The question remained unanswered yesterday but in military circles sabotage is seen as one of the “strong possibilities” being considered– according to sources who pleaded not to be named “because of the sensitivity of the matter.”
The source, who is a top officer in the Western Naval Command, said: “At the moment, we can’t rule out sabotage as a possible cause of the fatal crash.
“We have heard reports that the helicopter might have exploded before it hit the ground. There is also yet unsubstantiated rumour that it was shot.
“For those reasons and the calibre of personalities involved, there is a strong case to assume, just assumption for now, that something beyond mechanical error triggered the crash.”
The aircraft, which is believed to be one of those attached to the Chief of Naval Staff, crashed on its way from Okoloba. On board with the duo were: Dauda Tosho, Warrant Officer Mohammed Kamal, Commander Muritala Daba and Lt. Adeyemi Sowole. They were on their way from the funeral of President Goodluck Jonathan’s aide Oronto Douglas’ father.
The incident was the topic of discussion in top military circles and at officers’ messes yesterday. Among the puzzles are wther the chopper was gunned down or compromised prior to the fatal trip.
The aircraft was said to have been on aerial reconnaissance operation in the creek when it was redeployed to the service of the former top military brass.
The source said: “They said two or five minutes into the air, the helicopter exploded. We don’t know what happened exactly. Investigation has started now.
“They will soon give us the real story on what actually happened and what really went wrong. There are many rumours. Some allege sabotage.”
The late Yakowa visited his parents’ graves 14 days before his death, it was learnt yesterday.
Yakowa’s widow, Amina, also recounted her last encounter with him as sympathisers, including Vice President Namadi Sambo, former Heads of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, and the wife of the Vice President Amina, visited her.
Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson was in tears at the mortuary of the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa when he went in company of military chiefs to see the bodies of the six victims.
The naval helicopter that the victims flew went up in flame after take-off before crashing into the creek in Tombi Community, Nembe Local Government Area
They were in Okoloba, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, for the funeral of Chief Obebara Douglas, father of Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Strategy and Documentation, Mr. Oronto Douglas.
Recounting his last discussion with the late Yakowa, the President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Ephraim Goje, said the late governor told him on December 1 that he was visiting the grave of his parents for the first time in two years, pointing out that he was using the opportunity of the local government election to do so.
Yakowa’s widow, Dame Amina, said her husband gave her enough reasons to be happy in the 33 years of their marriage. She described his death as an “act of God”.
Goje said: “One of the last encounters I had with him that I will never forget was on December 1, which was his 64th birthday. If you remember, he also conducted the local government elections on that day. At about 1 pm, I called to congratulate him on his birthday and for successfully conducting the local government election.
“He said to me, ‘My President, I am grateful that you have stood by me all these years and for the constant advice you are giving to me. I am proud to have you as the leader of my people. As I speak with you, I am standing by the graveside of my parents. I have not had the opportunity to come here in the past two years and I am using the opportunity of this election to come to their graveside’.
“He promised to surprise the people of Kaduna State when he presents his 2013 budget and that through the budget, the people would know that he meant business. I told him that ‘wherever your parents are, I am sure that they will be proud to have you as their son, especially rising through the ladder to become the governor’.
“We are also proud of you and your achievements. On Monday, after the election, I went to his village to see him but he had left for Kaduna. I never knew that 15 days later, he would be no more. We are really grieving and sad.”
Goje described Yakowa’s death as a great loss to the people, saying: “The death of Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa came to me as a surprise and with great shock. I want to say that Kaduna State has lost a great son and a big vacuum has been created. He was a man with a passion to develop Kaduna State. There was no religious or ethnic considerations in his actions and he was dedicated to the development of Kaduna State. Within his brief stay in office, he succeeded in touching the lives of everybody in the state.
“We are deeply touched by his sudden exit. I want to say that he tried to surpass everyone before him and he left a mark that will not be easily forgotten. He transformed the Government House and made it a place for serious business and the business of governance.
“For us as a people, Yakowa meant so much because he represented our aspiration to be given the chance to govern the state. We always agitated for that chance and it finally came with him in the saddle and he was given a four-year mandate. We did not expect that it will be over so soon, but as human beings, we are bound by the dictate of God who is the giver and taker of life. He was just to all and we expect that the new governor will equally be just and fair to all and to all parts of the state. We are looking forward to him following the footsteps of his boss.”
Mrs Yakowa said at a mass organised to commemorate his death at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House in Kaduna that she would miss Yakowa’s fatherly care and devotion to God.
“The governor has given me so many reasons to be happy. We are supposed to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary next week, on December 23, but that is not to be. We usually prayed together before coming down for mass, but yesterday (Saturday) I was down with cold. Before coming down, he touched me and urged me to get well soon to meet him in Abuja.
“I was supposed to travel on Sunday (yesterday) to Abuja to attend the thanksgiving service of Mrs Patience Jonathan in Abuja, together with him.”
In his homily, the Archbishop of Kaduna, Rev. Matthew Ndagoso, described the late governor as a dedicated man who used his position to promote peace, unity and development in the state.
Ndagoso advised the family and people not to despair, but rather be positive as the late governor had lived a good life worthy of emulation.
The archbishop urged Yakowa’s successor to continue with the projects initiated by his predecessor.
Mr Joseph Hayab, Yakowa’s Special Adviser, Christian Affairs, described the late governor as an incorruptible, hardworking and dedicated person.
Mrs Sambo was accompanied by a large delegation of women, who were there to condole with Mrs. Yakowa, the government and people of the state.
Gen. Buhari extolled the virtues of the late governor, saying that in spite of the diverse challenges affecting the state, he promoted peaceful coexistence among the people.
He advised public officers to emulate the good virtues displayed by the late governor towards promoting peace, unity and development.
Others who condoled with the family were a former Military Administrator of the state, Brig.-Gen. Lawal Jafaru Isa, former Governor Ahmed Makarfi and former Chairman, National Population Commission, Mr Samaila Makama.
The late governor’s opponent in the 2011 election, Alhaji Suleiman Hunkuyi, traditional rulers, women groups and members of the Knights of St. Mulumba also commiserated with the family.