NIGERIA Sunday remained in the grip of rage, shock and anxiety over the death of Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa, former National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi and four others in a crash involving a military helicopter.
Amid their gloom, however, the people of Kaduna State yesterday swore in former Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Mukhtar Ramallan Yero, as the substantive governor.
Piqued by the manner of the crash, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) urged an investigation into it while state governors continued to mourn and pay tributes to the victims of the accident.
State governors who mourned and paid tributes Sunday included Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Theordore Orji (Abia), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo). Also, Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu on behalf of the Northern States Governors Forum expressed condolences.
The atmosphere at the Kaduna State Governor’s Lodge was filled with grief as Yakowa’s wife, Amina, and other members of the family received sympathisers.
Among several sympathisers received by Mrs. Yakowa, were the wife of former Governor of Kaduna State, Hajiya Asmau Makarfi and the former Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Mrs. Pauline Tallen. Mrs. Yakowa declined comments on the demise of her husband.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters from the Northern Kaduna axis, particularly Zaria who hitherto abandoned the Government House were seen in their hundreds at the swearing-in of Yero who was led in taking the oath of office by the Chief Justice of Kaduna State, Justice Rahila Cudjoe.
There was tight security along the 44 Army Reference Hospital road leading to the Government House as several vehicles and motorcycles were screened by armed soldiers who were deployed in the neighbourhood. The situation created an unprecedented traffic jam for several hours as many vehicles diverted to alternative routes.
Yero who received his oath of office at exactly 1.06 p.m., in an acceptance speech said that “it is with heaviness of heart that I make this speech having just fulfilled a constitutional requirement of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” noting that “the sad event that befell Kaduna State on Saturday is already public knowledge.”
He added: “Our amiable governor, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, has suddenly left us by answering the call of our Creator. Indeed, from Him we all came and to Him we would all, one day, return. In-between these periods is the privilege we have to serve humanity.”
According to him, “we are living testimonies to the fact that our amiable governor, Sir Yakowa who came, did serve humanity, in various and diverse capacities, well, and has suddenly, without notice, returned to our Creator,” pointing out that “his humility, dedication to duty, fairness to all and a high sense of humour, endeared him to many, near and far, irrespective of religious, tribal or sectional inclination.”
Yero stressed that “the vision of Yakowa was to secure, unite and develop Kaduna State,” noting that “he invested so much in this and started reaping the fruits of his labour.
“He wished to consolidate and advance on the achievements so far made and hence tagged Kaduna State’s 2013 budget, which he presented to the House of Assembly on Thursday, as the ‘Budget of consolidation and advancement.’
“I sincerely desire to build on the good foundation that my boss has laid. I, therefore, covert your prayers for God’s wisdom, guidance and direction.”
He commiserated with the widow of Yakowa and “members of the Government of Kaduna State over this sad moment we have found ourselves in.”
Those who attended the swearing-in of Yero yesterday included former Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi and the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, Archbishop Joseph Bagobiri.
Makarfi said: “From God we came and to Him we shall all return. Words alone cannot express my deep sorrow and sadness over such a great loss. At this time we need all hands on deck to restore and maintain peace in our dear state and country.”
The former governor who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance added: “I personally have lost a friend and brother. I am sure that it is so with many others.”
In his own message, Arcbishop, Bagobiri stated that Yakowa’s demise was “a monumental loss of a gentle, God-fearing and selfless leader who was committed to the unity, peace and development of Kaduna State and the nation.
“He was a detribalised leader who ran an all-inclusive government, where no person or group of persons was excluded on the basis of religion and ethnicity.”
While calling for the unraveling of the cause of the crash with a view to preventing a recurrence, the ACN said: “It is said that every plane crash makes flying safer. That assumes that every such crash is properly investigated and the cause or causes found, disclosed and fed into efforts aimed at averting a recurrence. Saturday’s crash should not be an exception.’’
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said that far from the rituals of mourning the victims of such tragedies and ordering a probe, this latest crash must not be allowed to go the way of the previous ones.
The ACN said till date, the March 2012 crash of a police helicopter in Jos, in which a Deputy Inspector-General of Police was killed, was yet to be unravelled, neither had the nation been told conclusively what caused the June 2012 crash of a Dana Air MD-83 plane that killed over 159 people, or even the series of deadly plane crashes that occurred prior to those ones.
‘’For the military, the crash in 2011 of two of the newly-procured Chinese fighter jets fit into this pattern, as the cause or causes have not been unravelled, to the best of our knowledge. The crash of another military aircraft, the Nigerian Navy Agusta helicopter, on Saturday must not be allowed to follow this pattern.
‘’The safety of the flying public as well as our men and women in uniform must be of paramount importance to those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring safe air travels, and no stone should be left unturned in ensuring this,’’ the party said.
The ACN said it received the news of Saturday’s fatal crash with rude shock and deep sadness, describing it as an unspeakable national tragedy.
The party expressed its condolences to the Federal Government, the government and people of Kaduna and Bayelsa states, as well as the families of all those who died in the crash.
It prayed that God would give the families the ability to find understanding and strengthen them to bear their incomparable loss, and that the deceased would find eternal rest.
The President of the Senate, David Mark and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu joined other Nigerians in mourning.
According to a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, Special Media Adviser to the Senate President, yesterday in Abuja, Mark said the crash which also claimed the aides of the very important personalities, Dauda Tsoho, Warrant Officer Mohammed Kamal as well as the pilots Commander Muritala Mohammed Daba and Lt. Adeyemi Sowole was a national tragedy.
Mark noted that the frequency of air mishaps in recent times unarguably called for caution and return to the basics.
In a statement issued by Uche Anichukwu, his media adviser, Ekweremadu noted that both men and other compatriots who lost their lives in the air mishap were illustrious sons of Nigeria who gave their best to their fatherland.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described as tragic and sorrowful, the helicopter crash.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal said he felt so sad and heartbroken hearing the news of the ugly incident.
The Speaker said the House of Representatives, as part of its oversight functions, would liaise with aviation authorities to conduct diligence checks on all military and civilian aircraft flying in the country in order to ascertain their air worthiness and to prevent future mishap in the country.
In the same vain, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, expressed shock.
The deputy speaker bemoaned the crash, which he described as another unfortunate blight on the history of year 2012 and one, which had brought unquantifiable pain and distress to the families of the victims as well as the government and people of Kaduna and Bayelsa states.
The National Leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Maj.-Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) has ordered the cancellation of planned celebration of his 70th birthday, which was earlier scheduled for today at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, in honor of Yakowa, Azazi and others who died in the plane crash.
The former military head of state, who expressed personal grief and a deep sense of loss over the death, noted in a statement issued by his party, that the death of the officials was a big loss to the country.