Jamil, son of Nigeria’s former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, recently opened up to YES INTERNATIONAL!’s TOKUNBO IBIKUNLE on his life as a pilot. The IRS Airline staff who survived an air crash also talked about the experience…
What happened after the crash?
When I came out, they were even scared because the crash was so loud. We had to put the plane off so that they can come forward. They came, I asked them how far is this place to Sokoto? They said 9 hours. I was like whaooh! I went back, I said Skip, we are definitely not in Nigeria. That was the first time we knew we were not in Nigeria. After the crash, we didn’t know where we were. I was like Skip, we are not in Nigeria, we are in Niger, in Kwassi Bosso, 9 hours away from Sokoto. He was like really? And I was like yes. So, I came back to the villagers and I said to them that I needed a phone. So, they gave me the phone, I made a phone call. I called my father first; my father did not answer because he did not know the number. Then, I called the A.D.C. The A.D.C too didn’t answer. Then, I called his wife, my step mum; she too did not answer. Then, I went back to Skip. I said Skip, these are the only numbers I know. Skip started looking for his phone, because after the crash, everything was scattered. Skip cannot find his phone till date. So, my father’s wife called the number back. Hello! Who is this and the owner of the phone? And she dropped the phone. She went to my father and said this strange number called me. My father took the phone and then compared the phone number with the number that called him earlier. She was now like maybe it’s an emergency call; maybe we should call the number back. Then, my father called the number back. The owner of the phone brought the phone to me and he was like how are you? I said sir, we are not fine, we had a plane crash. I don’t think he heard me very well and he was like haa! Then, the phone went off and he called back and said where are you? I said sir, we had a plane crash, we are in Niger. He said Niger? Okay, I will call you back. After the first phone call, so many people started calling and the Ambassador called us. The President of Niger called the Governor of the state. Everybody was just calling the phone. The story now is that my father knows that we have a plane crash and he has made all the calls that were necessary, before the people came to our aid. It took about 4 hours before they came. During those 4 hours, we faced new challenges. The first set of the villagers came, when they approached, they were speaking Hausa; they only understand Hausa, they cannot speak English. They also speak French. Few of them that visit Nigeria understand broken English. When they approached, they said they were not Hausa, let’s finish them. When they said that, then I came down from the plane, I said what? You think if I can survive a plane crash I will be scared of you? If God can spare our lives, do whatever you can, because they came with cutlasses and axes. I said again, whatever you are going to do, we don’t care because we are not scared of you. And I knew I was not scared of anything. They were like oh really, you were in the plane? I said yes. They said to me how many people are inside, then I said just two of us. Only two of you in the plane? I said yes. They asked if there were no passengers, I said yes. They were like oh my God, only you guys were inside the plane when the plane crashed? I said yes. They said hee yah! Sorry, sorry. They kept saying sorry, sorry. I went back to the plane now. The forward service cargo door was open. We opened it for ventilation. During the crash, it was completely dark for 10 minutes. More villagers came and they were about five hundred or more. They came, they were like give us money, give us food. They were shouting. We said we don’t have money, we don’t have food; don’t you see our condition? They now said they were Boko Haram o, that we brought arms, that we came to supply Boko Haram arms. The crowd was so much. So many of them were standing at the service cargo door. Then I told them, listen, it’s choking, you guys move back, let me close the door so that I can open the other door. And you will be able to come inside the plane. They all moved back as I closed the door. I was like, these people can come inside the plane because the flight deck door is bullet proof; only with a bomb can somebody break the door. So, I went back. I have closed all the doors and we are not going anywhere. And he was like good. So, during the whole day, we were there. We had a crash axe in the plane. I wanted to bring it out because the people were so intimidating. They kept saying give us money, give us food; they kept banging the body of the plane. I was very, very uncomfortable as they kept banging. And Skip said, Jamil, you want to bring the crash axe out. Don’t try it. If you try it, they will feel intimidated and they will finish us. So, drop it. I told Skip to give me some money from his pocket and he gave me N4000. When he gave it to me and I looked outside the window, I said to them listen, you see, the N4000 here is what we have on us. Right now, we don’t have anything and I will give you all the N4000. They were like yeah. I said listen, if you work, would you get paid before or after you finish the work and they said it’s when they finish the work. I said the plane is not ours, but it is for somebody. They sent us to bring it, so it is for company. Until we deliver the plane, before we can get paid. Unfortunately, we did not get to the destination. That was why we were here. So, that was the only money that was with us. I told them, they now said that is true. So, they now took the N4000 from me. I said to them, thank you, I really appreciate your presence here. Now that you guys are here, I feel very save. My own window was down, Skip’s window was high, they could not really talk to him. I kept saying I really appreciate you guys. You guys mean a lot to me. What I did was I looked among the crowd for the guys that will prove so stubborn among them. I chose them. I said you, you, you come. Please, don’t leave this place, even if everybody leaves. Because with you, I feel very safe and I believe that you can do everything for me. They now showed their loyalty. Indeed, they were very loyal. They started feeling like the protectors of the place. They started telling everybody to move back because the place was so very hot. They were so many; I had to use my oxygen mask to breath. I can actually see the picture as I am telling you the story. They asked if the money was the only money we had, I said yes, they said hee yah…okay, take N2000, I collected the N2000 back and I said thank you so very much. They did not leave immediately. Some old men now came, they said Boko Haram, we are going to sneak you out. I said sneak us out, are you serious? Skip was like what are they saying? I said Skip, they are talking about Boko Haram. A guy told the old men to tell us to come outside and I said no, we cannot come outside, if you want to talk to me, talk to me from here. The old men now said come outside, I said no! You can go ahead and tell me whatever you want to tell me. Skip said tell the man to turn around. Somebody carried the old man on his shoulder, and he came up and Skip was talking to the man while I was still trying to engage the other guys on the other side. One of the guys said where are you from? The first thing that came to my mind was I am from Sokoto. He now said where in Sokoto? In my mind I was like damn! I didn’t know anywhere in Sokoto. Something came to my mind, I remembered that when I was younger, my father’s brother was a professor in Usman Dan Fodio University. He wanted me to come and stay with him then. I didn’t want to go. I was like Sokoto, no, lailai! Even my mother was against it. My father said go, I said no! I did not know that God was actually preparing me for what I will face in the future. I used to tell people even before this incident; whatever happens to you now might define your life in the future. You can never tell. Have no regret, learn what you can learn and leave the rest. You are not Jesus Christ, you are not Mohammed, you are not Moses or Noah, you will never be like them. But you can try to emulate them. That does not mean you should live your life exactly like them. So, you are going to make mistakes. Those mistakes might be lessons for your life. Some might not be so. It really depends anyway. Like I said, I didn’t know God was really preparing me for the future. Somehow, somewhere, I still found myself in Sokoto. So, I stayed with him. Then his wife was pregnant. We now took her to hospital in a certain area in Sokoto. When we got to the hospital, during the period we went to the hospital, I remember the name of the place beside the hospital. The place is the second place that I remembered, and that was the only name I remembered when they asked me where in Sokoto? My brain could process that area. I said to them, do you know Daaji, because Daaji in Hausa means bush. That university is far from the town. It’s like in the bush. I said to them, do you know Daaji? They asked where in Daaji. I said do you know the university? If you know the university, they call it Daaji. They still asked where are you from in Sokoto. I was like God! Then, immediately, the name of the place just came to my mind. I said to them, do you know so, so place? I told them the place is close to the hospital, they said yes, the place is even close to the Government House. One of them was telling me that. I said exactly, you got it. They said are you from there? I said yes. Somebody from the crowd shouted, I have seen you before, I said yes; me too I have seen you. He said he is my brother, so the people in the crowd said I was their brother. They now calmed down. Such a sigh of relief! And the police were coming. God helped us, police finally came. They moved the crowd back. In fact, before the police came, the crowd was standing on the plane. I don’t know how they managed to climb on the plane. They even broke the emergency exit from outside. I don’t know how manage they did that; they were banging on the plane. You know, in the scene of accident, what actually hindered the investigation was when some of the parts of the plane had been removed. And we did not want that to happen so that they can actually know what happened. The villagers moved the landing gear from where it crashed; I don’t know how they carried that thing. The right wheel that I told you broke off from the plane, they carried it all the way from back to the front. When I saw it, I said men! Anyway, they kept banging the plane. I called on those guys that I chose, I said listen, this plane is going to blow if you keep banging the plane. They were like yeah! They had a sarcastic look on their faces,;like really. I said yes. Inside the plane was so hot, I was sweating, I cannot even breath. If we will leave this plane, your village is going to blow. They said haba! Haba, meaning really. I said yes. There is a standby sign on the plane that was showing red and I said to them look at the light; have you ever seen light without the source of the power and they said no? I said very good, the plane is still alive, we are the one holding the plane so that it doesn’t explode. If we come outside, the plane is going to explode, and with the way they were banging the plane, I am going to come outside and I am going to run. The plane will blow and the whole village is going to blow also. Everything is going to burn and you will lose your lives and as for me, I am going to escape because I will run far away from this place. They now said please, stay inside the plane. We, the hot-headed guys that I chose, used cutlass to chase people away from the plane. So, they moved a bit. When the police came, we came outside. Fresh breeze! From that site that we were to the town is 7 hours’ drive to the capital of the state. They took us to see the President of Niger. The President was waiting for us to come. Before we got to the Governor’s house was like 3am. When we left the Governor’s house to Niami, the President actually got us a hotel to rest. He waited for us. We went straight to the hotel around 6am in the morning and we didn’t really sleep. I will say special thanks to the villagers, to everybody. I will never forget them. Some day, I will definitely go back there to do a thanksgiving. Even after the whole experience we had with the villagers, I am still grateful to them for real. We did not know that they actually have wild activities in the area. They have lions, tigers, scorpions, snakes and hyenas in the bush. I didn’t even know that the river I wanted to jump into, because there is a village around the river; I wanted to swim to the village in case the plane exploded. I didn’t know that they have hippopotamus and all that stuff in the water. After we calmed the whole thing down and the police came, the police were telling us that you guys were really lucky. They said because of the sound of the plane, the animals would have run away because they have serious wide life activities in that area. Very crazy.
Away from the horrible experience, what do you like about being a pilot?
I love speed. My friend sitting with me here knows that right from my time as a kid that I love speed. Before now, I used to ride power bikes. You can see some scars on my body. It has even gone. I ride a lot. I love fast stuff. I am sure I have told you this before. My dream of becoming a pilot started at age 4. Why I am referring to all these things is because I don’t know how to explain it. It is just an amazing thing! I wish I can find a better word to say it. It is something that I love. If I don’t work for anybody and if I have money, I will buy an aeroplane, I will keep flying myself all around. Yes, it is something that I love. Even after this crash, it has not stopped me to do what I love to do best. I like it. It is not a professional job, it is my hobby.
Can you tell us what you don’t like about flying?
I think what I don’t like about flying is a basic thing that everybody would not like to face. Everybody is weary of accidents. And we are trying as much as possible to prevent or avoid it from happening. Sometimes, if it comes, yes! What I don’t like about flying? Actually, I think I love everything about flying. I have never regretted flying. The only time I had a regret was during my initial training, because we went through some worse stuff. So that if we encounter them in the future, your experience will count. It is not going to be new to you. Besides that, there is nothing I don’t like about flying really.
Can you tell us the greatest thing that flying has done for you?
The greatest thing that plane has done for me really is that it has made my dreams come true.
What is the costliest mistake that any pilot can make?
Taking irrational decisions, like something happens now, we just go gbum! That is an irrational decision. It will cause you your life. You need to analyse, yes!
What can somebody do to succeed in your area of business or career?
Just be true to yourself. Simple! If you can be true to yourself, every other thing will work for you. Where people have problem is they lie to themselves and when things are not fine, they try to confuse their self that everything is fine. Instead of accepting the fact that things are not fine and looking for a way forward; they will be trying to live in limbo and shield the fact that everything is good. Just like they say, drunkenness is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. You might get drunk and forget your problem, but the problem is still there and it is the same thing when it comes to reality for people.
You have a lot of friends in the entertainment world, both in Nollywood and in the music world. What is your relationship with these people?
Funny enough, in entertainment world in general, I have met quite a lot of amazing people, friends. So, I have made friends everywhere. Truly, I have brothers and friends among them. I don’t want to mention names. All of them are amazing people, for real. I am saying this from my heart. They are my friends, I am not scared of anybody.
Who are your best friends among these entertainers and why did you choose them?
Hey! Do you want me to make a list? Do want me to call names? If I start calling names, you won’t be able to write all the names. Funny enough, I don’t party with them all the time. Sometimes, our paths cross. If they have things to do, they will hint me and if I have too, they will attend. Most times, I definitely respect their invitations because it takes a lot of respect for somebody to actually want you to be there for him. The only way to pay respect is to show up. Money is not everything, as I keep telling people. You can be a rich man and you don’t have a dime. I will mention people like Vector, Wande Coal, Wizkid, Davido, K-Cee, Ice-Prince, M.I. I have a lot of them. I don’t treat them differently. I am very open to them. The only time I change toward people is, if you give me a reason to change. So, all these people are fantastic. If K-Cee says I have a show in so, so place, will you come? I will do the same if P-Square calls me. You see, I didn’t mention P-Square before or Phyno. There are lots of them. I have met 2 Face, but we have not done anything together. D-Banj was an ex-boy. We went to this same military school, we relate even more than other friends. I could remember when we were still in military school and all the past, you know. Right now, I don’t have a record label. But don’t ask me if I am going to open one. But let’s see what the future holds. You can never tell.
Most people attain success but find it difficult to maintain it, what do you think could be the problem?
Every man has a different path in life. Everybody chooses a different priority. I wish I can speak for everybody, but it is a very hard topic and is very deep. It does not necessarily mean that they made wrong choices, before they actually lost what they got. They might be making a right choice; you know destiny has its own way of changing things. That is the truth! That is why I will keep praying to God; God give me wealth that will be useful to myself and my people.
For your loved ones out there, what should they be expecting from you soon?
I like to keep people guessing. Just shine your eyes. When it is time, I will let you know.
Can you tell us when you are getting married?
Ha, ha, ha! It is not finding a wife fast. I think what you need is a life partner. I mean, long lasting relationship, because I am a one-wife person. So, I don’t want to marry and divorce. I want to marry for the right reason. I don’t want to marry because every other person is getting married or I feel I am getting old or my family is saying you must marry, you must marry, because in my family we respect everybody’s decision. They are not on my neck or on my case. I know that the time will come. I did not say it’s going to take 10 years, 5 years, 2 years or one year, but definitely the time will come.
Can you tell us your relationship with your father’s new wife, your step mum, Zarah?
Amazing! My relationship with her is amazing, really. She is a mother. She is a big sister and a friend. That is the truth.
How do you relax?
I relax most of the time in the house. I relax more when I am even outside because when I am in the house, I attend to so many things. When I go out, maybe I went to visit a friend or I went to play snooker; I love to play pools. When I am playing, my mind is more relaxed. I am in the moment of resting. So, when I am visiting somebody, my mind will be in the moment that I am visiting somebody because when you are in your house, you can do whatever you want to do. Right now, I relax a lot.
Obviously God has been nice to you. He saved your life from the air crash, what more do you want from God?
(Laughs) Heaven! I say heaven. There is no limit to the good things the people actually want from God. Everybody wants everything from God. Even God can keep blessing you till eternity. That is exactly what I want from Him. I want more from God. I will keep singing His praise and continue giving glory to Almighty God, even in bad times, not only in good times.
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