What should be a period of national grief is silently turning into circus show for political and ethnic opportunism.
The untimely and questionable death of Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first fighter pilot in an accident in her Kaduna base has drawn sparks from two ethnic groups even before her family had the chance to process their loss.
- How first female combat helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile died — NAF
- My daughter spoke to me 4 hrs before her death — Father of late NAF pilot
Tolulope, a flying prodigy was winged barely a year ago and commissioned into the Nigerian Airforce combat group, the first female to be so honoured.
Here is one promotion based entirely on personal merit and dint of hard work without political influence or manipulation.
From the first reaction of her father, Tolulope’s dream was to fly a combat airplane.
She addressed herself strenuously to that task very early, joining the Nigerian Defence Academy and majoring in mathematics.
She commissioned to be a pilot for the elite Nigerian Air Force.
By dint of hard work and dedication, and through flying courses at home and abroad, she earned her medals.
Women affairs minister, Paulen Talen helped to decorate her as a combat pilot barely a year ago.
She has lived up to her calling, involved in battles against the enemies of her country and giving them a bloody nose.
Unfortunately, just hours after returning from a study mission and speaking to her father, a car allegedly driven by an acquaintance, knocked her down dead prematurely ending her promising career in gallantry.
It is painful enough that Nigeria has lost an iconic young lady, a role model and an epitome of valour, bravery and gallantry. While we were trying to process this loss, two ethnic groups latched on to her death in their quest to make cheap political capital.
The so-called Apapo O’odua Koya (AOKOYA) issued a statement calling for international investigation of the pilot’s death.
One retired Captain Abigo Oritsebugbemi and Akeem Meduna who claimed to be its Middle Belt Coordinator signed the statement in which they questioned how Tolulope could have ‘died in a traffic accident right inside the Airforce Base in Kaduna’.
Accidents happen everywhere, but they found a faceless officer who allegedly claimed‘murder as the strongest motive’. They then excavated a litany of unsolved murders in a vain attempt to authenticate their suspicious opportunism.
They found alliance in the Afenifere that hinged its suspicion on the fact that the late pilot had just returned from an operation against insurgents. Yinka Odumakin, the group’s scribe insinuated that her murder must have been planned.
Our country has a litany of unsolved murders from the coast to the fringes of the desert. It is crash opportunism to turn this gallant officer into an ethnic icon, especially by an ethnic group that is only faintly associated to her roots.
The late Arotile was born, bred and nurtured in Kaduna although her parents are from Iffe Ijumu in Ijumu local government area of Kogi State. By our constitution, she is as native to Kaduna as she is of Iffe.
While the people of Iffe must be proud of their illustrious daughter, her commission into the Airforce was not based on her ancestry but on pure personal merit.
Iffe Ijumu is in the north central or middle belt part of Nigeria.
The people of this area that stretches from Egbe to Kabba, and share boundaries with Ekiti, Edo and Kwara States bear only nominal cultural and linguistic affinity with the Yoruba. All that they are, they have worked hard for.
Both colonial and post-colonial Nigeria classify them as North Central. They are the most educated in Nigeria with nearly 600 professors to their credit.
Most of these dons went to universities stretching from Zaria through Kano, Jos through Maiduguri and Ilorin. No Kogi indigene is considered within the Yoruba catchment area in education.
The quest to lately claim the Okun as Yoruba is laughable opportunism, the handiwork of some political groups seeking relevance.
The Okun stretch far enough to maintain their distinct and unique identity and a death is not the place to seek political capital in a fractious nation.
It is absolutely galling to turn a painful, sad and sorrowful moment of bereavement to a moment for political opportunism. The politics of identity should not rubbish the accolades of a patriot.
The initial report and cause of Tolulope’s death could be suspicious, what is totally unnatural is for people to make political capital of that tragedy before her family have had the time to process the heartbreak that befell them.
Where an inquest is needed, it should be done in the national interest not at the behest of a wily political group.
It is antithetical to the principles of civilized conduct to attempt to bring the politics of ethnic identity into an icon’s untimely death. Any group doing so outside her immediate family is crying more than the bereaved.
Political opportunists must desist from clipping the wings earned by this hero on earth; laurels she should take to her grave to be immortalized in history.
In life as well as in death, Tolulope would be more than an ethnic icon. She was a national hero.
Nobody should belittle all that she has earned on the altar of xenophobic opportunism.
There are established norms for investigating the suspicious death of a patriot.
Those rules should be followed. It is better to be a national hero than a lapel pin on the rags of an amorphous ethno-political group.
Afenifere and her AOKOYA should steer clear of this icon’s interment process and grant the parents and her nation the right to honour her as a national icon.
Periods of national tragedy should not be used to play divisive politics. Our primary task should be to comfort her immediate family, her superiors and colleagues and those who look to her as a mentor.
Whatever an inquest finds, she died in the service of her fatherland and the preservation of her peace unity in diversity and her security.
Wily political actors should not use her demise to burnish their dying ethno-political ambitions.