Public sentiment has focused on the relative youth of the crew, especially pilot Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob, who was barely 25-days-old married.
Musa Jibril, Molly Kilete (Abuja), Tony John (Port Harcourt), and Femi Folaranmi (Yenagoa)
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the tragic death of five personnel of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) onboard an ill-fated Mi-35 gunship during a counter-insurgency operation. Since the identities of the casualties became public, there has been a scramble for additional information, including photos and backgrounds of the youthful officers who met an early demise.
Public sentiment has focused on the relative youth of the crew, especially the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob, who on the day of his death was barely 25-days-old married. His wedding photo was posted on Facebook by mourning friends. Photos of the other victims––Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas (co-pilot), Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim (flight technician), Lance Corporal Adamu Nura (gunner) and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael (gunner)––have also surfaced, showing heart-rending portraits of a group of young men full of life.
Though, providing air support to troops of 145 Battalion at Damasak in the northern part of Borno State, the officers were originally attached to 115 Special Operations Group, Nigerian Air Force, Port Harcourt. Prior to the tragedy of January 2, the team had successfully carried out several combat missions. Their gunship had reportedly completed its mission and the crew on their way back to base when the tragedy happened. Their charred bodies recovered by the Nigerian Air Force were burnt beyond recognition. An air force source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Saturday Sun one of the dead officers was from Enugu Air Force base while the remaining four were mobilized from the base in Port Harcourt.
Saturday Sun found the Port Harcourt Air Force Base in mourning mood three days after the news broke. “The tragedy came too early in the year. It is regarded as a bad omen, that is why everyone is so affected,” said a source at the base. “Another reason it hit us so hard is that these men are so young, and for crying out loud, the pilot just married a few weeks back,” the source concluded.
Other details obtained by Saturday Sun about the late officers indicate that Kilyofas was born June 28, 1989, in Gombe State and was not married at the time of his death, Jacob was born May 23, 1986, in Bayelsa State, and was married, while Nura Adamu was born December 9, 1991 in Jigawa State and enlisted into the Air Force April 29, 2012, and got married with two kids.
Auwal Ibrahim was born January 22, 1987 in Katsina State, enlisted into the Air Force June 27, 2008 and was married before his untimely death.
The orphan that died serving Nigeria
The story of Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob, pilot of the ill-fated Mi-35 copter, was especially touching. His friends and course mates of the 58 Regular Combatant Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) had gathered for his wedding ceremony in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on December 7 and 8, 2018. And 25 days later, he was dead leaving Diepreye Inokoba, his wife a widow, after barely tasting the joys of matrimony.
“He sent me an e-mail that he was leaving Maiduguri for Yenagoa for his wedding and told me I should attend. We were together on December 7th and 8th during his wedding which took place at the Royal House of Grace and the reception at Latik Hotels,” recalled one of his friends, George Sinclair in an interview with Saturday Sun.
Sinclair is an ex-member of the 58 Regular Combat course, from Akipelia, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State. According to him, Jacob, fondly called Sunshine or Perecuzi, was an orphan who was determined to succeed.
“He studied Political Science and Defence Studies at NDA. He likes Sunshine as his nickname the most. We met at the Academy. When I knew he was from Odi, we became close because I did my primary school in Odi. His guardian, a Navy Rating, was staying at Borokiri in Port Harcourt and we used to visit there when we were on holidays.
“As an orphan, it was not easy for him to cope with schooling but he was determined to succeed and was able to scale through because of his perseverance, tolerance and endurance.”
Sinclair in his ode to the late pilot said: “He was committed and his superiors knew that his commitment to his job was total; that was why he was made the Pilot in Command, because of his level of intelligence, bravery and courage as an officer.”