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Egypt crisis: A stitch in time saved hundreds of Nigerians

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From Aso Villa With  Yusuf Ozi-Usman

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When my editor, Ahmed Shekarau, received a text message from, perhaps, one of Peoples Daily readers on January 30, as is usual with him, he forwarded it to me and asked me to work on it. The text message went thus: "Urgent SOS (Save-Our-Soul) message.  Pls, help us tell Foreign Ministry and Presidency, hundreds of Nigerians trapped at Cairo Airport. Most came here for medical reasons. Since yesterday, Egypt Air has sent many flights to Europe, but not one to African countries. We face real humiliation here. Please help."
After going over what obviously was a distress call, I put a call through to Ima Niboro, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Goodluck Jonathan. He received the call from Addis Ababa where he had gone with the president for the African Union heads of state and government summit. I sought to know if he was aware of the fate of Nigerians at the Cairo international airport and what action the presidency was contemplating to take to evacuate the stranded Nigerians.
At first, Niboro asked me to talk to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Odei Ajumogobia, as obviously the President was too far away for him to quickly take any presidential action.
I was sure that after my contact with Niboro he quickly alerted the President because, about an hour later, he ( Niboro) issued an urgent press release which sent it online to State House correspondents. In the statement, President Jonathan gave a marching order to both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Adviser to swiftly find a way to evacuate the hapless Nigerians from Cairo Airport, more so as it was obvious that most of them were students and sick ones.
Egypt has, for over two weeks now been in political turmoil as citizens are demanding the exit of the 30-year old government of Hosni Mubarak.
Following the presidential order, a joint operation by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), embarked on the mission to evacuate Nigerians from the Cairo airport. Before long, no fewer than 1,069 Nigerians were evacuated from the crisis-ridden Egyptian capital to Nigeria.The spokesman of NEMA, Yushau Shuaib, said that  most of the affected Nigerians were in Egypt for medical treatment, while others were students in various institutions.He noted that a few of the returnees were in Egypt either for vacation or business purposes.
Receiving the last batch of the returnees at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport ,Abuja, the Director-General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi said that three Jumbo Jets chartered from Nigeria were used in the evacuation exercise, adding that the last batch of the returnees were made up of the sick, the old people and seven infants who were delivered safely in the Cairo airport hospital before the evacuation exercise began. Sani-Sidi said that the three planes used in the evacuation were accompanied by foreign affairs officers, a medical team and rescue officers from the agency and was headed by the Director in charge of Search and Rescue, Air Commodore Alexander Bankole.
One of the reasons for the large number of Nigerians at the airport, it was learnt, was that the Egyptian national carrier, Egypt Air, had cancelled flights to African cities such as Lagos, Kano, Accra, Nairobi, Entebbe, even though the airline was still operating those routes.
The significance of this prompt presidential response to the distress call from Nigerians in Egypt is that many Nigerian lives have been saved. Not that they would have been killed by the Egyptian military but shear anxiety would have done the havoc. A sudden rise in blood pressure very easily can lead to death. That President Jonathan rose to the occasion with proactive action has saved Nigeria an embarrassment.

On way-ward politicians

President Goodluck Jonathan minced no words recently in condemning most of the politicians in Nigeria. He was referring to politicians who cross-carpet from one political party to another the other, all in search of a platform to use to grab power.
They are rolling stones that end up gathering no moss and if they gather anything at all, it is mostly crises. These politicians have been on the nation's political landscape since the second republic politic.
Speaking on Saturday at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, where the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization held an appreciation dinner shortly before it was disbanded, President Jonathan said that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members who quit the party and later returned would be regarded as having committed an anti-party offence.
"It is anti-party to leave PDP and pick ticket from another party only to return to the PDP. You should rather remain there."
The President specifically called on those who lost out during the recent primaries not to leave the party, adding that those who choose to remain with the party will be accommodated.
He said, "I advise people who did not secure their tickets not to feel bad and therefore want to leave the party. Even if you are not a candidate today, you will be one tomorrow."
There is no doubt that cross-carpeting has found itself into the Nigerian political lexicon, mostly as a result of total lack of ideological plank on which an ideal political party ought to lean.
The ideology of the Nigerian politicians today seems to be  'get the power first' and all other things shall be added onto it.
Because of lack of ideology, the nation has been made to grope in the dark in frantic search for good individuals as leaders, because individuality has been transformed into a system.
In reality, what Nigeria is being saddled with are fifty something political parties that are made up of the people with a single purpose: to grab power. That is why it is convenience for people who lose election in one party primary to move easily into another party, get the ticket and either grab the power or continue to shift political base until he gets there.
For this reason alone, President Jonathan might have been addressing the wrong audience at the right time.

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