Nigeria@55: 55 Nigerians I admire 4. Capt. Augustine Okon

In the early to mid 90s, I was working for an international organisation and my job required me to do a lot of flying. I used to fly from Abuja to Lagos and back every other week and sometimes every week. Even though I absolutely loved my job and enjoyed flying, it was important to me that I not only flew whenever I needed to but that the flying experience be enjoyable. Enjoyable flight for me is, smooth and turbulence-free and then safe-landing. Everything else was a perk I was not too concerned about. That is until I flew with ADC airlines.

The first thing that got my attention about this airline was the size of their aircrafts. The machines were big, bigger than what most of the other local airlines were using. When I boarded one the first time, I was taken aback at the neatness of the aircraft. Everything was new and shiny and fresh smelling and just so beautiful. The air hostesses were dressed in beautiful blue and white uniforms with multi-coloured dots? or something that I can’t seem to recall clearly now. It was just so lovely. And they were so friendly. They looked genuinely pleased to welcome you on board. Their accents were normal; they made no attempt to sound like aliens from outer space trying to impress us mere mortals. For the first in my years of flying locally, I could actually understand what the in-flight announcer was saying!

As if all that was not enough, as soon as we settled down they started serving us meals! Real in-flight meals. And then I noticed the in-flight magazines. I kept asking myself if I was flying local or international. I did not even notice when the hour-long flight came to an end and to tell you the truth I was wishing it had taken longer! That was how my romance with ADC airlines began and I was to fly them joyfully until they went out of business, regrettably, many years later. But after that first flight I began to wonder that who were the owners of this company? Where did they come from and how did they manage to put together this world-class company offering unparalleled service in a country without a service culture?. I was intrigued. But not for too long. Soon after, I ran into a friend who told me her uncle, Captain Augustine Okon, a former Nigeria Airways pilot alongside some of his colleagues were the brains behind the venture. She graciously introduced me to Capt. Okon and there began one of my most cherished corporate relationships. I went on to become a card-carrying frequent flyer on ADC airlines and Capt. Okon became a cherished friend. It was through Capt. Okon that I flew in the cockpit for the first time in my life. It was on ADC airlines that I had my first experience of the first class cabin and so many other flight-related pleasures. Capt. Okon did aeroplanes like he was born to do it. He had a vision that was clearly ahead of his time. He was a thoroughbred professional, an officer and a complete gentleman if you will. Polite, gracious, well-mannered and totally respectful of his clients and friends alike. He had none of the arrogance usually associated with airline pilots.

Captain Okon was a man with deep love for his fatherland. A man who believed that it was better to invest in Nigeria than to stash the money away in some bank overseas. Regrettably, his businesses do not appear to have stood the test of time but my admiration for him is undiminished!

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