It is not all the time that we see a grown man shedding uncontrollable tears, albeit in public. In the same vein, it is very rare to see a well-known Chief Executive Officer of a top company crying while the cameras are rolling. But last night, the CEO of Nigeria’s Air Peace, Allen Onyema, cried copious tears after he was overwhelmed by a great sense of national pride.
The incident happened shortly after some 189 Nigerians were safely flown home by an Air Peace plane. The first batch pf returnees are among the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who are desperate to flee South Africa following a series of xenophobic attacks that have targeted foreigners. The all-expense-paid flight reportedly cost as much as N280 million, and Allen Onyema bore all that cost.
Dramatic Scenes!! @flyairpeace CEO, Mr Allen Onyema receiving a rousing applaud as he welcomes back the Nigerians stranded in South-Africa amid Xenophobic attacks after sending a free evacuation/rescue flight at the MMIA Cargo & Hajj Terminal in Lagos on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/Bgi8rzj0eI
— Air Peace (@flyairpeace) September 12, 2019
The billionaire businessman was at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport to welcome the returnees. As a matter of fact, he walked right inside the aircraft to welcome them as soon as the plane touched the ground. As expected, the happy returning Nigerians applauded the man who literally saved their lives, after which they began to sing the national anthem. This was when Mr Onyema broke down to tears. He later said the following;
“I put together over N280 million in other to bring these people back, Air Peace decided to bring them free of charge, nobody paid us a dime, we decided to do it free of charge for our country and for our people.
“When I stepped inside the aircraft to welcome them, they mobbed me and started singing the Nigerian national anthem, there was nobody there singing about separation, they felt proud to be Nigerian, they rose in unison, that drew tears from me.”
Xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa has become a recurring incident. The last wave of attacks claimed many lives, even as foreign-owned shops were looted and torched. Meanwhile, desperate efforts between the Nigerian and South African governments to address the issue, some South African citizens have continued to demand that Nigerians and other foreigners must leave their country.
Understandably, the volatile situation exposed many Nigerians to danger, many of whom are stranded in the country despite their desire to leave. This is why Air Peace stepped in and offered free flights.
Good for Air Peace: Allen Onyema has, indeed, demonstrated a level of altruism that is worthy of emulation by doing what he did. And while Nigerians thank him for that, it is important to point out that this is good for his company. Recall that the airline has recently been having some issues, no thanks to some minor accidents that have happened this year. This good news will, therefore, go a long way to repair its somewhat damaged public image.