SEEING MY BROTHER'S REMAINS WAS TRAUMATIC - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

SEEING MY BROTHER'S REMAINS WAS TRAUMATIC

 - Rtd. Col. Segun Atanda (Late ill-fated ADC Plane Pilot's brother


Rtd Col. Segun Atanda with wife
It's thirteen years after the crash of ADC plane which killed 96 people including Late Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Maccido and two Senators, but the memories remain fresh in the minds and heart of those who lost a dear one in that ill fated plane crash. Captain Kolawole Charles Atanda the ill-fated plane pilot, was a young man in his prime, with so much promise. He had actually struggled for a while from being a cabin crew, before eventually fulfilling the big dream of becoming a pilot. His younger brother Rtd Col Segun Atanda says he was a brilliant pilot, but fate had it's way that black Sunday in Abuja.
How has the Pilot's death affected the Atanda family these past years. His younger brother Rtd Col Segun Atanda who formed and commanded the first ever Signal Unit to serve in any United Nation Mission Operations (NISIG 1) Nigerian Army Signal One in Liberia, tells us more in this interview with Paul Ukpabio, and also about his life in the army and life in retirement. 
It's 13 years after the Air crash that involved your elder brother? Do you still re-call the incident from time to time?

Yes, I do. It is something that will always stay with me. Even if I try not to, It is really impossible. Also, the date fell on my last child’s birthday so at least once a year, the memories come rushing back.

What memories of that period do you have?

It was a terrible experience and the pain of losing him is still there. We miss him every day. Seeing his remains was traumatic.

In what ways did that incident affect your family till date?

He was the first son of the family and our mother is still alive. Most of the responsibilities he was shouldering had to fall on me. He was a pillar of support, a rallying point. He was always ready to assist everyone that came across him.

Did the incident alter your elder brothers’ children's education in any way?

The incident did affect them but I can say it wasn’t so debilitating as to affect them in a life-altering or damaging way. The boys today are all graduates with good jobs. Probably his presence could have made it easier for them when they were in school.

Do you still travel in an aero plane? When you do, does it bring back memories of your brother in any way?

Yes I do, the moment I board any aircraft, it always brings back the old memories. I had cause to have boarded planes he was flying several times in the past. the last one to be precise was from Monrovia to Lagos when I was on pass while serving at United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on ADC Airline flight.

Your brother was a pilot while you went on to the army, what decided your individual careers?

I think for him, he was a cabin crew with the Nigerian Airways and he was staying with our cousin (Retired Air Commodore Layiwola Atanda) a seasoned and dogged military pilot. This might have influenced his choice of career.

For me, it was just destiny. Each time I gave it a push, one thing or the other would always crop up. The last time I tried, it was one of my friends by name Kunle Giwa that assisted me with the application form. The funniest thing is that while I succeeded that year he was only able to make it the following year. 

13 years after, in what ways do you miss your brother?

Several ways. Our mother still refers to him in conversations. He carried everybody along. He was very passionate about his family both nuclear and extended. He was a rallying point and always there for everyone. He also had a very good sense of humour.

You rose to the rank of a Colonel in the Nigerian Army how easy was life in the army?

It was very interesting and challenging. I made up my mind to serve the nation and I served conscientiously. I enjoyed every bit of my career life. There, I had good military friends with whom I shared good times and moments. I enjoyed the mess life especially Tombola. I maintained close relationship with my civilian friends in whom I got succor at times when things were rough. Most importantly my wife was always there for me. She took care of the home front whenever I was away.

What decided your retirement from the army and what future did you envisage for yourself?

The military is a well-structured organization. You will agree with me that only one person will be the Chief of Army Staff at a time amongst your course mates. Along the line, certain structure or obstacles have been put in place to weed off officers (i.e. Promotion Exams, Personal Evaluation Reports, Number of attempts on promotion, Age on rank and so on). In my own case, it was age on rank. You will recall that I did mention that I did not join on time. I wanted to live a modest life and be a fulfilled man.


Are you presently living the dream of that future you wanted for yourself?

Not really, but I am comfortable and contended. God has been faithful to me and my family.

Did your expectation of life after the army meet with reality eventually or you had to alter some plans?

It has always been my intention that I will go into financial management and stock brokerage after service. After my retirement, I went to CAC Corporate Affairs Office Yaba where I overheard some people discussing about security and I said to myself that I had all it took to establish a security company. I had to put a call through to one of my friends and course mate in NDA, Deji Bamgbose MD/CEO of Proton Security Services Limited then, who invited me to his office. On getting to his office, I informed him that I had just left the service. He congratulated me for a successful career and asked for my plans. As I was trying to explain certain things to him, he quickly cut in and said I should not think too far but I should consider Industrial Security. That if I tell anybody that I am a retired Colonel and into security, that person would certainly want to listen to me because of my background. However, I will need experience in Industrial Security as this is quite different from military Security. He then offered to give me the opportunity with Proton Security Services Limited and that is why I found myself there up till date.

Presently, how has retirement been and what do you do presently?

I am retired but not tired. Retirement has been very interesting. It depends on individual. Contentment is very key in one’s life. I will say that I am happy and contented. I presently work as General Manager at Proton Services Limited, one of the foremost Security Companies in Nigeria today. The company is ISO Certified and was adjudged as the Best Security Company in Nigeria in year 2018 by American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) chapter 206.

Would you say your early background has influenced the person that you are today?

Yes, it has because my father was a disciplinarian.


Who influenced you most between Mom and Dad, and where did you grow up?

My dad influenced me more, and I grew up both in Osogbo and Ibadan (To be precise, Ekotedo in Ibadan)

Would you say that you were born into a privileged home?

No. I remember what our dad told us, he said what he owed us was education and that was to school certificate level. He was able to fulfill that. All the three of us (boys) strived hard to ensure that we all had at least second degree including my late elder brother.

Do you recall other early memories while growing up?

My father was an auditor; I enjoy touring with him during holidays. I also enjoy going to the farm with him on weekends.

How did marriage happen for you? Was it love at first sight? 

It was God ordained. I did not make up my mind to get married on time but when I eventually did, we met at the right time and I have never regretted knowing and marrying her.

What has endeared you to your wife over the years?

Her perseverance, tolerance, a home maker, her sense of humour, her ability to instil discipline in the children while I was away on duty and her neatness. I married my friend and till date we still play like kids around the house. When I sneeze, she knows what I need.

Have you had the opportunity of living in different parts of Nigeria, how many Nigerian Languages do you speak?

Yes I lived in Osogbo, Kaduna, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Jaji, Calabar and Ibadan. I speak only Yoruba language.

Initially when you joined the military, was there any incident that scared you or made you think of leaving?

None. I have always had the belief that I can survive anywhere. I was never scared of anything. I had that belief that the Almighty God is always with me and He has never disappointed me.

Now that you are retired, do you miss the Army?

Not really, I still believe Army is still my constituency. I attend their functions such as WASA, Tombola, Pulling out parades for retired senior officers, commissioning of projects and mess activities. Recently, the Corps Commander of Signal corps Maj Gen CT Olukoju organized a re-union for both retired and serving Signal Officers, it was indeed very interesting, awesome, and unique.

Can you recall any turning point in your military career? If you had stayed back in the military till date, would it have made a difference in who you are today?

The turning point for me I can say was the day I was appointed to form and command the first ever Signal Unit to serve in any United Nation Mission Operations (NISIG 1) Nigerian Army Signal One in Liberia. May be in I had stayed back in the army, things would have been different for me now but, at the same time, if I had not left when i did, I wouldn’t have had the crop of friends and opportunity I have in the civil life now.

Your advice to youths who may be eyeing a career in the Army?

The Nigerian Army is an interesting place to serve. It will instil discipline in you. It is also challenging. If one is serious and committed, the sky will be his limit.

Having spent most of your career your adulthood wearing uniforms, what can you say of your sense of fashion and style? How stylish are you in mufti?

I can’t call myself fashionable; my wife picks my clothes for me. She is my fashion mentor and stylist.

Can you compare the lifestyle when you were growing up and life now?

I was always with my friends flocking together without any responsibility then. Now, I still enjoy the company of my friends but with limitations because of the home front.

What do you do at your spare moments these days?

I play Golf, socialize with my friends and read.

Any traditional titles?

I gave myself the traditional title of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Africa. (Laughs)

Any memorable holidays you won’t forget?

My first holiday with my wife outside the country.

So far any regret in life?

No single regret. I am enjoying every moment of my life.

During your career were there moments that you escaped death while on duty?

Almighty God has always being my guardian and protector.

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