By George Ugwumba

Some days ago on a Facebook Messenger chat with a senior friend of mine, whom I consider a mentor even though my mentor has never seen his mentee physically before, apart from the space we share on social media as our means of communication. Towards the end of our chat he said, “may Nigeria not happen to you”. For a moment I paused and then reluctantly replied “No, it won’t”.

Subsequently, I realised it was a word of encouragement as much as a prayer when I reflected on those words coming from such a wise man who lived more than half of his years so far in Nigeria and the remaining in Europe. Of course, he has seen it all, he knows the life of both side to come up with such summation. However, as much as the statement may sound unpatriotic, the reality before us conforms to his narratives and as such speaks volume to whatever Nigeria may stand for.

Not too long ago I came across the news of the death a promising Nigerian, who ultimately made the country proud as the first female combat helicopter pilot in the 55 years of the nation’s Air Force existence. It was shocking news, mostly after I read the circumstances of her death. But then I vividly remembered my mentor’s statement— which I now consider as a prayer “may Nigeria not happen to you”. It is very disheartening that Nigeria happened to TOLULOPE ARITOLE. The happenstance surrounding her death was comfortably designed by Nigeria to destroy this amazing black child, our very own beautiful soul of great intelligence, who left a footprint on the sand of time.

But then, isn’t it worrisome that the Air Force waited until the family and some well meaning Nigerians called them out to open an investigation into her sudden death, before they could announce the investigation of who they refer to as “our shining star” in the words of Chief of Air staff Siddique Abubakar? This inquest from Nigeria Air Force is nothing but a farce that will only suit their narrative. It is also pertinent to note that her very own blood sister who was with her few hours before her death, in fact who dropped her off at the Air Force base had earlier said ” that her sister’s death is suspicious” she recounted “I couldn’t believe someone I dropped off at the base, after she received a phone call from whom I suspected was her senior officer from the way she replied was dead one hour later”.,

With events surrounding her death, Nigerians want to hear more about the demise of their beautiful sister ARITOLE. We ask for more information. What is the name of this “friend” who accidentally hit our beautiful Pilot? What is his/her address? Is this friend alive or dead too? What is his/her condition? Is he/ she in a hospital? Which hospital? Does he/she have a family? What was the speed of the reversing vehicle that hit our sister in her Air Force base? Are there not speed limits in the base? How could the friend reverse without using a rear view mirror? How possible could this friend hit the first female combat helicopter pilot without knowing? How could our ARITOLE not see the vehicle coming—knowing how important she is in the fight against terrorism? Who witnessed the accident? These are the common sense questions we seek and demand answers to.

In what may look like a script, NAF published their investigation regarding ARITOLE’S death and made attempt to answer the questions we raised earlier. However, NAF repeatedly made it clear that this report is for those who find her death suspicious: “Upon recognising their schoolmate, Arotile, after passing her, Mr Adejoh, who was driving, reversed the vehicle, ostensibly in an attempt to quickly meet up with the Deceased, who was walking in the opposite direction. In the process, the vehicle struck Flying Officer Arotile from the rear, knocking her down with significant force and causing her to hit her head on the pavement. The vehicle then ran over parts of her body as it veered off the road beyond the kerb and onto the pavement, causing her further injuries”.

This charade of inquest by Nigeria Air Force is incoherent. Hit her head on a pavement… WHAT pavement? We ask again, are there no CCTV footage in Air force base accident scene? Who witnessed this accident? Can NAF give a video illustration to Nigerians at the accident scene for clarification purpose? Is it possible in the Nigeria of today that nobody pulled out his/her phone to capture this scene? At what speed did this young man reverse the vehicle only to hit her? Who reverses without having a mind of where to stop even after you hit something?

The natural instinct of driving is that when you hit something, the next thing is to apply your brake, but this fellow didn’t stop (unless ARITOLE was made to be a wedge that will stop the car) he went ahead to crush her. If he reversed ostensibly in an attempt to meet her with speed, isn’t it likely that when he hit her with such speed that the car will toss her off significantly to a point? but this fellow didn’t apply the brake at this involuntary moment but followed her to the distance she was tossed to. Again, what records does NAF have to show that these “friends” are ARITOLE’S classmates? We would like to see such records. Also ask other classmates to identify these “friends”. Yes, we will be so petty to this point.

Fervently I pray that the answers to these questions will not be an equation of “may Nigeria not happen to you” as I recall a sheer volume of Nigerian investigations I can only say, may these questions and the answers we demand not be dead on arrival—all to suit the perpetrators narrative and paint this unholy death “God’s time” as I recall the kidnap and death of a colonel in Kaduna without a comprehensive report of the investigation. We will not forget the death of Bola Ige and the investigation so far. Also the death of Badeh a retired Air Chief Marshal and chief of defence staff whose military details was with the very day of his death, the outcome of those investigations has always been one-sided. Our hope however is, may Nigeria not happen to the death investigation of our dearest sister TOLULOPE ARITOLE.

It may also be of immense help if the family set up an independent investigation, certainly a lot will be uncovered. My people will say “when a child cries and points at a particular direction. If the mother isn’t there, the father certainly will be there” all we see in this report is farce.

Rest in Power beautiful goddess. You’ve left a landmark behind, beauty with brain.

(c) George Ugwumba 2020

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