This man is indeed lucky!
Today he prepares to leave for church for a huge thanksgiving ceremony and before the congragation he will recall how he missed purchasing the ticket for that ill fated flight of sunday june 3,2012.
Read The details on Mr Ekerete Udoh's colum in thisday newspapers.
(This is an extraction from the piece he published)
''I am still in a state of shock and fright. I am yet to reconcile the fact that I was just mere minutes away from dying in what must have been a most terrifying, horrendous and mind-numbing way to die; I am terrified of how I would have felt seeing the plane swaying from one side to the other and the sudden steep descent; the realization that all what you had striven to achieve, the hopes, the years toiled in the oasis of dreams, of years of hard work spent to forge a sharp, educated and intellectually rigorous and curious mind was all but a wasted exercise-your mortality starring you in the face and helplessly, with a mind numbed and in shock, you saw your life that a few hours earlier held great promise get consumed in a boiling cauldron that was once a comfortable cabin- a cabin that attest to man’s great scientific ingenuity but now had turned into a weapon of mass death.
As you may have read in my column of May26th, I was in Nigeria for about three weeks and only got back on Monday-June 4th. On Thursday-May 31st, I had left Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital after I had attended the State Banquet hosted by Governor Godswill Akpabio to celebrate ‘Democracy Day’. In Abuja, I had a series of meetings and was to head back to Lagos on Sunday afternoon to meet with someone on Victoria Island for a meeting at 6pm and then to head back to New York on Monday-June 4th via Arik Airline that was scheduled for departure by 3.05 pm for a direct flight to New York.
Even though I normally fly Arik from New York to Lagos, locally, I have flown Dana more than any other airline. As I got ready to go to the airport that Sunday, my mind was focused on taking the afternoon Dana flight. I had planned to be at the airport by 12 noon, to purchase the ticket for the ill-fated flight. The previous night, I had gone to bed early, in order for me to wake up refreshed and ready to hit the airport on time. However, a Guardian Angel in the name of Ini Akpabio-the owner of NANET Suites in Abuja, which was the hotel I stayed, insisted that he must give me a send off outing at a nite club in Abuja. Against my protestations, Mr. Akpabio insisted that I must accompany him to a night club. “Whenever I visit New York, you always take me to nite clubs, we must do the same tonight-so go get yourself ready and I will be in your suite in 30 minutes” he had stated with an air of finality.”
With that and not willing to make him feel bad for all the efforts he had made to give me a nice ‘send off’ (ini, had earlier driven all the way from Uyo, where he ,had been for almost a week in his truck (jeep) in order to get to Abuja early enough for us, to go out and enjoy the Abuja nite life,) I lumbered out of the bed and took a quick bath and exactly thirty minutes, we were out to Cobana Club and later ended up at Nanet’s ‘Celebrity Nite Club”.
By the time I got back to my room, it was almost 6 am and I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was almost 12 pm. To add a curious twist to the whole situation, Mr. Akpabio had brought out a schedule that one of his workers had given him, which stated that it was only Arik Air that was maintaining regular flight on that black Sunday. “This is very strange” Mr. Akpabio had stated “what happened to the other airlines? Is this a new thing?” The Arik schedule I had, had listed the last flight for the day at 5:15pm, and I settled for that one. Now convinced that there was no need to rush to the airport, I took my time and only left the hotel at 1.15pm for the airport. I was shocked to realize that other airlines had maintained their regular schedules and that it was not only Arik Air that was flying out of Abuja that day. The trolley guy that helped carry my luggage told me that there was a Dana flight that if we were lucky, I might still find a space in it. We thus redoubled our steps to Dana’s ticket counter, and I got there only to be told the flight was fully booked. “You can book the next one which is 7.45” the ticket agent had told me. “Is there something you can do to get me on that flight?” I had pleaded, to which the lady replied firmly “am sorry, the flight is full and the door has already been closed.”
Now convinced that I had truly missed the flight, I settled for a First Nation flight that was scheduled for 6pm. About 40 minutes after I had settled into the departure lounge, I heard the news that the Dana flight I had pleaded to be on, had crashed and all the passengers dead. I couldn’t believe what I had heard and I started thanking God for using Mr. Ini Akpabio as an agent to save my life. Had I not gone out the previous night, and had woken up early and refreshed, I would have been at the airport by not later than 12 noon and would absolutely without reservations, had bought the ill-fated Dana flight. The schedule was a good fit for my meeting. I would arrive Lagos at about 4pm and then take a taxi straight to Eko Hotel and Suites for my appointment, which would never have come, since like the fate of those innocent Nigerians who, like me were brimming with hopes and great things to do ahead- people like my friend and professional colleague-Dr. Livi Ajunonuma, now ended up as charred remains of a flight that should never have been allowed to fly in the first place given the account of the whistle -blower who stated that the management forced the pilot to fly the plane even when the station manager advised against it.
God used Ini Akpabio to save my life and as I opened the door to my home in New York having had a very smooth flight on Arik Air from Lagos to New York, and as I starred at my daughters faces who themselves were screaming and crying, I couldn’t help but mutter “I could have been one of those burnt beyond recognition at that wreckage site in Lagos and you know what, you guys could have been orphans….but God has a mission for me- a purpose that has not yet been fulfilled…that was why he used a Guardian Angel in Ini Akpabio of Nanet suites to delay my departure to the airport.”