Scores of very important personalities (VIPs) attending the funeral ceremonies for the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA),General Andrew Azazi (rtd), in Yenagoa this weekend have been avoiding travelling to the venue by helicopter.
Azazi, the then Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State and four others died on Saturday, December 15 when the Nigerian Navy Augusta helicopter conveying them from Okoroba,Bayelsa State to Port Harcourt crashed minutes after take-off.
They had attended the burial of Pa Tamunoobebara Douglas, father of the Presidential Special Adviser on Research and Documentation, Mr.Oronto Douglas, in the largely riverine state.
Azazi is to be laid to rest today at the Ijaw Heroes Park in Yenagoa.
However, mourners, including Governors Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State; Aviation Minister Stella Oduah and others who arrived Port Harcourt Airport en-route Yenagoa for last night’s service of songs for the deceased shunned helicopters and opted to travel to the Bayelsa State capital by road.
Sources at the Port Harcourt Airport told The Nation on Saturday that on arrival from Lagos and Abuja,the VIPs all moved into the VIP Lounge, while arrangements were being made for them to be airlifted to Yenagoa by helicopters.
But to the surprise of all the VIPs,one after the other, called their aides and instructed them to make provision for them to move to Yenagoa by road.
Efforts by the aides to convince their bosses that well-serviced and safe helicopters were available for the short journey and that the East-West road currently being dualised is not in a particularly good shape were to no avail.
It was, however, learnt that the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, flew in one of the choppers to Yenagoa from Port Harcourt on arrival from Abuja.
Mr.Daniel Iworiso,the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dickson confirmed that his principal travelled by road from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa.
Iworiso said: “Governor Dickson flew from Abuja to Port Harcourt International Airport and moved to Yenagoa by road between 9 am and 10 am.
“Governor Dickson’s convoy was already waiting at Port Harcourt International Airport. He left the airport before other VIPs arrived from Abuja and other places.
“Governor Dickson can decide to travel by road from Port Harcourt International Airport or use helicopter. It has nothing to do with fear.”
Governor Uduaghan’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr.Sunny Ogefere, also confirmed that his boss went by road to Yenagoa from Port Harcourt,saying going by helicopter was not on the governor’s schedule.
“There was really nothing to it.If going by helicopter was scheduled,His Excellency would have gone by helicopter,” Ogefere said.
Azazi’s kinsmen are protesting the decision to bury him in Yenagoa and not in his Peretorugbene hometown in the Ekeremo Local Government Area.
In a tribute to Azazi at the service of songs, Governor Seriake Dickson said that with the death of Azazi the Ijaw “ have not only lost a kinsman, big brother, father, grandfather, friend and colleague; the Ijaw nation has clearly lost one of its finest and very best. He was a patriot who gave his all!”
He added: “There may be no greater tribute to General Azazi’s illustrious military career than the fact that he was a first-class military officer who rose through the ranks as a professional soldier and duly earned his place in the history of the Nigerian Army as the only decorated four- star general who truly earned his rank.
“His career in the military was, no doubt, a feat and clearly he will be remembered as one of the most distinguished and outstanding officers of the Nigerian Army. And as the accolades continue to pour in to celebrate his noble stewardship from different quarters, we are further assured that General Azazi was really extraordinary, combining an enviable leadership character with a legacy of service and patriotism”.
Source: The Nation