Rename Minna Airport Again

Taiwo Ajayi
6 Min Read

In a move widely criticised in both Niger State and the country in general, Governor Mohammed Umar Bago renamed the Dr. Abubakar Imam Kagara International Airport, Minna, to Bola Ahmed Tinubu International Airport, Minna.

The airport was named after the author, in June last year, in recognition of his scholarly works in the Hausa language. In renaming the airport, Governor Bago simultaneously approved the naming of the state polytechnic in Zungeru, after Dr Imam, which he said was more appropriate, describing it as “Square peg in square hole’’.

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On the renaming of the airport after President Tinubu, just less than a year after it was named after Dr Imam, Governor Bago said, “It is in appreciation of the president, for approving Niger State as the first special Airport Agro-Processing Free Zone in Nigeria and his immense contributions to nation building’’. The governor further said, “The state government under my leadership has been enjoying tremendous support from the Tinubu-led government and the president is an astute politician and a great leader that should be celebrated’’.

By all accounts this gesture of Governor Bago, though well-intentioned, is fraught with issues that call into question the appropriateness of the decision. First of all, Governor Bago has been in office for less than a year, during which he has had to cope with the myriad of issues that confront the state, ranging from insecurity, infrastructure deficit, wide spread hunger to poverty among others. These issues are weighty enough to occupy his time that renaming an airport should not be a priority.

Secondly, the airport in question is federal government-owned and does not lie within the purview of the state government. The governor overstepped his official jurisdiction in taking such an action on a matter that has already been gazetted by the appropriate authorities – the Federal Government of Nigeria. The procedure would have been for the federal government to de-gazette the naming of the airport in Dr Imam’s honour and transfer its rights to the airport to the Niger State government.

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Governor Bago’s apparent compensation for Dr Imam, in naming the state polytechnic in Zungeru after him and his reference to the move as a “square peg in a square hole’’ misses the whole point about the credentials and contributions of Dr Imam. Although, he hailed originally from Niger State, the life and times of Dr Imam and his works transcend Niger State and even beyond Nigeria. His literary works; Magana Jari Ce and Ruwan Bagaja, are acknowledged as among the greatest works in Hausa language and literature which have been adapted into radio and television series. Dr Imam is rightly regarded by many as the Hausa language’s equivalent of William Shakespeare in the English language.

In the pantheon of writers, Dr Imam carved a niche as a literary giant and a great cultural icon. He was the first chief executive of the Northern Nigeria Publishing Corporation and was also the pioneer editor of Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo, the first Hausa language newspaper in Nigeria.

Naming a federal airport after him in recognition of his seminal works in the advancement of literature in Nigeria and beyond was indeed appropriate. We believe that Governor Bago took political correctness too far. We do not consider President Tinubu’s approval of the Minna Airport as the first agro-processing airport free zone or the president’s standing as an “astute politician’’ enough reasons to warrant the renaming of the airport from Dr Imam to President Bola Tinubu. Both are national icons in their own rights who have made their marks in their chosen fields of endeavour.

In any case, there was really no need for the action. Not everything should be politicized. The president was in Niger State to launch laudable projects, for which we commend the governor. Whether he renamed the airport or not would not have taken anything from that event. All said, we believe that Governor Bago’s decision to rename the Minna Airport from Abubakar Imam International Airport to Bola Ahmed Tinubu International Airport does not meet the conditions of propriety and procedure, fairness, recognition and timing.

Accordingly, we call on the federal government, in conjunction with the Niger State government to reverse the action and rename the airport again. Dr Bago is barely one year into his tenure as governor, we believe there is ample time for him to execute projects, out of which one could be named after the president.  Furthermore, there is a need to review the act of naming institutions after officials who are still in office. We advise that going forward, such honour should be reserved for persons who have completed their terms and left office. That way, Nigerians will be able to see clearly what the person being honoured has done and if indeed he/she merits it. For now, Dr Bago, reverse the action.

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