For the Awanis, birthday celebrations were one event that every member of the family looked forward to. And so it was only normal that preparations had begun for the 55th birthday of their dad, Daniel Awani, which ought to be on Tuesday, June 5.
Plans were already in full swing by his doting wife, Mrs. Georgina Awani, who aimed at staging a surprise party for her husband.
Sadly, these plans never materialised as the couple died in the ill-fated Dana Air MD-83 plane that crashed in Lagos on Sunday.
Daniel Awani died two days before his 55th birthday.
On Thursday when our correspondents visited the GRA Ikeja, Lagos home of the couple, the cake the children had ordered for their father’s birthday was still on the dining table.
It read, “Happy 55th Birthday, Dad.”
“The children only wanted to surprise their father on his birthday, they do that every year,” the family’s househelp told our correspondents.
Also, birthday cards addressed to their late father were also placed alongside one of the cakes, an indication that the birthday ritual was observed somehow.
Daniel was said to have lost his sister three days before his death in the Dana air crash.
Described by friends and family as a very generous and peace loving couple, they were on their way from Abuja where they attended a wedding.
At CTC Schools, GRA, where the children of the deceased attend, it was a solemn atmosphere as most of the kids present were said to be aware of the incident.
Narrating her last encounter with Mrs. Awani, the Relationship Manager, CTC Schools, Mrs Gloria Nwabani, who has known the family for eight years, says she saw the deceased briefly two days before the crash.
According to Nwabani, since the event happened, their children only resumed school on Thursday.
Nwabani added the couple were always in high spirit and very involved in their children’s education.
She explained, “During open days, – when we open our doors to parents – they were always together. After checking the children’s school work, the wife would pass it on to her husband. They were that close.
“During my 50th birthday celebration on March 25 this year, she was there and she bought ‘aso ebi’ (uniform celebration dress). She was full of life and she was telling me that on her own day, she would not use the hall I used (LTV 8). Gina said she would look for a place much bigger, so that people could celebrate and rejoice with her. She was full of life, this is very unfortunate.”
The principal of the school, Mrs. Bimbo Fisayo, also described the couple as very loving.
She explained, “Mr. and Mrs. Awani’s death is a monumental loss to us. They were very caring and kind parents. Words are not enough to describe how painful their death is to us. We will continue to help the children as much as we can. But the decision on education of the children will be taken by the family.”
At the home of the deceased, a condolence register has already been opened with sympathisers paying emotional tributes to them.
Daniel was said to be a generous man by family and friends. A source at the couple’s house said he even placed unemployed members of his and his wife’s family on a monthly salary so that they could keep body and soul together.
When our correspondents visited their home on Thursday, their families exuded warmth even in the face of the terrible tragedy that had befallen their benefactor.
A man, who pleaded anonymity, told one of our correspondents that he was kind to a fault.
“He paid for my ticket when I informed him I was travelling abroad. I did not even ask him to do so,” he said.
Family members, however, declined commenting for now.