Akintunde Arotile, father of Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combatant helicopter pilot, has said he spoke to his daughter just four hours before news of her death was broken to him.
A distraught Arotile said she had told him around 1pm on Tuesday that she was in bed after an operation against bandits in Katsina. He said she had also said she would go make some photocopies later that day. He would later receive news of her death around 5:30pm of the same day.
“Around 5.30 p.m, somebody called me and asked if I had called her today and I said yes, then the person told me to call her which I did, but no response.
“So, I called her colleagues, and they were all crying on phone, I asked what happened , they were just crying, so I called one of her bosses who told me that she is in the mortuary.
“I said ha!, Somebody I spoke with four hours ago and by 5 p.m. she was in the mortuary,” he explained.
According to him, he had to drive from Abuja to Lokoja to break the news to her mother. He said she had been away praying on a mountain when he arrived and could only talk to her around 8:30pm when she returned.
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Arotile described his deceased daughter as an intelligent and hardworking woman.
“Right from day one, she had been very very intelligent, sometimes, I wonder what type of IQ she had.
“She also combined intelligence with hard-work. She has not just been brilliant but wonderful,” he said.
According to him, Tolulope did all her schooling in Kaduna from kindergarten to nursery at the Airforce Base and Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna.
“One day when she was very small, she pointed to one small aircraft parked on the field and said, ‘Dad, one day I am going to fly that aircraft’ and I said Amen.
“So from that day, she started working towards that, she got admission to the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, she had a Bachelor degree in Mathematics, she became an Air Force Cadet, from there, she was sent on several courses abroad and became a pilot.
“I just thank God that she was able to achieve her life dream as a baby before her death,” he added.
The Flight Officer died of head injuries suffered when her friend’s reversing car hit her. The friend was said to have sighted her by the road at Kawo in Kaduna and made to greet her before the accident.
She hailed from Ijumu Local Government of Kogi State.
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Her father said he is impressed by the outpouring of sympathy messages and support from the Nigeria Air Force and other Nigerians since the incident happened. He revealed that they promised to give her a place of choice for her burial with her commandant suggested she is buried at the National Cemetery in Abuja.