By George Kelley
In the past week, the Nigerian and indeed African media has been enchanted by the phenomenal benevolence of Air Peace airlines and its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Allen Ifechuku Onyema.
Earlier in the week, Air Peace airlines, Africa’s largest private airline, under the instruction of its owner and CEO airlifted and repatriated more than 300 Nigerians from South Africa following the increasingly incessant xenophobic attacks on foreigners on South African soil by black South African mob groups.
On return to Nigeria, Air Peace, in partnership with the Nigerian government immediately began the process of smoothly resettling all the returnees with soft loans, mobile phones and other essentials.
This action by Air Peace has won great commendation across Nigeria and Africa.
While millions continue to heap praises and prayers on Air Peace and its founder and owner, those who know Allen Onyema will neither be too surprised or too shocked by this extreme show of goodwill, grace and benevolence..
In May 2019, Allen Onyema was awarded the prestigious 2019 Zik Prize for Leadership by the Public Policy Research and Analyst Center (PPRAC).
Allen Onyema’s act was not just one of goodwill, compassion and benevolence. It was a show of deep and fervent nationalism and patriotism, traits which has long been the hallmark of the fifty five year old lawyer and real estate magnate who delved into the aviation industry and started Air Peace Airlines.
For more than two decades, Peace, goodwill and entrepreneurial leadership has been the foundation and driving force of Allen Onyema’s life.
Those in the Niger Delta will not forget in a hurry how at the height of the unrest in the Niger Delta, at a time when militancy in the Niger Delta had forced Nigerian crude production to fall down to 700,000 barrels per day from 2.4 million barrels per day, that it was a daring millionaire lawyer Allen Onyema and his NGO, the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) that set out on a dangerous journey into the hinterlands and creeks of the Niger Delta to meet with many of the armed groups to begin the evangelism on non violence change.
Supported by the Martin Luther King Center of Atlanta, Georgia, FEHN succeeded in converted hundreds and thousands of militant Niger Delta youths..
The effort and success of Allen Onyema, FEHN and the Martin Luther King Center did not go unnoticed by Change Agents and regional stakeholders in the Niger Delta who approached his group and enlisted their effort and capability to bring peace and calm to the Delta.
In the end, it was this movement for peace and reconciliation in the Niger Delta that laid the foundation and provided the soft landing for the Presidential Declaration of Amnesty for Niger Delta militants by President Umar Yar’Adua in 2009.
Surely, where strife abounds, grace abounds much more.
Well done Allen Onyema. Well done Air Peace.
* Kerley is President of the Niger Delta Enterprise Initiative and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org