Governors and Princi — Principal officers of the National Assembly were among prominent Nigerians who, yesterday, reacted with shock to the death on Saturday of Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, Gen. Andrew Azazi, erstwhile National Security Adviser, and four others in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa.
The six died while returning from the burial of Pa Obebara Douglas, father of Mr. Oronto Douglas, Special Adviser to the President on Research and Documentation.
Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, while lamenting the deaths, said he was cancelling all official engagements until further notice on account of the development.
A statement issued in Port Harcourt by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. David Iyofor, said Governor Amaechi had cancelled all official engagements in honour of the departed.
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State described the death of the two men as "very painful and shocking."
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ugochukwu Emezue, Governor Orji said he was "yet to come to terms with this sad development" which he said had thrown the nation into mourning.
Orji described late Yakowa as "humble, hardworking, and above all a man that fears God," even as he prayed God to comfort the families of the deceased at this trying moment.
According to him, the nation has no doubt lost great men who have distinguished themselves in their chosen professions.
He noted that late former NSA to the President, Azazi was one of Nigeria's finest military officers.
South-West govs mourn
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State on his part described the death of Yakowa and Azazi as a "big tragedy of monumental proportion which hit the nation when least expected."
According to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, in Ado Ekiti yesterday, Fayemi noted that the tragedy became more painful given the fact that the victims were returning from a burial.
While noting that Yakowa's death happened when the nation was yet to recover from the October 25 plane crash involving Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, Fayemi said it was more regrettable that the crash happened when much was being done to restore sanity to the nation's aviation sector.
Governor Fayemi was joined by the Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ekiti State, Mr. Makanjuola Ogundipe, who commiserated with members of the party, family and the people of Kaduna State over the death of Yakowa.
He said: "Ekiti PDP sympathises with the people of Kaduna State and the families of those that lost their lives and the national body of our party."
Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State on his part lamented that the death of Yakowa and Azazi was "unexpected, shocking and painful."
Aregbesola, in a statement by his Director, Bureau of Communications and Strategy, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, said the tragic development left a sour taste in the mouth of every patriotic Nigerian.
Aregbesola said: "Such tragedy fills every mind with grief but also calls everyone, particularly the leaders, to duty on the need to ensure the safety of all Nigerians."
Governor Olusegun Mimiko on his part also described the death of Governor Yakowa as shocking and embarrassing.
He said: "At times like this, one does not have a choice than to cry unto God for grace to manage the effect of the irreparable damage the deaths of these illustrious sons of the nation may have on every one of us either as family members, friends and nation."
Deaths too many -- Uduaghan ; Shocking-- Oshiomhole
Speaking in the same vein, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State described the death of the two men as shocking and devastating.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sunny Ogefere, in Asaba, yesterday, said: "They are deaths too many for Nigeria and Nigerians to bear. This saddening development call for prayers.
"This is so sad and painful. It is devastating not just to me as an individual, but to our collective being as a nation."
While condoling with the governments and people of Kaduna and Bayelsa states, families of the deceased and Nigerians over the fatalities, Uduaghan prayed God Almighty "to grant the souls of the departed eternal rest."
In his reaction to the deaths, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State summed the developments as a "black Saturday."
Governor Adams Oshiomhole who also described the death of the two men as shocking to him said: "I received with great shock, news of the death of my brother Governor, Mr. Patrick Yakowa and General Owoye Azazi in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa State.
"I wish to convey the deepest condolence of the people and Government of Edo State and my personal commiseration to the families of the victims.
"Yakowa's passion and pride with which he embarked on the Kaduna renewal project has been most endearing."
On General Owoye Azazi, Oshiomhole said: "I had a very cordial and fruitful relationship with General Azazi. In all my dealings with him, he came across as a detribalised Nigerian who had a burning passion for the country.
"Azazi was an epitome of the saying 'an officer and a gentleman' because despite his very senior rank in the Army and his position as NSA, he was very humble and unassuming."
Chime consoles families
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, while condoling with the governments of Kaduna and Bayelsa states, said he was shocked by the news of the death of the governor and the former NSA.
In a statement by Chuks Ugwoke, Commissioner for Information, Governor Chime described their untimely death as not only shocking and tragic, but a monumental loss to the entire country.
He also mourned the death of others who perished in the crash.
In the statement, the Enugu State Governor, who is still on vacation, said: "As a peace agent, who ensured peaceful co-existence among adherents of different faiths, Governor Yakowa served his people with commitment and was an embodiment of humility and selfless service, which brought about huge development in Kaduna State.
"Azazi (rtd) was a dutiful and gentleman officer and a statesman who served his people and nation with diligence and integrity."
ACN calls for conclusive probe
Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, on its part called for a thorough investigation of Saturday's military helicopter crash, saying unraveling the cause of the crash with a view to preventing a recurrence will mean the victims did not die in vain.
The party said in a statement issued in Lagos, Sunday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed: "It is said that every plane crash makes flying safer.
"That assumes that every such crash is properly investigated and the cause or causes found, disclosed and fed into efforts aimed at averting a recurrence. Saturday's crash should not be an exception."
ACN said till date, the March 2012 crash of a police helicopter in Jos, in which a Deputy Inspector-General of Police was killed, was yet to be unraveled, neither has the nation been told conclusively what caused the June 2012 crash of a Dana Air MD-83 plane that killed over 159 people, or even the series of deadly plane crashes that occurred prior to those ones.
It said: "The crash of another military aircraft, the Nigerian Navy Agusta helicopter, on Saturday must not be allowed to follow this pattern."
Buhari suspends birthday events
On his part, erstwhile Head of State and national leader of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has put forward today's scheduled events to mark his 70th birthday.
While condoling with the families of Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, the immediate past National Security Adviser, Azazi and others affected by Saturday's helicopter crash, Buhari described the development as a "monumental national tragedy."
"For this reason and as a mark of honour to the dead, GMB has directed that the ceremony marking his 70th birthday scheduled for today at the International Conference Centre, ICC, in Abuja, be postponed indefinitely," CPC's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashikin, said in a statement, yesterday.
The CPC spokesman said: "Indeed, this is another difficult time for the nation and calls for sober reflection. GMB commiserates with the immediate families of the deceased, especially the government and people of Kaduna State for the great loss."
Ekweremadu, Ihedioha shocked
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described the death of the two men as monumental losses to the nation.
He said: "It is indeed another sad and shocking event in the annals of our nation and I pray that never again should such disaster befall our land."
He prayed for the peaceful repose of the souls of the dead and inner strength for the living to bear the grievous loss.
Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, also expressed shock over the helicopter crash, saying it had brought unquantifiable pain and distress to the nation.
Ihedioha noted that both Yakowa and Azazi served the country in various capacities till death and praised their contributions to national development, observing particularly that Yakowa will be remembered as a governor who promoted peace and inter-religious co-existence in Kaduna State.
Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Sunday Ola Makinde, described the death of the two men as a rude shock, a terrible nightmare and a national tragedy.
Speaking through the church's Media and Public Relations Officer, Rev. Oladapo Daramola, the prelate noted that Saturday would go down as a dark day in the history of this country.
He said: "I wish to express my deepest condolences to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the good people of Kaduna State, Mrs. Yakowa and the entire Yakowa family.
"The family of General Owoeye Azazi and the families of those who were on board that chopper. May God Almighty console and bring comfort to them all."
Former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel also described his sadness over the development.
He said: "This is a very sad development. I am shocked and saddened by this tragedy. I had interacted with the two men in the course of different national assignments and engagements and I found them to be personable, deeply patriotic and men who were constantly working for the greater good of the nation."