The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday held a special session for the six victims of Saturday’s helicopter crash in President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa.
At the special FEC meeting which held inside the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said he had started walking towards the ill-fated helicopter in company with the deceased former governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, and ex-National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoeye Azazi (retd.), only to turn back.
“I stood up and was going together with them (Yakowa and Azazi) but by some involuntary actions, I returned to my seat,” Maku told cabinet members, many of whom, especially the females, shed tears freely.
Specifically, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke; Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah; and Minister of State, Defence, Olusola Obada, broke down in tears at the session.
Most of the ministers were clad black attire, depicting the mood of the solemn session presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.
A minute silence was observed in honour of the deceased while all FEC members led by Jonathan also signed a condolence register in honour of the victims of the crash.
Yakowa, Azazi and four others died in the crash which occurred at Okoroba, Bayelsa State. The victims were returning from the burial of the father of a Presidential aide, Oronto Douglas.
The other victims were a friend and Adviser to Yakowa, Dauda Tsoho; an aide to Azazi, Warrant Officer Mohammed Kamal; and the two pilots that flew the ill-fated Augusta 109 Naval Helicopter.
The portraits of Yakowa and Azazi were continously beamed on a big screen in the chambers and on the small monitors in front of each minister while the session lasted.
I was saved by fate –Maku
Maku recalled how he narrowly escaped being on the ill-fated helicopter with Yakowa and Aziza.
The minister said that he; a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Mr. Timi Alaibe; and an aide of the Vice-President, Mr. Umar Sani, were initially billed to travel on the same helicopter alongside Yakowa and Azazi.
He said, “When we met in Bayelsa, it was a twist of fate that we did not board the same helicopter because on that day, the Special Adviser to the Vice President, Sani Umar; myself and (a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission) Timi Alaibe, were supposed to travel together with the two of them (Yakowa and Azazi) back to Port Harcourt.
He said, “Somehow, just before we could take off from the funeral arena, Sani backed out and decided to travel alone. I stood up and was going together with them (Yakowa and Azazi) but by some involuntary actions, I returned to my seat.
“I said I would wait for a moment. That was simply the twist of fate that kept us alive, we must give glory to God.”
Maku recalled that Yakowa and Azazi were full of life throughout the burial ceremony of Oronto Douglas’s father, oblivious of the fact that death was lurking around.
Good people don’t last –Jonathan
In his tribute, President Jonathan observed that unlike the case of typical Nigerian politicians, Yakowa did not attract too many negative comments while alive.
He described the day of the crash as a black Saturday in the country.
“Yakowa was a different class of politician. Most of us who are politicians exploit religious sentiments to divide Nigerians for our own selfish gains. We exploit the North/South divide to divide Nigerians for our selfish gains.
“But Yakowa was very different. He was a gentleman who believed in the unity of this country,” the President said.
Describing Azazi as somebody who meant well for the country, Jonathan said his relationship with the former NSA dated back to when he was deputy governor in Bayelsa State and Azazi was the Director, Military Intelligence.
He said, “Sometimes, people wonder why good people die. It is quite touching. Both of them touched our lives; they worked for this country. We pay condolences to their families, the families of their aides, the family of the pilot as well as the family of the co-pilot.
“The Honourable Minister (Godsday Orubebe) just told us that Azazi has a 90-year-old mother. Can you imagine how a 90-year-old mother will mourn a son who did very well and rose to become a four-star General in the Nigerian Army?”