President Goodluck Jonathan
Mohammed Bello and Segun James
Otuoke, the Bayelsa State home town of President Goodluck Jonathan, was awash in mourning Saturday as the president relived the final moments of the life of his younger brother, Meni Jonathan, during his funeral attended by many prominent members of the political class and business community.
Meni died on November 20 in Abuja from cardiac arrest.
Jonathan described his younger brother’s death as a big blow to his family and a painful loss of an effective pillar that had been holding forth for him on the home front. Even more hurting for Jonathan, who addressed sympathisers shortly after a church service for the deceased at St. Vincent’s Anglican Church, Otuoke, was the fact that Meni died on the day the president was marking his 55th birthday.
With a mournful face, the president narrated how his younger brother had driven himself to Yenagoa to board the helicopter that took him to Abuja the weekend before his sudden death the following Tuesday.
He said he was attending to some diplomats from foreign missions when his doctor, Aide-De-Camp, and the chief security officer of the Aso villa came into his office.
“I immediately suspected that something was wrong,” he said.
Jonathan said of his deceased brother, who died at 47, leaving behind two sons, “This was a young man I came home on a Friday, he came to my house, nobody carried him, he moved down just from his house across the road. We discussed, he was a bit frail. I said, follow us so that he can do a medical check up.
“He himself drove down to Yenagoa to board the chopper to Abuja. He got to Abuja that Saturday so he was admitted in the hospital. The following Monday, his breathing changed. I said, let us make arrangement to get him out, to let him get treatment outside. So an arrangement was being done, unfortunately, the following day he had cardiac arrest and an inflamed heart at the State House clinic.
“We were making arrangement to move him to the National Hospital. It is a very sad thing; he had been covering the home front for us. He was a very humble person. He was a reliable and trustworthy person that you can ask to handle things for you. He is dead; there is nothing we can do.
“I must thank all of you who have come to join the Jonathan family to give us this respect.”
The president also spoke on the oft-emphasised African traditional belief that an elder should not see the corpse of his younger ones.
“In some traditions, I'm not supposed to be in the church. It is traditional that you don't bury your younger ones. Luckily for this community, we don't have too many of these cultural and traditional things. It is quite sad; it pulled the whole Nigeria to the community to bury my younger brother.
“He is very young, too minor. God knows the best. It is not how long you stay on earth, but the little impact you make matters. His death has brought the business, academic, political class, religious groups to console us. We pray God will give us the fortitude.”
A service of songs for the departed president’s brother, held at the Dame Patience Square, Otuoke, had in attendance the state governor, Seriake Dickson, and his wife; his deputy, Admiral John Jonah; Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Mathins Elechi of Ebonyi State, and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. Senate President David Mark and his House of Representatives counterpart, Speaker Aminu Tambowal, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha also graced the service.
Other personalities at the funeral included former military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, and multibillionaire businessman and chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote.
Mark who arrived Otuoke in a helicopter about 12.30pm had joined Jonathan and a crowd of dignitaries at the helipad in the community to await the arrival of Meni’s body from Abuja. As it arrived, Jonathan, sober and clad in black shirt, led a funeral procession that bore the corpse to the deceased’s compound, opposite the president’s house.
At the church service officiated by Rt. Revd James Aye Oruwari, the first son of the deceased, Lamawal Jonathan, took the Bible reading from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.
Present at the church service were the president’s mother, Mrs. Eunice Jonathan, his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, Tambuwal, Ihedioha, Dickson, Uduaghan, Elechi, Amaechi, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, Minister of Lands and Housing, Ms Ama Pepple, Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, captains of industry, top Nollywood actors, among others.