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Geoeconomics Of Palm Oil and Air Freight on The West African Coast: Lessons from Jaja of Opobo and Allen Onyema

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Allen-Onyema

 

 

Governance Index Report (Lagos) – 21 May 2024

 

Geoeconomics Of Palm Oil and Air Freight on The West African Coast: Lessons from Jaja of Opobo and Allen Onyem

 

If battles were fought without guns, Africa would be a conqueror.

 

As explained by Friedrich Ratzel’s Organic Theory, a nation-state mimics a living organism in that it grows and expands to survive and blossom. This theory had much influence on the European expansionism and imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, mastering the art of social influence isn’t just about flouting out missiles and warheads, but also leveraging strategic resources–intelligence, information, communication, natural resources, and technology. Imagine that Africa was not militarily subdued and economically exploited but was left to develop naturally at its own pace. Imagine what economic giant the continent would become both on micro and macro scales today. This is what geoeconomics is all about. It is the projection of political influence by economic means, especially on an international landscape. In Africa, two of such geoeconomic instruments are palm oil and air freight. This article explores the intricacies African economic ingenuity affecting power distribution with reference to Jaja of Opobo and Allen Onyema.

 

 

Although geoeconomics as a concept entered the political lexicon during the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, its practice preceded that period and even the world wars. By 1807, Africa had officially ceased to be a hunting ground for slaves. The Atlantic Slave trade was no longer fashionable as the Industrial revolution in Europe, particularly Britain, was in dire need of raw materials to feed its booming factories. Palm oil emerged as the object of the legitimate trade.

 

 

Palm oil is an edible reddish oil extracted from the mesocarp of the oil palm fruits. Indigenous to West Africa, it became an unparalleled commodity because of its multifaceted application. It was an essential ingredient West African diet. It was used in soap making, giving facelift to royal houses, and treatment of illnesses.

 

In Europe, the multiple uses of palm oil in West Africa were already common knowledge. According to Pauline Von Hellermann, a senior lecturer in Anthropology at Goldsmiths university, “Palm oil has been known in Europe since the 15th century, but it was Liverpool and Bristol slave traders who, in early 19th century, began large-scale imports. They were familiar with its multiple uses in West Africa and had already been buying it regularly as food for slaves being shipped to the Americas…”(Red Gold: A History of Palm Oil in West Africa, January 18, 2021).

 

Hellermann continued: “With the abolition of slave trade to the Americas in 1807, British West Africa traders turned to European markets and natural resources as commodities, in particular palm oil. At the time, the main sources of fats and oils in northern Europe were animal-based: tallow, lard, whale, and fish oils–products for which it could be a challenge to secure regular supplies. There was therefore a ready market for palm oil, which, as the historian Martin Lynn puts it, came to ‘grease the wheels of the Industrial revolution’ in the early 19th century”.

 

“Palm oil was used as an industrial lubricant, tin-plate production, street-lighting, and as the fatty semi-solid for candle making and soap production” Hellermann stated.

 

 

As the all-embracing importance of palm oil became increasingly known, trade in the red commodity beckoned. This was a time when European powers were on a scramble for territories in Africa. By the mid-19th century, many European powers had established trading stations along the coast of West Africa. The predominated and established consuls primarily to deter other European powers, as well as ensure the safety and smooth economic operations of British nationals in West Africa. The British then sought to make inroads on the oil rivers, the heartland of palm oil. Though the British succeeded in circumventing the challenge posed by their co-European rivals, they would have to grapple with a stiffer resistance, this time, mounted by an indigenous figure, King Jaja of Opobo.

 

 

Born in Umuduruoha, Amaigbo, in the present Imo state of Nigeria in 1821, Jaja’s first name was reported to be Mbanaso Ozurumba. It is instructive that the abolition of slave trade in 1807 did not immediately eradicate the practice until the second half of the 19th century. By implication, at the age of 12 in 1833, Jaja was abducted when Igbo land was hemmed in by slave trade invaders. Jaja was then transported to the town of Bonny, a prospering island in the present-day Rivers state.

 

 

In the context of geoeconomics, it is important to highlight that Jaja’s meteoric acquisition, expansion and consolidation of political power took form in Bonny and were only catalysed by his unrivalled facility for trade. Jaja posed a stout economic battle in two forms: one was the internecine battle with co-rivals in the Bonny town, and the other was the resistance he launched against the British merchants seeking direct trade in palm oil with markets in the hinterland.

 

 

In the first form, Jaja, a young man full of dynamism and adaptation, first served as slave under chief Iganipuguma Alison of Bonny, and got a new name ‘Jubo Jubogha’. Later, he was resold to chief Alali of Bonny, the head of the Opubo group of houses. According to African Series, the House system was a politico-economic system in the Niger Delta where groups of people collaborate in trading. They protect themselves and encourage free flow of trade with the Europeans in at the coast. The House system allows both free born and slaves to show their potentials mainly through trade. In this respect a slave could rise to the pinnacle of power. This was the case of Jaja.

 

Initially, he was relegated to the fringes of slave class. But Jaja assisted his master in the palm oil business, and it soon became clear that Jaja was exceedingly brilliant in trade. His industry and shrewdness earned him the trust of his master who gave him more deals to handle.

 

By this time, the astute young man had got a third name and his last, Jaja, given to him by the British traders who could not pronounce his former name. Jaja’s entrepreneurial influence grew in leaps and bounds.

 

Ultimately, he became the head of Bonny’s most influential canoe -houses, the Anna Pepple House. As the head of the House, he sustained the flourishing palm oil trade. He was able to offset the debt incurred by his predecessor, chief Iloli. He consolidated his power by endearing himself to his people through empowerment programmes for young men. This in turn increased economic prosperity of the Opubo Houses. According to S.J.S. Cookey, Jaja also undertook a familiarization tour to Bonny neighbouring communities such as Ogoni, Adoni, Ibibio and Nkoro.(King Jaja of the Niger Delta, 1974)

 

Jaja’s fame and political influence sparked jealousy among rival houses, notably the Manilla Pepple House led by another successful ex-slave, Oko Jumbo.

 

In 1868, quarrels between the Anna Pepple House and the Manilla Pepple House prompted a civil war. Oko Jumbo’s faction deliberately unleashed provocative and inflammatory utterances on Jaja’s side because the former was emboldened by the weapon he had acquired from European traders. But Jaja was a sagacious diplomat. When the tension heightened, he, alongside his followers, finally migrated to a new settlement. There he established a new kingdom which he named Opobo and became its first king.

 

After the settlement, Jaja was in a secure footing to join battle with his rivals at Bonny. He succeeded in defeating the Bonny region. He did this by strengthening commercial activities in his region. He negotiated fabulous trade relations with the hinterland markets. This resulted in the dwindling of business activities of his rivals.

 

Falola and other scholars, in their book ‘History of Nigeria’s captured Jaja’s trade perspicacity: “Jaja, the king of Opobo, had enjoyed a distinguished career in commerce, skilfully conducting trade in the entire eastern Delta area with cleverness and firmness strengthened with various hinterland towns. This allegiance had been forged because of marriage alliances, friendships, and at times military conquest. His main strength lay in his shrewdness in the process of negotiations…”

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In 1873, with his growing popularity, the British formerly recognized Jaja as king of Opobo. Then, King Jaja established an effective monopoly over the palm oil trade making Opobo to be the largest port for palm oil exportation in Delta.

 

 

In the second form, King Jaja set up insuperable hurdles for the British. Sun Tzu, a Chinese philosopher had long ago believed in the possibility of winning a war without firing a shot when he said, “To subjugate the enemy without doing battle is the highest of intelligence”. This was what characterized Jaja’s relations with both internal and foreign rivals.

 

Notwithstanding the treaty of 1873, the British harboured a desire to permeate into the interior of Jaja’s territory. Jaja made this unattainable. He consistently cramped the attempts by British merchants to gain access to the hinterland where the palm oil was being produced. The British could purchase palm oil only from King Jaja or his agents. Even when the local people directly engaged in trade with the British, Jaja punished the former severely. One instance of such was a case of George Wath, a British businessman. Wath opened a factory in Kwa Ibo, within Jaja’s territory. Jaja, boiled with venom, launched an attack on the region, destroying their property as a deterrent measure.

 

In addition, Jaja imposed taxes on British merchants. Sometimes he shipped goods directly to Europe, sidelining the British middlemen at the coast. Jaja’s monopoly of commercial activities in most part of the Niger Delta greatly distressed the British.

 

British merchants and other European trading groups made forlorn attempts to surmount Jaja’s monopoly of trade. It almost seemed that Jaja was impervious to any kind of British influence. The British themselves grew more impatient because trading companies from other European powers were fixated on the oil-rich region. The British planned to get Jaja out of the way.

 

A major success for them was the Berlin conference of 1884. At the conference, the areas initially controlled by the British, including the Niger Delta, were formally designated British territories. This meant that the British had acquired the authority to engage in an unrestrained trade with the people of the hinterland.

 

The Berlin conference rendered the 1873 agreement ineffective. Jaja resented the provision of free trade granted by the treaty as he felt it would end his economic monopoly and by extension, his political influence in the region.

 

Following the Berlin conference, Jaja flexed his final muscles. In a vehement demonstration of defiance of the treaty provision, Jaja ordered his men to cordon off the Opobo river.

 

Based on some documentaries, British merchants sought a reduction in the price of palm oil due to the drop in the world price. But King Jaja spurned their request. He also went ahead to collect taxes from these traders, an act banned by the treaty.

 

By this time relations between Jaja and the British had aggravated. It became vivid to the British that Jaja’s actions were a direct smack on their nerves, and he was eager to remain adamant.

 

To deal with the indefatigable King, the British devised a new strategy known as ‘gunboat diplomacy’. In 1887, Hamilton Johnson, a British consul, sailed to the region in a war ship. He invited Jaja onboard to resolve their wrangle. Worried about his safety, Jaja refused to heed his request, but later agreed when Johnson assured him of his safety.

 

According to scholars, Jaja was given two options: to agree to be taken to Accra to face trail, or watch his kingdom ambushed. To protect his people, Jaja agreed to be taken to Accra. In Accra, Jaja was found guilty of blocking trade among other charges. He was forced to live in exile until 1891 when he was pardoned and permitted to return to his kingdom. But he mysteriously died en route. After his death, the British, like a roaring lion, pounced on the oil rivers region and started to maximally exploit its natural resources.

 

Jaja’s overall feat was the result of the interaction among three important factors: geostrategy, geoeconomics and geopolitics. Geostrategy manifested in the strategic geography of Opobo. Opobo kingdom was situated at the Opobo -Nkoro river; therefore, the kingdom held a commanding position along the trade routes of the Niger Delta. This favourable location allowed Jaja to control the flow of goods and exert his influence over regional commerce. Also, the region was a natural home of palm oil. The abundance of palm oil influenced the rise of geoeconomics. Jaja appreciated the importance of palm oil. Hence, he instituted economic policies that enhanced its production, including youth empowerment and adoption of methods of palm oil extraction. By promoting palm oil production and trade, Jaja endeared himself to different communities in the Niger Delta and absorbed them under his control. Lastly, he gained British recognition of his territories. Therefore, Jaja achieved geopolitics.

 

 

 

Allen Onyema ‘s Case

 

Why are Africans exceptionally smart and resilient? They are not manufacturers of major tools of globalization such as aircraft and computers, a condition attributable largely to the continent’s harrowing past. Meanwhile, Africans have got the brain. The innovation and ingenuity exhibited by notable black figures in the 21st century are heralds of a coming Afro-centric world. The field day of European dominance and exploitation is passing away by degrees, and the realization of Africa’s full potentials is on the horizon. But the battle is not over. The actors who played the turbulent game in the 19th and 20th centuries are still eager to sustain the war today, although on a different terrain. Aviation is the battleground.

 

 

With hundreds of thousands of flights recorded annually across the world, it simply mirrors the global high demand for air travel. The International Transport Association February 2024 report revealed that the global passenger demand for air travel surged by 21.5% in February, up from 16.6% in January.

 

According to the body, the rise in demand coincided with a rise in capacity, measured in available seat kilometres, which grew by 18.7%.

 

Indisputably, the aviation industry, particularly in Nigeria, is getting back on its feet in the post-pandemic era, having lost over 20bn monthly during the COVID 19 outbreak, according to the Ministry of Aviation. The renewed operation in the industry is welcome. However, it is not without its own sleazy peculiarities defined as a scramble by Airline companies for markets.

 

 

For several years, international airlines had dominated the air travel market in West Africa. Africa has not less than 20m passenger traffic yearly, with United Kingdom, United States and United Arab Emirates accounting for three top destinations for travelling, according to Mastercard Economic Institute’s 2023 fourth annual travel report. Lack of capacity and safety facilities of indigenous airlines is usually raised as the cause of this low operations.

 

People who are outside the aviation business would really believe this narrative and might even shamelessly scorn their airlines. Nevertheless, the industry presents another picture of political manoeuvres operating through geoeconomics.

 

There are a few African airlines making headway in international flights. Ethiopian airline, for instance, has for years dominated the markets and has remained the only African carrier effectively competing with these international airlines. However, European aviation companies, strongly backed by their home governments, are unrelenting in their attempt to perpetuate the current geopolitical and geoeconomic arrangements.

 

 

In an account provided by Chinedu Eze, a Nigerian writer, the “European carriers still corner a huge slice of passenger traffic in the West Coast and this is enhanced by most countries in Africa, which tend to protect the market against African airlines while keeping their airspace wide open to these international airlines that use diplomacy and lope-sided bilateral air service agreements(BASA) to sustain their dominance of the subregion “.

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The BASA is meant to be an air transport agreement between two countries that allows designated airlines to operate commercial flights, covering transportation of passengers and cargoes. But the terms of the agreement are only active on paper. In several occasions, foreign airlines have flouted the terms of the treaty, particularly the principle of reciprocity.

 

In 2013, for example, it was reported that Arik Air requested to balance the BASA agreement, which gave the United Kingdom 21 frequencies, 14 frequencies for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways to Lagos and seven frequencies to Abuja from London for British Airways. According to Eze, “Arik Air sought to be designated for London-Abuja flights at Heathrow airport, but British airport authority insisted that Arik must buy slots, which was not part of the reciprocity clause as outlined in the BASA. The then Aviation minister, Senator Stella Oduah insisted that Arik Air must be given a slot at London Heathrow to Abuja or government would stop British Airways from operating to Abuja. This matter dragged on until one day the then UK Prime Minister called the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria quickly acquiesced to UK request and the matter was rested “. This scenario attested to the obsequious manner in which West Governments relate with European powers.

 

 

The good news, however, was that it was in the same year that Allen Onyema entered the aviation stage. Allen Onyema is a lawyer, businessman, staunch Nigerian nationalist, and uncompromising exponent of Nonviolence philosophy. He started the aviation venture completely ignorant of the intricacies and intrigues of the business. Though he had achieved financial success from real estate enterprise and the legal profession, the hankering for massive job creation for unemployed youth population in Nigeria compelled him to venture into the aviation line.

 

He founded an airline company known as Air Peace; a name inspired by his belief in Nonviolence. Onyema’s journey from 2014 when he controlled a fleet of seven aircraft (an unprecedented feat for an airline operator at the time) till the present time as he has purchased over 30 aircraft, could be described as an inevitable process of expansion.

 

As a Pan-Africanist, Onyema was driven not, only by the desire to create immediate jobs, but also to neutralize European dominance of West African skies in the long run. After ten years of experience in the industry, Onyema discovered and has summoned the backbone to combat the sordid jiggery pokery and idiosyncrasies in the industry.

 

His innovation, Air Peace, has been a fountain of relief for Nigerians, but has been a source of consternation for international airlines that have stifled the West African economy for a donkey ‘s years.

 

According to Onyema, the undu leeway given to international carriers to access multiple designations and frequencies in Nigeria is flooring the country ‘s economy. This practice is not obtainable anywhere in the world. For instance, a foreign airline landing in the United States ‘s soil cannot take another flight to another designation within the United States. Instead, the passenger will have to board United States carriers for that purpose.

 

In addition, these international carriers mounted outrageous airfares. Despite this, some West African travellers dejectedly patronized them for fear of losing other conveniences. Still, other Africans sought indirect routes to make intercontinental travels.

 

According to Onyema, for Nigerians to travel to London, they would “first go to Qatar in 8hrs, then from Qatar to UK for another 8hrs because of high cost of direct flying to the UK”.

 

This is irritating when one relates it to the fact that Lagos-London route had the same six-hour flight as the New York-London route. But passengers on the latter route paid three times as much. Onyema felt all these anomalies were insufferable and needed to be challenged.

 

In a bid to destroy European encroachment and what was known as a ‘lucrative Lagos-London route’, Onyema rose from being a domestic airline operator through an intra-African operator, and then blossomed into a major intercontinental airline operator.

 

In 2017, Air Peace launched its first international route to Kotoka, Ghana. “By 2018, Air Peace had the largest market share in the domestic airline market”, a 2019 report by Premium Times stated. In 2019, Air Peace inaugurated its flights to Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

 

Today, Air Peace serves more than 20 destinations covering domestic, African, Asian, and European operations. The most recent achievements were the launch of Lagos-London route on March 30, 2024. The company also has plans to launch flights to the United States before the end of 2024.

 

In one interview, the Air Peace chairman revealed: “We are planning to hit New York or Houston towards the end of the year because we are bringing in more 777s. As I speak to you, my staff are in California inspecting three 777s we want to buy. So, if we could get them in the next two or three months, then, of course, we are good to go anywhere “.

 

The 777s refer to Boeing 777s, otherwise known as Triple Seven. It is a long-range, wide-body aircraft brand designed and developed by the American-based Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Barrister Onyema ‘s unfaltering zeal to squash the international carriers ‘s domination of Nigeria market drove him towards unstinting quality and perfection in his flight services to Nigerians. Air Peace has a fleet of about 34 aircraft from different brands, including Embraer. By all account, Air Peace has taken a strategic initiative by purchasing the aircraft. Embraer Aircraft is believed to provide low maintenance and operational costs. It is also eco-friendly as it produces less pollution.

 

Then, Onyema sympathized with Nigerians who had been suffering the economic burden heaped on them by international airlines. He took cognizance of the fact that the only way to deal with economic dominance and exploitation of these foreign airlines was to adopt economic solutions.

 

Therefore, with the entry of Air Peace into the Lagos-London route, Onyema announced a significant cut in airfares. Specifically, Business Class was now to pay 4m, as against 15m it uses to pay, First Class was to pay 4.5m, and Premium Economy was allocated 1.2m.

 

The impact of this move is reflected in the subsequent price adjustments made by other airlines.

 

In a situation popularly described as ‘price war’, other airlines recognize the emergence of Air Peace as a major threat and are bent on pressuring him out of the race.

 

According to a report by This Day, EgyptAir dropped its Lagos-London economy ticket price further to N585,620; Air Peace London-Lagos now goes for N816,130; British Airways goes for N981, 848; Virgin Atlantic N1.1m and Royal Air Moroc N569,422.

 

Moreover, Rwanda Air pegged its airfare to London at N679,070; Ethiopian Air N677,824; Turkish Airline N807, 408; Air France N1.1m, and KLM pegged its price to N1.1m.

 

 

Nigerians have swarmed out in jubilation because it was as if a dead weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Also, the rise of Air Peace is an embodiment of national pride. The Air Peace chief has leveraged his natural astuteness to knock other airlines off balance, pushing Nigeria a step further to the geoeconomic and geopolitical arena.

 

Notwithstanding this feat, Onyema has warned both the Nigerian government and all Nigerians to extend their support in their various responsibilities to sustain and develop the already gotten achievement. Onyema disclosed that the international aviation business was very nasty. On interviews he granted to several Nigerian television Channels, Onyema exposed what he termed ‘international aero politics’, describing the nauseating obstacle course he had to overcome before he could obtain air license from the British government. He successfully proved that the Nigeria’s exchange rate was not the reason for the mannerless airfares requested by international airlines. This is because at the time of slashing the price international airline fares by 60%, exchange rates were still the same. Rather Onyema blamed the European airlines ‘ greed and devilish antics for the high fares.

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Prince Harry’s Visit and Onyema ‘s Money Laundering Case: A Symbol of UK’s Malicious Demonisation

 

 

The renowned philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky, made a famous dictum: “Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship”. By this assertion, Chomsky referred to Press Freedom, one of the fundamental elements of democracy, and by extension a potent weapon used by domineering States to project multiple psychological effusions to the public.

 

As part of their malicious plan to bully Air Peace out of the aviation race, British Airlines, supported by their government, have recently had recourse to hateful media propaganda and demonisation.

 

Daily Mail, a controversial UK Newspaper, has in its recent publication, cunningly made Allen Onyema the specific objective of Prince Harry and Meghan’s visit.

 

Prince Harry, together with Meghan, had paid a visit to Nigeria to promote a mental health awareness for young people and to celebrate the Invictus Games, an International Tournament he founded to support the wounded and sick service members and veterans.

 

However, the Daily Mail’s publication, released on Saturday, May 18, has the craftily designed title, ‘How Harry and Meghan were welcomed to Nigeria by a fugitive airline boss wanted in the US over $20M money laundering operation’.

 

The UK’s media text could be understood as deliberate, harbouring an undercurrent of acrimony against the Air Peace chief, even when the alleged accusation has not been upheld by the US court.

 

The publication makes mention of ‘how the Duke was welcomed by Onyema and had a flight to Lagos by Air Peace, as a theme. But this is merely a pretext, as the larger part of the publication details US money laundering case against Onyema.

 

Onyema, alongside Ejiroghene Eghagha, Air Peace Chief of Administration and Finance, was indicted on November 19, 2019, for a $20M fraud, using bank accounts credited to his name in Georgia.

 

Onyema refuted this claim, stating that his hands were clean. In one Vanguard report, the Air Peace boss was quoted as follows:

 

“Thank you for reaching out to me. I can confirm to you that all allegations are false and are in no way in line with my character as a person and as a businessman whose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve wellbeing.

 

“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment that only contains charges. I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find NO dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.

 

“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this, and these mere allegations will be refuted.

 

“I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose. The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts.”

 

 

Meanwhile, UK’s Daily Mail is currently entangled in a legal battle set in motion by the same Prince Harry over multiple allegations of unlawful information gathering and gross breaches of privacy.

 

According to a report published on May 9, 2024, by The Guardian, another UK media outlet:

 

“Four national Newspaper editors have been in court documents filed by Prince Harry’s lawyers in his legal case against the publisher of the Daily Mail.

 

“In documents filed at the High Court in London, Harry and others have named about 70 current and former Associated Newspapers journalists they accuse of unlawful information gathering, including voicemail interception known as phone hacking.

 

“Harry and others have accused the Daily Mail’s publisher of planting bugging devices in cars, listening to private phone calls, burglary and obtaining medical and financial information by dishonest means.

 

“The case is still in its preliminary stages, with a case management hearing scheduled for the end of the month. A trial is expected next year at the earliest.”

 

 

Daily Mail is one of the most popular tabloid Newspapers in the United Kingdom. It has an extreme Right-wing political orientation, which tallies with the ideologies of the present Conservative Party, that has dominated the British Parliament for more than a decade. This explains why Daily Mail has taken a posture of bitterness against Allen Onyema.

 

In one post made on QUORA, Stuart Campbell, a British author, revealed a part of Daily Mail’s controversial history.

 

He stated: “In the Thirties, Daily Mail strongly backed Hitler and Mussolini. It published the forged ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ to support Hitler’s anti-Zionist campaign. Its most famous headline was ‘Hooray for the Blackshirts ‘ in support of British Fascists.

 

“The headlines and stories it run are predictably xenophobic and racist. It is responsible for half of all complaints made against the Press.”

 

The ulterior motive behind Daily Mail’s publication is now self-evident. This is to sway international public opinion against Onyema by demonising the nonviolent activist. It is a part of the tool to restore lost geoeconomic power on the Lagos-London route.

 

 

 

Onyema’s case is an inspiring success story. He is one of the relatively small number of Africans who are accentuating black ingenuity. Is it not time the Nigerian government fulfil its responsibilities to the fullest? Nigeria plays a big brother to several African countries, but most of its citizens are living below poverty line. It opens its skies to foreign elements but does little or nothing to support local private investors. Is Nigeria not aware that most international private airlines, especially ones from industrialised countries are strongly backed by their home governments? Political leaders in these countries are perceptive enough to know that growth in the business of their private airlines means boost to their economy, and by extension increase in geopolitical influence.

 

 

It has been said earlier that geoeconomics and geopolitics are inextricably bound. They mutually reinforce each other. The West control the tools of globalization and seeks to use this against Africans by means of unequal trade relationships and dictation of political decisions in Nigeria.

 

Yet, this does not mean the West will continue to wield this power. In the 20th century for instance, the global power-play tilted towards military capability and favoured the United States. Today, the pendulum has swung to a new direction, and the global focus is on geoeconomics, which is the influence nations exert upon one another using various economic strategies. Hence, the United States’s power is witnessing a fierce confrontation in the backdrop of China’s economic influence across the world.

 

 

With the appearance of Air Peace, Nigeria has reasserted itself as a key player on the geoeconomic and geopolitical world stage. What it now needs is an unflinching support by its government. Government must improve airport infrastructure. It must ban multiple levies imposed on local operators. It must leverage political will to combat corruption, especially in the aviation sector. It must denounce and refuse to be party to any form of international agreement that could harm the national interest of the country.

 

Nigerians and Africa must know that Africa is still a virgin land, despite the humongous exploitation of its resources by the West. African personalities like Onyema are living proof that the awakening of a giant in the continent is just yet to come.

 

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