Rescue in the Skies
By Niyi Egbe
I couldn't help wondering how Nairobi would look like. How time flies too! It was amazing that a whooping twenty years has rolled on since my first visit to Kenya the land the famed and dreaded Mau Mau freedom fighting guerrillas whose exploits had won the beautiful East African country its independence from Great Britain. As a young Federal Agricultural officer, in the employ of the National Youth Service Corps, I was fortunate in 1991, to have received a grant from the Nairobi based headquarters of the International Livestock Centre for Africa to undergo a three week long course on the nutrition of small ruminant animals (goats and sheep).
The course availed me of interesting exposures to livestock production in the farm fields across Kenya. We combed farms located in the picturesque tourism haven on the Indian Ocean â€“ the city of Mombasa and others in hinterland towns and regions like Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Nairobi and the Rift region. It was really impressive even back then, seeing how organised the agricultural industry of the relatively resource-poor Kenya was.
Kenya had at the time, a well structured ruminant animal industry with a thriving dairy industry developed and sustained by a seemingly well coordinated Kenyan Agricultural Cooperative Society. The organised dairy set assured back in the early 1990s that milk was almost taken for granted. I also recall simple applications of scientific principles that assured for instance, that energy for cooking and electrifying some farm houses derived from methane generated from animal waste and effluent.
When it became obvious that Nigerian participants couldn't hide our positive impression about the realities of progressive agriculture that were confronting us in the Uhuru land, some young agro-professional contemporaries largely from East and South Eastern Africa were quite puzzled. They couldn't but be puzzled, and that to our chagrin, climatically, everything seemed right for a lush agro sector in Nigeria. I recall a fellow course participant from Swaziland enthusing that he receives at least four litres of farm fresh milk each day. He didn't see any much ado about having milk. It was almost heart rending because at the time, in Nigeria, milk had become an exclusive preserve of the rich. Thanks however to the marketing brilliance of the then new entrant Cowbell brand that packaged powdered milk in affordable denominations. It gave the then West Africa Milk Plc, marketers of the leading brand Peak milk nightmares. Good enough, marketing realities compelled the competitors to think sane. The marketing warfare that ensued made it affordable for miserable sprinkles to spice our tea. It became possible for families to diminish the dark brown colours of tea with spoonfuls of "white" milk. The reason is simple. Tea, coffee and cocoa drinks all relatively recent introductions to the Nigerian food culture, are customarily "whitened" up with milk.
Happily, twenty years on, I was aboard Kenya Airways headed for Nairobi, looking forward to the weather worn Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Uhuru Park, the Kenyatta Conference centre etc. I was hoping that I would again sight some free ranging wild life, a testimony to Kenya's acceptably well organised tourism industry. There was indeed so much to expect from this barely three day stop over trip.
I also recall also that twenty years ago, then, Nigeria Airways was our national carrier. So sad, Nigeria Airways has gone the way of some of our public corporations and is thus blighted. Curiously, today, Kenya's national carrier, Kenya Airways is not only declaring profit, but arrogating itself as the "pride of Africa"! In Msafari, its in-flight magazine, the Airways revealed reasons, why it should aspire to the claim. Kenya Airways disclosed therein that the company posted a turnover in excess of US$ 1 billion in the 2010 â€“ 2011 financial years. According to the airline, it ferried more than three million passengers for the first time in its operations. The airline also has a strategy of connecting each African national state capital by the year 2013. It's near neighbour, Ethiopian Airlines and as well South African Airlines have endured the times as flag carriers for their countries. Twenty years on, and Nigerian airways is moribund and confined to the dust bins of history.
Thanks however, to free enterprise, we have the likes of Arik Air, Air Nigeria and Aero Contactors laundering our image within and without the continent.
Amidst the chill in the plane, there emerged a melodrama. A young lady presumably in her late twenties developed nausea. Fellow passengers and her young husband had expected that she would come out of the challenge without much ado. However, the situation developed beyond what could be easily wished away. Pronto, fellow passengers beckoned on one of the air hostesses to come to her aid. Smartly and courtly, the young dame tried soothing her with assorted niceties. Some passengers and more of the hostesses put in one or two contribution. Unfortunately, the situation was gravitating to a tale of the unexpected. At a time, it appeared that unless there was caution, she could pass on.
When it became obvious that the cabin crew had exhausted possible ticks and indeed were at their wits end, they dashed frenziedly between the patient and the cockpit. Eventually, the Pilot had to make an appeal to medical personnel - medical doctors or nurses on board to come to the rescue.
To our relief, a middle aged woman of Indian descent emerged from the business class. A nurse or two also joined the benevolent crew. The Indian medical doctor, gave an all would be okay smile. She commenced with feeling the pulse of the beleaguered patient. She tried having her sit upright, assisted in all and every way by some of the cabin crew and her hubby.
Eventually, the medical team decided moving the patient off seat to an alley between the conveniences located mid plane. They laid her chubby frame 180 degrees on the floor. The alley was directly opposite my wife and I. We were helpless in physical realities but employed the most potent of forces â€“ we prayed that she would come round. In not long, the cabin crew turned in the first aid box and as the doctor prepared the syringe, they cordoned off the view to our comfort. We were concerned about the lady and prayed fervently that she would come round.
As the medical personnel battled on, I could not but get amazed at the frailty of the Homo sapiens and indeed every biological being. Certainly, the young lady couldn't have bargained to become the centre of attention in the public domain some hundreds of metres above sea level, let alone being shoved to the floor in an unimaginable a place as besides toilets! Mind you, this should be a relatively comfortable madam. In our clime, air flight is afforded by the relatively comfortable. Come to think of it. The culprits behind the humbling of our dear sister and indeed every man are so tiny they are hardly visible to unaided eyes! By Jove!
In not long, our prayers were answered. After a preliminary wobbling gait, the young lady not only steadied but eventually walked back to her seat to the delight of well wisher fellow passengers. I was really impressed about the professionalism of both the medical and cabin crews. I couldn't help but kept reflecting on my country whose airspace I had left some three hours earlier. When will we place things in order of priorities? For so long, professionalism has sacrificed, traded for pots of porridge. Like our brothers east of the Niger would have it, what is professionalism in the face of ego ne ku (when money is talking)?
I just kept pondering about the droves of our young men and women that have had to call it quit to their professions kowtowing to the law of the jungle which has it that survival is the first and primary law? I kept wondering about how many have hung up their stethoscopes or quit engineering drawing for filthy lucre? Worse yet, there are hordes of talented and resourceful young men and women that simply exited the country, and are now plying their trades in other lands, capitulating to demeaning jobs â€“ a grave loss to our beloved country.
Our beloved young dame was to be much more active to our delight and certainly to the relief of her husband and young daughter who all along couldn't come to terms with the fact that her mother could have been sick. For the rest of the flight, she compelled and obtained the attention of her weary mum, with useful assistance from the dad. Can one ever fathom the odds that exist in our world?
Niyi Egbe, an Agriculturist and Media Consultant lives in Lagos, Nigeria