MADAM ALICE’S GLORIOUS EXIT…
•Presidential delegation, political and industry titans grace event
Like tiny droplets that precede the hammering rain, the guests meandered into the rustic ambiance of Agbor in Delta State. But unlike the proverbial rain droplet, each guest loomed large in reputation and acclaim thus making the assemblage a gathering of nobles, political and industry titans. They had all travelled to Agbor in honour of Godwin Emefiele, incumbent Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
But Emefiele was not marking his birthday nor was he throwing a high-octane bash to mark the grand opening of a country home, rather the CBN governor was burying his dear mother, Alice Emefiele.
Thus on April 1st and 2nd, Agbor literally stood still as the crème of Nigeria’s high society thronged its rustic neighbourhoods to attend the grand ascension of Emefiele’s mother to the afterlife. Expectedly, it was a star-studded event. All the rich men and women in Nigeria trooped out to pay their last respects to Madam Alice.
The people of Agbor woke up to witness the grand procession of Madam Alice’s funeral. There is no gainsaying she was the Queen of the Emefiele clan and a doting mother to her children, a title no monarch could claim. Madam Alice loved her children very deeply and was prepared to sacrifice her happiness for theirs.
The natives had never been good at silence — they are never known to mourn wordlessly, hence, they are hardly the type that expressed intense emotions through a hand on the shoulder or a pat on the back— but on April 1st and 2nd, they surpassed themselves. Agbor silently mourned as the nation’s dignitaries thronged its beautiful innards to pay tribute to the beloved mother of one of their own. The quiet amplified the sounds of the cortège as it set out to Madam Alice’s final resting place: the rumble of wheels on tarmac, the click of shoe heels on concrete and the soft thud on mother earth tolled at listless intervals. But as the procession commenced, residents of Agbor, family, neighbours and childhood friends of Madam Alice turned out in honour of the deceased.
A life cast in gold
Her final ceremonial progression through the streets of Agbor, Delta State raised treasurable memories of her life among family, friends and even close neighbours. The recollections bespeak the misery of a watching world that fell in love with the beautiful daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Despite the pain of remembering, no one wished to let go the brilliant memories of Madam Alice Emefiele, particularly Godwin, her loving son. Hovering by her side as she was borne toward an enchanted future, Godwin rued the final departure of his mother, struggling in his grief to deal with the humbling reality that his sweet, chaste mother had finally set out alone into eternity.
In one sense, though, Madam Alice was not gone. The day before she was blessed and buried, her son made a rare, profoundly wrought surmise after days of puzzling grief, that no one who knew his mother will ever forget her. Godwin averred that many others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her.
Echoes of a befitting funeral
Even her coffin captured this mixture of the traditional and the personal. It was draped with the royal standard; on top of that rested a spray of white lilies, Madam Alice’s favorite flower. And there was something else: a bouquet of white tulips and a wreath of white roses with a card bearing the handwritten word of Godwin and siblings.
Madam Alice’s cortege was joined along the way by the most important people in her life. They walked behind her coffin, and then so did representatives from each of the families and communities whose lives Madam Alice had touched like no other human had. A few were in wheelchairs, a few more on crutches. They were not the sort of people ordinarily invited to march in funeral processions, but they were Madam Alice’s people.
The deceased would definitely turn in her grave for the honour and unrivalled show of love that her beloved son attracted for her sake. It was like a state event; there were in attendance a presidential delegation, members of the National Assembly, numerous state governors and prominent moguls of the business community.
So were the glittering guests milling about the church, waiting to get in. The spectators looking on, many of whom had arrived early, quietly applauded the celebrities they spotted; as they equally arrived to pay their last respects to a woman whose life became the benchmark for humanity’s best even in death.
This was a day of remembrance, yes, and a day of grieving. The flood of despair that poured forth frequently resulted in cascade of tears. By the funeral, Godwin no doubt, delivered a remarkably personal and pointed tribute to his mother’s memory. He noted that though it was not enough to canonize his mother’s memory, it was the least he could do to venerate a woman and mother who was passionately inured in her desire to do good for others so she could contribute her quota to improving humanity.
But he also described her as someone with natural nobility and who was classless, who proved throughout her existence that she needed no trappings of wealth or fame to generate her particular brand of humanity. The funeral ceremony boasted a kaleidoscope of guests, sumptuous local and international delicacies, choice drinks and impressive eulogies to the departed soul. It was in every respect adjudged a great success as it drew a perfect blend of A-listers ranging from technocrats, industrialists to young professionals who are friends and associates of her son, Godwin.
Emefiele’s poetry of modesty
But, unlike several billionaires and public servants of his class, Emefiele shied from turning his mother’s funeral into an avenue by which he would flaunt his wealth and make an emphatic social statement. He didn’t turn it into a festival of wealth and testament of his clout and high office. Thus the absence of choice decor, expensive champagne, cognac, meals and entertainment often acquired at prohibitive cost.
At the funeral of Emefiele’s mother, the guests, irrespective of their pedigree and class, were treated to soft drinks, water and good food. This has no doubt endeared the CBN governor to majority of his kin and public commentators. Pundits commend him for setting a good example for majority of his peers that have developed a taste for turning every funeral into a vulgar shindig.
The quality of the ceremony would no doubt make Madam Alice turn in her grave noted a guest who was apparently overwhelmed by the grand procession of events at the funeral.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s team was led by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal, who represented Mr President. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State was joined by many other state governors including Adams Oshiomole (Edo), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Willy Obiano (Anambra), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) as well as the deputy governor of Benue State.
Also in attendance were the Dein of Agbor and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Captains of industries who graced the ceremony included the Chairman and CEO of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; oil magnate and Chairman of Forte Oil, Femi Otedola; and Jim Ovia, Former Chairman, Zenith Bank.
Emefiele who became the CBN governor in June, 2014 is the third child of the deceased.
The remains of the late matriarch of the Emefiele family who died last year at the age of 94, was interred in her compound in Agbor, the administrative headquarters of Ika South local Government Area. The well publicized burial ceremony started with Christian/traditional wake keep at her residence, Number 4, Madam Alice Ohumagholem Street, Agbor. She is survived by seven children, several step-children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.