Nana Kodjo Jehu-Appiah, GNA Special Correspondent, Abeokuta
Abeokuta (Nigeria), Oct. 28, GNA - Gripped by sorrow and fond memories of Chief Mrs Stella Obasanjo, former Nigerian First Lady, thousands of Nigerians and foreign delegates on Friday, thronged Ogun State in the populous West African State, to bid her farewell. The mortal remains of the 59-year-old Nigerian and British trained scholar, lied in a casket draped in the national colours at the M.K.O. Abiola Stadium, where an interdenominational funeral service was held for her in the tropical hot and sunny weather.
Mrs Obasanjo died on October 22, in Spain through complications from plastic surgery.
The Ghanaian delegation led by Senior Minister, Mr Joseph Henry Mensah had a hectic time before it was allocated a place to sit, since the large mourners had taken over all the shaded seats at the stadium to avoid the scorching weather.
Through tough negotiations, a Nigerian protocol officer, was able to secure seats for Mr Mensah; Nana Otuo Siriboe II Juanbenhene and Member of the Council of State; Nii Adotey Obuor II, Acting President of Ga Traditional Council and Lt. General Joshua Hamidu (rtd), Ghana's High Commissioner to Nigeria.
After 15 minutes visibly relieved, Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, Minister of Works and Housing; Mrs Gladys Asmah, Minister of Fisheries; Mrs Cecilia Dapaah, Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Akwasi Osei Adjei, Deputy Foreign Minister and Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education were offered seats. All the members of delegation were clad in traditional mourning clothes.
The large foreign delegates comprised the Head of States of Niger, President Mamadou Tanja; President Matheiu Kerekou of Benin and the First Ladies of Sao Tome and Principe; Burkina Faso; Senegal; South Africa and Cote d'Ivoire and representatives from the French President Jacque Chirac and a government delegation from Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a brief speech besides the casket, which was almost drowned by a number of wreaths, President Olunsegu Obasanjo expressed appreciation for the diverse manner people mourned with the bereaved family. "The first dignity to telephone to console me about the death of my wife was the King and Queen of Spain."
President Obasanjo singled out the former heads of State of Nigeria noted for bitter political rivalry in the past and thanked them for using the funeral of his wife to forge unity.
"I thank the delegation from Ghana sent by my brother President Kufuor."
After his speech, traditional horn (Ntahera) from the Juaben Traditional Area, were applauded for providing some dirges. The Very Revered Mathew Hassan Kukah described the First Lady as a hard working and dedicated Christian.
Referring to last week's tragic air disaster that claimed the lives of 117 passengers and crewmembers in Nigeria, he said the country should strategize on how to ensure safety by air land and sea. "You cannot say that because your father died in a motor accident, so you will not board a car again or because your father died in his sleep so you will not sleep again."
The Accra Metropolitan Arch Bishop, Rt. Rev. Fr. Charles Plamer Buckles, who was part of the Ghanaian delegation, prayed for the soul of the First Lady, whose mortal remains was driven in a hearse accompanied by a long convoy for a private burial ceremony. Mr Mensah, told journalists in Accra after his return from the funeral that it was most appropriate for Ghana to have attended the ceremony since the late First Lady was very active in catering for the large army of the disabled in Nigeria.