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Adieu to two amazons

Posted by The Vanguard on 2005/10/30 | Views: 2105 |

Adieu to two amazons

THE weekend of 22/23 October, 2005, will remain a dark weekend for the nation for many years to come. It started off with the disappearance of the Belleview aircraft from the airport radar shortly after take-off from Lagos on Saturday night.

THE weekend of 22/23 October, 2005, will remain a dark weekend for the nation for many years to come. It started off with the disappearance of the Belleview aircraft from the airport radar shortly after take-off from Lagos on Saturday night.

Much panic throughout the night among the airport and airline officials as they tried to trace it, while the majority of the citizens slept, blissfully unaware that a major tragedy had happened in the country. As we became aware of the disappearance in the morning and prayers went up that the aircraft would be found with the occupants alive, news came that it had crashed in Ogun State. As we were trying hard to assimilate this, the CNN told us that our First Lady, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo, had died in Spain during an operation. Another major blow for the nation.

Since the tsunami occurred in the Pacific Ocean on Boxing Day last year, affecting several Asian countries, it has been one tragedy after the other across the world, with other major ones being the July 7th bomb blasts in London and Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.A. There have been plane and helicopter crashes, train crashes, mudslide, floods, etc. As this piece is being written, Hurricane Wilma is pounding the Carribean and the coasts of Florida. All these disasters bring deaths and diseases and render thousands homeless. In our country, weíve had our own share of mishaps as lives are lost through accidents, armed robberies and assassinations, rituals, riots, communal clashes, etc. There have been near misses on our runways, but we didnít really expect a major crash like this recent one, after the unfortunate one in Kano in 2002. To lose the nationsís First Lady around the same time is distressing particularly for the President who had a national disaster on his hand, and then lost his wife at the same time.

"Oh, itís a pity about Stella," moaned a friend as we got the news that Sunday morning. "She was one of those people you expect to be around for a long time. She was so vibrant and always looked the picture of good health. She had so much to live for." Thereupon, we began to discuss what we know of Mrs. Obasanjo. Despite her diminutive size, she was a lady you couldnít overlook or ignore anywhere. Long before she got married and subsequently became a civilian First Lady, she had established her self-confidence, sense of humour, and could hold her own in any conversation. Being married to a military man enhanced further her self-confidence and her ability to tackle problems, and she was certainly a very active First Lady across the nation.

One of the most harrowing times of her life must have been when her husband was thrown into jail by the late General Sani Abacha, and she began the crusade to get him out alive. A weaker woman would have sat back at home, wringing her hands in agony, but not Stella. She travelled widely to sensitize the relevant world leaders to the plight of her husband. One didnít know how much effort she made until President Wade of Senegal came to Nigeria after President Obasanjo came into power in 1999, to scold Nigeria of being indifferent to the problems of the sub-region then. He was quoted as saying that while her husband was in jail, Stella was always on the move, contacting the regional leaders, urging them to do something about his situation, but that now that he had become head of state, not much was seen of them.

That was when it dawned on me that Stella had really been working hard behind the scenes to see that her husband didnít die in jail. Iím sure the General must appreciate all that, and would forever remember her contribution. Then thereís her NGO, Child Care Trust, which she established to help children with special needs. She had just one child, but that didnít stop her from being interested in bringing succour to needy children. The last time I saw her was when she was the special guest of honour at the NAFDACís Vitamin A seminar for all the local governments in the country in Abuja. During her speech, she jokingly said that she would need to stand on a stool so that the teeming crowd in the hall would be able to see her. The audience roared.

God didnít allow her to clock 60, or play the role of a mother-in-law and a grandmother, but Iím sure all the members of her family will take heart and be consoled by the fact that she lived a good life, was of use to the needy and her exit was peaceful. May her lively soul rest in peace. Amen. The loss of 117 persons in the plane crash was very distressing for everyone, whether one knew any of the victims or not. These were people who were merely going to make a hop to Abuja, and then the end came. I always hesitate to use the word Ďill-fatedí Ďdoomedí, etc. when a tragedy like that happens, because only God knows why He allowed it to take place. After all, that flight could have been cancelled; the plane could have refused to start at all, there could have been a strike on, or, whatever problem there was, could have been detected beforehand. That God chose to gather those spirits that night, is beyond human analysis, and all we can say is that may He rest their souls in peace and comfort and take care of all their families and friends. Amen.

It was sad to see Maria Sokenuís name among the victims. I knew her when she was in the management team of the Owena Bank. Later, she became the pioneer Managing Director of the Peopleís Bank. A mother of six, she was a hard-worker and she knew success. She created an awareness for the establishment of the Peopleís Bank during the Babangida regime, to provide micro-credit for the poor who were not credit-worthy enough for normal bank loans, to enable them run small-scale industries or engage in petty trading, after she had observed a similar programmeís success in the Far East. The scheme enabled hundreds of poor men and women across the country to have a business of their own.

In a way, it was part of the Better Life Programme. When the bank folded up, she started a programme for the rehabilitation of the Area Boys and Girls in Lagos, by way of establishing vocational centres for them, where they could acquire a profession which would ensure them a means of livelihood and take them off the streets.

Drug addicts were also taken care of in the programme. In the late nineties, she established yet another NGO for youths, holding a variety of worthwhile activities for them . Then she went into politics, contested in Lagos and lost. Last year, she became a consultant in Ogun State to the Skills Acquisition Centre for Youths, where she was doing a great job. Whatever it was that was taking her to Abuja that Saturday night, the nation has lost a good friend to the under-privileged. May her soul rest in peace.

Letís hope that there would be capable hands to carry on the worthy projects that both Stella Obasanjo and Maria Sokenu had started, as we pray that God would comfort all their loved ones.

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown