He was not feeling too well on this day. In fact, he had to take injection on the Sunday morning, before embarking on the ill-fated journey.
The Late Lieutenant Colonel Jumbo Ochigbo, who was until his death, the Commanding Officer, 6 Battalion, Abak, in Akwa Ibom State, was said to have insisted on going on the trip because the “Conference of Commanding Officers” he was billed to attend, takes place, only once in a year. It was learnt that the northern edition had taken place in Kaduna in April. And Lt. Col. Ochigbo was on his way to attend that of the Southern edition, when he met his death.
“May be, just may be, if he had taken permission to be excused from the conference, he probably would have escaped it. After all, he was truly sick. But you know, his kind of person, always diligent, taking permission to be excused from such a crucial assignment, would be the last thing on his mind, because the conference holds, once in every year,” one of the members of the family managed to say. Since Sunday, when the tragic incident happened, it has been difficult to get the wife to speak.
Not even the mother’s elder sister, who is wife to the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark could utter a word. It was learnt that Mrs. Ochigbo might still be finding it difficult to comprehend the tragic death of the husband, with whom they had planned to hold their 11th wedding anniversary, in Abak, this Saturday, June 9, 2012.
Ironically, she just lost her mother, in August last year. However, after series of persuasions, Lt. Col. Ochigbo’s elder, Mrs. Jane Otobo, who is a deputy director with the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) agreed to speak. She described the death of their brother, who was the number eight in the family of 10, as a “big blow” to the family, especially because their parents are still alive.
“My parents are still alive, my father is alive, my mother is alive. I don’t know how they are taking it now. The doctors are working on them at home. He is the eighth in the family of 10. And for us to lose this kind of a person, you know how it is. It is a big blow to the family. There is a wife, there are three kids. What do we do? We leave everything to God,” she said.
She further said “but it is very unfortunate. Unfortunate because we have Boko Haram killing their fellow Nigerians, then we have people who are deliberately killing us in Nigeria, which is very unfortunate. I was told that that very plane used two hours from Abuja to Lagos, a few days ago and that it was hell before they could land. But the person telling me said further that they were surprised that as they were landing, Dana was calling passengers to board that same flight again, you see what I mean. That is Nigeria for you.”
Narrating how she got the sad news, Mrs. Otobo said that: “It is a big blow to the family because we were not expecting it at all. You know when things happen like this; you hear it from outside and say‘oh, something has happened.’ I never knew it will come so close to the family. “On that fateful day, at about 3pm or so, my younger brother, in Lagos, called me to say just a few meters away from his house, a plane landed. And he told me it was disastrous, asking if I could hear the noise at the background. And I said ‘yes, I could hear it,’ there was so much pandemonium behind. And then I screamed again and said ‘ok keep in touch.’ Unknown to us, our brother was also in the plane that had just crashed.
“And then about 30 minutes later, my brother’s wife (Mrs. Ochigbo) called me and said ‘Aunty, I’m afraid, I am afraid, Bob (as the husband is fondly called) was supposed to catch a Dana flight to Lagos. I am very afraid, Aunty please get in touch with everybody.’ And immediately, I started calling everybody, my brother in Lagos and Abuja and I said ‘there is something going on that I don’t understand, I am even trying to call Bob and his number is not going through.
It simply means there is something wrong.’ They told me they would get back to me, but for about 30 minutes, they could not get back to me. It got up to a point that I was calling them; they were not picking their calls. Then I called my son, he was also not picking my calls. I sensed there was a lot of confusion already, so I quickly moved to the house here (the late brother’s house) because I wanted to be sure of my state of mind because I was going to drive. So, once I arrived the house, the picture began to unfold. By 6pm or so, we were already told his name was on the manifest. And of course, the rest is the story you are seeing today.
“It is just unfortunate. He is one of the stars in the family. Very good guy, very easy going person, very liberal minded. He can play with any category of people. I am sorry, I am speaking about him in the present; honestly I don’t know how I can do it in the past. He can play with children, he can play with teenagers and he can play with adults. In fact, my small boy went to a village close by here- Doka village, where he is used to the people there, come and see how they were crying. They were weeping bitterly. So you can see how the thing has affected the whole family,” she added.
Also speaking in the same vein, Mrs. Ochigbo’s uncle, Oga Ekwu, a lawyer, who had travelled all the way from Otukpo, in Benue State to Kaduna to condole with the family, described late Col. Ochigbo, as an officer with a bright future, but whose life was cut short suddenly.
Hear him: “You know, I am just an in-law to him. What can I say? But I see him as a young officer who has a very bright future, suddenly, the life is cut short. He is the bread winner of a group of people. It is not unusual for a plane crash, but that of Nigeria calls for a serious attention. Most of the planes, as we were told, are obsolete. Nigeria has suddenly become a junkyard for planes that are no longer in use in other places. The Federal Government should pay serious attention to that sector.