By Johnpaul Anih, 13-9-2020
It was sunset at noon. I was about 15 years old at the time. Then came the breaking news…A Nigeria Airways Plane enroute Lagos-Enugu had crashed on that hazy morning of 28 Nov. 1983 at Emene, just minutes into landing mode. In those days with no cellphone communication, little did my father, the Governor Of Anambra State at that time, realise that his beloved daughter, Josephine, aged 24 and fondly known as Jojo, who was returning home from abroad, having concluded her Doctorate Degree was aboard that particular flight.
She had been scheduled for the next flight but at the last minute, when two seats became available, got on board the ill fated aircraft with my uncle Dr Kenneth Oji who was also visiting home from abroad.
It was harmattan season with its attendant poor visibility…the plane, whilst attempting to land crashed 3.2km short of the airport runway, into a cassava farm, bursting into flames….
Our brilliant Josephine, who had almost exited the burning plane was compelled to go back as she heard the cries of the helpless little children of Dr Uche Offiah Nwali Who together with their mother were trapped inside the plane. They never made it out of the inferno. 53 people perished in this terrible tragedy.
My Father, right at the scene was able to identify his beloved daughter Jojo. She was wearing her trademark ‘star of David’ pendant. He also identified his cousin Kenneth.. The then Minister of Aviation, Dr John Nina Nwodo immediately flew into Enugu, heading straight to the crash site to set in motion preliminary investigations. It was a horrific scene.
Most of the victims were burnt beyond recognition and those who could not be identified were given a mass burial at the crash site.
It has now been 37 years, Successive Governments, and this tragedy is largely forgotten. However, for those-like myself- who lost loved ones, it is a painful memory we live with every day of our lives…and one that comes to mind each time I am about to board an aircraft.
The Governor Of Enugu State has just unveiled a monumental aircraft Statue in memory of the Victims at the Airport roundabout. A memorial plaque lists the names of all who lost their lives in this tragedy.
On this day, a memorial day when we also remember Victims of multiple aircraft propelled tragedies- the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in the USA in which thousands lost their lives, I pay tribute to this governor, a humane and compassionate servant of the people and a leader blessed with a keen sense of history, For remembering our dearly departed. Sadly, my beloved parents are not alive today to witness this commemoration….They would have been deeply comforted by this gesture….But We are.
And So on behalf of my family and all those families who lost dear ones in this terrible tragedy, We say THANK YOU, Governor Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi. May God ever Remember you as you remembered and immortalized these precious lost souls. They are gone but not forgotten…May their souls continue to Rest in the peace of the Lord, Amen.
His Excellency, Daalu. O ga adili gi mma.
Iyom Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu