I spoke with my daughter, Tolulope Arotile, 1:00 p.m. only to die 4 hours later —Father of Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot

The bereaved father of Tolulope, Mr Akintunde Arotile

The bereaved father of Tolulope Arotile, the late Nigeria’s first female combatant helicopter pilot, Mr Akintunde Arotile, expressing grief over the loss of his daughter, said, he spoke with her on Tuesday, a few hours before her sudden death.

Arotile, who, in his Lokoja home on Wednesday, bemoaned the death of his daughter, expressing shock to receive the news of her death few hours later, said: “Just yesterday (July 14) at about 1:00 p.m., I called her because she just came back from an operation against the bandits in Katsina.

“They gave them one week to rest and so she was sleeping and told me she was in bed resting, she said she will later go out to make some photocopies.

“I told her not to be long and to return home on time because she was staying with my first daughter in Kaduna.

“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.

Tolulope Arotile in her different appearances, including with President Muhammadu, as a combat helicopter pilot

“I said ha!, Somebody I spoke with 4 hours ago and by 5:00 p.m. she was in the mortuary.”

For the sad news, Arotile said, he had to drive from Abuja to Lokoja to inform his wife, Tolulope’s mother about her death.

He said: “This is to enable me inform her mother physically because I could not brake such news on phone, but when I came she had gone to the prayer mountain.

“She came back around 8:30 p.m, I told her this is what I heard but that I had not confirmed.”

The bereaved father, who retired from the Transmission Company of Nigeria in 2019, described his daughter as a brilliant and wonderful person right from when she was young.

According to him, Tolulope did all her schooling in Kaduna from kindergarten to nursery at the Airforce Base and Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna.

“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.

“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.

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“So, from that day, she started working towards that, she got admission to the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, she had a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, she became an Airforce 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,’ Tolulope’s father said.

The late Flight Officer, Tolulope, who died on Tuesday, as a result of a motor accident at the age of 24, hailed from Ijumu Local Government, Kogi State.

She was standing by the road side at Kawo area of Kaduna when a former secondary school classmate sighted her and applied the brake.

The female old schoolmate was reversing her vehicle to enable her properly greet her when she mistakenly knocked her down.

The late Tolulope died from the head injury she sustained from the accident.

The father said he was impressed by the outpouring of sympathy messages and support from the Nigeria Airforce and other Nigerians since the incident happened.

On the Nigerian Air Force’s response to her death, the father said, there have been several visits from her bosses from all over the country, including those at their home base in Lokoja, and others who came visiting from Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu and everywhere.

“The support have been overwhelming, they even gave a token and other promises.

“They have even promised to give a choice of where to bury her, but her commandant suggested that she should be buried at the National Cemetery, Abuja, due to the feat she achieved as the first female combatant helicopter pilot in Nigeria,” the father said.