By Albert Afeso Akanbi
The outpouring of emotion during her funeral demonstrated beyond doubt that her death was a great and painful loss, not just to her family and friends, but to the entire nation.
Yesterday the 23rd of July, the remains of one of Nigeria’s young shinning stars, the 23-year-old Flying Officer of the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Tolulope Arotile, who died under circumstances that many refuse to accept as normal, on the 14th of July 2020, was laid to rest with full military honour worthy of a heroine that she was. She was Nigeria’s first female combat pilot, and flew airborne to destroy many terrorists in Nigeria’s war on terror.
The outpouring of emotion during her funeral demonstrated beyond doubt that her death was a great and painful loss, not just to her family and friends, but to the entire nation…
While people like Dr. Sunday Adelaja, the Ukrainian based founder of the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations church insist that rather than mourn Tolulope, we should celebrate her life and achievements at such a young age, sadly, I’d say, though she is dead and gone forever, the hole she left, especially in the hearts of her family members, is huge, and as a people, the only way we can truly immortalize her is to look ourselves in the face and tell ourselves the undeniable truth about our current realities as a nation.
The government can choose to bury her in a 100-billion-US dollar worth of casket, that would be useless if the real cause of her death is not unraveled and justice served, and if the government doesn’t tell itself the truth and make conscious efforts to set this nation on a path that will prevent future avoidable deaths.
We must also know that no matter the unseen hand behind her death, whether there is a particular interest that outweighed her life for which it was forfeit, it is the Nigerian nation that will eventually come out the ultimate looser because we have been deprived her bravery in battle and her contribution to our quest for lasting national security…
We will not only be deceiving ourselves if we do not unravel the real cause of her death, and bring her “killers” to book, we will also be doing a great disservice to our motherland and spitting on the faces of all the innocent people who have died as a result of terrorism in this nation, over the years. Already, her family and the Yoruba nation have called for an investigation, and most Nigerians still doubt the story the government put forth because of the discrepancies inherent in it…
General Buhari didn’t attend her funeral, I doubt if he even issued a statement, and as a matter of fact, he is in Mali as I type, where, ironically, he has gone to broker peace when as we speak, aged women in southern Kaduna are just now protesting the ceaseless killings of innocent people in the State, naked, and his own home State of Katsina is recording one of its highest deaths due to senseless terror, which has reached a peak since he came to power…
Since this administration began in 2015, there have been genuine concerns from many quarters that the war on terror has been hijacked, that the military is fraught with corruption, that we are not making any headway, so much so that even recently, the National Assembly called for the sacking of the services chiefs who the whole nation is unanimous is saying have failed…
There are even talks of a conspiracy to exterminate people of a certain religion and tribe in this country, there’s been various accusations of human rights abuse and genocide against a certain religion, even from reputable organization like Amnesty International, we have seen soldiers deserted and some who actually came forward to confess that there’s an attempt to reduce the members of a certain section of the country in the army, they say that that is the reason they are sent to the thickest part of the conflict, without arms and ammunition. Just last week, we heard a young man introduce himself on a Lagos talk show as an ex-soldier, who told us how he was targeted and shot at because he was very good at killing terrorists. We have heard some people argue that our brave soldiers who surmount all odds and obstacles put in their way by this government and try to make a mark, were deliberately aimed, shot at and killed. And there are whispers in some quarters that that may have been what happened to late Tolulope.
Call it conspiracy theories if you like, blame these concerns on haters of this government if you will, but there are some truths that we all cannot overlook and they are that, the war on terror has needlessly dragged on for too long and billions have been sunk into it with no tangible results to show.
Our approach to this war need to change, the activities of the military, at least its top echelons, need to be looked into and it’s leadership even overhauled maybe. Innocent people are dying daily.
This government has displayed gross insensitivity to the families of victims of terror in particular and Nigerians in general, by setting terrorists free and even treating them with kids gloves and giving them first class treatment as if being terrorists is a thing to be rewarded, considering the evil they have perpetrated on innocent people, including pregnant women and children.
We must also know that, despite our religiosity, this land is filled with so much blood and injustice. There have been so many unsolved deaths, unjust deaths, avoidable deaths, and so many deaths that happened as a result of the cluelessness of this government and the insensitivity, and callousness, according to many, of this president.
For example, around last year, we all witnessed how Hamisu Wadume, a suspected kidnap kingpin in Taraba State, implicated Nigerian soldiers in his deadly escape before he was re-arrested. He had first been arrested by a team of anti-crime police officers in Taraba. He was being taken to Jalingo, the state capital, when soldiers manning a checkpoint opened fire on the police team that arrested him, killing three officers and a civilian. The officers killed were the best in their department, and there were even reports that they had just returned from training abroad and were very useful to the police in tracking criminals. And we have countless examples like this, including those of uncountable number of good and faceless victims.
Does anyone still doubt that there in a covert plan to kill the very best of us? Could this be what happened to Tolulope? Did she uncover something that would have exposed some interest groups, in the cause of her duty?
Who will provide answers to these questions? Who will save us from ourselves in this nation? What have we done? For how long will all this wickedness continue?
Well, Tolulope Arotile, ma su’n o, gbesan.
Albert Afeso Akanbi is a Public Affairs Analyst.