Rivers State Governor and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr Rotimi Amaechi said that the late former National Security Adviser, Gen Andrew Azazi (rtd) preferred flying military helicopters because he had more confidence in them.
Amaechi who disclosed this while making a glowing tribute to Azazi during the state funeral held in his honour by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, said it was only when a military helicopter was unavailable would Azazi fly other helicopters.
Amaechi who was in a mournful mood recalled how on numerous occassions, Azazi turned down private helicopters Amaechi had provided for his use.
Amaechi said: He was a courageous man and I don’t want to be as courageous as he was. I have always told him, ‘when you come to Port Harcourt and you want to fly a helicopter, just tell me and I’ll provide a helicopter for you.’ But Azazi would rather fly a military helicopter unless it was unavailable.
“When 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 say to me, ‘you’re always troublesome. You sayu you’re strong, this is time for you to be strong. He would laugh and say these pilots would not want to die so they would never see danger and go into it.”
He said he had an inkling of Azazi’s death from wife when he dialled Azazi’s number 20 times after the incident, but he got no response.
He said, “When Gen Azazi died, the first person that called me was my wife and she told me, ‘I was the last person to speak to Azazi before they boarded. As they boarded, I boarded. We took off the same time. Something exploded. I don’t know whether it is the militants, but I am beginning to hear a sad story. Can you please call your friend? And I called Gen Azazi more than 20 times.
“Then I called the security chiefs and they assured me that the helicopter had dropped him in Yenagoa and was coming back before the crash.”
He then said he rested, took his bath and went down to meet the Speaker of the House of Representatives who was waiting for him as it was the birthday of the member representing his federal district. When the Speaker broke the news to him, he said he wept like a baby.
Amaechi described the late General as a man of sterling qualities and commended his efforts to nation-building. He then named the Nkpogu Road under reconstruction after him.
He also assured the people of Bayelsa of his administration’s commitment to supporting the bereaved families whenever needed.
In his reaction, President Goodluck Jonathan commended Amaechi’s decision to rename Nkpogu Road after Azazi, calling it a welcome development.