After overcoming the initial shock of losing their loved dad, the late Gen. Owoye Azazi’s children relived yesterday their last moments with him.
The former National Security Adviser (NSA) and his family had dinner with his children on Friday at his Ikoyi home in Lagos, The Nation was told.
He joked with them and spoke about the planned Christmas carol billed for tomorrow at his residence.
Gen. Azazi died in Saturday’s naval helicopter crash in Tombi, Bayelsa State. He was with Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa and four others, who all died in the crash.
Three of Gen. Azazi’s children – Owoye Jnr, Benatare and Pelede – recounted their last moments with the former Chief of Defence Staff.
They spoke after the visit of First Lady Patience Jonathan, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, former Head of Interim National Government (ING) Chief Ernest Shonekan and former Ogun State Governor Aremo Olusegun Osoba, among others.
Owoye Jnr said: “I do not know where to start from, but what I do know is that we have to work hard to ensure our mum gets over this shock.
“I saw my dad last on Friday night because we had dinner in the house here. At dinner, he cracked his usual jokes; we all laughed and we discussed some things we needed to do. I told him we would continue when he returned.
“Because he was to travel to Abuja from that trip; we agreed we would see on Monday, little did I know it was my last with him.
“I heard about the crash but could not believe it and just wished he was not there, even though I knew he was in the aircraft.
“Life without him is really unimaginable, but can we question God? As you can see, most of the people here today are those who had personal encounters with him. They knew him because he affected their lives in one way or the other.
“He was not our dad alone; he was father to everybody. That is the kind of person he was. It is going to be hard, but God will be our strength.
“Our main interest now is our mother and how to ensure she does not miss him so much. We have not set a burial date yet; we are still deliberating as a family,” he said.
Benatare, who was in tears as she spoke with our reporter, said she was at the airport until the airport closed for the day, just wishing her father would come out somehow, somewhere.
She said: “I saw my dad on Friday in Abuja. He brought some things for me from Lagos, so, I met him at the airport to pick the things up. He told me he was coming back and we would have time to discuss and so I left.
“On hearing about the crash, I rushed back to the airport. I was at the airport until they closed for the day, wishing something would just happen and he was not inside that helicopter.
“But it dawned on me my dad was not coming back when the airport closed for the day. I am yet to come out of the shock.
“He was a wonderful father. I do not think there is any dad like mine. Nothing he wouldn’t do for us. He did everything. I cannot even imagine he is no more. It is really hard to believe.”
Pelede said: “I will surely miss my father and no matter how anybody tries to father me, it will never be like my dad.
“I had a close bond with my father. I remember we all came here to have dinner together on Friday and my brother Owoye was supposed to go and watch Sunny Ade (a juju musician) at Ikoyi Club.
“My dad laughed and spoke about how Sunny Ade would normally dance while playing, which he can no longer do so well now; he is an old man.
“We all laughed and shared jokes. We discussed our annual carol, especially because this year’s was to hold on Wednesday. So, I told him, ‘okay dad, have a safe trip tomorrow, I will see you when you return, but here we are.
“I still believe it is a nightmare. I really wish to wake up to realise I have been in a dream all the while. But it has happened and we thank God. We have to thank God in all things.
“He was a great gentleman; he served this country with a passion. He was a father who can never be replaced and I only wish I could just see him one last time to tell him I love him.
“Life without him will be unbearable but we have to do our best to cope. I will say he left a big legacy for us to feel. His shoes are really big for us to occupy, but we will make sure we do our best not to disappoint him.
Feelers from the late general’s home yesterday indicated that his family and close associates suspect foul play in the way he died.
Some family members believe that the late Gen. Azazi was to be appointed an ambassador in January before the disaster occurred.
A family member said: “No one can convince me that the helicopter just crashed. Whoever killed him will not see the end of this year; it has been my prayer since I heard about the crash.
“Daddy Azazi was a good man, very bold, outspoken and God-fearing. He never discriminated against anyone. He was to be made an ambassador by January and now they have killed him.”
Moreover, sympathisers who visited the family yesterday prayed with the widow and children and unanimously declared that Gen. Aziza’s killer(s) will also die. Christians and Muslims prayed together and sang praises to God.
The First Lady, who came into the house at 4:30pm, was received by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Maj.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, and Gen. Azazi’s first son, Owoye Jnr.
Mrs. Jonathan broke down in tears as she consoled Gen. Azazi’s wife, Alero.
The President’s wife, who spoke in a low tone, muttered such words as “God knows best; it is shocking news but God is your strength, my sister.”
She wrote in the condolence register: “My dear brother, your demise is so painful, but we take solace in the fact that death is an inevitable end.
“You came, you saw and you conquered. You were a fine, courageous and professional soldier. You made your mark.”