By Eric Elezuo
You don’t need to know Sarah Tolulope Arotile to shed a tear or two for her. Her death on July 14, 2020 may have been the saddest thing to happen to most people this year, especially the Nigeria Air Force family, which has pledged never to forget her ‘legacy as a very intelligent, highly committed and extremely patriotic officer who excelled in virtually every endeavour’, her immediate family members and as many that watched her being decorated as the first female helicopter combat pilot.
Born on 13 December 1995 to the family of Mr and Mrs Akintunde Arotile in Kaduna, Arotile, Tolulope hails from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State. She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 to 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 to 2011 before she later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on September 22, 2012.
She was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on September 16, 2017 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Arotile made history when she was winged as the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on October 15, 2019, after completing her flying training in South Africa. She holds a commercial pilot license and also underwent tactical flying training on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy.
Tolulope Arotile met her untimely death when she was knocked down by an “excited” friend reversing vehicle inside the Kaduna Air Force Base.
The Nigerian Air Force spokesman, Ibikunle Daramola, in a statement, said:
“Flying Officer Arotile died on 14 July 2020 at the age of 24, when she was inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force Secondary School classmate while trying to greet her.”
According to reports, she had gone to Mammy market to print some credentials and was knocked down on her way back to her quarters. She died as a result of “a severe head injury with massive haemorrhage.”
The remains of the gallant officer will interred at the National Military Cemetary in Abuja on July 23, 2020 with full military honours. So if you have tears, prepare to shed them now, apologies to Anthonio in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
May Tolulope’s soul rest in perfect peace!