The sun was glinting sadly through the city of Kaduna on July 14, 2020 when Nigerians woke up with shocking news that first Nigerian female combat pilot, Tolulope Arotile had died in a road accident.How?
The report had it that a KIA Sorento SUV with registration number AZ 478 MKA (Kaduna) driven by Nehemiah Adejoh knocked down flying officer Tolulope Arotile when she was walking along Air Marshal Ibrahim Alfa Road in Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna.
She was later pronounced dead by the doctor on a call at the 461 Nigerian Air Force Hospital, Kaduna. A previously healthy young lady is gone, the most painful was the way she died, some succumb to cancer, others to heart attacks and currently some to COVID-19 but none of these ailments took her away from us, so hard death took her away. This life is filled with mystery.
Below Poem is dedicated to the Late Tolulope Arotile: Oh dear Tolu One of the most prized assets of NAF You were a gallant combat Yet a mere mortar A compatriot A kind hearted and honest lady You have been laid to mother earth
But it’s hard to accept the fact that death has taken you away from us You have served your country like a valiant combatant You’ve risked your life to save many The country will forever miss you dearly Death is inevitable and we must all be answerable to it Good Night Tolulope till we meet to part no more
According to a sympathizer from Aiyetoro Gbede, Kogi State, Ayo Irefin, “it should not have been Tolu she had so much to live for and so much to give, we have lost a rare gem in our town .…” Another sympathizer from the same town was beyond words, furious, absolutely enraged, and she asked amidst sobs: “A hail of bullets weren’t able to lacerate Tolu’s body, still strange that you had gone.
Life is precious, fragile and unpredictable, how we live our lives shows what people will be talking about us tomorrow. As they say as strange as death, no one knows when the owner will come knocking.”
The Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, described her death as a shocking and devastating national tragedy. He went further: “We are devastated by tragic death of this young promising lady who took bravery to the next level, demystified prejudicial stereotype and flew her parents, state and nation high in honour and professionalism.”
It was so strange people are asking questions: Were there other persons inside the vehicle that knocked her down?
Was she the only one on the walkway? Yes, the report has it that there were other occupants namely: Mr. Igbekele Folorunsho, and Mr. Festus Gbayegun. According to Group Captain Ahmed, the three suspects were former schoolmates of Ms Arotile at the NAF Secondary School, Kaduna who were in the base to visit the wife of a serving officer.
As reiterated above, there are various calls for her death to be investigated. According to the spokesperson of the Are Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, Kehinde Aderemi, her death was a great loss especially to the Yoruba. “Nigeria has lost one of its best brains in the military in such a suspicious circumstance,” he said.
The late Tolulope Arotile’s short span in life was remarkable with a track record of being the first female combat helicopter pilot. He said, the way she died raised more questions than answers.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) recently handed over to the Kaduna State Police command, the three suspects allegedly involved in the accident that led to the death of flying officer Tolulope Arotile on July 14.
The suspects were handed over to Edward Omosanyin by Commander 453 NAF Base Kaduna. Predictably, the police conducted further investigation into the incident for possible prosecution.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Jalige, who spoke to journalists after the handing over, said senior police officers had since visited the scene of the incident, and assured people of transparent investigation.
Already, the trial of the suspects in the alleged murder had started in a Kaduna court.
Ms Tolulope Arotile, the first female combat helicopter pilot in Nigeria, was buried with full military honour at the National Military Cemetery on 23rd July, 2020.
The inevitable truth is that Tolulope is gone, but the outcome of the investigation and trial will serve as a fundamental basis to prevent reoccurrence to other people.
Anjorin contributes this piece from Lagos via firstname.lastname@example.org