Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
It was a sombre atmosphere as Senators wednesday paid glowing tributes to their departed colleague, Senator Ali Wakili, with at least few of them revealing how they have hoped he would rise from the dead.
Wakili, who represented Bauchi South senatorial district, died last Saturday at the age of 58. He was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Poverty Alleviation.
At the valedictory session, Wakiliâ€™s seat was wrapped with Nigeriaâ€™s flag, with a wreath placed on it.
Senator Hamman Isa Misau described late Wakili, fondly called â€˜MNIâ€™ (Member, National Institute) by his colleagues, as a very generous person, who gave his all to his constituents.
Misau narrated how he had received the phone call that Saturday morning, and hoped Wakili would resurrect.
â€œI was driving there, and I was praying that it is not true. I saw him lying on the mattress. I asked his doctor if we can still take him to the hospital. The doctor said nothing can be done. Even though I knew he was dead, I was praying to Allah to perform his miracle.
â€œHe is a person that whatever he gets, he will quickly send it to Bauchi. I told him whatever you get, start saving, because whatever you do, people would have forgotten by the day of primary elections,â€ he added.
Misau disclosed that Wakili had experienced some health challenges relating to the lungs about eight months ago.
â€œSenator Suleiman Nazif, Senator Mohammed Hassan and I insisted he must leave whatever he was doing, and attend to his health,â€ he said.
Misau, who is also from Bauchi as the late senator, said already clamour to replace Wakili has begun in earnest. He however noted that the people of Bauchi South would miss Wakiliâ€™s manner of representation.
Similarly, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno APC) said he had urged the Imam to delay the funeral prayers till late afternoon that fateful Saturday.
According to him, â€œMy thinking was that something would happen. My thought was that Ali Wakili would wake up, and I remember even at the grave yard, Senator Hope Uzodinma made a comment that the Muslims are too much in a hurry to bury someone, that this man just died in the morning and we are burying him now.
â€œAnd I was saying; maybe if we allow him time, something would happen. It didnâ€™t happen and it would not happen,â€ Ndume said as he struggled to hold back tears.
Ndume called for continuous prayers for the repose of the soul of the late lawmaker, and urged his colleagues not to abandon his family.
Several lawmakers took turns to pay glowing tributes to Wakili and relayed their last moments with him.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the key lesson in Wakiliâ€™s sudden death is that everything ends someday.
He said: â€œIt is important to ask ourselves what lesson is in all these? The simple fact is that everything comes to an end- power, privileges and others.â€
Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun APC) said Wakili had recently accosted him on why he, as the Chief Whip, should be doing more to run the affairs of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
â€œThis morning, I learnt that I was not the only one he approached, I learnt he was going from room to room to discuss what we can do better for this republic and this senate,â€ he disclosed.
Senator Danjuma Goje said he was friend with Wakili for over 40 years, and were working together on a project bordering both their constituencies.
Goje expressed extra condolences to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who shared a very close relationship with the late senator.
Presiding, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, described Wakili as a man of integrity, who cared deeply for his people.
He recalled that Wakili was initially upset when he was appointed the chairman of the Poverty Alleviation Committee, but came to love the assignment after he realised what the mandate really was.
â€œHe was a man that came as a first timer, but he won the respect of all of us because he was calm and truthful. As much as possible, he had friends,â€ Saraki said.
The Senate president further said: â€œAt the end of the day, death will come; Wakili was a sterling example to what we should be when serving our people.â€
The Senate thereafter resolved to name one of its hearing rooms after the late lawmaker, and also called for the speedy establishment of the National Assembly Museum and Archives to preserve the legacies of deceased lawmakers.
The legislative chamber also decided to establish a scheme for the welfare of the families of its members who die during their tenures.