Remembering Jerry Agbeyegbe, the people’s pilot

jerry agbeyegbeToday makes it exactly thirteen solid years that one of Nigeria’s most brilliant pilots and a fearless voice in the country’s aviation sector, Late Captain Jerry Eyituoyo Agbeyegbe was felled down by the bullets of some merchants of death at Alapere, Ketu, Oworoshoki axis of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Precisely, on October 12, 2004, the ‘peoples’ pilot’ was wickedly sent on his last and final flight of no return even though he did not die in a plane crash.

The late ‘Jerry Boy’ before his assassination was well known in the aviation parlance even outside the country not only because of his brilliance and professional expertise, but as the only one that was ready to lay down his life for the aviation sector to be allowed to work professionally in line with what was obtained in other climes.

At a point when Jerry sneezed the entire sector particularly any incompetent Chief Executive or any official with skeleton in his/her cupboard caught cold as the first class pilot would waste no time in exposing such for the sake of national interest.

Remembering his days as the President of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Jerry used his position to put the sector in its rightful place with no politician having the nerve to interfere in core professional issues as any such politician will have Jerry waiting on ground to contend with.

While Jerry was alive, every relevant authority including the ministry of aviation led by the subsequent ministers, heads of aviation parastatals, airline chiefs was put on his/her toe in ensuring due processes were followed to the letter.

Jerry was always ever ready to expose any unprofessional conduct that he felt may jeopardise safety as he brilliantly tackled and argued such conduct with superior and obvious facts without waivering through the Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI) platform he introduced.

Jerry, the only calibrator pilot then became a thorn in the flesh of many as he made it almost impossible for any of them including ministers to introduce any controversial policy that could negate the professional principles the sector was (is) known for.

Jerry boy at a point became a lonely voice of safety in the sector to the extent that he lost his job at the ministry of aviation with other unions in the sector taking the back seat while all his friends deserted him even when his crusade was for the benefit of the entire sector.

Even the media’s role as the watchdog of the society was made very seamless by Jerry who was ready at the shortest beck and call of any journalist to provide any needed information that would make his/her desired story more rich and factual with accurate facts.

One of his last ‘aluta’ fight which he sadly could not accomplish before his life was cut short was his face off with the then government over an agreement the government entered with the Chief Executive Officer of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson in 2004, to float a replacement national carrier, Virgin Nigeria for the liquidated Nigeria Airways.

The entire sector including airlines, groups and individual professionals opposed what they called the unpatriotic terms given to Branson in the deal by the government.

While all the protests against the deal fell on deaf ears of the then government, Jerry, a fearless activist headed to court to stop Virgin Nigeria, a mission he sadly could not achieve as he was blasted to death by over 29 bullets rained on his chest four days to the case coming up.

Through Jerry’s selfless activisms, the country’s aviation sector enjoyed sanity and core values of professionalism devoid of high distraction from the political class even while all relevant stakeholders ensured they did not incur the wrath of Jerry who became the lonely watchdog while the other lilly-livered unions went underground.

Sadly, thirteen years after Jerry was tactically cleared from the way by his unknown assailants, his beloved sector he passionately laid down his live for has continued to nose dive with the workers languishing in a state of hopelessness.

It is obvious that since his death, the different aviation unions in the sector today have gone to sleep with no action while the political class continues to politicise, distract and bring ethnic coloration to the sector.

The sincere question on the lips of many is, ‘Can the country’s aviation sector have another Jerry Agbeyegbe with an undiluted passion? The answer is blowing in the wind.

To the family and friends of Late Captain Jerry Agbeyegbe, the consolation is that, the story of the aviation sector in the country can not be balanced without how a man, Jerry lived and died for it.

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