Tolulope Arotile is largely known as the first-ever Nigerian female combat helicopter pilot. This achievement brought her to the national limelight. In this biography about Tolulope Arotile, you will get to know some other unknown facts about her. If there is any question you have about Arotile, it is our hope you will find answers to them in this article.
Before we go further and start giving details about her, we have summarised all the important facts. In the next section, you will see 10 important facts about Fling Officer Tolulope Arotile. Here they are:
10 important facts about Tolulope Arotile
- Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile was born on 13th December 1995 in Kaduna State and she died at the age of 24.
- Tolulope Arotile was from Ijumu Local Government Area in Kogi State.
- She attended Air Force Primary School and Air Force Secondary School in Kaduna, and she had always wanted to be a pilot from childhood.
- Arotile graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy with a BSc degree in Mathematics.
- She was officially commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force on 16th September 2017 as a pilot officer.
- Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile was officially winged as the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on 15th October 2019.
- She underwent flight training in South Africa, the US and Italy as well.
- Tolulope Arotile had flown combat missions under Operation Gama Aiki in Minna, Niger State.
- Arotile had introduced the newly acquired Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja on 6th February 2020.
- Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile died on Tuesday 14th July 2020 after sustaining head injuries in a road accident.
Tolulope Arotile Biography: early life and education
The first-ever Nigerian female combat helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile, was born on 13th December 1995 in Kaduna State. Her father and mother are simply known as Mr and Mrs Akintude Arotile.
While the family lived in Kaduna State when she was born, it is not their state of origin. We found out that Tolulope Arotile was from Ijumu Local Government Area in Kogi State, which is her father’s hometown. According to a statement released by her father, Tolulope Arotile had an older sister.
She started her early primary school education at Air Force Primary School in Kaduna from 2000 to 2005. After she graduated, she moved on to Air Force Secondary School in Kaduna. She completed her secondary school education in 2011.
From a young age, Arotile had an interest in joining the Nigerian Armed Forces. She continued on this path and got admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. She was enrolled as a member of the 64 Regular Course on 22nd September 2012.
Arotile graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy with a BSc degree in Mathematics. Thereafter, she was officially commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force on 16th September 2017. Thus, becoming a Pilot Officer.
Tolulope Arotile Biography: Career
After completing her course, her training was still not complete. She travelled for flight training at Westline Aviation Limited, South Africa. On completing this flying training, which lasted nearly a year; Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile was officially winged as the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on 15th October 2019.
Arotile had also received training in the United States, and she could handle an attack helicopter as would become evident in her career. Additionally, a Vanguard report claims that she underwent some training in Italy as well.
Besides her qualification as a combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile also held a commercial pilot license. She introduced the newly acquired Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja on 6th February 2020.
Barely a year after she qualified to take combat helicopters into missions as a fighter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile sadly died.
Before we go into details surrounding her death, it will be noted that she had been given some missions in the North-East to fight Boko Haram insurgents. While there was not much information available on the details of the mission, it is clear that Arotile was an expert.
She returned from many flight missions successfully. Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile had flown combat missions under Operation Gama Aiki in Minna, Niger State.
Now let us go into details surrounding her death.
How Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile died
On 14th July 2019, it was reported that Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile had died in a road accident on the Nigerian Air Force Base in Kaduna. We had reported the full official statement that the authorities released about her death. How did Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile die?
The official report states that she had died in a road accident that involved an old friend. The unnamed friend had allegedly spotted her while driving past and while trying to reverse to greet her properly, had knocked Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile down.
According to the spokesman of Nigeria Air Force, Ibikunle Daramola Arotile died on Tuesday, 14 July 2020, after sustaining head injuries in the road accident.
Her career was cut short before it even started. Yet, her death was big news that shocked not just her friends and family but the whole nation.
Let us take a look at some of the tributes that were paid to her following her death.
Tributes to Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile
President Muhammadu Buhari said he received the news with “deep pain” and sent condolences to her family and colleagues, in a statement released through one of his aides.
Acknowledging Arotile’s flying skills and her dedication to Nigeria’s battle against corruption, Buhari’s statement reads:
“The President salutes Arotile’s bravery in the field to protect the country from [the] onslaught of bandits and terrorists, assuring that her memory will be indelible, and her efforts remembered.”
On hearing of her death, Senator Shehu Sani took to his Twitter page to write:
It’s sad to learn that a few minutes after I passed the NAF Airforce Base Kaduna, a tragic accident happened which took away the life of one of Nigeria’s finest and first female combat Helicopter Pilot, Tolulope Arotile.A great loss to our country. May her soul Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/jAZ4dmJr1U
— Senator Shehu Sani (@ShehuSani) July 15, 2020
Former Minister, Akinwumi Adesina also posted about her on his Twitter page saying:
I am so sad that Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, died at the age of 24 years. You were bold, brave and patriotic. You defended the nation and inspired national pride. May God comfort your parents and family. We salute your cherished memory. RIP pic.twitter.com/KKwecTaWDs
— Akinwumi A. Adesina (@akin_adesina) July 15, 2020
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar sang her praises in a Twitter thread, he posted:
(1/4) I was heartbroken when I received the sad news of the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile yesterday in Kaduna. Tolulope, who was winged in October 2019, as the first female @NigAirForce combat helicopter pilot, was one of our shining young stars. pic.twitter.com/ZCjwMy2dwE
— Air Marshal Abubakar (@CAS_AMSadique) July 15, 2020
The First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari, also had this to say about her: “It’s with a heavy heart that I received the news of the demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the first female Nigerian Airforce Combat Helicopter Pilot.
“I condole with the family of Flying Officer Arotile, the Nigerian Airforce and the country over this irreparable loss. The deceased was an intelligent young woman, a huge potential, a representative of both Nigerian women and youth, and what they could achieve.”
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar says of the late Flying Officer: “Tolulope Arotile was an inspiration. She shattered the ceiling, and will always be our number 1. May she rest in the bosom of the Lord. And may the Almighty God grant the Arotile family and all her loved ones the comfort to bear this loss.”
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Tolulope Arotile family and friends
A former classmate and close friend of Tolulope Arotile, Musa Muhammad expressed pain at her death. Muhammad and Arotile attended the same Nigeria Airforce Primary school in Kaduna, but Musa Muhammad had chosen to pursue a career in Chemistry.
He mentioned that she had always loved the military right from childhood. They had been about to meet again after a long time before the tragic incident occurred, according to a BBC article.
Mr Akintunde Arotile, the father of Tolulope Arotile, revealed that he had talked to his daughter hours before she died. Arotile had told her father that she had just come back from an operation against bandits in Kastina.
He said that about four hours later, he found out that she was dead. Mr Arotile revealed that he had to drive all the way from Abuja to Lokoja, Kogi State, to personally break the news to his wife, Tolulope Arotile’s mother.
He further said that he was only happy that the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile achieved her childhood dream of becoming a pilot.
Controversies surrounding Tolulope Arotile’s death
Hours after the news of Tolulope Arotile’s death, there were some controversies that came up in certain circles. The most notable was a statement from Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group.
Through a statement from the group’s publicity secretary, Yinka Odumakin, on 16th July 2020, the group said that it rejects the explanation for her death because she was knocked down by a reversing car.
Sahara Reporters published the statement which reads in part:
“It was only eyewitness accounts that unofficially released that it was a colleague of hers who reversed his car to knock her down on the road.
“Unofficial accounts say she just returned from a combat operation before she was knocked down to death. We, therefore, do not accept that her death was an accident until the report of a coroner says how she died and how a supposed attempt to stop and greet could come with a deadly impact.”
The statement further adds:
“We say this against what is known of the infiltration of the forces by sympathisers and agents of Boko Haram. We recall the report years back of such agents revealing the routes and timing of movements of our troops to Boko Haram who ambushed them.
“The inquiry should look into all the links of the colleague who killed her and we must know the identity.”
Tolulope Arotile Biography: Legacy
Despite dying at a young age, Tolulope Arotile sets down a legacy that has the whole of Nigeria talking about her. From President Buhari to other key members of the nation. We see that she impacted lives during her brief career.
This is why despite being given the family a choice on how to bury her, Nigerian Air Force superiors are requesting that she should be buried at the National Cemetery, Abuja. This is to honour her feat as the first female combatant helicopter pilot in Nigeria.
Also, the Kogi State House of Assembly called on the state government to immortalise her as well.
One important thing you may take away from the biography of late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile is that focusing on goals is very important. As you read, all her moves from childhood were aimed at achieving her dream of becoming a pilot.
Also, while her career was short-lived, it left a deep imprint on the sands of time. This is what legacy is all about; it lives after we are gone. Undoubtedly, for years to come, the name of Tolulope Arotile will still ring a bell in minds of Nigerians.