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... And Abeokuta stood still for Stella

Posted by Vanguard on 2005/10/30 | Views: 1238 |

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... And Abeokuta stood still for Stella


From Malaga, Spain, where she had a surgery that went fatally awry to Abuja where her body was first received in Nigeria, to Lagos en route to her place of final rest, it was a triumphant entry for the remains of Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, Thursday.

From Malaga, Spain, where she had a surgery that went fatally awry to Abuja where her body was first received in Nigeria, to Lagos en route to her place of final rest, it was a triumphant entry for the remains of Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, Thursday. From Kuto - Abeokuta Road to Agbeloba on Kwari Road, venue of her lying-in-state, it was a mixed mood of mourning and celebration. Mourning of the First Lady’s death that caught all unaware, but celebration of the passage of a life that touched humanity, a life well spent.

The express road was lined with policemen, Federal Road Safety officials and primary and secondary schools’ students drawn from the area. Their presence conferred a colour of festivity on the atmosphere. They were complemented by a combined team of other policemen and FRSC men that stood sentry close to Sagamu Roundabout, preparatory to the corpse arrival.

It was a blistering hot afternoon. However, the aura of celebration was limited to the Kuto area down to the lying-in-state venue. The main Abeokuta township was oblivious of the event going on. Commercial activities were at their usual tempo. But taxi operators had some bite of the action conveying people to Kwari Road.

In anticipation of a heavy traffic that would herald the corpse arrival, major roads leading to the area had been cordoned off. Outside Agbeloba office complex, a large crowd of sympathisers, party faithful and onlookers had gathered to catch a glimpse of the coffin. The outside wall was clothed with colourful banners bearing sundry solemn consolation messages and tributes to the departed First Lady. Security operatives in uniform and mufti manned the red gate of the complex, restricting inflow of people into the little confine of the venue. Inside, well-wishers and sympathisers were seated under two canopies designed with the green white green colour of Nigeria’s national flag, while members of Gateway Dancing Company dressed in adire outfit were rendering traditional dirge as all awaited the corpse. A life band was also on stand.

Amid all these, dignitaries were trooping in. Repeated announcements, for people to vacate one of the two canopies for yet to arrive governors and ministers was practically ignored even after a senior police officer said so with a subtle threatening tone.

Eventually, the arrival of the corpse in a while Cadillac Lincoln Town Car Hearse belonging to the funeral undertaker, Ebony Casket, caused some stirs. It took a while for the coffin draped with the national flag to be brought in as the crowd outside virtually took over the entrance. It was a battle for security operatives at the gate trying to keep the crowd at bay. When eventually it was brought in, the crowd surged forward but were fiercely pushed by the operatives. Some people apparently sustained injuries.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, the chief mourner arrived at 3.15 p.m. about 10 minutes after the casket was brought in. He arrived in company of Prof. Wole Soyinka and Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel. Shortly after, an opening prayer by Prof. Soyinka, the President departed with his entourage. It took a choking pushing and shoving for people to file passed the gleaning ebony brown casket to pay their last respects. Wreaths adoring the bottom of the casket’s stand added colour to the remains of the First Lady. The atmosphere outside had all the trappings of a carnival. Human and vehicular traffic competed for space even as more people arrived.

Elsewhere along Kuto - Abeokuta express, siren blaring convoys of governors were blaring into the town ahead of the Christian wake keep and burial Friday. And so Stella Obasanjo who lived her life in style, departed the world in a grand style.

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