The late Nigerian Air Force helicopter fighter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, found herself in the headlines these past weeks because of the freak accident that took her life at the young age of 25. Even before that, she had already taken her place in the pantheon of Nigerian heroes.
Her tragic, sudden death opened up her impressive profile to a world in dire need of inspiration for a booming youth population with few role models to follow. If Tolu’s painful, premature demise could inspire many of her peers to dream big and dare to be great, she has fulfilled her destiny and purpose. I am, thus, comforted.
Her parents and loved ones should be proud and glorify God who knows why he allowed her to die when her sun was just getting ready to shine. Who can know the mind of God? Who can question Him? Who knows why Tolu died so early? Well, secret things belong to God; this incident reminds us that we are all mortals, limited in grace, wisdom and power.
Tolu, however, gives us a reason to dream. She remains a model of inspiration to our youth for three reasons. She was the first female Air Force helicopter combat pilot. She achieved that feat when she was less than 25; she had a BSc in mathematics, the traditional nightmare and nemesis of our students; and, being a young girl, who excelled in a male-dominated profession, it makes her a heroine.
This brave lady is a tough act to follow. Of course, other young girls will follow her footsteps. She’s the first but, like all pioneers, she won’t be the last. No! I forbid it; Tolu herself would have forbidden it. She set a record and, like all records, they’d be broken. Younger girls are going to emulate her and do better. Like Jesus said to his followers, if you believe, you will do greater works.
Every good leader wants to be outclassed by their followers. Tolu is no exception. I beg to speak on her behalf at this moment, because I am proud of her; proud for once to be a Nigerian.
Like the officiating priest said at her memorial service at the military cemetery where her superiors lined up to pay her tribute, some of Tolu’s peers are living ignoble lives of shame, prostitution and crime. But the young heroine showed us an example of how a patriot should live. I give kudos to her parents who raised such a great child for a grateful nation, which is in search of a true role model for our dying youth.
Nigerian youth are suffering because they have no role models to follow. Look at the corrupt leaders we have across the political party spectrum. Look at the odious revelations coming out of the investigations of the stewardships of our political appointees. These are not things we should tell our youth to emulate. Tolu is telling us to be determined, patriotic, set standards and have a vision. Follow Tolu, don’t follow the political touts who have hijacked power and continued to loot our treasury and oppress us.
Tolu earned a math degree, she went on to become a fighter pilot whose ultimate goal was to become the nemesis of our enemies and keep our nation safe. Thank God, military leaders stood up at her funeral to pay her a well-deserved tribute, not minding the fact that she didn’t die in active service. Sadly, though, President Muhammadu Buhari did not attend her funeral, and so missed an opportunity to use the auspicious occasion to charge our youth.
Too bad, the President always fails to seize rare opportunities like this to reassure a disappointed nation whose people have become despondent under his leadership.
Mr. Buhari had no justification to travel to Mali in search of peace at a time when his nation was mourning Tolu’s tragic demise and the killing of five aid workers by Boko Haram terrorists. That’s wrong; say what you will, Sir, this attitude cannot be justified. Malian lives matter, but not more than Nigerian lives.
All lives matter, but charity begins at home. Jesus said, “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” not more than thyself. One cannot be altruistic in this matter. I used to like Mr. President a lot, but now, Tolu’s case and those of the five aid workers gruesomely murdered by Boko Haram is giving me a reason to get angry with Mr. Buhari and his advisers. Ok, why didn’t Vice President Yemi Osinbajo represent Mr. President?
British war-time Prime Minister, Wiston Churchill, showed us that every leader ought to seize every auspicious occasions to inspire their people. While Adolf Hitler’s bombs were dropping on European cities, Churchill told his people, “This is your finest moment!” President Buhari should have stood before Tolu’s casket with his embattled service chiefs and the Vice President and urged Nigerians not to despair.
A message of hope, using Tolu’s sentiments would have done a lot to reassure the nation that Buhari cares. What do you think?
Weekend Spice: Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made, just like anything else, through hard work
– Vince Lombardi.
Ok folks, stay safe, COVID-19 is real. Stay motivated in spite of every disappointment!
•Ayodeji is an author, rights activist, pastor and life coach. He can be reached on [email protected] and 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)