From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
December 10, 2020, marked the 15th year anniversary of the crash of Sosoliso Airlines Flight SO1145, with registration number 5N-BFD, at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State. One out of the 60 students who were involved in the crash was 13 years old Ewomazino Israel Christian Olakpe (Jnr).
The young Olakpe, a Junior Secondary School 3 student of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, was born on September 20, 1992, and met his untimely death on December 10, 2005 after the aircraft which left the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, earlier in the day, was said to have missed approach due to pilot error aggravated by winds hear and crash-landed at 2:45pm.
Fifteen years down the lane, the memory of the untimely death is yet to disappear from the mind and heart of Deaconess Justina Olakpe, wife of late AIG Chris Olakpe (retd) and family.
In commemoration of the anniversary, Mrs Olakpe, a retired principal, relieved the pains she struggled with over the years, including the death of her husband, a former Commissioner of Police, Plateau State and ex-Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) on Monday, March 30, 2020. Excerpts…
Are you into ministry?
I am a deaconess in Christ Embassy for about 20 years.
Why Christ Embassy and not any other Church?
We wedded in Anglican Church, but somehow, along the line, you really want to use the Bible the way you want to use it, that led me to Christ Embassy in Benin with Revd. Tom. This was the first boy to be dedicated, my son. Chris Olakpe (Jnr) was the first child to be dedicated in Christ Embassy, Benin.
How was your teaching career?
Beautiful one! I started teaching in Lagos State, from there to Benin, then to Port Harcourt where I eventually retired.
Why were you always moving with your late husband each time he was transferred?
I was moving because he was moving.
So, anywhere he moved to, you had to follow?
Yes I did.
Was it easy moving with him?
It wasn’t easy to write for inter-state transfer. It took some time and maybe, eventually as we are moving down there, he would be transferred to another place again. Inter-state transfer wasn’t easy in those days.
Looking back, what fond memories do you have about your teaching career?
Very good ones! As a teacher, you enjoy your kids; you even enjoy your husband because you are a teacher at home and a teacher everywhere you go to. And for the kids I taught, whenever I entered an office, especially the banks, they always recognise me.
Why did you take to teaching and not any other profession?
Actually, I got admission to read law, I didn’t do that and I went for education. I got my MBA from the University of Benin and I still did not use it because the person I got married to was in love with the Police Force. You can’t remove him. He loved the uniform, he loved the job and I knew if the two of us were to work 24 hours, the lives our kids will be mortgaged.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband in Surulere, Lagos, when he was in the second year in the university.
Was it love at first sight?
It was! It was!
Why did you choose to marry a policeman?
That is exactly the question my uncle asked me because my uncle retired as an assistant commissioner of police. He said I wouldn’t be able to marry a policeman.
Because of the way they move. He knew what he was saying, but I told him I was ready.
How long were you married?
About 38 years I think.
And he rose to become AIG and you were there throughout?
Were there moments you were scared armed robbers might kill him?
Honestly, I do believe sincerely because of my Christian upbringing that one can die anywhere – home, along the road. Wherever you are, you can equally die. So, it is not the job. Once you derive joy from doing a job and I found out that my husband loved the job, I just felt he was all protected by God.
And he retired and headed LASTMA?
What were those moments like?
They were good. He loved the job, but retiring and starting all over again was out of love – policing and talking to people.
While he was in the police, was there ever a day he returned home and said he was resigning?
Never a minute! My husband never wore his uniform out of frustration; neither did he ever pull his uniform in anger.
So, he loved the job?
He loved the job. He wore the uniform with pride. He went out happy. I mean, the greatest moment of my husband is putting on his uniform. Outside that job, I don’t think he would have been able to survive. He loved the job passionately and did it. Wherever he served, he was loved.
Was there also a time the lives of the family were unsafe because of his job?
Yes. At a time when he was in charge of the border between Benin Republic, those who would steal things from here and move to other countries, at that point in time, it was actually dangerous.
They were after him?
They were after him. The people in Nigeria were after him; the people outside Nigeria were after him.
How did he survive it?
It was the grace of God. Because those who steal and those who organise the stealing, who would not come to the forefront that they are the people organising it, they will equally go after you.
Was he a spiritual man, was he prayerful?
My husband was very, very prayerful. Very spiritual! Actually, I think in most cases, he motivated me into praying. My husband won’t leave the house without praying. He would put the cap down, pray, put it on and then, he will go out.
You lost your son 15 years ago and earlier this year, you lost your husband. Looking back, how do you describe those moments?
Very, very sad! My son, my son just went like that. It took me time to have my son. Very brilliant boy, extremely brilliant and he just left.
I was at the airport. I didn’t even know that the plane had crashed. It is painful. I didn’t know I would survive it. One Chris gone, then March this year, another Chris leaving me. It is disheartening. I miss them.
In one sentence, how do you describe both?
Very lively people! Very friendly, very brilliant and whatever they want to do, they do it wholeheartedly, the two Chris I had in my life.
Are there plans to immortalise them?
For now, I will leave that with my kids. Eventually, we will come together and plan what to do.
What food are you in love with?
I like vegetable and eba.
Do you indulge in any game?
Five o’clock every other day, I go out and I take a walk, about 6000 steps.
What is your choice of fashion?
I am very fashionable. I wear everything that is good. If I feel like tying rapper, I tie; trousers, I wear.
What is that fashion accessory you can’t do without?
I love wristwatches, I love jewelleries.
In terms of holiday destination, where do you like to visit?
Most of my kids are in the United States. So, that is basically where I go to.