From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Sunday, February 21, 2021 would remain a black day in the family of Ichie Ogbonnia Okpara and Madam Florence Ugwome Okpara, natives of Eziukwu Amaizu village, Ebonyi State.
It was the day they got the shocking, heart-rending news of the death of Micheal Okpara, one of their sons in the Nigerian Air Force.
Flying Officer Michael Okpara died in the ill-fated King Air 350 military plane that crashed last Sunday in Abuja.
The late Michael, the second to the last child of the family, was born on September 11, 1994. He was married with two children, both of them boys.
Since the news of Micheal’s demise, the bereaved parents – Ichie Okpara and his wife, Madam Florence Ugwome Okpara – have been expectedly downcast and depressed; they cannot fathom why death should again knock at their door after they had previously lost five of their other children to the same cold hands of death. The aged couple had 11 children all together.
Like every other father of a progressing child, 80-year-old Pa Okpara told Sunday Sun in a telephone interview that he had been expecting to one day see his son in his Air Force uniform and clink glasses with him, to celebrate his successful entry into the Air Force and progression, and fully hoping that he would reach the top of his chosen career.
In the course of the short telephone interview, the octogenarian bemoaned his loss, saying that he never imagined that his residence would once again be a place people would gather to mourn the death of another of his children.
He wondered why such tragedy should befall the family at the time Michael was needed most.
Speaking on the experience he had just as the incident occurred, he said: “I took the news of Mike’s death as a man. But I had a dream before the incident. Before the night of the dream, I had attended the ‘Ikwu’ (maternal family lineage) meeting one week before that fateful Sunday, February 21, 2021.
“At the meeting, I was just not coordinated at all. Everything they were doing was just upside down. The next thing I noticed was I started having a serious headache and became somewhat dizzy, believing that my normal leg pain had started again.
“So, I had to take permission and left the meeting. When I got to my house, I was still feeling dizzy. So, I went straight to my room to see if I could sleep.
“Luckily I slept off. And in deep sleep, I had a dream where I found myself in an aeroplane at Enugu airport. While in the plane, the pilot was just struggling to control it and I was shouting, ‘do you want to kill me?’
“Then the plane landed and I jumped out and stood on the road looking for a vehicle to take me home. And while waiting, the aeroplane took off again and headed straight to my direction and I shouted, ‘why are you coming to kill me?’ Immediately I jumped into a nearby valley and later came out alive.
“Suddenly, I woke up from sleep not knowing that God was showing me sign of what was going to happen to my son, who later died in plane crash. If I had a handset, I would have called him after the dream.”
Wracked by sorrow and in an emotion-laden tune, he said: “However, I got the information of Micheal ‘s death from one of my daughters, Ngozi Okpara, who told me she read that his brother Mike had died in aeroplane crash.
“On hearing this, I became confused because I could not understand why it should be my son, who is the breadwinner of the family and my backbone. Later, my uncle also confirmed to me about Mike’s death. Since then I have been downcast and worried. He promised to buy me a phone and renovate my house. Who will do all those things for me now?”
All through the five minutes the phone interview lasted, Pa Okpara sobbed, as he asked rhetorically: “God, now that Mike is gone forever, why am I living again? Is it not better that God should just take my life? For me, life is meaningless without Mike.”