Tears flowed freely yesterday at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, when the Nigerian Air Force(NAF), buried seven of her personnel who died in the ill-fated Beechcraft King Air 350, air crash in Abuja, last Sunday.
Parents, spouses, children, family members and friends including journalists could not hold back tears as the caskets bearing the bodies of officers and Airmen, arrived the cemetery for final internment to Mother Earth.
The Chief of the Air Staff(CAS), Air Vice Marshall Amao, broke down and cried when he could no longer hold his emotions while presenting his address at the funeral.
The mother of the pilot of the ill fated air craft, brought tears to the eyes of mourners when she knelt by the graveside of her son, Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama, and showered him with praises and asked him to rest on until they meet to part no more.
The elderly woman who was accompanied to the graveside by her husband and two other who incidentally is a retired Wing Commander of the NAF, described her son as a good boy who gave his life for Nigeria to be in peace.
As she performed the dust to dust ritual, she asked him, “Gadzama, but why did you decide to leave me now”.
In his address at the funeral, the CAS, who could not control his emotion, said “It is with a heavy heart and deep sense of loss that I stand here today, bearing my personal grief as well as that of the entire Nigerian Air Force, as we lay to rest the remains of our fallen colleagues – Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama, Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo, Flying Officer Michael Okpara, Warrant Officer Bassey Etim, Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi, Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka, and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson.
Amao said “The untimely death of these very promising gentlemen occurred on Sunday, 21 February 21 in Abuja while they were on active duty in service to our Fatherland. I must confess that, even at this moment, the Nigerian Air Force is still in palpable shock and grieving very deeply upon this loss of our gallant and courageous heroes, in whom we had so much confidence, with our expectations now suddenly and painfully cut short.
“We salute the supreme sacrifice of these young men, whose lot it became to give their lives in the defence of the peace which we all enjoy and often take for granted. These intelligent and disciplined young officers and airmen flew their quota of ongoing surveillance missions in the North East, North West and more recently in the North Central over Niger State and its environs in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the staff and students abducted from the Government Science College Kagara, Niger State.
“The loss of these confident, courageous and professional young officers and airmen must spur the rest of us not only to rededicate ourselves to the service of our Nation, but also to resolve that we shall relentlessly expose and fight all agents of destabilisation and extremism in our society. We must throw everything that we have into this fight, to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain.
“Therefore, as we resolve to rededicate ourselves to the cause of defending our Great Nation, let me at this juncture restate our profound commitment and unalloyed loyalty to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, as he continues to lead the Nation’s collective effort at tackling the challenges bedevilling our national security.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this solemn event, in addition to honouring the sacrifice and memory of our fallen comrades, offers us all an opportunity for sober reflections as we pray for the eternal repose of the gentle souls of our departed heroes. “Their death is a huge loss to the Nigerian Air Force Family and indeed the entire Nation. They will be greatly missed but fondly remembered for their invaluable services to the Nation and Humanity. Today, as our late colleagues go to their final resting place, may the Lord be with them forever and may they rest assured that the Nigerian Air Force and indeed the Nation will remain ever grateful to them for their service and sacrifice.
“To the families of our deceased brothers, our prayers are with you at this time, as also those of people from everywhere, both within and outside the country. The overwhelming show of love, solidarity and support from everyone is a clear indication that the Nation, and indeed the entire Globe, shares in this grief with you. This was evident in the volume of condolence messages and visits from a wide range of personalities including the President, Commander-in-Chief, leadership of the National Assembly, Governors, Ministers, members of the Diplomatic Corp as well as many other prominent Nigerians. I therefore encourage you to be consoled by the knowledge that the entire Nation grieves with you on the loss of these shining, amiable and patriotic Nigerians who have laid down their lives in the service of their Fatherland. I also pray that time eases the searing pain of today.
“In concluding the interment of our deceased heroes today, we fervently pray for all our departed colleagues who have paid the supreme price in the course of defending the integrity of our Dear Nation. As Nigerians, we will persevere, taking strength from the shining legacy of service of these young officers and airmen, and those before them. The memory of their service shall forever be blessed, and their sacrifice shall never be forgotten”.
Present at the funeral were the ministers of Defence Bashir Magashi, Information Lai Mohammed, women affairs Paulin Tallen, Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi, chairmen of senate and house committee on Air Force, the chief of Defence Staff, Major-General lucky Irabor, Chief of Army Staff Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru, chief of Naval Stall Rear Admiral Gambo, top serving retired and service military officers among other top dignitaries.
The bodies of the deceased was committed to Mother Earth at exactly 9;58, in the morning.