The Chairman of Air Peace Airline, Mr Allen Onyema, has said that if Nigerians continued to fight one another as against fighting for one another, there would be no nation.
Onyema made the assertion while addressing members of the House of Representatives, at a special session organised in his honour, for evacuating stranded Nigerians in South Africa during the xenophobic attacks.
“Let me use this opportunity to plead with all of you here, the representatives of our people, as long as we fight against each other, soon enough we shall not have a nation.
“It is only when we start fighting for each other, as against what is happening now, that we can we have a nation; I believe in nationalism as against sectionalism,” he said.
According to him, if you encounter a Nigerian, the first thing he says is, I am Hausa, I am Igbo, Yoruba or Fulani.
Onyema said that Nigeria was blessed with 370 ethnic nationalities, which should be a recipe for strength.
The business mogul charged the lawmakers to annex the strength in ethnic diversity in the country.
According to him, in the last one week, this country has bonded, no more Hausa, no more Yoruba, no more Igbo.
Onyema reiterated Air Peace’ readiness to repatriate Nigerians still stranded in South Africa.
According to him, we are ready to go into South Africa as long as there is one single Nigerian remaining in that country, to be evacuated for free.
“The kind of support we have gotten from Nigerians through your commendations and everything gladdens our heart, to the extent that my pilot and my cabin crew, stood out there for 24 hours because they were some (South African authority) trying to frustrate us.
“They did not want us to evacuate, they pleaded with the Nigerian High Commission not to do it, but they told them that they can not stop this private citizens.
“The cabin crew stood up for 24 hours; they delayed us for 15 hours ,before allowing us to do the first evacuation; the crew refused to collect their allowances as their own contribution, ” he said.
Onyema said that another 319 Nigerians had checked in and were on their way back to Nigeria.
The Majority Leader of the House, Rep. Ado Doguwa (APC-Kano), said that the military had the responsibility of keeping the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
Doguwa explained that citizens looked up to the military to save and protect lives and property and for that reason they were called Lt. Colonels, Colonels and Generals.
“Without any fear of contradiction and with the support of this chambers, I can say that we now have General Chief Onyema in the private sector.
“What he did was an exhibition of selflessness, risking his business interest, to save the lives of Nigerians in the face of war, because this xenophobic attacks in South Africa is like a war.
“Onyema, you saved Nigerians from the face of war, you saved Nigerians from embarrassment and what we are doing today is being done on behalf of the 360 constituencies of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to say thank you, ” he said.
The Leader urged other businessmen and Nigerians in general, to emulate the selfless example exhibited by Onyema, to foster unity and cohesion among the different ethnic groups.
“On behalf of all the members of the House of Representatives, the Federal government led by President Buhari, I want to say a big thank you, we salute you and salute your family, God will continue to bless you and bless your business.
“For his selflessness, I want to give him my commitment, and by extension, urge members here that for this reason, from today, when I have cause to fly, Air Peace Nigeria will be my priority.
“I hope all other members here will keep that as a commitment, Air Peace will be our first priority, ” he said.
Rep. Julius Pondi (PDP-Delta) said that he came in contact with Onyema in 2005, while he ran an NGO, Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria.
According to him, struggle and agitation for the Niger Delta was at its peak and on his own, Onyema tried to bring out young men from the creeks to embrace peace.
The legislator said that Onyema tried to explain to militants that the use of arms, was not the way to go.
“I was in the creeks and I still belong to the creeks, I am a proud member of the creeks, a militant, but as I am here now, I am now a lawmaking militant.
“Onyema used that NGO to train the militants in Lagos, I attended for first batch of it, and the second stage was in South Africa.
“I went with him to South Africa and I was trained there, not only me, but so many of us and the third phase was in the U.S .
Pondi said he was arrested a couple of times and detained at airports in the U.S. and in South Africa, because he was labeled a militant and Onyema stood with him while in detention.
“That is the character of the man that is seated here in this chambers.
“When in 2010, the then President Yar’Adua proclaimed the amnesty, about 70-80 per cent of all the 30 thousand militants that were granted amnesty, were all trained by his NGO.
“Onyema is a big name not only in the Niger Delta. He is more prominent there, because that is where he did major exploits.
“I want to join everybody in this house to thank Mr Onyema, to say that you have done well, I am a loving testimony of all the good things you have done.
“Today I am a ranking member of this Green Chamber because at some point in time, you were also part of the formation stage in my life and I thank you for that.
“Onyema, for evacuating Nigerians in troubled South Africa, you have once again showed the strong character that is in you.
“There are people that are more godly than you, who own private jets and fleets of aircraft, non of them have summoned the courage to to help.
“I want to thank you Mr Onyema and to say that you are a great man and that prosperity will judge you correctly,” he said.