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“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it…”

The above quotation by Steve Jobs, the Founder of Apple Inc., aptly establishes the fact that death is the most dreaded lexicon in any human society. It is hitherto assumed by all that “death” is a debt in which we all have to pay. The time however, differs from one person to another.

Nigeria and the world has experienced more deaths in the last few months of which scientists, religious clerics and even top-notch academicians have not been able to give adequate explanations and demystify the rather unclear realities behind these heart breaking occurrences.

It is as though the “grim reaper” isn’t waiting any longer to pitch and pierce his arrows into the feeble and frail minds of moral beings thereby causing untold griefs and sorrows.

Prior to the ravaging corona virus diesase holding the entire world to ransom, we were not short of occurrences and events claiming the lives of people in unexplained circumstances. However, it is an understatement to say that the nature and statistics of deaths nowadays, beats human imagination. The toll is increasing at a speed that baffles human comprehension. It is as though death suddenly wants to take vengeance on mother earth.

The last few weeks have rather been a gloomy and cloudy one for the men and officers within the rank and file of the Nigerian Air Force. Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first-ever female combat helicopter pilot, was taken by death a fortnight ago. News reporters were quick to air the news and herald it to the nooks and crannies of the world.

The circumstances under which the gentle men of the press recorded her death, is puzzling and has since ignited outcries from both the members of the deceased and the public in general.

In a rather deceit-shrouded report, the Nigerian Air Force had via its spokesman, Ibikunle Daramola, affirmed that the 24-year old Arotile died as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base in Kaduna State. She was hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force secondary school classmate while trying to greet her.

Nigerians are still trying to establish, affirm and confirm the circumstances behind the deceased’s death. To them, there is more to what was recorded by the Nigerian Air Force as well as the news reporters.

Rather than heap the blame on any party, I would on the contrary use this piece as a medium to celebrate the heroic deeds of the late officer.

Born on December 13, 1995, the late Tolulope crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s in a bid to occupying the position as the first female pilot to fly a helicopter in the nation’s military. Undoubtedly say she was the Biblical Deborah or Historical Queen Moremi of our time as she recorded giant strides in the current war against banditry and insurgency.

In a society like ours where the role of women in nation building has been undermined and relegated to the background, Tolulope’s auspicious achievement has set the foundation for the full and equal representation of women in all affairs of human endeavour.

Sadly enough, the grim reaper couldn’t wait any little further for the woman woven with the thick skins of a man to fight further. She was cut off in her prime. Her sun, literally stopped shining at midday. It was at the peak moment she was needed, that she left the war front. Never to be seen again, never to fight again.

Well, we cannot continue to enumerate the rare virtues of this gallant and brave soldier as endless tributes won’t be enough to celebrate a personality who not minding the dangers and consequences stood tall among her pairs. She was in reality “primus interpares”. No wonder, the founder, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, described her achievements as one that broke the glass ceiling.

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Women’ Trust Fund, Mufuliat Fijabi described the Late Arotile as a nationalist per excellence, who in her short life, upheld the unity of Nigeria and protected the geographical space.

Without gainsay or mincing words, Tolulope played her part maximally and it best she is given the highest medalic honour so her heroic deeds are impressed and remain in the hearts and memories of men.

Tolulope Arotile, it is not bye-bye, but see you again. Rest in peace!.

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