by Chi Ibe
An eye-witness and a member of the planning committee of funeral of the Pa Tamunoobebara Douglas, father of Oronto Douglas, senior special adviser to the president on Strategy, Documentation, and Research which was held in Okoroba, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State on Saturday, December 15, 2012, has come forward to clarify some of the issues that transpired at the funeral, especially the ill-fated Navy Helicopter which carried General Patrick Azazi and Governor Patrick Yakowa from the venue of the event headed for Port Harcourt, and unfortunately crashed in the creeks of the Niger Delta, killing all six people aboard.
Speaking exclusively to YNaija, our source, which does not wish to be named because of his closeness to the persons involved, is not a member of the government, and was a member of the team responsible for logistics for the event.
On the Planning
“When we set out to plan this event, helicopter transportation was not included in the plan. Oronto’s friends donated money for us to rent boats to ferry guests to the venue of the event. People who travelled by helicopter came on their own accord and their own arrangements. So, it’s even ridiculous for people to insinuate that Oronto commandeered government resources for a private event. Different people used different means of transportation to Okoroba, some by road, some by Caterpillar, some by helicopter. We provided only boats to ferry our guests to the event. Oronto himself and his family travelled by boat to and fro.”
On the Navy Helicopter that flew Azazi and Yakowa
“It’s a very sad incident. At a time when Nigeria is yearning for strong leaders, we shouldn’t be losing leaders like General Azazi and Governor Yakowa. It’s a national tragedy and this tragedy deserves that only the truth of what transpired. General Azazi arrived at the venue in a different helicopter, a personal arrangement of his, so did the governor. The only persons who can authorize the release of a Navy ship is the Commander in Chief or the Commander of the Naval Forces, Oronto doesn’t have such powers. As I said, earlier, the event organisers didn’t get involved in renting helicopters, an extremely expensive venture for which we could not afford. General Azazi being a 5-star general remains a general for life and is accorded such privilegded. The Navy Helicopter came just for Azazi and was not a regular at the venue.”
What about Lawan, Gowon and other persons who claimed that they were supposed to use that helicopter?
“It’s unfortunate that whenever there is a air-mishap in the country, people often emerge to give narrow-escape testimonies, most of these, nobody can confirm. Most of them are attention seekers, and pathological liars. It’s shameless. I saw that helicopter on that day, only twice. The first time, it came to pick, yet again, a 5-star general, it must have been then, Azazi called for the helicopter to pick him. The second time I saw it, it came to pick Azazi. The information minister, had departed the venue over an hour before the Navy helicopter came for Azazi. Governor Yakowa decided to fly with Azazi, ditching his private arrangement.
It’s laughable that a singer who was billed to perform at a time, long after General Azazi had departed the event also claimed that “God saved him”. Saved him how? Is he a General? Is he Azazi or Yakowa’s aide. In what capacity was he supposed to fly with Azazi, that ‘God saved him’? These comments are in incredible bad taste and for someone has highly placed as an information minister to make up stories in the name of narrow-escape testimonies for the purpose of inserting themselves in the news, thereby misleading people, is unfortunate.
Bottom-line, that Navy Helicopter was not doing any kind of shuttle service for the event. It surely did not make 15 trips to the venue that day, I only saw it twice and I should know because I was involved in the logistics for the event.
In fact, simple mathematics will prove the lie that the helicopter made 15 trips on that day. General Azazi departed the venue around 3.30pm and the helicopter crashed soon after. It takes approximately 40 minutes to fly from Okoroba to Port Harcourt. So, let’s assume that there’s even no waiting time on the ground, which there is, the helicopter would have to have been in the air for 20 hours, straight. Even if the helicopter started working at 12 midnight, and flew non-stop from Okoroba to Port Harcourt, at 3.30pm it is not mathematically possible for it to have done 15 trips.”
On General Gowon
“As a military general, he’s the only one whose testimony comes close to possible. As a general, he may have wanted to use the helicopter. He may have had conversations with the pilot as reported.”
Why there’s no motorable road to Okoroba
“There’s a road, it connects Olobiri, the community where crude oil was first struck in Nigeria, , Opume, and Okoroba, but it’s under construction by Mangroove Tech. People avoid the road because its not a smooth journey and because it is easier to travel by boat. Several persons came by road. NEC chairman, Sam Amadi and his wife came by road. The contract for the road had been awarded but work was delayed due to community unrest. It’s a simple 9.5km road, hence it shouldn’t take forever to complete. But, we hear the contention with a community along the way as been resolved and the work is progressing smoothly now. By this time, next year, everybody going to Okoroba should be able to travel by road, smoothly.”