Olonisakin, Jonathan, others eulogise fallen female combat pilot
The authorities in Nigeria have been advised to halt the practice of neglecting young men and women who served the country with dedication. Group Captain (Rev.) Dogo Gani gave the charge yesterday while officiating at the funeral of the nation’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja.
Urging the bereaved family, in his sermon, to be strong and take solace in the fallen heroine’s impactful life to her relatives and the biggest economy on the African continent, the cleric regretted that successive administrations had not valued youths who patriotically served the nation.
His words: “Successive Nigerian administrations have not placed high premium on young men and women who have been found to serve the country at the peak of patriotism, dedication and commitment.”
“Nigerian leadership has always used and dumped such patriots, a tradition those in authorities, should stop,” he added. The 24-year-old Kogi indigene, who died in Kaduna on July 14 this year of head injuries sustained from a crash masterminded by her classmate at Air Force Secondary School in the same northern state, was laid to rest with full military honours.
A twenty-one gun salute was accorded the slain officer before her remains, which arrived at the graveyard at exactly 8.38am, were eventually lowered at 11.05am amid tears from colleagues and relations.
The military high command, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, thereafter paid tributes.Governor Yahaya Bello and his wife, Rasheedat, Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, as well as chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn Na’lla, and Shehu Koku, were among the dignitaries that graced the event.
In his remarks, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Abubakar, said the departed young officer performed her ground and air duties in her short stay with dedication and professionalism.
“It’s indeed with a heavy heart and a deep sense of loss that I stand here today (yesterday) to welcome you all to this burial ceremony, and to bear the heart of the NAF (Nigerian Air Force) as we lay to rest the remains of a national heroine, a daughter and a highly impactful officer, the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile.
“I must confess that even at this moment, the NAF is still in palpable shock and grief on this loss because it is the loss of a mentee whom the NAF has so much confidence in, and our expectations have been cut short. As a combat helicopter pilot for several years, I can tell you that this young and confident first female helicopter pilot in the history of NAF dared so many odds to get to where she was before her demise,” he eulogised.
Also, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan described the departed as a “brave patriot who pushed her self beyond limits to demonstrate her uncommon love for the nation.”
In a statement he personally signed yesterday in Abuja, the Bayelsan-born administrator reminisced that his administration, in 2011, introduced the training of females at the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) for gender equality in the armed forces.
Besides, the Senate observed a minute silence in respect of the youngster, which it extolled for exemplariness.The observance followed a motion, ‘Demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile’, sponsored by Senator Adeyemi Smart (Kogi West) on the floor of the hallowed chamber. He implored the Federal Government to immortalise the dead for her “tremendous contribution to the fight against terrorism within.”