Engineer Akintude Arotile is the father of late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile who died in Kaduna. He spoke with select journalists in Lokoja, Kogi State. SAM EGWU was there for LEADERSHIP. Excerpts
Accept our sincere sympathy on the tragic death of your daughter, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile.
Oh! We have to accept this as an act of God. There is virtually nothing anyone can do, that is God’s time. Of course, for every mortal under the sun, that’s the path we shall all follow.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I am Engineer Akintude Arotile, a senior citizen. I worked with Transition Company of Nigeria. I retired last year as a power engineer.
You must have been devastated by the unfortunate loss of your darling daughter ….
That is an understatement. From day one, she had not just been brilliant but wonderful. I was in Kaduna then, she had all her educational career from kindergarten to nursery at the Air Force base and Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. One day when she was very small, she pointed to one small aircraft, parked on the field and said, “Dad, one day I am going to fly that aircraft” and I said, “Amen.” Therefore, from that day, she started working towards that. She got admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna, she had a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, she became an Air Force cadet, from there she was sent on several courses abroad and became a pilot. I just thank God that she was able to achieve her dreams as a baby before her death.
What was her position in the family?
She was number 4
She had been described in several fora as an award winning pilot and in fact the first in the country to become a female combat pilot….
(Cuts in) ,Oh God! Right from day one, she had been very very intelligent. Sometimes, I wondered what type of intelligence quotient she had, she also combined intelligence with hard-work.
In fact, I wished you had been here when her bosses from Enugu came. You would think she was their daughter by the way they were eulogising her and being proud of her achievements.
When was your last encounter with her?
Just yesterday, at about 1 pm, I called her because she just came back from an operation against the bandits in Katsina. They gave them one week to rest and so she was sleeping and told me she was relaxing her nerves resting after the day’s hard work. She said she would later go out to make some photocopies of some papers and I told her not to be long and to return home on time because she was staying with my first daughter in Kaduna.
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 no response. So I called her colleagues but they were all crying on the phone. I asked what happened but they were just crying. So I called one of her bosses who told me that she was in the mortuary and I said, “Ha! Somebody I spoke with four hours ago and by 5 pm she is in the mortuary!” I had to drive to Lokoja from Abuja to enable me inform her mother physically because I could not break such news on phone. But when I came she had gone to the prayer mountain. She came back around 8.30pm and I told her this was what I heard but that I had not confirmed the information.
What has been the reactions of the Air Force authority since the incident happened?
I must say that I am really impressed by the outpouring of grieve, sympathy and support. There have been several visits from her bosses from all over the country including here in Lokoja, Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu, all over. The support has been overwhelming. They even gave a token and promised that later they would do something. They even promised to give us a choice of where to bury her, but her commandant suggested that she should be buried at the National Cemetery, Abuja because of the number of people that will attend the funeral and due to the feat she had achieved as the first female combatant pilot in Nigeria.
Will you ever wish any of your child to take that profession again?
Though it’s painful when you lose them, it’s not a profession for all comers. It’s for class and it’s not regrettable to have them after all which profession does not have its own risk. I pray for her soul.