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THE late First Lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, is to be buried on Friday at the Abeokuta country home of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
*As Buhari, IBB, others pay condolence visit
ABUJA óTHE late First Lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, is to be buried on Friday at the Abeokuta country home of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The president was for the greater part of yesterday receiving sympathisers prominent among whom were ECOWAS chairman and Niger Republic President, Mr. Tanja Muhammadu, and former Nigeriaís leaders. These are General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, Genereal Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Also there were Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State.
Announcing the burial arrangement for the late Mrs Obasanjo in Abeokuta yesterday, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State said the burial would be preceded by an interdenominational service at the MKO Abiola Stadium on Friday at 10 a.m. while the burial will follow at 2 p.m. The burial will be a private affair.
The funeral programme will kick off tomorrow, with the lying in state of the deceased and service of songs at the villa, Abuja. Another lying in state will be held on Thursday at Agbeloba House, Abeokuta and a wake keep at Government House, Abeokuta at 6 p.m.
The programme will be rounded off with a thanksgiving service at the Ecumenical Centre, Abuja on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Sympathisers storm Aso Rock
Meanwhile, hundreds of sympathisers yesterday stormed the Presidential Villa, Abuja to commiserate with the President. These included President Tanja Muhammadu of Niger Republic and former Nigerian leaders.
Mrs Remi Oyo who briefed State House correspondents on the visits of the former Nigerian leaders also said President Tanja Muhammadu of Niger Republic led a 15-man delegation to sympathise with President Obasanjo. Oyo relieving the mood of the president and Buhari said both exchanged banters as if nothing was amiss between them.
She said: "All the former Heads of State came to commiserate with the presidentó Gen. Yakubu Gowon, President Shehu Shagari, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. Speaking on their behalf, Gen. Gowon said "we are here to condole you and to pray that God will continue to give you courage to bear the loss not only of your wife, but of all the souls that were lost in the air crash."
Officially breaking the news that the remains of the First Lady would arrive that yesterday, she said the frosty relationship between Obasanjo and Buhari did not mean that both wished each one dead. She revealed the countenance of the president on the death of his wife, Stella, saying that the president is taking the event as Godís wish.
"On his wife, he said God gave her to me and He has taken her. Glory be to His name. He said believers should learn to accept without questioning whatever God has allowed to happen. The president said he felt touched at the show of sympathy that he has continued to receive, adding that in all matters of grief we must continue to give praise to God Almighty because in all of these things, God has a purpose for allowing these to happen and the number of people who have signed the condolence registers that have been opened. The president said he was grateful for all that everyone has done in the outpouring of emotions and condolences that have been sent to him."
The president also received a delegation from the United States of America led by the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ms. Frazer. The Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani led a delegation from the National Assembly to pay their condolences. Former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme, was also at the State House to pay his condolence to the president.
Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State arrived Abuja at 4.25pm yesterday and headed straight to the banquet hall where he signed his condolence register before proceeding to see the President in his residence. In the condolence register he signed, Kalu said: "Mama Nigeria good night. I will miss you till we meet again."
Speaking to State House correspondents, Gov. Kalu said this was the time to forget about politics to console the president who he said was in grief over the death of his wife. "Now we should leave politics out and console the president who lost his wife," he said.
Governor Fayose of Ekiti State who paid a visit to the President poured out his emotions in the condolence register, saying: "Your exit has left a vacuum too difficult to fill. However, in all things we trust God to forestall peace and sustain the Nigerians that continue to mourn him."
Others who visited the State House were business mogul and Imo State governorship hopeful, Chief Hope Uzodimma; former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeifi; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), General Jeremiah Useni and several members of the diplomatic corps.
PDP opens register
The ruling Peopleís Democratic Party (PDP) opened, yesterday, two condolence registers at its National Secretariat, Abuja in honour of Mrs. Stella Obasanjo who died in the early hours of Sunday shortly after undergoing surgery in far away Spain and the 117 passengers who were part of the wreckage of Bellview Boeing 737 passenger jet crash.
Scores of party leaders and staff of the party at the headquarters signed the register just as the partyís Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Olabode George, prayed God to give the late first lady merciful judgement, adding that God may grant all the Bellview victims merciful judgement.
"Your Excellency, why so soon? May God give you merciful judgement and everlasting rest. We will miss your motherly care. Goodnight," he said.
Signing the register, the national chairman of the party, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, who prayed that God should give the President, Chief Obasanjo, and the entire nation the fortitude to bear the loss, said may her God give her paradise and for her soul to rest in peace.
For the Bellview victims, the National Chairman said: "Our nation has suffered the irreparable loss of over 114 people in the Bellview air crash. God, you know best. God, you give and only take. Give Nigeria the strength and fortitude to bear this great loss. God be with the family of all the deceased, Amen."
According to the partyís National Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, "first lady an uncommon combination of privilege with simplicity, the aura of power with an instinct for companion. We have missed an eloquent symbol of a new Nigeria. May Almighty grant her internal repose and Mr. President fortitude."
The secretary in his condolence for the victims said: "The loss of friends and symbols of a reforming polity will leave memories that will abide. May the families of the deceased find solace in the wonderful live, we remember the Almighty give them peace."
Masari, Umar, others condole
Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi of Kaduna State; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Masari and former Kaduna State governor, Col Abubakar Umar also joined in condoling President Obasanjo on the death of his wife as well as those who lost their lives in the Bellview plane crash.The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) also expressed shock on the death of the first lady and the planecrash.Governor Makarfi in a statement said the death of the First Lady was a tragic loss to the nation. He said the contributions of the first lady to the development of the nation especially the emancipation of children would be greatly missed by the Nigerian people and prayed God to grant her eternal rest and the President the fortitude to bear the loss.Speaker Masari said two tragic incidents occurring on the same day were a great shock to the nation.The ACF asked Nigerians to embark on more prayers for the survival of the nation especially during thesetrying moments.ACF secretary, Col. Haeedu Ali, said: "The events of the weekend are sad for the nation. It is not only insituations like this that we need prayers. We need prayers at all times because our people have beendying of hunger and diseases."On his part, Col Umar extended his condolences to the president and families of the victims of the aircrash, saying: "We in this country, both Christians and Muslims, need to devote time on prayers to God,particularly at this period of our nationís history."
Imo opens register, too
Imo State government has opened a condolence register at the Government House, Owerri, in respect of the death of Nigeriaís first lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo.The administration equally opened another register for Imo people to express their condolences to the nationand relations of all the 117 passengers and crew members of the ill fated Bellview Airlines, whichcrashed weekend.Deputy governor of Kano State, Engineer Magaji Abdullahi, described the demise of the nationís first lady as a big loss to the nation especially the Nigerians children whom she touched with her charm in the last six years in office and described the air tragedy that hit the nation as a national disaster.
In a statement, he said her death of the first lady came at a time when the nation needed the active participation of women in politics and nationís building.