Kafayat Sanni, the first female fighter pilot recently decorated by the Nigerian Air Force is getting set to resume at the theatre of war in Borno State. Her mission is to pummel Boko Haram to submission. Confident and fearless, Kafayat says she is going to contribute her quota to the fight against the terrorists, writes Ferdinand Ekechukwu.
Fortune favours the fearless, so goes the saying. So it was for 22 years old Kafayat Sanni, a Flight Lieutenant and one of the youngest of the Nigerian Air Force pilots and the first female fighter pilot recently decorated. Sanni is said to be daughter of unsung Hakeem Sanni. This feat has wowed many. She is the first female fighter pilot in the 55-year-old history of the Nigerian Air Force.
Kafayat was decorated alongside 12 new fighter pilots – all male – at the NAF Headquarters in Abuja on October 15, 2019. A star among stars, her sky is the beginning as she is winged to go into any form of combat, including counter insurgency operations.
Capt. Christy Martin, Columbus AFB international military student officer, said she was excited to watch Kafayat grow and thrive as the first female fighter pilot in Nigeria. “I think she is going to perform that title well. Sanni has a very bubbly personality and was very positive throughout the whole entire training. Pilot training is a very stressful, strenuous course, but she has always stayed positive. I think she is very determined and very excited to go back and fly fighters in her country as well,” Martin said.
Kafayat was trained in the United States of America. She is the first that went through regular combat training at the Nigerian Defence Academy to be winged for a fixed wing fighter aircraft.
She emerged the overall best pilot at the NAF 401 Flying Training School, Kaduna State, in 2017, and thereafter, she was moved to the United States of America to train at the US Aviation Leadership Programme.
As she grabbed the first female trophy in flying Alpha Jets and others, considering the task ahead, Kafayat said: “I was just lucky to be chosen. It was also my choice. It was what I wanted to do. And I felt that everyone is not supposed to fold their arms and watch what is happening in our country. Everyone could always play their part. So, I did not think there was any reason for me to think that it is not possible for me to actually fly the jet because there was no female that ever flew the jet. I believe I could achieve it and I did.
“It is a privilege for me to be winged as the first female fighter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force. My appreciation first goes to the Almighty God for making this possible for me. It also goes to the Chief of the Air Staff for giving me the opportunity and for making this possible. It will motivate me of course.”
Upbeat about the task ahead and more than motivated to be in the front-line, she said: “There are other pilots there in the fronts and they are playing their part. They have been doing their best. So I am also just going to join my male counterparts in the fight against insurgency and every other thing that have been going on in our country. So I am just going to get there and play my part.”
Dressing other young potential girls aiming to be in the military, Kafayat said, “The advice I want to emphasise to them is that they should never say no to opportunities. They should always strive to be the best and put in their efforts. They should never look at anything that seems to want to overpower or overshadow them. For me, you can always attempt things and if they do not work out well; fine. But at every point in time, you just need to put in your best.”
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, impressed with the feat of Kafayat and one other female combat helicopter pilot, said during the winging: “I am particularly happy that history is being made here today. It also portrays the Nigerian Air Force positively as it has shown that it is an equal opportunity establishment that encourages all its personnel to achieve excellence in their career.”