Mrs Omolola Olawunmi and children
She is the widow of the late Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi, who, alongside six other officers, died in the Nigerian Air Force aircraft that crashed in Abuja on Sunday, February 21, 2021.
The widow tells ABIODUN NEJO that life without her husband has been uneasy
How will you describe your late husband?
My husband, Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Ojo Olawunmi, was a quiet person, intelligent, honest and time-conscious. He was very caring; he never toyed with his family, wife and children. He was always encouraging me, to keep me going. He cared for the family to the maximum. He always said, ‘I am okay when you people (the family) are okay’. It is only God that can fill the vacuum. He was a committed and contented person. He was not the complaining type. He had the milk of kindness flowing in him and he was a cheerful giver. He took care of his aged parents. He would extend what was not even enough for the immediate family to others. He did not know how to say ‘I do not have’. Even when I told him, ‘Dear, why don’t you tell that person that you don’t have now and that you will reach out when you have?’ His response would be that it was okay that way. He could sacrifice anything.
Given the nature of his work, which required him to be away from home a lot, will you say you really enjoyed the married life with him?
Yes. I met him in 2004. His lifestyle had been part and parcel of my life. I am used to everything about him. That was why I was able to cope and forge ahead.
When did you get married?
We got married in 2010.
Given how he was always away and how everything ended, will you encourage any of your children to join the military if they want to?
Yes. Our first child always says he wants to be a pilot. His father never shut him up. The military, particularly the Air Force, is a good job. The Air Force has been a supportive and loving family. Even the few times we went on vacation or holiday, we could see they are good and loving people. One interesting thing is that Air Force builds family together. They ensure bonding in the families of members. I see love in them. They are good people to be with; they are fun to be close to. If my child wants to belong to such, I will not go against it. I love the job. During the Career Day of my first child at school, my husband went the extra mile to get him a pilot’s wear. If the child becomes one, the father will be happy wherever he is. What happened was just a coincidence. Air Force is very good.
Has the Air Force discussed anything with you since his death?
You know they are confidential people. They sent their condolences, paid condolence visits and they are getting in touch with us, but no pronouncement yet. They are just ensuring that I have rest of mind and that I should neither bother nor stress myself so that I can take care of the kids. They keep encouraging me.
How has life without him been?
It has not been easy. I have not been sleeping. I only pretend to be asleep for my sisters not to discover and get worried. I know I have not really felt it, maybe when all these people are gone and I am left with the kids, I will feel it more than this. I have not been myself. There has been nobody to call to say, ‘Dear, where are you?’, ‘What are you doing?’ etc. Nobody is doing that again. I just don’t want to fall sick because of the children. That is why I am encouraging myself.
How have your children been coping?
They are not finding it easy either. Whenever the second child comes in, he will say, ‘I want to call my dad; mummy, please let me talk to daddy now’. They have yet to really realise their dad is gone. They say words like, ‘I’m missing daddy oo’. And I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, daddy will come back, he is still with angels. Angels have taken him to God and they would still bring him back’. That is my consolation. Even the baby, whenever he picks my phone, he would be tapping it to see his daddy’s picture. When anybody calls, he would collect the phone and say ‘Daddy, daddy!’ I know they are feeling it.
Where do you get the strength to carry on?
One, because I am a Christian – a Catholic. In the Cathecism Class – we were taught that ‘God gives, God takes’. That is my courage. Secondly, I don’t want to be down in the presence of the children. When the incident happened, they were meant to begin their test at school on Monday (the following day) which would last till Wednesday, even that night, I did revision with them. One is in Primary Five, the second is in Primary Two. I am just encouraging myself so that my mood will not affect them.
What are your husband’s unfulfilled ambitions?
Many. The way he had loved to train his children. This baby is a year old. He (my husband) was around in December through January, he had not really had the opportunity to be with the baby since I gave birth to him. When he was around, he had the opportunity to study the baby and he said, ‘Ayomikun will be stubborn, tell him the truth, whenever he wants to take anything, if it is not proper, collect it, tell him’. The way he would like to train the children, the vacuum, it is only God that can fill it. Again, whenever the children told him they would love to study abroad, he would say that was certain. The last time he was at home, he said that he was planning to visit the governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, to request land allocation so that the rest (building a house) would be easy. We are still in a rented apartment. His concern was that if we should go and buy land in the newly developing areas, since he was always away, he would not have rest of mind over our security in such an environment. He said he and his mate, the second person from Ekiti State that he was enlisted in the Air Force with in 2002, were planning to go to the governor for the request. I told him it was a good idea and that since he was around, he could go and make a case for the two Air Force personnel from Ekiti State. We were still deliberating on that in January before he received a call and had to return to work.
How do you intend to keep his dreams alive?
The only thing I can do is to follow his wishes and dreams for the family. I will try my best. But financially, it may not be easy. That is the major challenge. He was the one financially responsible for the family. He never asked me about my salary; in fact, he never knew how much I earn monthly.
Did you have any premonition of his death, especially as he was around between December and January?
No. He was himself, the way we normally played. We were all over each other. There was nothing strange, no premonition. It was even his boss that said he should go and see his family. They called him and he returned to work after the plane was out of maintenance.
Did you mean the aircraft was due for maintenance?
Normally, when they went for an operation, on return, the aircraft would go for maintenance, that was the normal thing. It was during the maintenance that he had time to come home. As soon as it was out of maintenance, they left.
When you woke up that fateful Sunday morning, what was your feeling as per how the day would go?
Nothing. I was not even feeling like going to church because the baby was slightly ill. But with my kind of person, I would not be comfortable staying at home. Even the children would ask, ‘Mummy, are we not going to church?’ So, I had to summon courage that no matter the disturbance or distraction, I would go. We spoke in the night, I told him I would manage to go to church. His father was to have his Thanksgiving in church at Ogotun Ekiti that Sunday; he asked me to transfer money to his dad, which I did before I slept. I promised him I would call Baba as soon as we woke up so that he would go and cash the money on Sunday morning. We went to church and when we came back, we called him and told him, ‘Dear, we are back’ and he said, ‘Okay, we are taking off; when we land, I will call you people’. Nothing strange. The baby was crying in the church, may be people will say the baby was acting strange, but I think that was because he wasn’t feeling fine.
So you expected his call in vain.
How did you receive the sad news?
We were sleeping after he said he would call us back. I asked the children to go and relax; then all of us went to bed. My phone rang, when I picked it, I saw missed calls, unknown numbers, then immediately, a call came in, it was his former boss, he said, ‘How are you? How are you doing? How are the kids?’ Immediately I saw his call, I started feeling strange, wondering why he called me. I prayed silently that nothing bad would happen to Sunkanmi. Air Force had actually sent someone to come and tell me what had happened, but the person was trying to locate my place when I was sleeping. But before the person got here, the social media, all my sisters in Abuja had started sending messages – ‘sorry for the loss, big sister’ – that was it. But before they started sending messages, I called my uncle, and when I was talking to him, I was crying, he told me to keep quiet, that nothing would happen to my husband. I just felt Sunkanmi was dead because I was feeling cold. It was when I checked my phone that I started seeing messages – ‘sorry for the loss’. It was a big shock. He had been in that unit for a very long time and nothing untoward happened. He had been doing the job for long. I was not expecting bad news, I was shocked and I am still in shock.
Generally what will you miss about him?
The vacuum he left, there is no one that can fill it; only God. I am going to miss him a lot. His fatherly role, husband’s role, advice, encouragement, checking on us, making sure we are okay, talking to us before talking to any other person, talking to me before I talk to any other person. The kids, cheering them up, correcting them even while he was away – all those will be missing. I am going to miss him financially, spiritually, the partnership, that friendship, that love, we are going to miss him.
What appeal would you love to make?
I appreciate everyone. I appreciate Mr Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao; the Air Force generally; Ekiti South-West Local Government Chairman, Kolade Amire Kolade; Ekiti State Head of Service, Mrs Peju Babafemi, and my husband’s aged father, Mr Julius Ademiluyi Olawunmi, for their concern.
Where I will like to appeal for assistance is the area of raising the kids because since he was a breadwinner, I am not expecting anything from anywhere except God himself sends help to the family. If the education of the kids is taken care of, the burden will be light. Even before his demise, he had been looking for a better job for me so that I would be okay. He was always saying he wanted to see me looking very good, very okay. He was always assuring me of a better, greater and prosperous tomorrow. That was his dream. I believed in him, so, if the children’s education is taken care of and I have a good job where I am well paid, the burden will be lighter.
As I said earlier, we are still in a rented apartment because of the burden. I am not even comfortable staying here anymore and there is no fund to rent another apartment. I am just praying and hoping that government can help me with the land/housing issue, I will start something with the little effort I can make. With that I will be able to focus on the children and also have rest of mind.
I want to build on the legacy he left. If I can get assistance, then I can focus and we will be able to achieve what he wanted for the children. He wanted them to be great in life.
Source: The PUNCH
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