• Ten years after Dana Air crash, victim’s wife recounts ordeal
When Pastor Akin Olumodeji, a Pastor with the House on the Rock, The Refuge, Abuja and one of the 153 victims of Dana Air crash in Lagos of June 3, 2012, started reaching out to his friends out of the blues, little did the wife, Toyin Olumodeji, a staff with the National Universities Commission (NUC) know that he was bidding them an early farewell.
Ahead of the ill-fated flight, he was acting awkward, keeping to himself, unusually quiet and sick. These were strange behaviours the wife was not used to.
“Days before, he called some of his friends he hadn’t seen in years, to check on them, make peace with some and they prayed together. I felt he was just touching base as usual. Things like that were second nature to him,” she told Saturday Sun.
Ten years after the incident, the woman recalled those horrific days and years after the crash in a chat with Saturday Sun.
She continued: “After service, I left for home without him to prepare lunch because he was to embark on that ill-fated trip. But when he got back from church, he just changed into a blue outfit and said he was going to the airport. I was like, won’t you eat? He said wanted just the communion he took in church to remain in his system. Of course, I was upset,” she explained.
On the way to the airport, he had a flat tyre but rather than cancel the trip, he asked them to change the car to enable him to continue his journey.
Toyin is still carrying the guilt of getting upset because her husband refused to eat the lunch she prepared. Looking back she felt he knew he was going to die and was just avoiding her. “How do you explain that the Thursday before he died, he was with his son in the study for hours without food, saying he was imparting into his life? Refusing all pleas to make him change his mind, not even when reminded him that the boy was just a year plus. The next day, it was the turn of his daughter. She didn’t go to school that day and he spent time praying with her. The Saturday before his death, he had accompanied me to church to prepare the communion, something he hardly did. Even those around were shocked to see him and while the preparation was on, in the space of an hour, he had come into the area eight times to ask where his wife was and at a point I had to go out to tell him to stop coming that he was embarrassing me. On the way to the airport, my husband that would usually call to give me a blow by blow update of his journey didn’t call, so I called to complain about his strange behaviours in the past few weeks. He apologised and asked me to pray for him and I did. He told me he wanted his call to Pastor Goodheart to be his last before they took off.”
After that call, Toyin said she slept off with her phone by her side awaiting his call as promised. According to her, she woke up to see about 30 missed calls on her phone only to learn that Dana Air from Abuja had crashed.
She said on arriving Abuja Airport, “I met the guys that took him to the airport. I also saw some women crying. Apparently they had signalled to themselves to block me from going there. But then I ran to that place and I came back and told them that I think Pastor Akin’s flight to Lagos had crashed. They tried to convince me otherwise. So I called and pleaded with my sister in Lagos to go and check. Apparently, everyone in my family already knew but was trying to manage me. Again I ran to where those women were and before I knew it, I fainted. When I came around I saw myself at the gate of Pastor Goodheart’s house with Pastor Bimbo assisting me out of the car.”
The death of Pastor Akin, affected Toyin so much, she recalled.
“I was called different names and told that I was not sensitive as a pastor’s wife. I fought that battle for a very long time. For years, the suicidal thoughts didn’t leave me until God started consoling me and giving me the word to actually pull that off.
“Pastor Akin was a doting husband, a hands-on father, my spiritual cover, confidant, friend, one whom I spent a greater part of my youth before marriage with and a peacemaker.
“I thought I was going to die the following week after his death, because I was always looking for how to just take my life. I was always praying for the world to come to an end so everybody would just go. I’m thankful for my family for making sure I didn’t harm myself.
“What kept me going were the words of Pastor Sarah Omaku of Family Worship Centre at the service of songs. She told me to take one day at a time. To be lonely and a single mother is not easy. The grief is not even the fact that he is dead but the loneliness. After about six years, the loneliness got worse, I desperately needed somebody to talk to, share feelings with, and plan the kids’ future with. And as the kids grow older, it becomes more demanding.
“Till date, I find it difficult to mix up with people that we were all together. I prefer to go to places where nobody knows me. So, for the past ten years, I have tried to avoid any environment where people will say, ‘this is Pastor Akin’s wife’ because it brings back a lot of memories of what would have been if he were still here.
Pastor Akin had a lot of plans for his kids and a foundation was set up in his memory to assist Toyin do just that. But she would rather not talk about it.
She said: “I don’t want to go into the support thing because you know sometimes where we think we will get help is not where it will come. Suddenly, some friends wouldn’t want to talk to you again, because as a single mother, they feel threatened that their husbands may be attracted to you. There’s an adage in Yoruba that says until something hits you, you will not understand how someone else felt. But I thank God for my family; they shielded me.”
Six years of flight phobia
Toyin developed a phobia to travel by air, and she had to rely on sedatives to be able to fly.
“It took me years to overcome it. The first time I flew was the day after that incident to Lagos to look for his corpse. I was sedated and I didn’t open my eyes until we got to my sister in-law’s house. After that I couldn’t fly again. But with the help of the Holy Spirit I overcame it. I had to, because the breadwinner was gone. When he was around, I never used to touch my salary. I needed the job to keep the family going. Every time I go on board, I have a flashback to the trance-like dream I had immediately after the incident. The Holy Spirit took me through their last moments, how they sang all through before the crash. I still have that image in my head as if I was there when it happened.
“I fought a lot of battles with God for years before I finally came back. But we travel by air now. First of all, I had to kill that fear in me, else my kids will have that phobia for the rest of their lives. Secondly, my work at NUC is field work. My phobia affected my work. Sometimes for two, three days, my team and I will not be able to do anything until the drugs wear off completely. By the sixth year, I told myself, no more. I need the job because that is what I’m using to take care of the kids. So that was how I conquered with the help of God.”
Recently, their 11-year-old son has been asking a lot of questions regarding his father’s death and wants them to visit his tomb soon. At the early stage, to keep his memory alive in their minds, she said she left his pictures all over the wall. They also listened to his archived messages.
“My first daughter still has a good memory of him. But my son who didn’t feel it then is doing so now. When he died, my daughter would sleep in his clothes and weep uncontrollably saying ‘bring back my daddy, I just want to see him.’ She was just five but they were so close. I had to change her school, and so many things around her. At one point, we had to see a doctor because it was getting ridiculously bad that she couldn’t sleep for days. All she wanted was her dad. My son who is grown, we are having a bit of a challenge. He asks all kinds of questions and even wants to see where he was buried. Last year, he cried for like a week because in his head, he was the only one in the whole school without a dad.”
Plans to remarry
Although most of the spouses of the victims she knows have remarried, it’s been difficult for Toyin to move on despite the pressure from all sides.
“I have a thousand and one people on my case on that matter, including my mother. She just feels it cannot end like this, I have to move on. I’m not sure I would be able to find another man like that. I don’t want to use that as a yardstick though. But it’s been ten years; it’s time to give it a trial if I need to move on. It’s been ten years of loneliness, taking decisions by myself. It would be nice to have a man around. I’m the type that can drop everything just to meet my family’s needs.”
Toyin said she was made to feel as if widowhood is a contagious disease. “I regret everyday that I didn’t hug my husband back when he forcefully hugged me to apologise for not eating the lunch I prepared before embarking on that ill-fated trip because I was angry.
“To every widow out there, don’t allow the society to dictate to you how you should live. Honestly, society has made a widow to see herself as less of a person: that you are not useful. That shouldn’t be the case.”
Glory to Almighty God.Thankfully to His Mercy& Faithfulness that has kept u dear Sister & ur loved children rejoicing in the Name of the lord. It’s biggest loss, painful to lose ur LOVELY husband & Father to ur LOVELY children. Sister keep calling &believing Divinely in the Name Jesus Christ of Nazareth that is above all Names.Sister Jesus has Divinely power&Authority to change &challenges whatever situation in ur life &family for His Glory.Jesus is Father to the fatherless &husband to the husbandless
Purpose to dwell in the presence of Almighty God B sheltered by God who is above fears, worry, loneliness &other gods.Sister God has blessed u with Divinely Spirit of power,Love&sound mind.God blessings dear. Amen🙏
I agree with you widowhood is a contagious disease since all people including your best friends avoids you.