Aliyu Mustapha.

Full list of renamed airports 

1. Akure Airport – Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu

2. Benin Airport – Oba Akenzua II

3. Dutse Airport – Muhammad Nuhu Sanusi

4. Ebonyi Airport – Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo

5. Gombe Airport – Brigadier Zakari Maimalari

6. Ibadan Airport – Samuel Ladoke Akintola

7. Ilorin Airport – Gen. Tunde Idiagbon

8. Kaduna Airport – Hassan Usman Katsina

9. Maiduguri Airport – Gen. Mumammadu Buhari

10. Makurdi Airport – Joseph Sarwuan Tarka

11. Minna Airpor – Mallam Abubakar Imam

12. Nassarawa Airport – Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio

13. Osubi Airport – Alfred Diete Spiff

14. Port Harcourt Airport – Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo

15. Yola Airport – Lamido Aliyu Mustapha

According to the memo, these name changes will come into effect on July 1, 2023.

The ministry called for all necessary arrangements to be made to facilitate a smooth transition.

The announcement has triggered contrasting opinions within the country. While some individuals lauded the move as a means of acknowledging the contributions of notable Nigerians to the nation’s history and progress, others criticised it as a political ploy and a misallocation of resources that could have been better utilised for airport infrastructure and services.

Reacting to the development, a Twitter user @sheethjamaal, said the renaming of the airport will immortalise those that fought for the nation.

 

The renaming of the Port Harcourt Airport after Awolowo and the Nasarawa Airport after Dan Fodio sparked a lot of angry reactions on social media, mostly from residents of the two states.

A Twitter user, Nnamdi Onu, who said he didn’t understand the rationale behind the development, pointed out that the South-South region boasts a significant number of notable individuals, such as former President Goodluck Jonathan, who the Port Harcourt could have been named after.

Patrick Anum, from the Middle Belt, called on residents of Nasarawa State to resist the move to name the airport in the state after Dan Fodio, who he said was responsible for the murder of thousands in the region in the course of the Islamic jihad which he led.

The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) equally condemned the renaming of the Port Harcourt Airport after Awolowo.

PANDEF spokesperson, Ken Robinson, while acknowledging Awolowo’s contributions to the country, particularly to the South-West, noted that renaming the airport after him was an insult to the Niger Delta, the South-South, and particularly the people of Rivers State.

“The general perception of PANDEF, particularly the renaming of Port Harcourt Airport after the Awolowo, is that it is inappropriate and misplaced,” Robinson said in an interview with The ICIR.

“It is insulting to the people of not only Rivers State but also to the people of the South-South. Awolowo, with due respect to his personality and contribution to the South-West, has no relationship and correlation to the people of the Niger Delta, South-South and Rivers State.

“Why should we have people from Rivers State, Niger Delta and South-South, who had attained high national and global recognitions and then you ignored them and named the Port Harcourt airport after Awolowo? It is most unfortunate.”






     

     

    The group, which vowed to mobilise its people to resist the decision, called on Tinubu to rescind the decision and find a worthy son of the region or the state to rename the airport.

    Other individuals who criticised the renaming of the airports, argued that the focus should be on addressing the pressing challenges in the aviation sector, such as dilapidated infrastructure, inadequate facilities, and poor service delivery.

    Attempts to get responses from the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere proved fruitless. The ICIR made numerous unanswered phone calls to Ohanaeze spokesperson, Alex Ogbonnia, and he also did not reply to a message sent to him via WhatsApp.

    Similarly, calls made to Afenifere spokesperson, Sola Ebiseni, were unsuccessful, and as of the time of filing this report, he has not responded to a WhatsApp message sent to him.

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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