Posted by Charles Ozoemena on
For three days running the State House Abuja, the nationís seat of power, has been in mournful mood, losing its usual vibrancy and flamboyant aura.
For three days running the State House Abuja, the nationís seat of power, has been in mournful mood, losing its usual vibrancy and flamboyant aura. The tragic death of the wife of President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Mrs Stella Obasanjo, in far away Spain early hours of Sunday was received with a lot of shock in the seat of power. Although officials of the State House have shield away from disclosing the nature of surgery she went for in Spain, International media report monitored and from sources in Spain confirmed that the First Lady died from complications arising from cosmetic surgery.
There were strong indications that the First Lady who would have been 60 in November had gone to polish her good looks ahead of the birthday celebration, which Vanguard learnt was in the days before her untimely demise was upper most in her mind. A flamboyant woman, it is not a surprise she wanted to impress her husband, guests and the nation with her brand new arresting looks on her 60th birthday. State House correspondents who were previously looking forward to seeing Mrs Obasanjo again on her return from Spain, were in shock as soon as the Senior Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on media, Mrs Oluremi Oyo, broke the news to State House Correspondents. The subsequent broadcast and its repeat on Television and Radio Stations, across the nation informed the world that the worst had happened to the first family, and the nation at large.
It was therefore no surprise that the usually tranquil ambience of State House was literally besieged by sympathisers, which included family friends and well wishers of President Obasanjo, and other concerned Nigerians, who trooped in to commiserate with him.
Sadly, the death of Mrs Obasanjo, coincided with the tragedy air mishap of the Bellview that killed 177 passengers including crew members on board of the ill-fated Boeing 737, further added to the dark mood of the Villa. Among the victims of the flight that crashed at the hitherto unknown and remote village of Lisa in Ogun village was the presidential aide and chairman of the presidential committee on trade malpractice, Alhaji Waziri Mohammed among several notable government functionaries and influential Nigerians.
With the presidency declaring a three day mourning, the banquet hall of the State House had four registers opened for people to register their condolences for the first family, and crashed victims. By 9am on Sunday shortly with the National Security Adviser to President Obasanjo General Mohammed Gusau opening the register with a simple message of condolence and his wishing the first Lady to "Rest in peace". As he stepped aside, the National Chairman of PDP, Chief Ahmadu Ali, arrived and went straight to write his condolence message. From then on the traffic of people grew long and longer with intermittent burst of tears and wailing from close friends, and relatives of the first lady.
An enlarged photos of the late first lady was hung at the hall, and on sighting it a number of people who had come to write their condolences broke down and wept. Generally, the whole exercise drew tears from her friends and relatives. Both serving and former Government officials, Ambassadors, politicians, retired military personnel, took their queue that would seem to elongate as more visitors kept trooping in droves, making it difficult for journalists who wanted to jot down the messages left behind by prominent Nigerians to do so without hassles.
The road into the Presidentís residence where he had remained since the Sunday Service was closed except for prominent visitors, who in any case must cleared their entrance through the Presidentís Aide-de-camp before gaining entry. Among Monday callers were General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) who had kept his distance from the Villa after the 2003 general election, which he said was rigged. And over which he took the President to court, though he lost, but had maintained that despite his loss at the court, he would not recognise the administration as a legitimate one.
Thus, until Monday, Buhari, who was presidential flag bearer of ANPP, had shunned every event that had any linked to the State House, even on official invitation. His visit was widely viewed as a demonstration that although politics is a game, the bitterness of electoral dispute can be put aside when death occurs.
Moreover, observers feel that African culture forbade and abhors carrying bitterness of politics against the bereaved, and this explains Buhariís visit to condole President Obasanjo. Relieving Obasanjoís meeting with Buhari who came in company of four other former Nigerian leaders that include General Yakubu Gowon, President Shehu Shagari, General Ibrahim Babanigda, and Chief Ernest Shonekan to condole Obasanjo, Mrs Oluremi Oyo, who for two days had cried her eyes out over the death of the First Lady, said both men (Obasanjo and Buhari) exchanged jokes as if there was no animosity.
Also another significant visitor was the visit of Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, who hitherto had become a fiery critic of the President. Prior to his coming, speculations were rife that Kalu may not visit the President in view of his recent criticisms. State House Correspondents were surprised to see him at about 5pm at the banquet hall. In an interview with them he described as shocking the demise of the First lady whom he fondly called "Mama Nigeria".
Sympathising with the President he said that this is not time for politics, but time to console the President, who is currently in heavy grief. Apart from pondering over her sudden death, many mourners were seen speaking in hush voices the operation she went for in Spain, the air disaster and the names of those that had been published as being on it. Around the Villa, the talk was all about death. At no time had been such talking about people dying and the cause of it in the seat of power than in the last few days.
With the announcement by the presidency late Monday of the arrival of Mrs Obasanjoís corpse, attention shifted to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport where her remains arrived at about 10.30pm late that day. The entire administration were at the airport that also had a sprinkling of foreign dignitaries to receive the corpse. Those who accompanied President Obasanjo to the international airport were Vice President Atiku Abubakar, President Mahammud Tanja of Niger Republic, Governors, members of the Legislature, members of the judiciary, ministers, presidential aides, business moguls, relations and friends of the first family, kept vigil at the Presidential wing of the Airport, until the final touch down of the plane that brought her back from Spain.
The tumultuous crowd at the airport struggled to catch a glimpse of the casket containing her remains, which was brought out of the aircraft by the men of Brigade of Guards. As soon as the casket was removed from the plane the tranquillity of the airport gave way to wailing. It is quite possible that even though the President had all along not betrayed any emotion, his inner feeling must have been stirred at the sight of the casket of his wife.
The much he did to show his true feeling was to tap the casket, controlling his tears. Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who had kept company with the President after cancelling his journey to Mecca on holy pilgrimage, also took his queue to tap the casket, and must have been remembering in many ways how Mrs Obasanjo touched his life positively in the course of work at the seat of power. He too did not show any emotion.
It is expected that as Mrs Obasanjo lies in state, the presidential villa would explode with increased flow of people from across the world, who would come to to see her final remains and bade her good bye. From her many charity work, Mrs Obasanjo demise, it is believed would be missed by her child Care Trust children. Beyond that her death has achieved so much as all the disputants in the fight for political supremacy in Nigeria, may have sheath their swords to unite for a common purpose of giving her a befitting burial. There is very little more she could have asked.