The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday held a special session in honour of the late Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, and a former National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi.
The FEC, which did not take any memos as is traditional, adjourned to January 9, 2013 after the special session in which members spoke glowingly about the late governor and NSA.
The FEC members were in sober mood as they took turn to speak.
A minute silence was observed for the departed souls as well as signing of separate condolence registers for Yakowa and Azazi.
Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Ministers of Finance, Environment, Niger Delta, Interior, Petroleum Resources and Information paid tributes to them, The President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who is to lead the Federal Government delegation to Yakowa’s burial on Thursday, said at Wednesday’s FEC meeting: “Saturday, 15th of December, 2012 was a sad day in the history of Nigeria. We pray that God will give the family the fortitude to bear the loss.
“The victims are Nigerians that have served this country. For Governor Yakowa, I knew him when he became the deputy governor of Kaduna state. I had some interactions with him and since then I knew him more when the then governor of Kaduna State was moved to Abuja to assist me and Yakowa became the governor of the state.
“He was a different class of politician. Most of us who are politicians exploit religious sentiments to divide Nigerians for own selfish gains. We exploit North/South divide to divide Nigerians for our selfish gains. But Yakowa was very different. He was a gentleman who believed in the unity of this country.
“For General Azazi, though we are both from Bayelsa State and ijaw ethnic nationality, I never met him until 2004 when the then Bridgier Azazi was made the Director of Military Intelligence. I was then the deputy governor of Bayelsa. Somebody came to me that one of our own has been made the DMI and that was a prestigious posting in the Army. And I said I was going to receive him and have a little party for him. And I hosted him one evening in Abuja, in one of their officers’ mess.
“From that time, we started interacting. Then he was promoted to Major General and made GOC One Division Kaduna and then he was also made the Chief of Army Staff. That was another level of our interaction in 2006. Then, I was the governor of Bayelsa State.
“I also hosted him as Chief of Army Staff alongside the current Minister of Petroleum Resources, the first female executive director of Shell.
“He was made Chief of Defence Staff in 2007 when I was vice president to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I also made him the National Security Adviser when I became the President.
“I saw in him an associate, somebody who meant well for this country.
“The gentlemen have worked very well for this country. Even those who make negative comments about politicians, you really can’t hear any negative comment about these men.
“Sometimes, people wonder why good people die. It is quite touching. Both of them touched our lives. They worked for this country. We pay condolences to the families, their aides, the pilot, co-pilot.
“The Honourable Minister of the Niger Delta just told us that Azazi has a 90-year-old mother. Can you imagine how a 90-year-old mother will mourn a son who did very well and rose to become a four-star general in the Nigerian Army.
“We also expressed our condolences to the Vice President, whom Yakowa served as deputy governor. We also send our condolence to the governor of Kaduna State, Murktar Ramalan Yero, who also served Yakowa as deputy governor. We also send our condolence to the government and people of both Kaduna and Beyelsa states.”
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said he could have been on the chopper that crashed.
Maku said: “I escaped being on the helicopter by twist of fate.
“When we arrived, the late Governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, and General Andrew Azazi were already seated. The two of them were full of life. We greeted. We embraced and later we went for the funeral. Unknown to us, we did not know it would be the last moment we will have with these two distinguished sons of Nigeria.
“Council members would recall that General Azazi served in this chambers with us when he was National Security Adviser. He also rose in the distinguished career of this nation to the rank of a full four star general. He gallantly served as the Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff. Then he was invited by Mr. President to help this nation overcome one of the most serious security challenges since the end of the civil war in 1970.
“He served his nation with distinction. He served to the best of his ability. He was able to manage the situation he found himself in until the time came for him to have relief and be replaced by another Nigerian to continue with the efforts by Mr. President to give this nation peace.
“Governor Patrick Yakowa served and had distinguished career in the civil service and rose to the position of Permanent Secretary in the civil service of the Federation.
“All the time he was Deputy Governor in Kaduna State, he showed courage, humility, patience and that he was a man of peace and even as governor, he was such a good man.
“When we met in Bayelsa, it was a twist of fate that we did not board the same flight because on that day, the Special Adviser to the Vice President, Sani Umar, and myself and Timi Alaibe, we were supposed to travel together with the two of them back to Port Harcourt. Somehow, just before we could take off from the funeral arena, Sani backed out and decided to travel alone. I myself stood up and was going together with them but by some involuntary action, I returned to my seat. I said I would wait for a moment. That was simply the twist of fate that kept us alive. We must give glory to God. I tell this story because nobody goes before his time. We must give God the glory for what has happened. Their destiny was that day and that is what God has done.
“We commit the souls of the gentlemen who died in the ill-fated crash to Almighty God and that He will grant the country mercy.”