Tolulope Arotile: Into battle with copter gunship

PHOTO: BBC

Flying officer Tolulope Arotile’s painful death is causing a growing social media gaslighting among Yoruba tribal mob who will not allow her valorous soul to rest in peace. Oduduwa radicals are now speaking in vengeful voices laden with combustible sentiment. Contrarians, alternativists, afterlife designers, personality impounders and hero worshippers have all merged into a formidable agitating group. Tolulope’s soul is being digitally replicated for the Oduduwa homeland dream. They now control the digital universe where they drop threats, revenge, and the balkanisation of a Nigeria they see as killer of destiny, glory, and talent.

To them, Tolulope’s death is the clearest evidence of a sustained Fulani agenda to root out the best and the good of the Oduduwa’s clan. Worse, there is a disquieting opaqueness surrounding her death. The demise of Kogi’s most enigmatic female mathematics genius and one of its youngest fighting warriors has become an unexpected maypole drawing the weak, the strong, the Yoruba global diaspora, digital warriors, Internet activists, realists, doubters, idealists and the sceptics. Her untimely death which united us in grief is fast becoming associative with the revulsion and ongoing aberrations of the Nigerian state and its burden of incompetent leaders. The aftermath of Tolulope’s death is the reawakening of a coalition of Yoruba avengers who view her death as homicidal malice. Leaders of this Oduduwa invisible avenging battalion include the generalissimo himself, Gani Adams, the Aare Onakankanfo of Yoruba land and Ibadan ablest grassroots mobiliser, enforcer and voodoo priest, Sunday Igboho.

If the spiritual and the war section are held down by these two ‘orisas’ – Adams and Igboho – the social media platform is being controlled by both Olayomi Koiki and Maiyegun General. What is indisputable among these group is the fact that they believe that Tolulope’s death is fait accompli. In their reckoning, it was the Fulani cabal that planned and executed Tolulope’s death. Tolulope’s soaring wing and passion to rid the North of banditry through flying missions in copter gunship was disrupting a secretive political and economic wisdom among the cabal and so she had to be sacrificed before the truth of our perpetual insurgency war is out.

Tolulope’s death is the final provocation among the Yoruba separatist foot soldiers scattered within and outside the geographical space called Nigeria. In an era of spin and message where Yoruba nationalist agitation is being draped with distinctive tribal overtone because of the death of one of their shining stars, it is now left to the discerning among us whether to view this menacing tribal uproar either as babel of the electronic age, eccentricism or the beginning of annus horribilis for our unity as one Nigeria. Tribal rage is not new, but when our collective emotion becomes the answer to some cavalier insolence of perceived internal overlords who have turned Nigeria into a fiefdom or concentration camp where southern Nigerians are silenced, brutalised, denied, contained, killed and held down from blooming into national heroes and heroines, then that capacious sense of our bond has to be interrogated. In life, young Tolulope was a patriot.

By training, by instinct and by orientation, she believed in our unity and that may inform her brutal, scorch earth and carpet bombing of bandits across Niger State and the North Central. Her military altruism and courage brought her into national prominence and with time, she was ennobled with recognition, praise, and promotion. Tolulope was always into battle with her helicopter gunship. She deployed so much raging warrior hormone that startled and shocked her superior officers into a stupefying wonder. How could a young, scrawny, self-effacing, and humble Kogite be so wonderfully efficient within a career meant for men? Her story, in the Nigerian context, was a classic tale of defying the odds of gender inequality, military barrack mentality and the glass ceiling placed before female combatants. She was a passionate Airforce woman from early age.

From kindergarten, she was enamoured anytime she saw any flying beasts in the sky. Her encouraging father must have been alarmed at the androgynous character of his young girl. “One day — when she was very small — she pointed to one small aircraft parked on a field and said, ‘Dad, one day I am going to fly that aircraft,’ and I said amen,” her father, Akintunde Arotile, recalled in a Punch newspaper interview. Born in 1995, that childhood yearning would become a reality September 22, 2012, after she was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy and commissioned after five years of study. She made history in October 2019, when she was winged as Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force’s 55 years of existence.

At her decoration last October, flanked by the Chief of Air staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and the Women Affairs Minister, Pauline Tallen, she marched to receive her “wing” with such admirable finesse that mirrored her passion for the job.
“I joined the military simply out of passion for it. Being military personnel has been a long-term ambition for me,” she said in an interview shared by the Nigerian Air Force.

Tolulope was a native of Iffe area of Ijumu LGA of ​​Kogi State and the fourth child. She attended the Air Force Primary (2000—2005) and Secondary Schools (2006—2011), Kaduna. In September 2012, she was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, as a member of the 64th regular course, where she finished in 2017. She bagged a degree in mathematics and was commissioned as a pilot officer.

After her pilot training courses at the Starlite International Training Academy in South Africa, she was winged as the first ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force55-year history. Tolulope held a commercial pilot’s licence and had also undergone tactical flying training on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy. In February, during an induction in Abuja, she introduced Nigeria’s newly acquired Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to President Mohammadu Buhari. Her chequered career was brought to a devastating end on July 14, 2020. According to the official story, she was “inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force secondary school classmates (Nehemiah Adejoh, Igbekele Folorunsho and Festus Gbayegun) while trying to greet her.”

Tolulope has just returned from the theatre of war against bandits in Katsina and was on a week’s break when death demobilised her. Today, a conspiratorial, narrow spectrum, tribal-based narrative has been woven around Tolulope’s death which is reinforcing a painfully obvious reality: Nigeria is now a balkanised nation of tribal blocks that speaks to our desperation for separation. Koiki and Maiyegun’s social media freak shows have global followers who have pledged allegiance to a future Oduduwa homeland. The conscripts to the cause of Oduduwa liberation is growing and many social media platforms are their right-wing talking points. Nigeria is seen by this abrasive fringe as a truly Fulani enclave where talented high achievers from the South are systematically undermined, humiliated, and denied their true worth.

Meanwhile, President Mohammadu Buhari is perceived as too readily inclined to platforming Fulani misfits into high powered position of prestige, power, and privilege.

The Oduduwa agitators may be weaponising the death of Tolulope Arotile as an excuse to amplify the voices of separate destiny among Nigeria’s competing nationalities, but the fact remains that we are grappling with a lame duck, change-averse, dull-witted, tribal-driven dictator who daily befouls our national character by his audacious and toxic Fulanisation agenda that daily shames his presidency and his false credential as a penitent democrat.

Tolulope’s death has given fantasists and conspiracy theorists an open cheque to reinvent her death as a state-sanctioned murder. We may yawn at their caprice, ignorance, and conspiracy theory as the product of overactive imagination, but the only combatant against official lies, motives and inhumanity of our leaders is the regular, consistent, and rigorous scrutiny of their actions. Eternal vigilance, as the saying goes, is the price of liberty. Undeniably, the Yoruba Oduduwa foot soldiers are ready for a radical sacrifice to secure a future that had been denied them for far too long. To these Oduduwa patriots, honour lies in fighting the battle for freedom, even if the outcome will be certain defeat. To them, a defeated valour is better than slavery.

However, their path to the realisation of Oduduwa homeland would be unorthodox. In their future war of liberation, all the Yoruba gods, their demons and spirits will be garrison commanders dropping sorties on enemy lines. Hmmm…… Nigeria’s weal and woes have all gone past pacifism and the distracting, but empty shop talk of restructuring. The new Oduduwa militants believe that the only way to repossess political control is the total dismantling of Nigeria’s corrupt edifice through massive and sustained civil disobedience. They believe that Nigeria has entered a new dark age. And the signal that the dark age is here is graphically visible: rampaging rape cases, unmitigated kidnapping incidents, ritual of electoral fraud, cabal-led governance, pandemic corruption, insecurity, poverty, detention of Omoyele Sowore, death of Pa Fasoranti’s daughter, and now the suspicious murder of Tolulope Arotile. In ending, I must admit that only our loving, sovereign and gracious God could answer why early bloomers like Tolulope die so young – at the prime of their shining star!!! Let me leave with a hanging puzzle. What if the killer/s of Tolulope are those of her own household who are envious of her shining global glory? What if this is a classic case of Matthews 10:36 whodunit? What if this is the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob? What if the object we imagine is in Sokoto is in our shokoto? What if? Tolulope has ran the race, fought the battle and the gun is now silent. May her soul rest in peace.

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