Can I die for Nigeria? By Bakare Olatunde

Commander Muritala Daba
Pilot of the crash helicopter, Commander Muritala Mohammed Daba

Nigeria’s government conveniently forgot the four others who lost their lives in the crash that killed Yakowa and Azazi.


Saturday, December 15, 2012 marked another sorrowful and mournful moment in the history of Nigeria as the nation witnessed another crash in the form of a Naval Helicopter in Bayelsa State. Those saddled with the responsibilities of stabilizing the polity at various spheres of our national endeavour rolled out bands of tears whilst the mass of the people who hoped to end the lovely weekend on a high where shut in utter disbelief and total dismay that six lives including that of the Governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa; and the immediate past National Security Adviser and Chairman Bayelsa Flood Remedy Committee, Gen. Andrew Owoeye Azazi; have been lost.  This feeling of despondency is still thick in the air.

Dispassionately speaking, there is a firm basis for the growing pessimism of the average Nigerian. In spite of the unequalled natural resources and endowment that are available, we are gifted with or do I say shackled by a set of rapacious, insensitive and careless rulers who will rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven. If anything has laid credence to this assertion, it is the shabby, partial, disappointing, disregard and contemptuous treatment being meted out to the family of the two pilots who lost their lives in the Copter crash by the government and Military authorities. It is disingenuous and a failure of internal policy that a government which is fast losing credibility and trust of Nigerians would carelessly ignore and respect the roles of diligent Soldiers whose only offence for their untimely death was their decision to listen and respond to the call of their motherland on Saturday in far away Okoroba in Bayelsa State.

While I will not waste the ink of my pen on commenting on the legality, appropriateness or otherwise of the boastful hijacking or renting of a Nation’s military facility that is suppose to serve as one of the instruments in safeguarding our territorial waters cum air space against external aggression for use in a ‘private party’ of a common aide of the President (with due respect to his late father), I am particularly bothered by the crass inequality with respect to regards for human lives which were lost in the ill-fated crash. Without sounding self-contradicting, I acknowledge that man is unequal with regards to specific situations and circumstances as jurisprudential nature of natural law has postulated, however, the state of citizen inequality in Nigeria is sadly too extreme and calls for great concern. There is a sharp and long parallel contrast between those in power and the so called ‘lowly’ Nigerians. The affluence of those in power, which of course is very questionable in terms of how they were acquired in macabre dance for primitive appropriation of the commonwealth to the detriment of the entire populace, has not even propelled them to govern the nation with sincerity and honesty of purpose compared to the rare quality, commitment, passion and diligence espoused by the common Nigerians towards the realization of a better country even in the midst of unrivalled poverty which is far becoming a natural resources on its own.

Much has been said about how Governor Yakowa and General Azazi were fine gentlemen while they were alive. Much has also been said about their commendable contributions with respect to their immediate communities, states and Nigeria as a whole. The Governors, Elder statesmen, active and retired politicians, distinguished Nigerians, official and unofficial sympathizers and others in recent days have all brought to our notice literary masterful pieces in form of glowing tributes and mournful repositories which brings a reminiscence of Shakespearean olden days English about how wonderful Azazi and Yakowa were; but little or no mention at all was made about the two gentlemen pilots who were on active service not forgetting the remaining two aides either. Even the media has been awash with biographies and landmark achievement of the two eminent citizens with no mention of the secondary schools the pilot and his co-pilot attended.

A trip to the Iyana-Ipaja home of one of the co-pilots Lt. Adeyemi Sowole (as reported by Punch correspondent) made it obvious that the lives of ‘lowly’ Nigerians are worth nothing and dying for Nigeria worthless. The family lamented that there was no message of condolence either from the government or the Military or Naval authorities to placate them on the loss of their son. WHEREAS, ALL Service Chiefs led by the Chief of Defense Staff were in Lagos to pay condolence visit to the family of General Azazi Owoeye and NONE of them, not even the Chief of Naval Staff under whom the deceased naval officer worked could spare time to visit or send a delegation to the family of the deceased pilot. Even the closest government to Iyana-Ipaja, the Lagos State Government could not mandate the Chairman of Alimosho local government or its Ikeja LGA counterpart to pay the Sowole family a visit on behalf of the government.

They were all busy pouring both deserved and over-deserved encomiums (not to disrespect) on Yakowa and Azazi to the detriment of others. While I was still in pensive resignation with respect to senseless and disregard for the concept of equality before Man and God as espoused in various religious teachings and in flagrant disregard for the Fundamental Human Rights provisions under the Nigerian Constitution by the above shenanigans, I was more petrified when the Federal Executive Council led by President Goodluck Jonathan at their FEC meeting on Wednesday cancelled the day’s business for tributes in honour of the lives that were lost in the crash. A single “Rest in Peace” slogan was not made in honour of the departed combatants neither by President Jonathan nor his Vice- President Namadi Sambo. The big screen at the conference room of the Council and the monitors in front of each Minister were beaming the pictures of departed Azazi and Yakowa while that of the others were permanently rested in the imagination of their immediate families (perhaps they are blinded to the fact that Com. Murtala Daba’s wife just delivered a baby girl). The cry baby Ministers like Dieziani, Okonjo, Hadiza, Oduah, Olusola Obada (all females) who broke down in tears uncontrollably could not spare a few drops for the departed pilots while their male counterparts led by Labaran Maku were busy praising God for not boarding  the flight. This has only shown how irresponsible our leaders are. Their crass insensitivity which has long been taken cognizance of is only evidencing the obvious. After all, it was not too long ago that the Federal Government apologized to Dana Air for suspending their license as a result of the Dana Plane Crash that killed 153 Nigerians. I wonder if the government is even concerned with pressurizing the management of Dana Air to pay adequate and full compensation to the families that suffered the ignominy of losing their loved ones.

The democratic principles liberally espoused by the modern world have been impossible in Nigeria simply because of the cabal who continually hold the country down. So deep are we in a quagmire that extrication will require more than mere analyses of the socio-economic problems. However, all hands must be on deck to save our dear country from the strangle hold of those that are bent on driving it under.

Commander Murtala Daba and Lt. Adeyemi Sowole will be affectionately remembered by Nigerians for their diligence and gallantry service to their motherland. As far as I am concerned, they have rendered the best example of commitment to service that every Nigerian in public service should note with alacrity.

Our experience as a nation in the last 10years in this nebulous itinerary called air accidents has really been heart wrenching!

May Almighty God forgive your sins and give your wonderful families the fortitude to bear the irreparable and painful loss. Amen.  Rest in Peace my dear compatriots!

·         Abdul-Aziz is a final year Law student at the Lagos State University, Ojo.

·         Twitter handle: @backarray


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  • Ajantala

    Abdul-Aziz thanks for your writing but unfortunately its not going to change anything. BUT what stops these innocent pilots’ families from seeking financial redress in courts if need be? Nothing is going to change in this country until people start demanding their rights. I remember years a go when governments were treating Nigeria Labor unions with disrespect and neglects. Nothing changed until we began to have mass strikes.