Even sadness is saddened by this sad occurrence. The grim reaper has struck, leaving a trail of blood and unending tears.
What a tragedy! A heart wrenching calamity in its cruelest form. For every sane mind, it is difficult not to be demoralized by this nightmarish reality.
She is gone forever. Gone with the winds. Gone in suspicious and controversial conditions. Gone in the noon of life. Gone in pains. Tell me a story sadder than this. Meanwhile, I hope you are aware that young Flying Officer Tolulope Oluatoyin Sarah Arotile has just completed a natural sprint on earth. How her glittering life was not a marathon, defies logic.
It all started gloriously in 1995 and ended in tears in the sick year, 2020.
But who cursed 2020? Is this still the year that people celebrated wildly just for crossing into it? May this pandemic called 2020 be gone!
She was young but her records dwarfed the repertoire of veterans. The very first female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force. Trained in the best aviation and airforce academies in the globe, a young Tolulope had her sights on safeguarding her country of birth with her passion for flying.
“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 words.
Her passion pushed her to heights unimaginable. Her passion conquered fear, fears of the risks associated with being on the frontlines in Nigeria. Our air force jets/ helicopters have been severally gunned down from skies, and personnel beheaded or shot dead by insurgents. Young Tolulope was never perturbed. She flew several combat missions against terrorists and bandits in the country.
Having underwent tactical flying training on the revolutionary Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy, young Tolulope it was who introduced the attack helicopter to President Muhammadu Buhari, during the Air Force induction ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja in February 2020.
She was a flying terror to the armed enemies of the Nigeria State. To sane Nigerians, she was an angel with artificial wings. Wings of war against terrorism -terrorism that has exposed Nigeria’s vulnerabilities in the eyes of the world.
Averting Tolulope’s demise was not rocket science. If ours is a nation where quality attention is given to things that really matter, ugly incidences such as this would have been averted.
Now, listen to the suspicious tape they are playing: she saw a former secondary school mate, the unnamed secondary school mate saw her too, they got excited, the fellow wanted to greet her, reversed his or her vehicle, hits Tolulope ferociously, Tolulope hits her head on a stone, Tolulope dies.
And all of that transpired at an Airforce Academy. Sounds like a desperately cobbled half truth! Unconvincing storyline!
But we are used to hearing strange things. Haven’t we been told how snakes and monkeys swallow public funds left in government coffers? Haven’t dead people been given appointments and awarded contracts by government?
Nothing shocks us anymore. We have since been shocked to a state of ‘unshockability’ – to borrow Dele Giwa’s words. Oh! Interestingly, have we forgotten how Giwa also left us?
Is the Giwa puzzle solved till this day?
Spin merchants are at work again as Tolulope bows out. When you are dead, people say all sorts of things about you. Sadly, you won’t be there to give your side of the story. They will make sure that no foolproof investigation is conducted.
Well, they chose to swiftly put an accident tag on it – Nigeria itself is an accident. A tragic accident of history.
The youths of Nigeria are mourning one of their own. On social media platforms, they are expressing sadness and anger. In a nation where there is a scarcity of role models, Tolulope inspired her generation. At her young age, she set records and antecedents that decades and centuries will not erase. She reached heights that must have elicited admiration and envy.
To her parents, their joy has been cut off, their pride snatched, their investment in her lost. They will now have to live with pains in their hearts. Dear reader, wherever you are, carve out time and pray for her immediate family. Since this has refused to just be a passing dream, pray God to strengthen her parents, siblings and every good member of her family. Pray God to plant another Tolulope in that family. Just petition God for the sake of the Arotiles of Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Tolulope came, saw, participated and left a legacy. But, what a rush! Dear reader, do something when time is on your side. Make the best out of today. What if tomorrow never comes? In this insecure country, tomorrow is not a guarantee for the masses. Members of the armed forces, too, are disillusioned by goings-on. Days ago, 356 soldiers fighting insurgency tendered resignation letters, citing loss of interest and poor welfare as reasons. All is not well in the polity.
Our fallen combat angel is gone, and I pray for all our youths. May our parents never bury us. Protect us, Oh Lord! Most importantly, Heavenly Father, teach us to number our days.
Imbue in us the heart to know that this world is not our home. Teach us to know that we are so fragile, once broken, we cannot be fixed. Teach us look up to You, not same government that is not bothered about rescuing Leah Sharibu and other innocent captives of terrorists. Teach us not to look up to a government that labels captured terrorists as ‘repentant insurgents’ even as members of the armed forces are slaughtered by same terrorists.
It hurts to pen these lines of lamentations. Must this nation continue eating her offsprings? It is a despicable situation. This has become a massive killing field. A vultures’ paradise. Our armed forces are depleted on a daily basis by violent deaths, resignations and internal protests codenamed mutiny.
Must we all perish before things are put right?
Some sources say she was hit on the tarmac.
The Air Force calls it a road accident. A “road accident” inside the Air Force base. We may never know what really transpired. All we know is that our girl, Tolulope, is gone.
Dear Tolulope, may your creator find you deserving of flying with the angels.
Fly on, girl. I love you.
(Ofonime Honesty writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. [email protected] +2348023314809)