Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa’s Final Home Coming

By Reuben Buhari

15th December, 2012

Under the cold gaze of a harmattan-filled morning, the convoy of Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa left the Kaduna State Government House around 6am for the Kaduna Airport on 15 December, 2012 where a plane was waiting. By 9am they had landed at the Port Harcourt Air Force base, having covered the 615 kilometres that stands between Kaduna and Port Harcourt. They then went into the VIP lounge of the base to wait for the Helicopter that would convey them to Okoroba, in Nembe Local Government, the hometown of Mr. Douglas in Bayelsa state. The occasion was the burial of Pa Tamunoobebara, father of Mr. Oronto Dauglas, a Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research and Documentation.

The initial plan was for the Governor to proceed straight to Bayelsa and join Governor Seriake Dickson who would also be attending the burial but on entering the VIP lounge, he met Gen. Andrew Azazi, the former National Security Adviser (NSA) who was also going for the burial and they decided to proceed straight. While waiting for the chopper that would convey them, they got talking. Minutes later the chopper assigned to convey Yakowa and his aides arrived first, but because they were still engaged in animated discussion and typical of Yakowa, he invited Azazi to go with him. Space was created for him by asking Mohammed Dayyabu, Yakowa’s protocol officer and Ezekiel Dzarma, his Chief Detail to follow later in Azazi’s helicopter. With that arrangement, Yakowa, Elder Dauda Tsoho and Azazi left and landed safely at the Okoroba Primary School field from where they trekked the short distance to the venue of the occasion.

After the event, instead of going to the area set apart for the reception, Yakowa trekked to the house of Oronto Douglas, where he ate with some few people, while Azazi attended the reception which was just at the back of Oronto’s house. He later joined Yakowa inside the house where they continued talking while waiting for the time the helicopters would start conveying them back to Port Harcourt. By this time Governor Dickson had already left.

While they were still waiting, a Navy Augusta helicopter with registration number NNO7 that would convey Azazi arrived first and Azazi said since Yakowa gave him a ‘lift’ in Port Harcourt when his chopper arrived first, he should also go with him and allow his aides to follow later in Yakowa’s chopper. The Governor initially refused because the Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson had also asked Yakowa to join him in his own helicopter but he declined saying his own chopper would soon be around. He added that he wants to quickly return to Port Harcourt so he could move to Abuja for a meeting that’s waiting for him.

But when Azazi asked him again saying they can wait at the lounge in Port Harcourt, Yakowa turned and looked at his orderly – Kulas Mairiga and told him that, they should follow in his Helicopter when it comes and meet him in Port Harcourt. He collected his phones from Kulas and together with Elder Tsoho, walked the short distance to Azazi’s Helicopter. Those around the field being used as a landing pad for all the choppers shuttling the guests gave them the go-ahead to proceed after strapping themselves in. The Helicopter slowly lifted up into the sky, gave a little shrill noise which brought a little frown to the faces of those on the ground, but the noise normalises when the Helicopter attained some heights. It then flew away.

About some minutes, another chopper arrived and somebody got space for Yakowa’s aides and they too lifted, but after 10 minutes of flying, they saw thick smoke billowing upward from the swampy forest beneath. Their pilot decided to check and flew low but didn’t see the source of the smoke due to the thick vegetation, however, minutes later, he spoke to those onboard that he needed to go back and check out the scene of the smoke again as he has gotten a message that the control centre had lost radio contact with one of the chopper.

Flying back and hovering closer than before they saw the smoldering wreck of a helicopter but they couldn’t land because of the dense and swampy vegetation. He radioed back what he had seen and they continued to Port Harcourt. Yakowa’s aides were wondering whose helicopter was that. They silently acknowledged within them that Azazi’s chopper was the only one that preceded theirs and on getting to the air force base, they met a rescue chopper that was about lifting to the crash site. They nevertheless walked into the base’s VIP lounge to look for Yakowa but were told that they haven’t returned since leaving in the morning. They became deathly quiet, looked at themselves and accepted within them that something had horribly gone wrong with their principal.

After what seemed like eternity, confirmation came in that indeed, Yakowa, Azazi, elder Dauda Tsoho, Warrant Officer Mohammed Kamal who is Azazi’s aide as well as the pilots, Commander Murtala Mohammed Daba and Lt. Adeyemi O. Sowole all died in that fiery Helicopter. Meanwhile, the governor’s convoy that had taken him to the Kaduna Airport had proceeded to the Abuja Airport and was still waiting to take him to the Kaduna Governor’s lodge in Asokoro. They were still at the domestic wing of the airport when news got to them that Yakowa would never ride in that car again…”

Excerpt from the book ‘The Break’ by Reuben Buhari

People kept wondering what would have happened had Yakowa not agreed to go with Azazi. What if he had agreed to go in Seriake Dickson helicopter? What if he had allowed his aide on Christian matters to go as it was initially agreed when the invitation was sent to Kaduna. What if elder Dauda Tsoho had stayed back as he also initially wanted to? what if…

Well…five years back, we are still wondering but continuously taking solace in the fact that God knows why and when your time is up, nothing will stop you from answering the final call home. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa has left, but the goodness in him still reverberates in our hearts.

May he continue to rest in peace.

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