A recent helicopter crash in England shocked the world.
It took just 40 seconds after takeoff on October 27 for the private helicopter of Leicester City football club owner, the Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, to crash outside the club’s King Power Stadium, killing the great man and four others instantly.
He had just watched the Premier League match between his club Leicester City and West Ham United before he met his gruesome death.
Life can be so fleeting.
The worldwide grief over the crash made me to recall a helicopter flight of my own that nearly ended in tragedy.
To be sure, this poor poet does not own a helicopter. Thank you.
But I can be highly wired – on any cool day. So don’t cry for me, Nigeria.
It takes a measure of class to make a helicopter trip to an oil platform in an island off the coast of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The mid-morning oozed ambient softness as a chauffeur drove me to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Base in Port Harcourt.
The helicopter crew took me to a somewhat narrow room where I received pre-flight safety instructions.
I did not bother to listen much to what the safety man was saying, save to put the proffered helmet on my head.
It took just 15 minutes’ flight to land on the helipad on the oil platform near the town of Idama in Rivers State.
I had to descend a very steep staircase into the main building.
Then I got into a boat for the journey into the town of Idama proper.
The Idama traditional town square is dominated by the statue of the ancestral mother of the town, known as “Mother of Wealth”, from whose redoubt one could clearly set eyes on the Generator house built by the Idama Regional Development Council (RDC) under the sponsorship of an oil company.
It’s not my duty here to advertise any oil company.
The oil company did not end with just the construction of the generator house and the purchasing of 36.5 KVA soundproof generating set.
Idama thus boasts of two working generators. One generator is from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
There is electric light all over the community, all days and nights, 24/7. So unlike major cities in Nigeria which complain of lack of power, here is one town that never ever knows darkness!
In short, there is no darkness here!
Aside from the road of the town, drainage, generator and generator house, the Idama RDC has also with support of the selfsame oil company renovated the six-classroom block at Government Secondary School, Idama.
The work was commissioned by the then Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi on December 14, 2007.
The teachers’ quarters built by the same oil company in partnership with the Idama RDC are all of 10 self-contained rooms.
The science laboratory built through this partnership is spick and span, enabling the students to do their experiments.
The Idama water borehole was made possible by the oil company, completing the picture of Idama town as one example of what is possible when a host community works in tandem with the oil and gas companies, as confirmed by youthful Akobo Gogo-Abite, the Idama Youth Leader and RDC Secretary.
There was no militancy there!
Exploring the town was a joy in itself. Most of the locals are laid back, enjoying their lives as best they can.
When it was time for me to leave in the evening I boarded the boat for the short journey to the building and platform.
As I got near the building bearing the helipad I found to my horror that the sea had dried up, and there was no way I could get the boat to the steep staircase I would use to climb up to the helipad.
I was stranded!
Eventually it was suggested that I should get to the nearby Joint Task Force (JTF) camp where the soldiers put a very long plank for me to climb over the muddy water to an embankment.
The narrow plank was about 50 metres long. I feared I could fall off into the sea or the mud. But the real danger was that if I failed to walk the death-trap the helicopter would fly off and leave me marooned in the island like the pirate Ben Gunn in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
I could not but walk the plank! To say that it was more than scary is the greatest understatement ever!
As God would have it, I survived the unimaginable horror until I got into my helicopter seat for the 15-minute flight back to Port Harcourt.
Talk of not crashing via a helicopter only to perish in muddy water!