Eulogies as Jonathan, Bayelsans bury female politicians


EMOTIONS ran high yesterday as Bayelsa State buried nine of the 11 prominent female political leaders who died in an auto crash along the East-West Road, near Ahoada-Mbiama Road in Rivers State on their way to Yenagoa after a meeting with the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, a day earlier.

   The state burial brought together colleagues and associates of the deceased as well as past and present political office holders from the state, including President Goodluck Jonathan, once a deputy governor and later governor of the state, and some of his predecessors.

   Besides, the solemn occasion provided an opportunity for political stakeholders to preach peace. No fewer than eight of the deceased were prominent Ijaw women leaders, most of who emerged since the commencement of the Fourth Republic, from the administrations of Diprieye Alamieyeseigha to the present administration.

   The ninth victim, who was an Igbo man from Imo State, was an employee of one of the deceased when she was the state liaison officer in nearby Rivers State. The victims included Mrs. Elizabeth Allison-Oguru, wife of the Bayelsa Secretary to State Government, Prof. Edmund Oguru.

   Others were Mrs. Ginbra Pamowei, a former member of Bayelsa House of Assembly, Mrs. Ruby Teingha Benjamin, Mrs. Consider Nayam, Mrs. Acha Pere-Kalama, Mrs. Elizabeth Nsakpo, Mrs. Ayakpo Franca Otolo, Mrs. Lydia Clara Abila, and the driver of the ill-fated vehicle, Mr. Kelechi Onyekwuru.

   In his tribute, President Jonathan said the death of the women was a personal loss, since he knew virtually all of them. He confirmed that at least four of them were either his distant cousins or people from his Otuoke community in Ogbia local council.

   He described February 14 as a black Saturday that Bayelsans would never forget in a hurry, saying the nine had touched him one way or the other. He stated: “Of course we lost eight of our best. 

   “To me, it is not just that people have died, not just that Bayelsans have died, but that these are people I know too well. These nine caskets contain the remains of people dear to me, people that touched me in one way or the other.”

   In her tribute, the First Lady described the deceased as women who share dreams and visions to make life meaningful for Nigerians, noting that it was hard to accept “that my friends have gone without having to say goodbye; it is the realization about the shortness of lives.”

   She harped on the need for renewed peace in the state, noting: “Bayelsa is a small state, we need peace to reign in the state, let us put politics aside so that we can develop our state together.”

  On his part, Governor Dickson said the day was a sad day for the people of the state but thanked the President for the support he has been giving the state and the families of the deceased since the incident.

   “With their sacrifices, both at home and their respective contributions to the politics and governance of our people, we found it necessary to give them such a heroic burial,” he said.

   Jonathan added: “Whenever I remember that February 14, it is supposed to be Valentine’s day but turned out a black day that coloured the landscape of Bayelsa State with the worst colour we could ever imagine. When my Aide-de Camp gave me the information and my personal assistant showed me the flaming bus on a phone handset, I asked myself, could these people be in this flame? 

   “When I saw that flame and these women were being burnt and roasted, I just couldn’t imagine it. Till today, it gives me migraine. I lack words to console the direct family members. 

   “The world is a stage where we have all come to play our parts and go. I believe they have played their own parts. I plead we reason that they died in this circumstance probably so that we learn to be a little more careful.”

   Responding to earlier comments by Governor Seriake Dickson that some people questioned his approval of state burial for the victims instead of individually, the President cautioned the governor to watch out for those who claim to be his advisers and admirers.

   He further urged the bereaved families to take solace in the good legacies left behind by their spouses and relations, noting that “the most important thing is that on the day of your death, people will say positive things about you.”

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