The Sun News

Ocholi: Family divided over wife’s burial site

… FG plans 3-day burial programme for minister 

• Grants first son automatic employment

• Grief overwhelms kinsmen 

From Magnus Eze, Abuja

Indications emerged yesterday night that the Federal Government is planning a three-day burial programme for Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi, who died in a ghastly auto crash along Abuja-Kaduna Road on Sunday.

The burial programme kicks off on Wednesday, March 15, with a service of songs at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.

Thereafter, Ocholi’s remains will be taken to Kogi, his home state where another service will be held and on Friday, March 18, he would be interred in his village, Adejo, in Dekina Local Government.

His second son, Joshua, who died with him in the auto crash, would also be interred same day.

These details were unveiled by a federal government burial planning committee chaired by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir Lawal.

But, there is still a big division brewing over the “correct” site to bury his wife, Fatima Blessing.

Daily Sun gathered from an inside source that Igala tradition stipulates that a married woman should be buried in her biological father’s homestead.

It was not clear whether the committee would make any headway on the matter but it was gathered that some influential members have decided to “approach the wife’s family for consent to bury her alongside her husband.

“ As at Tuesday, some members have gone to see her father’s side while another delegation would go to see the mother’s side today.

“We are optimistic that we will make headway on her burial site by this week. Already, the Body of Benchers has been incorporated into the burial programme. Everybody is being carried along,” said a source on the presidential burial planning committee.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy theory over the actual cause of the accident gained ground on Tuesday. Some persons in the family believe that there was foul play in the assigning of the driver that drove the minister’s official vehicle on the ill-fated trip to Kaduna.

Daily Sun gathered that the late minister’s official driver named Titus was not disposed for the trip because his wife just gave birth and was in the hospital.

Since Titus was not around, an alternative driver was provided from the ministry.

The family insists the driver be investigated. Ocholi’s senior counterpart in the ministry, Chief Chris Ngige, on Monday promised that the ministry would explore the lead.

Proponents of the conspiracy theory argue that the Lexus 570 model in which the minister travelled in has the capacity to indicate on the dashboard if any of the tyres has issue including shortage of air.

As if to prove their case, a member of the family who would not want his name in print told Daily Sun that information at their disposal indicated that it was actually occupants in the back up vehicle that came to alert the driver of the minister’s jeep that their tyre was down. It was at this period, according to him, “that the tyre just burst and the vehicle started summersaulting.”

Ocholi’s uncle, Mr. Abdallah Aliu, had reportedly told Ngige on Monday that they suspected foul-play in the whole thing; including that the said driver that drove the car was the person that allegedly took shots of the scene and posted on the social media.

Ocholi sacrificed for APC

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at about 5:00pm yesterday visited the Ocholis at their Kado residence.

Osinbajo, who came in company with Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema described the late minister as a person held in high esteem and respected by all.

Extolling Ocholi’s virtues, the vice president noted that he made so much sacrifice for the merger that gave birth to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He prayed God to console the children left behind by the late couple.

Osinbajo said to have accepted as a SAN, at that time, to be deputy legal adviser, because the party said so, when the person who was a legal adviser was not even a senior advocate was hallmark of humility.

“Of course there was a lot of dispute over that but, in the end, he accepted to serve as a deputy despite that a junior colleague served as the legal adviser

“I think that his legacy, his life speaks for itself and we are all enriched and ennobled by the fact that we met him and we knew him. I am sure that his name, which is an important legacy, is one that you will find always useful, always something that will open doors for you,” Osinbajo stated.

At about 3.30pm, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) announced automatic employment for two children of the diseased; Miss Ojene, a graduate of Business Administration and her younger brother, Aaron Ocholi, who is currently a corps member in Abuja.

Their two younger ones, Blessing and Ale, who are in the university and secondary school respectively, were also offered automatic scholarship.

Responding, Aaron thanked the government and people of Nigeria for standing by them in this trying period.

“We are mourning but, we are not hopeless and, we are most proud of him even now, the man who he was. We pray that God will give us the grace to be who he taught us to be and that we outgrow his achievements and successes.”

The traffic gridlock that greeted the Kado Estate axis of Abuja since the sudden death Ocholi, his wife (Blessing) and son (Joshua), at the weekend continued yesterday.

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