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15 Oct 2016
My daughter and I can’t risk travelling by air for now
On October 3, 2013, an Associated Airline plane, conveying the body of former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, from Lagos to Akure, Ondo State, crashed close to the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja. Some of the crew members, relatives, pall bearers and 45-year-old Oluwatoyin Alabi, the Ondo State liaison officer, who was accompanying the body officially, died in the crash. Three years this week, her husband, Taiwo, speaks with KUNLE FALAYI about living with the tragedy
It has been three years since you lost your wife in the plane crash, how has it been moving on with life?
Being what we are as human beings, we don’t have a choice but to put the incident behind us. But it has been really stressful. Most of the time, when my daughter leaves for school, it can be really challenging because I am always left alone at home with no one to relate or share experiences with.
In what ways have you been trying to cope with that kind of vacuum she left?
I thank God for his sustenance; I have to travel back and forth to Ondo and Ekiti to relax, sometimes for few days, sometimes a week. Anytime I am free, I just travel, at least, I would be around friends and there won’t be the problem of sitting alone and thinking.
Your daughter was 11 when the crash took place. Does she speak about her mum often?
Anytime she is at home, we go to work together and even go out together. We are together most of the time. She has accepted the incident but we rarely talk about her late mum except on occasions when she does something bad and I have to mention her mum to chastise her. I don’t usually give room for that so that she won’t be thinking too much about such a sad incident. But it is not something we can both get over easily even though we have accepted it.
In the last three years, what comes to your mind on each of the anniversaries of the incident?
On each October 3, I find solace in prayer and remember my wife for all the good things she did while alive. On the first year anniversary of the incident, we prepared food which we distributed to the needy as a way to remember my wife. On November 22, which is the day she was buried, we established a foundation in her memory – Oluwatoyin Alabi Foundation – as a way to help widows, widowers and the under-privileged. This is because she was involved in many activities. She paid the school fees of some people and helped others in various ways. I plan to continue this over the next ten years. We also did what we could for the needy during the second anniversary. We are working on a similar effort this year to spend at least N150,000 helping the needy.
What do you miss most about her?
She was a woman of valour. Her impact in my life is something I will never forget. I don’t think there is any woman that we would understand each other that much again. She was even the one who made a real Christian out of me. For someone to be able to influence you in such a way, it is not something one would ever forget.
Have you at any point considered remarrying?
Yes, you know I am in my mid-50s with just a child. My focus at this time is to get my daughter through school. After that, the stress would be reduced. I don’t know what the kind of woman coming in would be. I don’t want any situation where a woman would come in and start maltreating her while I am away from home. Even though I have friends, there is no serious relationship for now though it’s is something I would consider in future. I have to think of my old age because my daughter would leave school, get married and start her own life too.
Did Associated Airline eventually give families of victims the rest of the compensation promised?
We have actually been having problems with the company. Up till now, we cannot locate them. Apart from the 30 per cent of the $100,000 compensation, which they paid after the burial, we have not heard anything from them. Since then, they have not responded anytime we try to call them. We located their office but we are always prevented from entering the place when we go there. We (families of victims) had a meeting once and called one of their officials. Luckily, he picked the call that day and he said they were working on it and waiting for their insurer. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority is not doing anything either.
What about Ondo State Government, whom your wife was on an assignment for at the time of the incident?
By now, I thought they would have expedited action to pay her gratuity and pension. But government being what it is, I am the one who has been running around to do the necessary processing. Only one quarter of her entitlement has been released by the state government. I have held a meeting with the Head of Service and he was even the one who made sure that the one quarter was paid.
Have you even been aboard a plane since the incident?
Oh no, I have not been able to travel by air. It is not really that I cannot. I am more than 50 and should not be afraid of something like that. But my daughter cannot take it. I was supposed to go for a publishers’ conference in Malaysia in March. But I did not want to put my daughter in any confusion. I had to cancel my attendance. She was also supposed to travel to Canada recently but she did not. She said she was afraid and did not want to lose her life like her mother.
But for how long would you stay away?
It is just a matter of time. I just don’t want my daughter to suffer any emotional strain for now.