Opinion: Arotile Tolulope and The Questionable Death Saga

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What informed the saga?

Nigeria was thrown into a national mourning last Tuesday, 14 July 2020 when Nigeria Air Force, NAF, first announced that the country’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Arotile Tolulope died at the NAF Base in Kaduna following a freak traffic accident.

The air force said the combat helicopter pilot sustained head injuries from the accident when she was “inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force secondary school classmate while trying to exchange pleasantries.”

But on Thursday, 16 July 2020, some Yoruba groups, including the socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams raised suspicion over the death of the female officer, rejecting the road accident explanation and calling for a Coroner’s Inquest into her death.

This informed the agitations by many Nigerians in recent times, calling on the NAF to do a thorough investigation on what led to the death of the late Tolulope. According to some quarters, the explanation given by the force is flimsy and questionable, hence, necessitates the need to take the matter with kid gloves.

Tolulope got a phone call before her death, sister claims

In a related development, the immediate older sister of the late first female combat pilot, Tolulope Arotile, Damilola Adegboye has called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death, saying that the deceased got a phone call before the accident that killed her took place.

Adegboye in an interview with newsmen at the weekend, said that the family is devastated by the untimely death wondering how an ordinary reversing could kill a person just like that.

“We in the family are not convinced that Tolu can just die like that in a freak accident. I know that the military is well trained in the art of investigation, we want them to carry out a thorough investigation that can convince us beyond all doubts that the incident that led to his death was real. She said on the day of the incident, Tolu and herself were in the room where she was sleeping,” she said.

“A call came in to her phone which she picked, but from the way they spoke I knew that the caller must be a senior officer calling her to come to Airforce base, she felt reluctant and I offered to drop her off”, she added.
According to her, “One hour later, I saw online that something serious has happened to her. I couldn’t believe that somebody I just dropped off is dead.”

We’re probing Tolulope’s death – NAF

In reaction to the above, the Nigerian Air Force on Saturday said that it has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile.

It was gathered the NAF authorities instructed the Air Police and Intelligence units of the force to probe the freak accident following the out cries by many Nigerians interested in getting the desired justice for the deceased.

It was further learnt that investigation of Arotile’s controversial death may go beyond the Air Police and Intelligence unit as other security agencies with trained personnel in the area of such accidents are being drafted into the process.

In his words, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said when the investigation is completed, “whatever information needs to go out will go out.”

Daramola added, “First of all, in my first statement, I said she died from a road traffic accident. I further clarified the nature of the road traffic accident where one of her excited classmates, who saw her, reversed his car, which led to him hitting her and knocking her down. This led to head injuries and a lot of haemorrhaging, which ultimately resulted in her death.

“The two boys are in custody and the NAF will do a thorough investigation into the matter. It is a routine process – our own processes that are ongoing because it happened inside a NAF base. At the appropriate time, whatever information needs to go out will go out. But we cannot pre-empt that investigation process.

“Whatever needs to be known will be known; it is standard practice. So, we are investigating the circumstances leading to her death by a road traffic accident. It is an investigation because it may go beyond NAF.”

My submission

With a critical look into the circumstances surrounding the death of late Arotile Tolulope, it’s crystal clear the explanation given by the NAF should be weighed side-by-side if the truth must surface. It’s illogical and unsound to jump into hasty conclusion as it’s too flimsy to say she was actually killed by her schoolmate either accidentally or intentionally until a thorough investigation is done to ascertain the reason behind the tragic death.

On this note, the appropriate authorities must double up their investigation by ensuring the truth silent every doubt in the minds of Nigerians who like the doubting Thomases need clarification on what actually led to the death of their fellow patriot. Delay is dangerous!

– Arogbonlo Israel, a concerned Kogite.

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