Air Peace / NFF partnership: a new dawn for sport
Nigerian sports have suffered on several occasions in the past, not only due to inadequate funding from the government but also from the private sector, seemingly neglectful and apathetic to invest in the sports development of the country. Sport, especially football, is today the most unifying factor in Nigeria. With the growing trends of polarizing politics across ethno-religious divisions, one of the ways to bring this nation together, albeit on an ongoing basis, is to take advantage of Nigerians’ unadulterated love for football, to find and to maintain a meeting point of unity, peace and harmony among the citizens of the nation.
Chef Allen Onyema, as the driving force behind Air Peace’s meteoric rise to stardom in the aviation industry, struck a chord once again. He chose to crane his neck in his usual way to bring hope to Nigerian football vis-à-vis the national teams – the one umbrella that still unites us as a people with collective destiny. Onyema via Air Peace decided to be part of the solution not a member of the chorus of lamentations or the hordes of vile critics.
Recently, Air Peace entered into an agreement with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to be the official air sponsor of the Federation of National Teams. It is a four-year agreement worth over 300 million Naira per year; renewable annually. This is an important step for national football in particular and sport in general. I remember very well with nostalgia that some of the challenges for the Super Eagles and other national teams were based on issues related to theft, whenever they went to a major tournament.
Imagine what happens to the morale of players when they encounter flight difficulties: delays, cancellations, mistreatment from foreign airlines, etc. In some cases, due to the unavailability of flights, national teams have used dangerous routes just to get to their destinations, putting their lives in danger and destroying their psyche before crucial matches. Whenever this shameful development occurs, it rubs off negatively on Nigeria’s image as the giant of Africa in the courtesy of nations.
Once the minds of the players have calmed down, it will certainly show in their performance which turns out to be poor. With this strategic synergy between Air Peace and the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), it is a new dawn in the country’s sport. Nigeria’s flag will be proudly flown in international forums due to the new wave of motivation and inspirational vigor that Air Peace has brought through this partnership. National teams can now be assured of the best flight services with brand new state-of-the-art aircraft – Embraer 195-E2, in the Air Peace fleet.
There is national pride when a country’s national team is not only airlifted to a major competition overseas, but performed by a local airline which is also one of its major. sponsors. Imagine for a moment what happens to the psychology of our national team members, when landing in a foreign country for a major competition, and they are greeted gloriously at the airport by beautiful Amazons dressed in Air Peace badges. – replica of what happened in Lagos during the Nigeria / Liberia game – when magnificent Air Peace hostesses ushered the players into the stadium.
It’s like setting off to conquer having in mind that the patriotic spirit embodied by Air Peace’s dazzling hostesses is firmly behind you. This is one of the winning strategies in sport – to be treated like a winner even before the competition starts. Previously, our national teams received disparaging treatment that did not deserve any team worthy of the name. If they did not complain about the inadequacy of the jerseys, they would be distraught because of the low allowances.
The entry into the running of Air Peace will definitely change the fate of our national teams. Funding for teams will be increased by this synergy. Operating costs spent on flights will be reduced. Most importantly, the morale of the team members will be boosted. As a teenager in high school, I still remember how good-humored my school football team was, especially when we went to a competition using our school buses.
We sang, shouted and rejoiced. The atmosphere was electrifying. The euphoria was to die for. It was not the same, periodically when we rented buses to transport our teams to the sites of the major competitions. It is the childhood passion for sport that Air Peace Airline has started to recreate in our national teams through this partnership with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). Having our largest indigenous airline – the largest in West Africa, with all its paraphernalia, transporting our national teams to competition is a huge morale booster.
The unbridled patriotism of Chief Allen Onyema did not begin today. Before the emergence of Air Peace, he was a builder of human capacities, a lover of young people, a peacemaker, a conflict manager and neutralizer, and a shameless nationalist. He preaches unity and love of the fatherland even when it is not politically correct to do so. His courageous role in resolving activism in the Niger Delta is a story that many Nigerians do not yet know and should be told fully in a separate article, possibly in the future. His rescue mission in South Africa, at the heart of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians who live there, still resonates in the minds of Nigerians. Onyema had to interrupt his sleep after a busy day to be at the airport at 2am the next day, just to give a calming and inspiring speech to the Super Eagles traveling to Cape Verde.
He reminded them that the unity Nigerians still find in football is the last rope that unites us. And that they should work hard to make it stronger by putting smiles on the faces of the nation’s football fans.
He cemented his rousing speech with a pledge of N20million to the team if they won. And worked! The Super Eagles triumphed over Cape Verde. Upon his return home, Chef Allen Onyema redeemed his pledge to the team. This is the motivation the national teams need now. And Allen Onyema is leading the peloton of private sector titans in this regard to support our national teams – by extension, our young people. There is great potential for Nigeria in sport if the right environment is activated. This is exactly what the Air Peace orchestra does.
Some may be hinting at the motivations behind Onyema’s patriotic zeal – very rare in our country today. Like Abraham Lincoln, Onyema has chosen not to ask what Nigeria can do to him but what he will do for Nigeria. He has demonstrated this selfless spirit of patriotism time and time again in the past.
When a nascent nation is pummeled by the bankruptcy of patriotism and patriots, anyone who embodies that virtue becomes a subject of innuendo and conjecture – even false lies. We must not nurture the political ambition to engrave indelible traces of inheritance in order to raise one’s nationality. The statesman does not need a political office to make a change.
The story is fair to him. Chief Allen Onyema has already done this by pioneering amnesty for activists in the Niger Delta; who resolved the protracted crisis and restored peace to the oil-rich region. He started Air Peace Airline with the sole aim of creating jobs and making Nigeria the fastest growing indigenous airline in sub-Saharan Africa. He recreated that Nigerian spirit when he rescued Nigerians stranded abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Using the Air Peace platform and a strategic partnership with the NFF, Chief Allen Onyema is poised to redefine the country’s sports as portrayed in national teams. He’s ready to start over. This is not a brand improvement for Air Peace – or a publicity stunt for Onyema; but a golden age for national teams. He breathed new life into the nation’s sporting development, especially football.
• Nwobodo writes from Abuja and can be contacted at [email protected]