Family members of slain airwoman, Solape Oladipupo, share their grief with Arukaino Umukoro
If walls could talk, the ones in the family home of murdered airwoman, Solape Oladipupo, in the Badagry Township area of Lagos State, would be screaming the deceased’s name.
Not because the 21-year-old was once in the choir at her home church, but because her imprints were markedly on the walls of the small room she had shared with her sisters. The room had a picture of her smiling in two portraits, with bright lemon green and purple paint adorning the walls.
The young airwoman, fondly called Shomzy Shomzy by friends and admirers, had painted the room in some of her favourite colours sometimes in 2016 before she joined the Nigerian Air Force, and she bought a table fan for her sister.
“Solape was a beautiful and kind person. She was determined to make the best of her life and for others. She was always looking out for her family and friends,” one of her elder sisters, Kehinde, told Sunday Punch on Thursday night.
Sadly, last Sunday morning, thousand of miles away from her family home in Badagry; the young lady had no one to watch her back when her alleged boyfriend, a fellow non-commissioned NAF officer, identified as Kalu BA, shot her dead.
Kalu was alleged to have pulled the trigger at her in a fit of devilish rage and jealousy, after he accused Oladipupo of double dating at the Air Force Base in Makurdi, Benue State.
“Most idiots would insult me for this, but if they were in my shoes they would do the same,” wrote the killer boyfriend in a purported suicide note he had written. He described himself as a ‘crazy lover who died for heartbreak.’
By a spiteful stroke of fate, Kalu failed in taking his own life, but succeeded in killing Oladipupo and, in the process, a thousand dreams.
In the small room that served as a sitting room – with no chairs – and a bedroom, Kehinde spoke of her younger sister’s big dreams.
Kehinde said, “In 2014, before Solape decided to join the Air Force, she had applied to join the Nigerian Navy and Army, but it wasn’t successful. During the screening process for the Navy at Apapa, she couldn’t get an accommodation, so she slept under a trailer for about a week. She came back home with several mosquito bites and fell sick afterwards. That was how determined she was.
“My mother fainted twice when she heard that Solape had been killed. The man that killed her hadn’t paid her pride price; he didn’t know anyone in her family. She had gone through a lot to get to where she was. She was not supposed to die like that; this was her time to enjoy,” her distraught sister said.
She also spoke of Oladipupo’s determination to join the Air Force following an unexpected incident.
Kehinde narrated, “We were together when we saw a lady on the way who was dressed in a way that exposed her body and Solape made a comment about it, which she heard. Later, the lady came to our house with about five or six guys and they beat us up, until a soldier came to our rescue. From that day, she told me she wanted to join the military, because she hated cheating and injustice.
“I was very proud of her when I first saw her with the Air Force uniform when she came home last June/July. I rushed to hug her tight, despite that I was heavily pregnant. She said she would train my elder sister’s children and our last two siblings and ensure they become lawyers and doctors. She had a big heart. I’m very sad that my younger sister also did not see my new-born baby,” Kehinde said, bursting into tears.
Just then, a friend of the Oladipupos walked into the house, and collapsed on the bed, holding another of the deceased’s elder sister, Jolade, tightly. “They have killed our Solape,” she screamed.
Everyone in the room, including Kehinde’s three children, then broke into tears.
“I’m based in Abeokuta. Solape was a very caring person. For two years, she accommodated me in this room. She was a friend I would never forget in life. In 2012, she helped me get a job in the filling station where she worked then. For two months, before I got the job, she fed me all through. She didn’t follow men about. She was welcoming to everyone. She hated cheating,” said her friend, who gave her name as Opeyemi Obatola.
Oladipupo was described by friends and neighbours as a goal-getter. “She was a hustler. I felt bad when I heard how she was killed. She worked in several places just because she wanted to make ends meet and help her family,” said a neighbour, Femi Ogunbiyi.
“She was gentle and hard working,” another, who gave his name as Salem, said.
At the bar in Badagry, where Oladipupo last worked as a waitress before she joined the Air Force, colleagues and friends spoke highly of her.
“She was outgoing and straightforward. She taught some of us here how to handle the business,” said Nifemi, one of the waiters at the bar.
One of the bar managers, who didn’t identify himself, said, “She was always with a smile and was very intelligent.” A few others declined to comment about her or the incident.
A university lecturer, Mr. Dawodu Abayomi, told Sunday Punch that just before she travelled to join the Air Force, Oladipupo was hosted to a send-forth by her employers and colleagues at the bar.
“Solape was not a wayward girl; even my pastor friend was there to celebrate her. She was friendly and a likeable personality,” he said.
At the time she left to join the Air Force, Oladipupo was already a first-year student at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, Lagos, where she was studying business education.
“Before her admission into AOCOED, she had been processing the Air Force application. She believed that one of them would work for her,” Jolape said.
Jolade also rubbished the killer boyfriend’s allegations that Oladipupo was double-dating. “My sister had both male and female friends alike because she was an accommodating person. But she wasn’t one to flirt around. If she was a flirt, she wouldn’t have been hustling to look for jobs,” she said.
“My daughter never had that time; she wasn’t the kind of lady that messed herself up with men. Solape was intelligent, gentle, easy-going and disciplined. She was courageous and ambitious. She was my two eyes and, with her death, they have punctured my eyes, and I’m blind,” Oladipupo’s heartbroken father, 60-year-old Tolani Oladipupo, told the Punch correspondent.
When he heard of his daughter’s tragic death, the father said he almost committed suicide. “My children, friends and family members, who were there at the time, held me back,” he said, almost crying.
A friend to the late Oladipupo, Mr. Paul Marafa, said the deceased airwoman was jovial, hardworking and easy-going.
“There was a time I joked with the manager of the bar to increase her pay as she had always discharged her duties diligently compared to others and he laughed,” said Marafa, adding that he last saw and spoke with her in November 2016 when he visited her with a friend at the Air Force Base, Kaduna.
Marafa said he encouraged her to apply for the job online because she “was young, tall, smart and intelligent.”
“I felt that working as a waitress might affect her future. So, when she got the job, I congratulated her and wished her the best. She then told me that life wasn’t easy for her as an airperson; that it was made worse by the fact that some of her course mates and superior colleagues were pressurising her for an affair or for sex. I advised her to be very careful. She said she would and thanked me also for encouraging her to apply for the job. Her death is a colossal loss,” he said.
Oladipupo’s best friend, Basirat Fayemi, said she inspired her in many ways. “She was nice, open-minded and wanted the best for herself and her friends. She loved hip-hop music; TuFace and Teckno were her favourite Nigerian artistes. She also liked football, meeting people, and loved dancing. She gave me hope. With that, I was happy and looked forward to joining too, not knowing that I won’t see her again,” Fayemi said.
The Oladipupos are still mourning the beautiful soul who provided melodious music in their lives; her dreams abruptly ended by a killer boyfriend currently in custody of authorities of the Nigerian Air Force.
In his reaction, the NAF spokesman, Group Captain Famuyiwa, said, “We know there are several offences against the state, including this one, which is murder. A board is investigating and will decide the punishment for the suspect.”
I want my daughter’s killer to pay with his life — Dad
What is your name?
I am Tolani Oladipupo; Solape’s father. I will be 61 years old in April.
What do you do?
I am a retired bank worker. I worked with Allied Bank PLC and managed many branches until the bank was dissolved and liquidated by the military regime of the late Sanni Abacha in 1995. Since then, I have been an agriculturist.
How are you coping with your daughter’s death?
All of us in the family are really sad. My wife is in a really terrible state; she fainted when I told her on Sunday and she could not breathe for 30 minutes. She almost died. Later, she gained consciousness. She has lost over 40 per cent of her weight since then. It is most difficult for her. She hardly eats and takes more of liquid, tea or water once a day. When I heard about my daughter’s death, I wanted to kill myself by running into a moving trailer. It was my children and friends around that held me back from committing suicide. They let me realise that hope was not lost. I have many children but I do not want to lose any of them. How can someone put a gun to my daughter’s neck and terminate her life? I have recovered partially and I am ready to face life. Sholape would have been 21/22. She was my sixth child.
What can you tell us about her?
Solape was intelligent, gentle, easy-going and disciplined. She liked staying in a clean environment. She usually kept the home, toilets and bathroom clean whenever she was around. She was determined to become an air force officer, so her going there was not by mistake. She was energetic and good. She was courageous and ambitious, right from her childhood, from the age one. Even when she started walking, I remember how she always stood up and tried to walk whenever she fell down. That was how determined she was throughout her life. We are going to miss her a lot.
Did she tell you about the guy she was dating?
Yes she did. We spoke when she visited home in December last year. She spoke about the boy that killed her; she said she was going out with him before but decided to leave him because he is violent. I also encouraged her to cut off any relationship that would not give her peace. I don’t know how long they had been dating, but I just know that she had separated herself from him, and I supported her decision. I had never spoken with the boy before. After we spoke about it in December, we never talked about it again. I think she had cut off the relationship with him by then.
When last did you speak with your daughter?
I spoke with her on Friday and Saturday and the incident happened on Sunday. We talked about her progress. She has twin sisters and younger ones and she said she would take good care of them. She was hard working. She was not so financially buoyant to help the family in a big way, but whatever she had, she shared with her siblings.
How did you feel when you heard that it was the same guy who killed her?
I felt I had not done enough to protect her. But we prayed a lot for her and the other children. I was confident that the (Air Force) barracks was well secured. Traditionally, there are some medicines that would prevent bullets from penetrating one’s body. I’m an Ijebu man and a Christian, an archdeacon. But I regret that I didn’t do that traditional security for her. I told the commandant of the Air Force base in Makurdi when they called me about the incident that Sholape was my two eyes and, with her death, they have punctured my eyes, and I’m blind. My heart seeks for judgment. Nigerians are calling for judgment. The guy killed her intentionally because he wrote a suicide note. I want justice done; an eye for an eye. I think the Nigerian Air Force wants to court-martial him; they should not just court-martial him, they should terminate his life, the same way he killed my daughter.
Was she dating other people, like the killer lover alleged?
No, all he said was a lie and pretence. My daughter never had the time to move about with men. She lived with me here and we went to vigils together. She wasn’t the kind of lady that messed herself up with men. But it is just natural for someone who is mature to have a boyfriend and husband. She was mature enough to make her decision. I was expecting her to bring a man of her choice to me whenever she decided to before this unfortunate incident.
Family members of slain airwoman, Solape Oladipupo, share their grief with Arukaino Umukoro