Tears as first female combat helicopter pilot, Arotile, goes home

Tears flowed freely Thursday at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja, as the body of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, was committed to mother earth.
Arotile, who broke the record as the first female combat helicopter pilot the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) ever produced since its establishment on April 18, 1964, was laid to rest at about 11.07 am, in full military honours, including the ceremonial 21-gun salute and national colours among others.
The ill-fated KIA Sorento SUV that knocked her down, according to the NAF, was driven by her former secondary school classmate, with two other occupants, who have since been arrested.
The remains of Tolulope, who died from what the NAF said was a “road traffic accident” at its Base in Kaduna on July 14, were buried “with restricted attendance in compliance with COVID-19 protocols”.
Her death has continued to elicit emotional reactions, amid conspiracy theories, which compelled the NAF to caution the public against imputing political or religious colourations.
To underscore the national loss that Arotile’s death represented, senior government officials, the military high command, as well as other dignitaries, joined the family and the NAF, for the solemn burial ceremony.
Among the dignitaries were the Governor of Kogi State, from where Arotile hailed, Mr. Yahaya Bello, and his wife, Rasheedat, Ministers of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, and Social Development Sadiyya Umar Farouq, as well as chairman of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Air Force.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin, led the military high command, which included the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, as well as representatives of other service chiefs.
In his remarks, the CAS lamented that the late Flying Officer’s death was a national lose, even as she died as a heroine, considering he record-breaking feat.


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