The seventy four-year-old Ido-Osun Airport said to be the first airfield in the West African sub-region over which the current administration in Osun State had pumped close to N5 billion for its reactivation has been left in the wing. ISAAC OLUSESI takes a look at the airport, and reports that efforts by the state government to bring the airport back to life are a charity caught in a web of fraud.
IDO-OSUN. This town in Osun State, tucked away between Ede and Osogbo, the state capital, has a reputation that has travelled faster than many cities and towns in Nigeria. The aerodrome, an airport in Ido-Osun was reputed to have airlifted Africans who were conscripted, to fight in the Second World War (1939-1945). At a time in history, the airfield was said to have served as Nigeria Air Force base.
Thanks to the foresights of the nation’s colonial masters. Under the British colonial rule, with Sir Donald Comeron, the 4th Governor– General of Nigeria, a huge portion of Ido-Osunland was forcefully acquired in the expansionist interests of the colonial masters. According to Pa Augustus Orisatunbi, 87 years old, the aerodrome at Ido-Osun was part of the quick response of the British Governor-Generals for Nigeria to the problems of shortage of manpower, poor transportation system, and lack of communication services in Nigeria.
The octogenarian community leader who said the problems came to the fore immediately after the historic 1914 amalgamation of the North and South of Nigeria, recalled that the problems stared in the face the administration of Sir Creamer Thompson, Nigeria’s 3rd Governor-General (1925-1931).
“By 1931 under Cameron, plans were afoot to have an airport at Ido-Osun in the defunct Oyo North, and by 1935 when Sir Bernard Boundillion became the 5th Governor-General of Nigeria, the Ido-Osun airport was commissioned”, said Pa Orisatunbi looking thoughtfully under his compact reading glasses into the reporter’s eyes, adding however that the aerodrome indeed served not only the political objectives of the colonial masters, but also their interests in commerce, trade, economy, and bureaucracy.
People interviewed by the reporter in and outside the state, said the moribond airport at Ido-Osun, could by now have been at par with any of the international airports anywhere in the globe. The Ido-Osun airport, they stated would have brought about hotels, restaurants, post office, shops, police and security posts, fire department, medical centre, utility plants and several other modern day facilities important and useful for the airport liners, airport employees and the travelling publics, as well as the residents in the airport town and its surroundings, adding that automobiles, buses and taxis would have been carrying travellers to and from the airport passangers’ terminal.
Findings by the reporter indicated that, vestiges of Ido-Osun airport’s terminal, control tower, runway, loading apron, taxiway, and ground parking are still everywhere in the airfield, almost a century after.
HRM (Arch) Oba Aderemi Adeniyi Adedayo, the Sapoyoro Alaorede I Olojudo of Ido-Osun Alaiyemore Kingdom and Vice-Chairman, Osun State Council of Traditional Rulers, who was not available when the reporter called, is believed to be the 46th Oludo of Ido-Osun and a direct descendant of Obalufon Alaiyemore who became the Ooni of Ife two times in history, according to the octogenarian in the town who spoke with the reporter.
The Oludo of Ido-Osun neighboring Oba Iyiola Oyewole Matanmi III is the 15th Ataoja of Osogbo, and Oba Muniru Adesola Lawal, Laminisa I, the 16th Timi of Ede, implying that Ido-Osun had been long before any of the towns in the environs, if Professor I.A. Akinjogbon’s book; the “Dispersal from Ife” would remain a reference.
One I. A. Alabi, described as the accounting officer of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) Aerodrome, Ido-Osun, Osogbo, was not prepared to speak with the reporter as he politely turned down all advances. Apparently dazzled and in search of answers to many questions sprouting at the same time, the reporter left for Room 209 Federal Secretarial, Ibadan, Oyo State, office of the Assistant General Manager, AGM, Meteorology, Southwest Inspectorate. The high-ranking officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the AGM was away on an official assignment outside the state.
A top-notch official at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) who picked the reporter’s phone call, explained, on condition of anonymity that the aerodrome at Ido-Osun is an area of land still having it’s building, installations and equipment for the take off, landing and ground movement of aircraft. He however said that “what are reportedly on ground at Ido-Osun are totally obsolete, and rusted beyond lubrication”.
The reporter who was at Ibdan new Airport, and the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, observed that the size of an airport and variety of its facilities depend on the character and volume of its flight activity, the volume of its air traffic, the number and type of aircraft that use it as a base, and the runway length, maintenance and protection areas required to accommodate the most demanding aircraft, likely to use the airport.
The airport in Ikeja, Lagos has generally three components – the airside, the area where aircraft operates, and has taxiways, parking aprons and runways on the side of the airport terminal use only for take offs and landings; the landside consisting of the access roadways, the parking carages and a subway used by taxi and hire cars to deliver passengers and goods to the airport. “In the United State of America, USA, airports, most of the passengers arrive by cars, about 75 percent and 80 percent of the ground vehicles are automobiles and usually half of these are taxis”, according to Prince Jibade Onibokun, Osun State Action Congress, AC, chieftain, on phone with the reporter. Onibokun had stayed over three decades in the US.
The third component the terminal connects the airside and landside and has a flow of passengers and baggage through a series of passenger – processing activities from the departing point to the boarding point.
At the Ido-Osun airport, the reporter out of curiousity ventured into inside the “old school” terminal building, overgrown with wild ‘bushes’, and stumbled on archival evidence showing that the management of the aerodrome had departments of operations, maintenance, engineering, and security.
Findings by the reporter showed that an airport requires more land far away from the centres of the cities the airport serves. According to the findings, a medium –sized city airport needs from 700 to 3,000 acres (280 to 1,200 hectares).
The reporter’s findings further indicated that the largest airport in the world, King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia covers 55,510 acres (22,464 hectare of land). Onibokun, who said he once read about the US airport development profile, told the reporter that Denver International Airport, the largest airport in USA has an area of approximate 34,000 acres (14,00 hectares).
“There are 9,000 airfields operating in the United States and used mainly by the more than 200,000 privately, owned aircrafts and helicopters in the country’s general aviation fleet, compared to Nigeria’s 22 airports. What then is the problem of the People Democracy Party’s, (PDP), Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola in Osun that he has not, in his last six (6) years or so in government, thought of re-designing and re-constructing the Ido-Osun aerodrome’s existence if only to add to the number of the airports in Nigeria?” Onibokun quipped.
Well after the 70 years of the Ido-Osun aerodrome, the passenger terminal building, where passengers used to begin and end their flights, is still standing till today. The airport terminals in vogue today however have loudspeakers, flight monitors and electronic message boards to announce flight arrivals and departures. What could not be found at the Ido-Osun airfield is the hangar in which aircraft used to be stored and repaired, located far enough from the terminal building to avoid interference with aircraft traffic nerve centre.
Control towers at today’s busiest airports, the reporter was informed at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, are over 200 feet (60 meters) tall and may handle more than 200 landings and take-offs an hour during peak periods. The reporter’s findings revealed that in the towers, air traffic controller use radio communications and other radar to direct planes that are approaching and landing or taking off and departing.
Most large airports have an Instrument Landing System, (ILS), that guides pilots to the runway in bad weather. The ILS, findings further showed, uses horizontal and vertical radio beams from the ground to press a control in the cockpit of an airline. By watching ILS, according the reporter’s findings, the pilot can tell his exact position in relation to the runway and so can make a safe landing.
The runway at Ido-Osun airfield is still there and paved with concrete, the other was just a strip of mowed grass, spacious that allowed aircraft to take off or land without endangering people and property on the ground, though the runway could today be said to be too narrow for the sizes of the contemporary aircrafts. The octogenarian told the reporter that lights used to outline the runway at night and other periods of low visibility.
The loading apron, airport tarmacadam, where the crew and passengers boarded the aircraft, and the taxiway used by the aircraft to taxi from the apron to the runway and from the runway to the hangar, are all still at Ido-Osun for anyone to see. The reporter was told by the octogenarian that taxiway at night was marked with light and any barrier or danger was marked by red light.
Ground transportation at Ido-Osun airfield was paved with asphalt, still there, though completely peeled off, alongside the terminal building where in the contemporary time, vehicles could pick up and drop off passengers. Today’s airports maintain packing facilities, most large airports have multistory parking garages that provide a major source of revenue for the airports.
So much the state and Osun people have lost to the policy directionless and institutional fraud that the state government under Oyinlola is irreversibly enmeshed, from the beginning, all through now.
The reporter’s findings in the Processing Unit, State Ministry of Finance indicated that an amount of money, over N4 billion had been pumped into the reactivation work to remake the Ido-Osun airport into a General Aviation which serves all types of aircraft, business, charter and private aircraft as well as scheduled air taxis which carry passengers between towns, and to and from commercial service airports with the word international in their names.
Airplanes provide the world’s fastest practical means of transporting passengers and freight. Millions of people depend on aircraft for swift transportation, businesses, and many industries ship their products by air. Airplanes have many other uses from helping fight forest fires, as major weapon of war, to carrying emergency aid.
A serving pilot at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos who would not want his name printed, told the reporter that most large transport airplanes routinely fly 500 to 600 miles per hour (mph) (800.770 kilometers per hour (kph). The fastest airplanes which he called supersonic transport airplanes could roar through the air at about 1,350 mph (2,180 kph), explaining that such planes could carry passengers between London or Paris and New York City in less than four hours.
The pilot described an airplane as an heavier-than-air, engine-driven machine that can fly through the air supported by the flow of air around its wings, and said that an aeroplane’s engines give it the power to move fast enough through the air to produce the lift needed for flight, noting that “any loss of control or system failure could have catastrophic consequences, not only for the passengers on the aircraft but also people on the ground”.
Findings by the reporter indicated that flying an airplane differs from driving an automobiles. To make a U-turn in an automobile, for example, the driver simply turns the steering wheel. But to make a U-turn in an airplane, the findings revealed, the pilot must operate several controls at once.
According to the findings, an airplane pilot follow two sets of rules when flying. When the weather enables the pilot to see clearly, the pilot usually follows Visual Flight Rules, VFR. He observes Instrument Flight Rules, IFR, when he cannot see the ground or other aircraft in the sky.
The reporter who spoke with an American pilot at the Murtala Airport, Lagos, learnt that pilots have various navigation aids that help them take off, fly and land safely. The pilot said, that “in the US one of the most important aids is a series of air route traffic control centres operated by the federal government. Each centre uses radar to make sure all the planes in its vicinity are clear of other traffic”.
The radar, according to the US pilot receives a radal signal from a control centre and transmits back a code assigned to the plane by the control centre, explaining that when the signal reaches the ground, it identifies the plane and makes the aircraft show up more clearly on a radar scene, regardless of the size of the airplane.
“The pilot’s freedom to move laterally in three-dimensional space and routinely execute rotational motion around each of the three axes in normal flight complicates airplane flight enormously”, the pilot hinted the reporter.
At the Murtala Mohammed Airport, the reporter observed an airplane moved forward, the air flowing, around its curve wings created a particular volume of air pressure above the wings, resulting in a lifting force. The faster speed increased lift, force that pushes airplane upward against the force of gravity, and the airplane began to climb. To get additional lift, the pilot increased the airplane’s angle of attack, the angle at which the wings cut through the air. The pilot used the controls that made the airplane nose point up and the wing was at an upward angle to the path of the airplane’s flight.
Just as the reporter was observing an airplane lifting up, another plane was observed descending on gravity, force that tends to pull the airplane to the earth when in flight, as the pilot decreased the engine power. The propeller slowed down, reducing the plane’s thrust, the driving force exerted through an airplane’s propeller’s shaft, and the reduction in thrust also reduced lift and the airplane began to descend. The faster the propeller spins, the greater the force of thrust. Drag, total air resistance to the plane’s flight, also increased its own effect which further slowed down the airplane.
The reporter at Ido-Osun airport town sounded out the mission of the aircraft that operated in the airport, to know the geometry of the aircraft. Speaking with the reporter, the octogenarian relieved his observations saying that the aircraft that used the Ido-Osun airport had essentially both civil and military missions. He explained that there was a particular aircraft that was then highly maneuverable, capable of executing rapid turns and sustaining high degree of forces while quickly gaining altitude.
“That same aircraft used to be flight ready in a much shorter time, and displayed quicker turn-around time on the ground, and when airborne, it accelerated to high speed at low altitudes before climbing that enabled it maintain radar secrecy”, the octogenarian recalled, stressing that the military mission of the aircraft at Ido-Osun airfield included personnel and equipment transportation. He mentioned that the aircraft was used to transport Nigerians conscripted to fight during the second world war.
He however noted that the Ido-Osun airport was also used for such civil mission as personal transportation, business and utility transportation, and for recreation.
With the octogenarian observation and the reporter’s readings of the aircraft picture still hanging on the walls of the terminal building, it is convenient to configure the aircraft as having the wing that creates the lift to raise the aircraft off the ground and keep it in the air; the fuselage that extends from the nose to the tail and houses the engine, the controls, crew, passengers and cargo; the tail also called empennage is the rear part of the aircraft that keeps the airplane balanced in flight; the landing gear or undercarriage, consists of the wheels or floats upon which airplane move on the ground; and the propeller also called aircrews moves turboprop airplanes and airplanes with reciprocating engines through the air.
Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA’s Director-General, Dr. Harold Demuren was not availaable, but the officials at the NCAA’s, Directorate of Airworthness and Operation Standards DAOS and Directorate of Aerodrome and Airspace Standards, DAAS, who volunteered information, told the reporter that aeroplanes vary greatly in size, speed and function. Today’s airplanes can be divided into commercial transport planes, large and owned by airline companies, are designed to carry from 100 to 250 passengers and some cargo, weighing about 400 short tons (360 metric tons) when fully loaded, routinely fly 500 to 600 mph (800 to 970 kph); general aviation planes, smaller than commercial transport planes and can land and take-off at smaller airfields; military planes modeled after transport or light planes or are custom-made as bombers which mainly attack ground targets or as fighters which attack other aircraft.
Findings by the reporter also indicated that some military planes are designed for tasks other than attacks on an army. The Lockheed C-54 Galaxy for example is an enormous transport plane that carries two battle tanks weighing 50 short tons (45 metric tons) or about 350 troops. Another Lockheed planes, the SR-71A is said to be designed to survey enemy forces and installation. It carries camera and other equipment. The SR-71A flies high as 100,000 feet (30,000 metres) and has a speed of more than 2,000 mph (3,200 kph) which makes it one of the fastest planes in the world.
Seaplane can touch down and take off on water. The reporter’s findings showed that floatplanes equipped with long boats instead of wheels flying boats, have watertight body that floats in the water like the hull of a ship, and amphibian which can land and take off on both land and water, are flying boats with retractable wheels attached to their floats or hull. The pilot raises the wheels when operating the planes on water and lowers the wheels on land.
According to the reporter’s findings, there are also Special Purpose Planes, for example agricultural spray plane, built for particular purpose, to spray their field with liquid fertilizers or insecticides. An amphibian plane made in Canada is designed for fighting forest fires. This plane can fly above a lake and draw more then 1,000 gallons (3,800 litres) of water into its tanks. The plane then flies to the fire and drops its load of water.
The reporter’s findings further showed that aerobatics planes are a special purpose plane that perform difficult maneuvers. Aircraft called V/STOL’s are designed to take off and land vertically or on a short runway.
The aircraft can land on small airfields near battlefields and on ships smaller than aircraft carriers.
Findings by the reporter indicated that the first powered airplane flight was on December 17, 1903. The aircraft, known then as the Flyer, was designed and built by brother Orville and Wibur Wright-two American bicycle makers in Dayton, Ohio-culminating a century of theory, and experimentation continually to improve airplane design. By the late 1950’s, passenger planes had brought all countries within easy reach of one another and the world seemed much smaller than it was.
The effect the over N4 billion has had on the Ido-Osun airport? Only two buildings are on ground, one serving as office complex and the other as meteorological base. The Ido-Osun airfield had grown fully into ‘airbushes’, ‘airtrees’ and ‘airweeds’, hibernated by dangerous crawlers and other wild creatures. The colonial residential quarters, six in number for the airport staff are still a delight to behold if only the state has been fortunate to have a responsible government in place.
The government miscellenous N4 billions expenditure on the Ido-Osun airport, caught in the web of fraud, and government’s printed documents that “Oyinlola has attracted a Free Trade Zone, an Airport … for which several people have been benefiting”, have only kept the staff houses still as mechanic workshops and dens of men of the underworld and other miscreants. One of the quarters houses a nomadic primary school, with only four teachers and a total of fifty pupils spread over classes one to six. A teacher in the school who elected not to be named, told the reporter that the school is just six years old.
Miss Rukayat Oyewusi, 17, a science student of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomosho and an indigene of the airport town, Ido-Osun, lamented the cold attitude of the government to the exigency to reconstruct the airport, describing the government attitude as “deliberate attempt to subject the people of my beloved town to continued hardships and regrets.
“We are starting to regret the lots of our land that were acquired for the aerodrome and the economic deprivations, we have suffered as a result.
“Our land, forcefully acquired without compensation to us, could have been useful to my parents and my people for farming and related activities, which means my people have been denied due sources of incomes. The Oyinlola government which oft-touts democracy dividends has not headed the clarion calls by my people to turn the airport into reality as done to the Reality Television at Iwo,” The LAUTECH student said.
Speaking in the same breadth Oladejo Najimu Adegboye, 43, whose house is on the Ede-Osogbo gateway to Ido-Osun, flayed the Osun State government attitude to the airport, explaining that the airport has potentials to provide employment for the Ido-Osun indigenes and people from other towns and cities in Nigeria. Adegboye reminisced that Alafin Abiodun of Oyo, Ooni Adesoji Aderemi of Ife, and Orangun Ayeni of Ila, and other notables of the era, had at different times, used the aerodrome.
And the reporter’s findings indicated that Nigeria’s Inspector-Generals of Police C.W. Druncan (1930-1935) and S.F. Trunthan (1935-1936) were among the several colonial officers who used the airport.
Truly, the airport at Ido-Osun should by now be giving leases to restaurant, gift shops, hotels and car rental agencies. The leases would provide revenue to pay for the operation and further development of the airport. Apart from the incomes which the airport should be receiving from parking lots, and landing fees paid by the airlines. But the government in the state has remained block-headed.