Tears for Yar'Adua at Abuja Airport

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Fidelis Soriwei

President Musa Yar‘Adua‘s death elicited sympathy from all, including his political opponents. He was a man once waited upon to give a sense of direction to a country in dire need of quality governance. But he had to contend with a terrible heart disease until his last moment.

The brief ceremonial military parade in honour of the late politician was devoid of colours, as many of those who came to give him their last respect were in tears.

As a matter of fact, friends and associates, who waited for his remains at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport could not hide the heavy sense of loss that his death has caused. Even the long story of his protracted battle with acute pericarditis could not erase public sympathy for him in death. The man, who was the preferred option in the 2007 Presidential race, in a country of about 140 million people had become an object of pity.

The politics of his illness and the avoidable political crisis that followed his last days in the presidency was not sufficient to stop the hearts of those present from bleeding for him as he was making his final journey through the Abuja Airport to his final place of rest in Katsina, the land of his birth.

If his sickness was subjected to manipulations, his death was not. Even, men of the State Security Services and their counterparts in other security outfits fought back tears in the course of carrying out their official assignments at the airport. Most of the security men turned up at the airport in black suits and a black band around their arms to reflect the mood of the day.

The roll-call of eminent Nigerians who besieged the airport to witness the ceremony showed that Yar’Adua was a president still loved by his people. Those present include the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; former head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; Head of Service, Mr Steve Oronsanye; Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr. Ahmed Yayale, who is one of the people being considered to succeed Jonathan as Vice President; former and serving governors, senators, other top political office holders and the business community.

While Jonathan was conspicuously absent, a high powered Federal Government delegation led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole was sent to Katsina.

Despite the presence of top civilians and their aides, the programme at the airport was more or less a military affair. The Military High Command led by the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Oluseyi Petirin, his counterpart in the Navy, Vice Admiral Ishaya Ibrahim and the Director General of the SSS, Mr. Afakriya Gadzama, were present and ensured that the late president was given the last honour. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau who was the only security chief not present at the airport was said to be engaged in other state matters.

Shortly after the body of the former President, draped in national flag was moved into the waiting Nigeria Air Force aircraft, C.130, with registration number NAF 9113, the former first lady, Turai Yar’Adua, appeared in company with her successor, Mrs. Patience Jonathan; the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Josephine Anenih and other women in high positions of authority in the county.

Turai was accompanied by her relations, while her father, who was supported by two sympathisers was escorted into a shuttle that took him to a chartered Arik Airline flight.

As the former first lady who bore the burden of public reactions to the controversy generated by Yar’Adua’s illness was being ushered into the waiting NAF aircraft, she turned and waved to the crowd before disappearing into the plane for the burial of her husband.


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