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Which Pilot Will You Trust? A Short Story of the Lowee People

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Once upon a time in a small west African community called Lowee, the people decided to choose one of their citizens who was a skillful, experienced and professional pilot to become the official pilot of their community’s aeroplane.

The vacancy for the position was advertised: OFFICIAL PILOT NEEDED! Every citizen of Lowee who felt qualified was encouraged to apply. The Pilot Management Board, (PMB), the official body charged with the responsibility to oversee the recruitment process also announced that all applicants would be required to participate in an aircraft flying contest. The best pilot who met the qualification specification of the PMB, would be hired as Lowee’s official pilot for a six-year period. The primary criterion was that each applicant had to be a native born citizen of Lowee with a Real Property value of at least $25,000.00 in the Lowee’s currency; and the contestant had to live in Lowee for 10 years prior to the time of the contest.

CONTEST DAY: The contest day was set for October 11, and various supporters who were of age to attend the contest gathered at the community main airport to cheer their respective contestants to victory. Taking it one at a time each contestant was allowed to board the cockpit and to run the Jumbo-14-6 jet, down the run way until it became airborne. Once in the air, each contestant, without the help of a co-pilot, was required to demonstrate his piloting skills by manipulating the plane high in the sky for five minutes before landing back on the runway at a specified emergency landing speed limit, set by the PMB.

At the end of the exercise the PMB ruled that all of the contestants, except two, proved unable to properly read the navigational signals on the compass and to effectively communicate with the control tower, in order to successfully land the plane at the required emergency landing speed limit set by the PMB. The PMB further said that none of the two contestants who emerged victorious in the first round of the exercise had scored more than 50% + 1 to be declared the winner in keeping with the rules of the contest. Since the contestant who emerged the winner was responsible to recruit his own co-pilot, this contest sought to produce only one winner. In order to determine that winner, the PMB announced a second round to take place in two week’s time between the two contestants which I now prefer to call contestant ‘E’ and contestant ‘M’.

Initially, contestant ‘M’ claimed that since he had won a higher percentage in the first round, he should be declared the winner and given the job as the community’s chief pilot, but the PMG objected on grounds that such an action contravened its guidelines. Finally, both contestant ‘E’ and contestant ‘M’ agreed to go into the second round. After consulting with their respective supporters, doing extra practices and re-strategising, the day came for the final contest (second round).

Again, a sea of supporters gathered at the community’s main airport to cheer their preferred contestant to victory. Each contestant was instructed to enter the cockpit, drive the Jumbo jet down the runway and take off at a 45 degree angle, and once the plane became airborne the contestant was required to demonstrate his piloting skills by holding the plane in a stable position in midair for six minutes, then manipulate it to summersault two times, and sit back in its normal position facing the runway, ready to descend at the full emergency landing speed, specified by the PMB.  

After viewing the performances of contestant ‘E’ and contestant ‘M’, the PMB declared contestant ‘E’ as the winner of the contest and the chief pilot of the Lowee community for the next six years. In its ruling the PMB concluded that during the second round, contestant ‘E’ read the navigational signals and communicated more effectively with the control tower, and was therefore able to successfully land the plane at the specified 180 degrees emergency landing speed limit. As such, according to the PMB, contestant ‘E’ was more qualified to pilot the community’s plane.

CONTESTANT ‘M’ and his supporters protested the PMB’s decision and threatened to hold street demonstrations, alleging that they had been cheated; Contestant ‘M’ and his senior most executives then appealed to the highest piloting body, the Council of Aviation Authority, CAA, for redress. But the CAA upheld the PMB’s decision that contestant ‘E’ had won the second round of the contest free and fair. Contestant ‘E’ was therefore inducted into office on January 16, as the community’s new pilot.

CONTESTANT ‘M’ RETURNS TO SCHOOL: During the contest one of the criticisms which had been levelled against contestant ‘M’ was that contestant ‘M’ appeared not to be sufficiently educated in the field of aviation. Opponents accused contestant ‘M’ of having a poor command of the Queen’s language and lacked the ability to effectively read navigational signals to convincingly communicate with the control tower.

However, everyone knew that contestant ‘M’ was a fine and popular gentleman who sincerely loved the people of Lowee. Yet, it was common knowledge that contestant ‘M’ had his own area…he was very good at the chequered game which was a popular and well-loved game in the Lowee community and around the world. In fact, due to contestant ‘M’s creative ability to play the game, he became a star at this game, and because of him, the whole world now knew about the Lowee people.

He played it with so much professionalism that it was hard to find anyone who could easily beat contestant ‘M’ at the chequered game. Contestant ‘M’ had won several national and international laurels; and had made a lot of money from being able to play the game so well. Thus, many of his admirers were stunned when he abandoned his God-given talent at the game to pursue the job of chief pilot for the Lowee community, even though it was his right to do so under the laws of Lowee land.

So, as the story goes, contestant ‘M’ decided that he would travel far away to a distant place in the white man’s land to enrol in a big school in order to improve his skills in piloting. Scores of his supporters and sympathizers felt that he had taken the best decision to go back to school to train and qualify as a professional pilot. Many of his supporters consoled themselves in the fact that even though contestant ‘M’ lost the contest in the second round, he still stood a chance to become chief pilot of the Lowee community if he went back to school to equip himself with the kind of aviation skills required to challenge and defeat contest ‘E’ during the next contest which was due in six years’ time.

News of contestant ‘M’s decision to return to school spread like wildfire all across the Lowee community…his supporters and sympathizers were excited and happy that after his graduation he would be more competent and confident to contest and win. Certainly, his preparation, training and the school paper he will get, should adequately equip him to meet the expectation of his supporters.

Soon, time passed and the news filtered that contestant ‘M’ had completed his academic program and had received a big paper in aviation (the science of learning how to fly a plane). He returned from the white man’s land to a tumultuous welcome from his supporters and sympathizers who lined the major streets to welcome him.

SIX YEARS HAD ELAPSED and it was again time for the Lowee people to choose another pilot in a matter of few months and all the people of Lowee who felt qualified were encouraged to apply. Contestant ‘E’ who had defeated contestant ‘M’ in the previous contest, again decided to participate in the race. Supporters of contestant ‘M’ anxiously waited to hear him announce his bid to challenge and beat contestant ‘E’ this time round, since that was probably the main reason why he had gone back to school to prepare for this day.

Surprisingly, contestant ‘M’ shocked many of his supporters, when he told the people of Lowee that he will not be a front runner in the contest to challenge contestant ‘E’. In stead, he said in keeping with a decision reached by his executive council, he had agreed to step aside in order for one of the elders of Lowee to contest the pilot position and that he would serve as co-pilot should the Lowee elder win.

All kinds of rumours quickly began to spread, suggesting that contestant ‘M’ had simply behaved like a good businessman by selling his popularity to the elder statesman…some people began to ask: What signal was he sending? Was he telling the people of Lowee that in spite of all the education he brought back from the white man’s land, he still did not feel competent and confident to pilot our community plane?

Others inferred that such a formula was a recipe for possible confusion in the cockpit whenever the plane encountered turbulence or a stormy whether. They said contestant ‘M’ who would now be the co-pilot may try to issue orders and directives to his elder pilot, and if the elder pilot refuses to obey his orders, contestant ‘M’ may be tempted to say these reminding words: ‘Don’t forget that I made you chief pilot’ of the Lowee community. This type of friction could easily raise the dangerous prospect of a possible power struggle for control of the plane in mid-air.

CONTEST DAY CAME AGAIN: The PMB announced the usual date for the contest. And, for the first time the community of Lowee came alive with glittering cololors and paraphernalia depicting the photographs of contestants pasted everywhere. The PMB also allowed contestants to parade the Lowee community, explaining why they felt qualified to become the chief pilot of Lowee.

Scores of jubilant Lowee citizens began to compare the flying records of the various contestants. Al though there were more than fifteen contestants in this contest, the majority of the Lowee people, again, believed that the race would narrow between contestant ‘E’ and contestant ‘M’. Some said contestant ‘E’ had a better track record of having successfully flown the community’s plane for the greater part of the last six years without any mishap, and that the community plane, damaged in a crash fourteen years earlier, was now more air-worthy because contestant ‘E’ had so beautifully repaired the plane’s 4 engines and re-sprayed it with Lowee’s colors (red, white & blue). Some said, ‘contestant ‘E’ shall win’ because the evidence of contestant ‘E’s ability to keep the community plane safe was very glaring for everyone to see. Others disagreed and boasted that the elder statesman who replaced contestant ‘M’ appeared poised to win the contest.

THE SPECIAL TWIST: The PMB announced a surprising and interesting twist to the contest. It said that as part of the process to determine the winner of the piloting contest, the Lowee City Council Government had agreed to issue, to all the citizens of Lowee who met the legal age to attend the contest, free tickets bearing the photos of all contestants. The PMB said each citizen who received a ticket would be required to choose one of the contestants by ticking a mark on the photograph of his/her chosen contestant, and then place the ticket in a designated box.

All tickets from the box will also be drawn in a raffle and holders of the winning tickets from the draw shall be given the first opportunity for the pilot who wins the contest to fly them on a two-week excursion, to a beautiful country in the far east, free of charge, with all hotel accommodation and travel allowances pre-paid by the City government. If you were a Lowee citizen holding one of the tickets, which contestant will you mark, and which of the two contestants will you trust to fly you thousands of miles across the deep Atlantic Ocean, contestant ‘E’ or contestant ‘M’?

The Choice Is Yours!

Alphonso Richardson
Cell: 088 0690 5561

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