•’Family opted for quiet interment’
From CHUKS AKUNNA, Abuja
Contrary to earlier insinuations that governors of the 19 Northern states boycotted the burial of President Goodluck Jonathan’s brother, Meni, at the weekend in Bayelsa State, over unresolved political issues, Daily Sun gathered that the governors may have acted based on the body language of the President’s family
. Initial speculations had it that while the Northern governors stayed away from Otuoke as a result of strained relationship with the President over a number of issues, including revenue sharing, the security challenge in the region, and his rumoured re-election plans for 2015, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governors also stayed away to protest what they might have considered the President’s “bad faith” after the 2011 elections they helped him to win.
Lagos, a key ACN state, is still smarting from the President’s recent stoppage of a $600 million World Bank loan. Penultimate week, Governor Raji Fashola (SAN) dragged the President to the House of Representatives, appealing to the lawmakers to resolve the loan impasse. Similarly, they were said to have cited the issue of timing of the burial, coming at a time when many of them had made commitments and given their words to attend the wedding of Vice President Namadi Sambo’s daughters slated for the same day.
However, a close aide of the President who does not want to be named, told Daily Sun that nothing can be further from the truth. According to him, the family never intended a big ‘celebration’ for the demise of a man who died 45 years of age. “Remember, his mother is still alive. He has an elder brother. If anything, I think his death was untimely and that is not the type of burial you would want to celebrate and invite all the dignitaries,” the source said.
Rather than celebrate, he said, the Jonathan family simply wanted to mourn their loss quietly. “If you also notice that the late Meni left behind two wives, nine very young children and a grand child, the wisest thing for now would be to soberly reflect on what to do to assist the very young family he left behind and not to be insinuating political undertones to the event.” He said it was in keeping with the desire to mourn quietly that the family did not event print any formal invitation cards for the burial.” They only took paid advertorial to announce the funeral program.”
Even at that, the source said, it would be wrong to say that the governors abandoned Jonathan. He noted: “Virtually all the governors had visited the President at Aso Rock to commiserate with him. It was there that they got the “message” that the burial would not be a carnival. In fact, the little “noise” that was made about the burial was probably because the President’s family was involved. “However, many of them, including the governors of Kogi and Benue states actually sent their deputies to the burial in Otuoke at the weekend, while the governors from the neighbouring states in the South-East and South-South attended.” According to him, “many journalists do not even know deputy governors, so they could not differentiate them from the crowd.
That was why they hurriedly concluded that their states boycotted the burial.” He said it was most “inhuman” and “insensitive” to attach any political meanings to the pattern of attendance at the rural, noting that but for the fact that President Jonathan was directly involved, he probably would have attended the Kaduna wedding himself. Interestingly, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who allegedly was one of the ACN governors who boycotted the President’s function, made it to Sambo’s daughters’ wedding, in Kaduna.
The burial of the President’s brother, coincided with the wedding of Sambo’s two daughters – Huwaila and Aishat – in Kaduna. Besides former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and ex-military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Governors of Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Katsina and Gombe States were by Sambo’s side. Also at the Vice President’s event were governors of Bauchi, Kaduna, Kogi, Kwara and Taraba states. Wife of the Benue State Governor, Mrs Yemisi Suswam represented her husband. At Otuoke, however, were Senate President David Mark, Speaker, House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal, his deputy Emeka Ihedioha, as well as governors of Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Rivers, Delta and Abia states.