My daughter, be home soon. You know you ought to be resting.”
“Yes, daddy. I will soon be home. I am only going out to do some photocopies. I will be back”.
That was the last time a doting father heard his daughter speak. She was cut down in her prime.
Late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who was the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in Nigeria, according to available information was knocked down by an overexcited former classmate of hers who wanted to greet her which she made her to sustain head injuries that probably led to her.
The explanation seems so convenient. It also seems that the Airforce was holding brief for the careless driver. “a former school friend who wanted to greet her “. It sounds so lame. It is also difficult to believe. The information is so scanty and we demand more.
What is the name of the supposed overexcited school friend? Which car was the friend riding? Does he/she possess a driver’s license? What was the old secondary school friend doing at the Airforce base?
Where is the person now? Is it a male or a female? What is the level of investigation now? Is there even any investigation at all?
All these answers are begging for questions. The identity of the driver seem to be shrouded in secrecy and Nigerians need to know how things are going. There must an investigation. It must not be just brushed aside as an unfortunate accident.
To Nigerians and especially to the femalefolk, Tolulope was a rising star who had diligently pursued her dreams and as it was actualized, the light was snuffed out of her. She had made a great mark in her career at such a young age, what a great loss!
The father of the deceased said he had told the daughter to come home on time” when they spoke hours to her demise, not knowing she was never going to be home again.
Tolulope just came back from an operation against the bandits in Katsina and was given one week to rest.
“Around 5:30 pm, somebody called me and asked if I had called her today and I said yes. Then the person told me to call her which I did, but there was no response, so I called her colleagues, and they were all crying on phone.
“I asked what happened, they were just crying, so I called one of her bosses who told me that she is in the mortuary and I said, ‘this is somebody I spoke with four hours ago and by 5pm, she was in the mortuary’.” The bereaved father had told newsmen.
Also aggrieved by the development, Apapo O’odua Koya, (AOKOYA) in a statement had asked the International community to investigate her death. The group said the least it expects is an independent enquiry.
“We have very strong reasons to assume that Tolulope Arotile was murdered. We are aware she had altercations with top military commanders before her death and some hated her for her brilliance and exploit against Boko Haram and bandits ” AOKOYA said in the statement signed by its officials, Captain Abigo Oritsebugbemi (rtd) and its Middle Belt Coordinator, Akeem Meduna.
AOKOYA said the theory that Arotile died in a motor accident inside the Airforce base was full of doubts.
“We want full investigation into this suspicious death. We find it difficult to believe the story based on the information at our disposal.”
AOKOYA claimed that they have made preliminary findings and all officers who spoke to them could not understand how that could have happened.
One officer, her colleague in Kaduna specifically said the case of murder was the strongest motive”, AOKOYA said. At the time of her death, she was 23, and one of the youngest fighter pilots in the world.
“There must be an independent enquiry for anyone to be convinced Tolulope Arotile was not murdered. ” AOKOYA said.
The group went ahead to list Yoruba Airforce officers that were murdered such as a Yoruba Chief of Airforce, Shittu Alao who was murdered in 1969 and later one Dr Ademola Adetokunbo who carried out the autopsy.
The Commandant of Nigerian Naval School, Mrs J.O Ogundana was murdered few months ago with her body mutilated and packed in a bag.
In the same manner, one Dr Yomi Oniororo a 29 year old officer of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, (NIA) was murdered in Abuja, 2002.His body was mutilated.
While claiming that it was one tribe’s attempt to wipe out promising officers of Yoruba descent, the group noted that about 413 Yoruba junior and senior officers have been murderred.
Many of them were killed in a ‘neat job’ that looked like an accident.
The recent one involving the deceased Tolulope was too fascinating to be swallowed hook, line and sinker.
Late Tolulope was born on 13 December 1995 and attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 – 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 – 2011 before she later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on 22 September 2012.
She was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 16 September 2017 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Flying Officer Arotile was winged as the first ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on 15 October 2019, after completing her flying training in South Africa.
She holds a commercial pilot license and also underwent tactical flying training on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy.
Incidentally, she introduced the newly acquired Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja on 6 February 2020.
Flying Officer Arotile who died on 14 July 2020 at the age of 24 made outstanding contributions to the war against terrorism, armed banditry and other forms of criminality in the Country, flying several combat missions.
She joined the Nigerian Air Force out of passion for the job. In her words “I joined the military simply out of passion for it. Being a military personnel has been a long time ambition, the carriage and what it stands for are simply exceptional”.
Her last operation was tagged “Operation GAMA AIKI”in Minna, Niger State where despite rockets fired at her, she succeeded in killing many bandits and fundamentalists.
In a strongly worded letter, AOKOYA had threatened retribution for the murder of their slained Patriots.
Tolulope had been on several dangerous missions but had returned home unscathed. Had she been killed on a mission, it would have been easier to accept and she would have been a hero.
But no, the enemy’s bullet or missiles did not fell this gallant young lady. It was the car of a careless friend that delivered the lethal blow.
Sleep on, Tolulope. You have done your part. Although your future was truncated but the successes that you had recorded in your short career cannot be taken away from you.
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