British Airways, or as I rather call them, 'Brutish' Airways, recently threw over 130 Nigerian passengers off a flight that was scheduled to leave Heathrow Airport for Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, Nigeria. One Nigerian passenger, Ayodeji Omotade, was even banned from flying on Brutish Airways for life, just for coming to the defense of a fellow Nigerian that was in fear for his life. The result, is that Nigerians around the world have started a petition to get an apology from British Airways and encouraged a boycott. It is important for consumers to demand and receive a certain level of customer service and for an entity like British Airways to ignore this fact and disrespect Nigerians is unacceptable. As such, I support the efforts to get better treatment. However, I believe that a more long-term approach must be employed so as to teach entities like Brutish Airways and others that disrespecting Nigerians will no longer be tolerated.
DISRESPECTING NIGERIANS IS FAR TOO COMMON...
Nigerians have consistently received abuse and disrespect from various sources. In South Africa, for instance, police brutality prompted Nigeria's High Commission to officially protest the maltreatment of Nigerian citizens in various parts of South Africa. There have been numerous stories of Nigerian immigrants killed while in police custody and of course, one can never forget Brian Ross's (ABC 20/20) description of Lagos as a "corrupt, crime-ridden disgrace of a city." Such abuse and constant disrespect has been met by persistent and repeated calls by Nigerians for an apology and unfortunately, far too often, these demands fall on deaf ears.
However, that does not mean that we Nigerians should merely sit back and continue to be disrespected. We must continue efforts to organize ourselves and use our sheer size and spending power to discipline offending actors into recognizing that Nigerians, like any other group, must be treated at all times with respect. To expect anything less would be foolhardy and would sacrifice the efforts that many great Nigerians, such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and other individuals strove for when they worked for the independence of our nation. We must not shame them.
LET'S TAKE IT ONE STEP FURTHER
I completely support the efforts of Nigerian Village Square, and others to sign the petition, and boycott Brutish Airways directly. However, I do not think that a boycott is a sufficient reaction. More stringent and drastic action is necessary. In order to ensure that neither Brutish Airways or any other corporate entity will disregard Nigerians again, a more longterm goal must be formulated to address this recent incident. I addition to boycotting British Airways, Nigerians must encourage other non-Nigerians to boycott British Airways as well. This is not just a Nigerian issue, this is a human rights issue. To treat any human being like an animal is uncalled for. To then brutishly bully another man who stood up for the rights of that deportee and then slander his name in public, is absolutely unjust.
Furthermore, Nigerians must look beyond British Airways. British Airways owns a 13.5% stake in another airline, Iberia. Nigerians, Africans and indeed, all like minded people, should also boycott Iberia. Nigerian money is just as 'green' as anybody else's and once we are more judicious about who we give it to, we will definitely begin to command more respect. Therefore, let us go even beyond British Airways and Iberia. The boycott should target all of Brutish Airways 'One World' Partners and other airline affiliates such as ComAir (which flies in southern Africa), Longanair (which flies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), and SunAir (which operates from Denmark). Brutish Airways 'One World' partners, that should also be boycotted, are -
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines (JAL)
- Royal Jordanian
Additionally, Nigerians must demand that Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, be fired. Considering the numerous disasters that have occurred at Brutish Airways since he has been in charge, this incident is just one of many that illustrates his inability to properly lead a competent organization. But, particularly as the human rights of Ayodeji Omotade were disregarded under his watch, and many other Nigerians have been disrespected by his employees, he should be directly responsible for the consequences.
These are simply a few things that Nigerians can do to ensure that there is no repeat of the disrespectful treatment doled out by Brutish Airways. The passions that have been stirred by this recent incident with Brutish Airways must not be wasted. It must be turned into a positive force to effect change on many more levels, and especially within Nigeria and amongst Nigerians. That will be the focus of my post tomorrow, Wednesday, the 23rd of April.
- Watch the BBC's interview of Ayodeji Omotade here.
- 'Boycott British Airways' (Akin at Blog City)
- British Airways:Apologize to nigerians Or Prepare For A Boycott (The Afro Beat)
UPDATE: READ THE SECOND PART OF THIS POST NIGERIANS, 'BRUTISH AIRWAYS' & RESPECT PT. 2 AND DISCOVER THE RECENT UPDATES TO THE BRUTISH AIRWAYS INCIDENT.
UPDATE (April 25th): Read the third part in the 'Brutish' Airways series here. It presents the new actions the Nigerian government has taken to respond to the incident and also contains my response to the comment left by a BASSA member (British Airways union).