General Uncategorized

YET ANOTHER AIR TRAGEDY

Here is a challenge to the authorities: get to the root of the air crash which claimed the lives of Yakowa, Azazi and others

Nigerians were last Saturday thrown into another mourning session, when the naval helicopter conveying the then Kaduna State Governor, Mr Patrick Yakowa, and the former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Andrew Owoye Azazi, crashed in the Nembe-Okoroba area of Bayelsa State, killing all the six people on board.

The victims (who included Mr. Dauda Tsoho and Warrant Officer Mohammed Kamal and the pilots, Commander Murtala Mohammed Daba and Lt. Adeyemi O. Sowole) were on their way from the burial of the father of the Special Adviser to the President on Research and Strategy, Mr Oronto Douglas. Details of the exact circumstances of the crash are still sketchy, but the grief in the land is palpable.

Azazi, a four-star general, was a distinguished officer who had served this country in different capacities. Among other high profile national assignments, he held the position of Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff, before serving as the immediate past NSAupon retirement from the military.

Yakowa’s career trajectory was similar, having also risen to the apogee of his civil service career as a Permanent Secretary in Kaduna State, before transferring to the federal civil service, where he was also a permanent secretary and a minister. He later became Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, then Deputy Governor, and Governor in 2010, when his then boss, Alhaji Namadi Sambo became Vice President. Yakowa, who stood for and was elected Governor in the last general elections, will be remembered as a competent and even-handed administrator. He will be buried today.

We commiserate with the families of the deceased who are now hurting as we pray God to grant them the fortitude needed for such a time as this. Among the dead are fathers, brothers, friends, husbands, sonsand colleagues to many Nigerians and the loss cuts across all divides. But notwithstanding the fact that the circumstances of the crash are still not clear, we urge the federal government to get to the root of this tragic incident.

We take notice of the promise by the naval authorities to unearth the reasons for the crash and make the findings public. But the promise sounds hollow and also came in the manner of the usual platitudes that had been offered in the past with no tangible results to show for it. We note particularly that thereports of the air mishaps that had occurred in the past have either not been releasedor implemented; and that is even in such cases where the investigations were known to have been concluded. From the probe into the 1992 Ejigbo crash involving a generation of military officers to the Sosoliso, Bellview, ADC and Dana Air crashes, mum has been the word from the relevant authorities.

In the previous incidents referred to, there is even no evidence of follow up actions after the public declaration to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in solving the problem. In fact, the inquest privately initiated into the Dana Air mishap was stopped by an order of the federal high court, at the instance of the company and the Ministry of Aviation. All these do not inspire confidence in the people that anything worthwhile would come out of the current investigations.

But the primary issue at the moment is that our fellow compatriots lost their lives in such a sudden and tragic manner. By the crash of last weekend, careers have been cut short and bread winners are no more. We stand diminished if we do not acknowledge this national calamity and also use the opportunity to reflect on our own personal lives. Yet, it could have been any of us. For, in the immortal words of John Donne , “ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee”.