REST IN PEACE, TOLU

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Tolulope-Oluwatoyin-Sarah-Arotile

My rooftop is, as the crow flies, circa three kilometres (plus-minus a couple hundred metres) northeast of the runway of the “international” airport at Minna, Niger State. With the lockdown in place these past couple of months plus the ongoing Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, the daily deep drone of a fat-body cammo-painted rotary-wing gunship platform with a forward-pointed antenna-rod never escapes my attention. This rotary-wing airframe usually comes quite low and quite fast during the last leg of its flying schedule, bearing due north and then banking sharply northwest to touch down at the Minna airport where it is obvious the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has a special revetment reserved for them.

The speed with which the aircraft commander flies over my rooftop always leaves me wondering that that gunship must be a capable airframe indeed and it must surely be piloted by a brash “young ‘un.” I never imagined that that “young ‘un” was truly a young female pilot, Ft. Officer Tolulope Sarah Arotile. Whilst all sorts of rotary-wing and small fixed-wing aircraft fly in the airspace of Minna as part of a retinue of training schedule obviously linked to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Kaduna State, the gunship piloted by Ft. Officer Arotile seemed to be rigged to fly “annoying” arcs over my rooftop on some days which I personally concluded were days of “no-mission flight-hours accumulation to hone aero-skills” or simply training flights conducted to broke some green aviator.

How would I have known that a 24-year old (two years younger than my only child, Joy Ada, who really mourned Tolu’s death) Ijumu girl was co-ordinating these activities? On some other days, this rotary-wing platform does not fly those constant arcs but sooner or later one can hear that deep drone from far and high above and then one can guess it was “mission-day” against the so-called “bandits” terrorising the Niger East senatorial district; let us all truly identify these “bandits” as Boko Haram-cum-ISWAP-cum-Fulani elements making incursions into the Northcentral states because one of their stocks-in-trade is killing pastors and church members and then burning the church buildings down. On a “mission-day” one thing was a constant and that being that Tolu will bear north on the final leg of her flight over my rooftop before banking to hit the NAF station. R.I.P., Tolu.

Sunday Adole Jonah,

Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State