16 YEARS ON: How Raymond Dokpesi’s men located plane crash site

October 22, 2005 remains a day some families still wish never existed. It is a date many still look back to with pains and sighs.

Time, as the proverbial greatest healer, may have healed the emotions shattered on that day by Bellview Airlines Flight 210, but the sad memories are literally cast in stone.

Last Friday marked 16 years since 117 lives perished in the air mishap involving a Boeing 737-200 Airliner.

The flight, which had taken off from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, to Abuja, had lost contact with the control tower at 19:43:46.

A search and rescue mission, which was sequel to an alert by the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, had commenced.

But the failure of the search efforts to locate the crash site only increased the agony of the nation.

The interregnum between the search and rescue operation did not only add to the nationwide grieving, it also left the country embarrassed.

The report that emanated after the accident was that the fuselage of the plane was discovered at Kishi in Kwara State.

This was widely reported by the international media based on the reports from

Nigeria Television Authority, NTA.

Conversely, the story was wrong and misleading as no footage was authenticating the reports and the confirmation of the crash site.

Considering the avalanche of media enquiries and the conflicting reports, two prominent global broadcast television stations directed their crews to ascertain the exact location of the crash by hiring helicopters to diligently comb the navigational path right from the take-off point in Lagos.

This was not only an indictment on the Nigerian media but also a litmus test on the response alertness, promptness, competence and professionalism of the media.

Dokpesi saw the audacity of the foreign media as a challenge and he tasked his staff and resources for the search which eventually paid-off and led to the discovery of the crash site at Lisa Village in Ogun State.

Eventually, all the foreign media had to depend on the footages of AIT which ultimately resolved the controversy surrounding the crash and the site of the incident.

But for Dokpesi, it would have taken the foreign media with their high propensity for negative stories about Africa generally to locate the site of the air disaster.

This story is captured in the profile of Dokpesi on the occasion of his birthday.

The Emeritus Chairman of African Independent Television (AIT) turns 70 tomorrow.

But the Bellview plane crash episode is just one out of his countless impactful involvements in national affairs.

At the mention of his name, media rings a bell, but that is only one of his numerous areas of influence in the country.

Impacts

The Agenegbode-born Marine Transport Engineer is someone with great ability in different spaces.

This has seen him traversing many areas of national life, and making remarkable impacts.

Dokpesi, who returned to Nigeria in 1978, after so many years in Poland as a student and lecturer, had done so at the behest of the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo.

Heeding the call, which was made when Obasanjo visited Poland, eventually turned out good, especially for Nigeria.

Perhaps the Head of State had seen in him the qualities needed to build a virile and prosperous nation.

And the First Class degree holder didn’t disappoint either upon his return.

He teamed up with like minds on critical investments and national projects.

For instance, in 1984, Dokpesi joined some eminent Nigerians to establish the first indigenous shipping line and was the pioneer Managing Director from 1984 to 1988.

But that was rather a glimpse of what was to become meaningful involvement in many spheres.

For him, it wasn’t just getting involved that matters, but making meanings out of such endeavors for the good of the country.

This largely explains why beyond being one of the pioneers in private ownership of the broadcast sector and a successful entrepreneur, his nation-building contributions are of note.

Unknown to many, long before he became a household name, the nation had tapped from his diverse knowledge in efforts at addressing key national concerns.

One of such instances was in 1982 when he was made a member of Chief of Defense Staff Board of Borders and Harbour Security force.

That was followed by his appointment into the committee on decentralization of Nigerian Ports Plc in 1983.

Others that memories permit include member National Conference 2014,

member, Shipping Policy Implementation Committee 1985, and member, Presidential Committee on Long Term Measure to solve Piracy

and Security/ Problems in Nigeria Sea Ports and Territorial Waters among others.

Having been actively involved in those events early enough, his contributions to the enthronement of democracy are rather not surprising.

Military

During the dark days of the military, Dokpesi who holds a doctoral degree, through the instrumentality of his broadcast

Stations, RayPower and Africa Independent Television ,AIT, engaged the citizenry constructively through the various programmes which contributed immensely in sustaining the agitation for the enthronement of democracy in the country.

The platform provided by both AIT and RayPower galvanized Nigerians for the political struggle which ultimately led to the exit of the military and the return of the country to democracy which was truncated through the first military coups in 1966 and 1983 respectively. The country eventually joined the league of democratic nations in May 1999.

The programing slant on both RayPower FM and Africa Independent Television AIT were designed and packaged for the sustenance of the democratic struggle with the hosting of human rights activists, the civil population and pro-democracy activists on the various programmes.

Just like his return to the country, which was inspired by patriotism, he saved the country from losing the hosting right of Under 17 World Cup in 2009.

How did it happen, some may want to know.

Yar’Adua

Then-President Umar Yar’Adua had considered the cost of hosting the tournament in addition to technical requirements and felt Nigeria lacked the needed finances.

At the time, Nigeria’s rating in the integrity index had plummeted due to policy inconsistency and the high propensity for reversals.

Realising the dangers of not going ahead with the hosting, Dokpesi got involved and changed the narrative.

The intervention saw him investing in FIFA-graded equipment and facilities. By doing so, he was able not only to save the country from embarrassment but also surpass FIFA’s requirements and standards.

AIT was appointed the host broadcaster for the U17 World Cup considering the array of the-state- of-the-Art-Broadcast Equipment and facilities: Digital OB Trucks, Digital Satellite Trucks, Digital Production Trucks and Thompson CDK Cameras which FIFA adjudged “the best in Africa and one of the best in the world”.

An interesting aspect of Dokpesi’s penchant for ensuring Nigeria succeeds is his consistency.

So long as an issue is about the common good, he never looks back.

For instance, when the 1998 Jesse pipeline explosion occurred, he rose to the occasion, using his platform and contacts.

Specifically, the Edo State indigene initiated projects towards the rehabilitation of the victims and their families.

Apart from personal donations, Dokpesi deployed his broadcast stations to launch an appeal for the public towards the material and medical support of the fire incident. His kind gesture was supported by

Africa Refugee Foundation (AREF), Nestle Foods Plc and Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals

Plc. Delta State government supported the initiative through the provision of logistics for the conveyance of the donated items from Lagos to Jesse Town where they were handed over to the Federal Government Committee on Jesse Fire Incident in January 1999.

Media giant

The man, who isn’t called a media giant for nothing, is known to have pioneered private broadcasting with RayPower 100.5Fm in 1994, 24-hour Radio and Television broadcasting, Global Satellite television broadcasting in Nigeria in 1996 and Cyber technology in television broadcasting.

Others are the pioneer of Chroma technology in television broadcasting, first African station to transmit into and from the United States of America, first African television station to broadcast into the Caribbean, the Mediterranean Basin, Asia, the Americas, the Nigerian television station to transmit to the United Kingdom.

He also introduced digital technology in television broadcasting, and live transmission of major national and global events.

Analysts believe the impact of the private sector in broadcasting through the innovations, revolution and the remarkable activities of DAAR Communications Plc, made the international community to have confidence in Nigerian media.

In the area of rural transformation, Dokpesi’s footprints have continued to turn around hitherto villages into urban centres.

Stations

Unlike other broadcast operators that site their stations in rented apartments and already developed areas, Dokpesi, as part of his contribution to the socio-economic development of the country through rural transformation, most times site the stations in rural communities.

In a short time, such areas are transformed remarkably.

Many examples abound. They include Ilapo/Alagbado in Lagos State, Kpaduma Hill Top Asokoro in Abuja, Choba village in Port-Harcourt, Ebele village in Bayelsa State. Ekhueniro Community along Benin By-pass and others are outstanding examples of his commitment to the socio-economic transformation of rural communities.

These feats on many fronts didn’t go unnoticed at the highest level as he was conferred with the national awards of the Officer of the Federal Republic ,OFR, in 2008.

He is also a recipient of several professional awards and chieftaincy titles from across the country.

Clocking 70 tomorrow isn’t just another milestone for the man of many firsts alone, but also for Nigerians who happily welcome him into the club of statesmen. Therefore, as he celebrates, the nation looks forward to many years of statesmanship.

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