Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said the late former National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi(retd) had confidence in military helicopters and preferred flying them.
Amaechi, who paid glowing tribute to the late Azazi on Saturday during a state funeral held in his honour by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, said Azazi would only fly other helicopters when a military chopper was not available.
The governor, in a pensive mood, recalled that the late Azazi had on many occasions, refused to board private helicopters he (Amaechi) arranged for him.
Amaechi said, â€œHe was a courageous man and I donâ€™t want to be as courageous as he was. I have always told him, â€˜when you come to Port Harcourt and you want to fly helicopter, just tell me. I will provide a helicopter for youâ€™. But Azazi would always want to fly the helicopter of the military, except it is not available.
â€œWhen we fly together in the Rivers State Government aircraft and there was turbulence and I got worried and be praying, he would be laughing and he would say to me, â€˜you are always troublesome. You say you are strong, this is the time for you to be strong.â€™ He would laugh and say these pilots would not want to die so they would never see danger and vie into it.â€
He said he first got feelers of Azaziâ€™s death from his wife, adding that he called Azaziâ€™s number 20 times after the incident without getting a response.
He said, â€œWhen General Azazi died, the first person that called me was my wife and what my wife told me was, â€˜I was the last person to speak to Azazi before they boarded. As they boarded, l boarded. We took off the same time. Something exploded. I donâ€™t know whether it is the militant, but l am beginning to hear a sad story. Can you please call your friend?â€™ And l called General Azazi more than 20 times.
â€œThen I called the security chiefs who assured me that the helicopter had dropped him in Yenagoa and was coming back before the crash.
â€œSo, I rested and I went to take my bath. After taking my bath, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was there waiting for me because that day was the birthday of the honorable member representing me. When I came down and he broke the news to me, I wept like a baby.â€
Meanwhile, Amaechi has named the Nkpogu Road that is under reconstruction after the late General for his sterling qualities and contributions to nation building.
â€œLooking at the numerous contributions and sterling qualities of the late Gen. Azazi to this nation and his love towards me, whom he usually calls â€˜my younger brotherâ€™, I am left with no option than to name Nkpogu Road after him by Monday,â€ he said.
The governor assured the people of Bayelsa of his administrationâ€™s commitment towards supporting the bereaved families whenever his attention was needed.
Reacting, President Goodluck Jonathan commended Amaechiâ€™s decision to name the Nkpogu Road after late Azazi, describing it as a welcome development.