Stella, the 117 and Mr President


by Ini Morgan, October 2005
I will start this piece with a passage quoting Jesus Christ in one of his teachings. Mathew 5.27-28: “you have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit Adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed Adultery with her already in his heart.”  Apart from instructing on desires, Jesus is here teaching about originating pure thoughts from the heart.

Inspiration also reveals that a passionate execution of a desire in the heart, most often materializes, especially when it is confessed. In other words, what a person desires and confesses is most likely to be sown as seed. It is truth to say a person is whom he believes and confesses. Gani Fawehinmi may have been seen to be hard on President Obasanjo in his letter to him, because he queried Mr. President on why he allowed his late wife to undergo cosmetic surgery abroad. Let me say proverbially that they who forget their history are bound to repeat it. Gani’s letter, whether it is acceptable or not, is now a document of history. I am talking about a desire, maybe a passionate one at that.

During the building of the Tower of Babel, it is recorded that “. The Lord God said Behold, the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.’’ (Genesis 11.6) God interposed to restrain those builders. I was taken aback when Olumuyiwa Obasanjo, during the Federal Executive Council meeting in honour of his late mother, confessed that he was discarding a prepared speech, which maybe his father would have expected he reads from, and preferred to speak from his heart. Whatsoever he said after this, I believe was from inspiration.

He revealed a recent discussion he had with his late mother relating to the funeral celebration of her grandmother, Olumuyiwa’s great grandmother. According to him, his mother desired the funeral her grandmother had and she spoke passionately about it. I wondered what aspects of that funeral captivated Stella so much. This desire, although spoken only, maybe; to her son, was buried under a more auspicious desire for a well-organized and attended birthday celebration. According to Stella’s husband, he had granted everything she needed for the celebration. This according to him was to compensate her for one promise he could not fulfill in the past.

According to the organizers of the birthday, on whom it fell to play and execute the celebration, everything was in place. Invitation cards were already out. Almost every one close to Stella suggested that she might have had premonition that she would die. She requested the husband’s co-operation in regularizing their matrimony according to the Catholic Church tradition, in order that she can partake of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Father Mathew Kukah revealed that any member of the Catholic Church who attains this privilege enjoys equal Catholic funeral rite as the Pope. Her husband, in furtherance of what Father Kukah revealed about this event, said that after the Sacrament of Matrimony was observed, Stella thanked him for saving her soul.

It is no longer news that almost all that was prepared towards the execution of a memorable birthday celebration were converted to the celebration of her funeral, except maybe that the number of dignitaries expected to grace the event were yet to be reached because the invitations were only out when her death was announced. We all saw the honour accorded the late First Lady in all the events concerning her funeral. Stella’s death waited until it could be a part of history.  She has become the first wife of a serving Nigeria President to die while the husband is in office. She is the first woman to be given a National burial. She is also the first woman of national prominence to enjoy a National silence.

A husband who desired to fulfill, at least for once, one promise he made to his wife, could not but put in everything to make it up in her burial, his regrets notwithstanding. She was also the first to be celebrated at the National Ecumenical Center. Stella could not have had it better. She opened the gate of Aso Rock villa to “all and sundry.” While it should last, it will be heard as the loudest. It is often said that it is good to quit when the ovation is loudest, here lies an important lesson from Stella.

Florence Ita Giwa, in her condolence message in Abeokuta, said that though Stella looked petite, but she was a giant in heart. Stella’s end maybe said to be a courageous one. I am saying this because I keep imagining how she died. I know that a surgery bear wounds, and wounds are painful, but one thing I am certain about is that the death of our 117 brothers and sisters was not only painful, but also undoubtedly frightening.

Another question I asked myself was how Stella’s grandmother died. I believe strongly that all we have seen and heard emanated from one’s wish to be remembered like her grandmother at whose funeral a seed of desire was sowed. Sometimes I want to be convinced that Stella died of heart attack. I will disagree that the hospital she attended in Spain was not a competent one, why would she do that when the King and Queen of Spain were her friends.

It could be that the news of the missing Bellview 210 was passed to her, and she saw the many troubles of her husband and could not stand them. We usually say God knows best, this is true no doubt, but God is a just God. When God is allowed to sway the conscience, a station he provided with rights of decision and substances of consequence, he bears safe in his arms. No matter the circumstance he leads into, he assures an expectant end. Stella’s death waited to be heralded by the unfortunate air crash.

Errors are human, and the forces of the dark world conspire constantly against humanity. When we see as we have seen, let us know that the power of darkness has aligned with human agencies to destroy. It is a benchmark of God’s leadership, when a man would not do what he cannot confess. Our very lives hang upon God’s character of eternal mercy and loving-kindness. Glamour and prestige are twin; prestige leading the way of glamour. Most times, people think they are accepted of God by good works. Good works attract reward from God; it does not lead to God.

Only a man can lead another to God, and when he comes to God, he learns of him. I believe that only Jesus led, and still leads the men he has chosen to lead others to God. Stella’s death is sad no doubt, but it is the way of all flesh. What is tragic was the air crash that terminated, abruptly, everything about the 117 souls it claimed. For the investigators of the crash to say they could not get the Black box is most unfortunate. How then can we know what was the likely cause of that crash?

All the moves of Government have been faulty so far. Many opinions and suggestions had been forwarded and analyzed concerning the crash, but I have not heard anybody question the rationale of Government in organizing a quick “inter-faith” (whatsoever that means) memorial service for the victims. How can anybody celebrate an “official” memorial service for bodies not yet “officially” buried?

The Babangida’s Government showed better sense in organizing a National funeral for victims of Hercules A310 of Ejigbo fame. The Government’s hypocrisy was further revealed by the rushing of every aspect of the passage rites of the 117 to make it follow a comprehensive total package passage rite for Stella. This is the reason I say that the tragedy, which happened because of human error, heralded Stella’s death.

From the day the events happened, I have meditated over them and followed every lead, yet there is a gap of information: what led to the crash? Lissa villagers said they have cried for Government’s attention without success, and regret that it took this tragedy to attain this longing.

As negligible as the words of man’s mouth can be, let us know that it could pave the way for such calamities. When the glory of God is not upheld by men, those creations of God whose assignments it is to glorify God can rise against the defiance of God’s glory through calamities, in order to make certain that which is the pearl upon God’s crown as king.

In this respect, let me recall the sinking of the “unsinkable’’ ship, the Titanic in 1912. Shortly before the Ship set sail; one of Titanic wealthy passengers stood boastfully before his intended mother-in-law and said the Titanic was a ship even God cannot sink. Few hours after this lousy statement, the architects, builders and financiers of the construction of the ship assembled over dinner, to go over aspects of the ship that made it so secured. Unknown to mortal men, the hand of providence led the ship to hit a precipice and from the small hole made on the body of the ship, nature overtook subsequent events, which led to the loss of 1500 souls in one cold night.

We may say that the occurrence had a play of providence, but what led to this disaster was the instruction one of the financiers gave to the Captain. He told the Captain to increase the acceleration of the ship such that instead of their arrival to their destination in America at noon, as planned, they would arrive before the people woke up in the morning. This was aimed at further enhancing the rating of the Titanic. Against the advice of the Captain, the financier pressured him into increasing the speed. Two Deck hands set to watch the distant were carried away by the love tango of two youths.

The watch men abandoned their watch and before they set again to watch, it was already too late. Their observation became late because the sound of alert came a little before the hit. The ship sank. I wish to observe this tradition in every calamity: A lousy tongue, an unsustainable confidence and a distraction from duty.

President Obasanjo had during one of the Yar’adua memorial lectures, some years ago, and commenting on the circumstance of his death, said that although he was not disputing that there is an act of God, but it must also be accepted that there is an act of man. God only interposes in human affairs when his glory is brought to disrepute.

In the Bellview 210 air crash, let us be consoled; let our faith be grounded in God only. Though God allowed it happened, what happened was cause by the errors of man. There is a lesson in the tragedy to learn from, and until we do, we shall experience it again. The Government should stand up to its responsibilities. Those managing aspect of services that involves human lives must put into their duties their best of time and dedication. They must understand the sanctity of human life.

Generally, we must be sensitive to our thoughts, confessions and confidence. These losses were definitely victims of careless men. The President’s appeal that these tragedies should unite Nigerians is a most childish expectation. It is like Father Kukah said in his exhortation at Stella funeral; we must sell all that we have and follow after Truth. It is only in Jesus that all is made one. The tragedies that occurred can only enhance unity just as it could be expected that the Apo Six tragedy can unite us. All the tragedies are indicative of the caliber of Government we are operating. Let’s not run from it. This is where people misunderstand the position of Gani.

Stella had her chooses but the 117 may never have had the opportunity she had, especially in getting her husband to save her soul. All the same, may their souls find rest in peace. Finally, let me admonish Mr. President not to look for unity in those tragedies, but put concrete policies in place, such that will form the vehicle for unity, advancement and national stability. These are founded only on Truth. 


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