• Ikechi Uko

Aviation Crisis, Carnival Calabar and Olu Phillips

As the international consultant for the biggest street Party in Africa, the Carnival Calabar , it was my job to deliver the international component of this great event.

We had chartered an Air Peace flight to take the foreign participants to Calabar and because of the bad weather all flights to Calabar were cancelled it couldn't leave till 7pm on The 27th December a day later than planned.

With 126 passengers the B737 400 took off from GAT in Lagos. But instead of Landing in Calabar the plane dropped us off at Port Harcourt international Airport. It was at about 8.30 pm and there is no plan on hand to manage the crisis that emerges.

After making 2 phone calls to Calabar it was obvious that the crisis is mine to handle.

I set to work. Port Harcourt is the worst Airport I have been to in my Travels. And having 126 passengers from 7 Nations at that Eye sore of an Airport added to my wahala. I needed a sterile place to keep them. There is no arrival hall only a funny looking tent. I set out 3 priorities . Secure my Guest, Get a hotel room for each person and secure Transport.

James Bond said you don't get into a war with 2 hearts so I needed to get all the Women out of the way immediately as they will become a distraction in their whining. I moved around looking for a holding place. There was a Genesis Restaurant at the Airport. I commandeered the place just about then Olu Phillips of Channel TV stepped in he joined me.

We negotiated with the manager at the Restaurant to feed every one. We fixed a plate for N1600 per person so that the food can go round. Olu volunteered to man the Restaurant. That freed me to solve the problem of transport and Hotel rooms. I had about 100 calls in 10 minutes as panic spread everywhere in Nigeria. Embassies were calling me. Husbands etc. I asked my daughter to seat with my good friend Mrs Tourism the Beauty Queen while I put my goodwill to test. I called up all the Hotel GMs I knew in port Harcourt. I wanted 80 rooms now and on credit. I wanted soldiers, I wanted Buses.

In 1 hour buses with Policemen appeared from my contacts and evacuated all my guests. It was a huge miracle. In those 2 hours of crisis Olu Phillips performed like he planned the whole game. My staff on the trip spent his time on his phone. My crew and colleagues were all playing victims and waiting for me to make errors. Only the Ghanaians and Olu Phillip stepped in to breach the Gap.

It was a one of my most challenging Nights ever. I got everyone out safely out of Port Harcourt the next day to Calabar. Golden Tulip Port Harcourt, Hotel De Edge all took in my people without asking for money but Hotel Presidential was a huge disappointment. They wanted money upfront and even when they were paid embarrassed my people.

I was commended by everyone. Even the Governor commended me. I was told that I never lost my temper throughout the period. I was cool all through. While I got all the accolades and even some money everyone forget that Olu Phillips was the hero of the Night. He had no reason to join the rescue. He is not just a damn good news reporter on Channel TV . He is also a great person . I now count him as a friend.

Ikechi Uko is a Nigerian travel business consultant, travel promoter, tourism development expert, media consultant, journalist and author. Photo credit Bmtv Nigeria.

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