A year ago, Nigeria’s fight against insecurity suffered a great blow with the death of the country’s army chief, Ibrahim Attahiru.
Mr Attahiru, a lieutenant general, was involved in a military plane crash near Kaduna International Airport, on May 21, 2021. The crash also claimed other promising Nigerian soldiers who were the army chief’s lieutenants.
Nigeria lost 11 gallant soldiers, including Mr Attahiru, to the unfortunate incident.
Among the deceased soldiers was also 51-year-old Olatunji Olayinka, a brigadier general, whose ailing mother, Olawanle Olayinka, had a soothing telephone conversation with, just two days earlier.
After urging his mother to visit the Military Hospital, Yaba, for medical checkup and treatment of her arthritis, the soldier announced he would visit at the weekend. But that was never to be.
Bereaved mother’s narrative
During a recent visit to her residence located at the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) Estate, Lawanson, Mrs Olayinka shared her bitter story while sobbing uncontrollably.
She recalled speaking with her son, who was in Ibadan on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, telling him she needed to go to hospital.
“I have been managing arthritis for about five years now and my late son was responsible for the care. On that day, I told him that my legs were swollen so he said I should go to the military hospital, Yaba, where doctors told me to go for an X-ray,” she said.
Mrs Olayinka said on Thursday, May 20, the deceased sent her money to pay the hospital bill, but did not tell her he would be travelling the following day.
“So our conclusion was still that he would be coming home to see me at the weekend,” the 77-year-old grandma said.
However, while waiting for the weekend to come, Mrs Olayinka said one of her nephews called in the evening of Friday, May 21, and said; “Mummy, please call brother Tunji o! I heard that something just happened.”
She said that was how she started making efforts to speak to her son but to no avail.
“That was how the news was broken to me,” she said amidst sobs.
Asked whether she had any premonition of her son’s death, Mrs Olayinka said she didn’t.
Recalling her activities in the days leading to the incident, she said she had prayed from 3 a.m to 6:30a.m.
She said she became more prayerful because she had earlier lost two children, and would always pray for her surviving children.
“I prayed a lot more for him because of his job,” she said.
Within the last one year since the death of her son, Mrs Olayinka said her health has deteriorated.
She said the degeneration was not really out of poor care but as a result of the depression the death of her beloved son has caused her.
She said; “I have not been in my best of health since the news broke about the crash because my son was everything to me.
“He was my hero, my star, my pride. Olatunji was a son in the true sense of it. His death was like the crash of my entire life.”
She described him as a bridge builder, who she said built unity among the people of Majidun, Ikorodu, in Lagos State – his hometown.
“Everyone in the community loved him because he was humble, caring and was always ready to help,” she said.
“Immortalise my son”
The mother was, however, appreciative of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, for what she described as his administration’s intervention in her life. She said she now receives a monthly stipend from the state for her care.
She said her other children are also doing their best to fill the vacuum created by the death of the late soldier.
She added that when Mr Sanwo-Olu came to visit a few days after the crash, he promised a lot of things and “has fulfilled many of those promises.”
“But I told the governor to help me immortalise my son no matter how little. and he promised to do so but he is yet to fulfil that.
“I don’t want to decide for the government how to go about immortalising him, I just want something to be done about it,” Mrs Olayinka said.
She said as the first Lagosian to be appointed the provost marshal of the Nigerian army, she believed her son deserves immortalisation.
Mrs Olayinka also thanked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Tokunbo Abiru; House of Representatives Member for Ikorodu Constituency, Babajimi Benson, and the wife of late General Murtala Mohammed, Ajoke Muhammed, for their visit and “soothing words” when they visited.
About the deceased
Born as the seventh child of her parents on June 13, 1969, to the family of late Lateef Mobolaji Olayinka, a Lagos high chief, and Olawanle Olayinka, the deceased had his primary school education at Yewande Memorial Nursery and Primary School before proceeding to the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria, for his secondary education.
The mother explained that after his secondary school education, his son had wanted to gain admission to Nigerian Defence Academy, Zaria but that his father opposed it.
“He already gained admission to the defence academy but since his father objected to it, he sat the University Matriculation examination (UME) and was admitted to the Lagos State university (LASU), Ojo,” Mrs Olayinka said.
Meanwhile, as a result of his interest, the late soldier was said to have deliberately performed poorly in his first year at the school, that he was advised to withdraw.
“He then wrote another entrance examination into NDA and he passed. So his father had no choice than to allow him to go,” the mother further narrated.
The late soldier joined the NDA as a member of the 40th Regular Course to study Economics and during his final year at the academy, he was selected alongside one of his coursemates to complete his training at the prestigious Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England.
Commissioned with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on September 17, 1994, the late Olayinka was posted to the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police (NACMP).
Since then, he rose through the ranks to the position of acting provost marshall of the Nigerian Army.
“He was appointed acting provost marshal of the Nigeria Army on March 20, 2021 as a brigadier general. He said he had been billed to be promoted to the rank of Major General by November of 2021 but he died as provost marshal in May,” she narrated.
Until his demise, the deceased was said to be pursuing his MPhil/PhD programme in the department of Peace, Security and Humanitarian Studies at the University of Ibadan.
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