By Emeka Mamah, Wole Mosadomi &Austin Ogwuda
MINNAâ€” Former First Lady and founder of the Better Life for Rural Women, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, is dead.
She died at City Hope Hospital, California, United States of America, at 12 noon Nigerian local time, with her husband of over three decades, General Ibrahim Babangida, beside her sick bed.
Maryam, 61, who celebrated her last birthday on her sick bed on November 1, in the American Hospital, battled with Ovarian Cancer before she lost the out yesterday, after three months in the hospital.
Former Military President, Gen. Babangida, broke the news of her death in a telephone call to his cousin, Alhaji Datijjo Aliyu, a former Commissioner for Health in Niger State, an hour after the doctors certified her dead.
According to Aliyu, â€œMy brother, Gen. Babangida, called me this afternoon about 1 p.m. that He lost his wife. He told me she passed on about an hour ago.â€
Aliyu, who was with her second son, Aminu, added that her remains would be buried in Minna.
She was rumoured dead November 15. However, she told Vanguard then that ”only God gives life and can take it.”
A former governor of Niger State, Mr.Abdulkadir Kure, who received mourners at the HilltopÂ residence ofÂ the Babangidas, refused to comment on the deceased. He said: â€œIt is against Islamic doctrine to comment about the dead before burial. All I know is that to Him (Allah) we come from and to Him shall we go back to.â€
He told newsmen that details of the burial will be released after the family members would have metÂ today. ”Please, you should bear with the family. We shall give details of the burial latest by tomorrow (today). We are still consulting.â€
The Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muâ€™azu Babangida Aliyu, described the deceased as a woman who positively touched many lives. He noted that, â€œShe left good people and good legacy. May her soul rest in peace?â€
According to the governor, â€œfor some time now, people were talking about her death, but now we can confirm she has died. Death is the expected fate of everybody and until it is your time, nobody can do anything about it.
â€œShe lived a good life worthy of emulation. We are living witnesses to her contributions at emancipating African women,” the governor said.
Also, a friend of the Babangidas, Sir Tunde Olowu, described Maryamâ€™s death ”as a great loss to her family, her pet non-governmental organisation, and the nation. Only God can console IBB who was by her bedside for over three months in America. Itâ€™s a lesson in love and character. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace.â€™â€™
Asaba community, Uduaghan shocked
The Asaba Community, where Maryam, was born, was thrown into mourning as the news of her death broke yesterday afternoon.
At her ancestral home at Ogbeogo, in the Umuonaje Quarters, the atmosphere was moody. As the news spread, some people at social gatherings and pub houses became saddened over the death and abruptly left for their homes.
The Diokpa (Head) of the Okogwu family,Â from wgere Maryam hailed from, Ambassador Leo Okogwu, told Vanguard that â€œher death is tragic. We will miss her and I hope she will be remembered as the First Lady who empowered the women and popularised African fabric.â€
In a reaction, the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, said: â€œI am very sad that we lost her. I represent her constituency and I can tell you that we have lost a great daughter of Ahaba and we, the good people of Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency and Anioma people are really in pain. May Allah comfort her husband and the children she left behind.â€™â€™
The Ikemba Ahaba, Chief Joseph Achuzia, said â€œthe death of this our dear daughter is painful. It is a tragedy. We will remember her for the indelible role she played in giving us (Asaba) a state capital during her husbandâ€™s tenure. We will continue to remember that role. We pray that God will give the husband, our in-law the fortitude to bear the loss and also her brother, Chief Sonny Okogwu, as well as the children she left behind. What a painful loss!â€
Relatedly, Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, in a statement in Asaba, yesterday, noted that â€œIt is with great shock and personal loss that I received the news of the death of Nigeriaâ€™s former First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Babangida.
â€œHer passage to the great beyond undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of Delta State. Apart from being a proud and treasured daughter of our state, we will continue to remember her unwavering role in ensuring that Delta maintains its lead among other states.
â€œDefinitely, we will miss her motherly advice and support.
â€œWe express our heartfelt condolences to her husband, former President Ibrahim Babangida, to whom she was a friend and companion; her children; and above all to her extended family back home in Asaba, Delta State. May God grant us all the fortitude to bear this loss.
Brother, Okogwu weeps
Kaduna-based brother of the deceased, Chief Sonny Okogwu, cried yesterday as sympathisers trooped to his Ship House residence to condole him on the death of his younger sister, and wife of former President Babangida.
â€œI wish I saw her before she died,â€ Okogwu said, adding that she was a special woman who contributed her quota to the development of the country.
Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Namadi Sambo, said the late Maryam helped to positively influence Nigeriaâ€™s rural women through her pet project, Better Life for Rural Women, when she was the First Lady.
Sambo, in a statement noted that, â€œit is indeed, a great loss to the nation and she will be greatly missed. May her soul rest in Aljanna firdaus and may Allah Subhanahu Wataâ€™ala provide the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.â€
Ex gov. Makarfi mourns
However, the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, said: â€œI received with shock and sadness, but also with total submission to the will of Allah news of the death this morning, of Hajiya (Mrs) Maryam Babangida, wife of President Ibrahim Babangida.
â€œEven though death is the inevitable end of all of us, her death at this time will certainly leave a huge vacuum, not only in the Babangida family but also in the lives of the multitude she had touched in several ways through her philanthropy and kind-heartedness.
â€œThis country will not forget the benevolence behind many of her moves, particularly the Better Life for Rural Women Programme, which in no small measure helped in mobilising Nigerian women and awakening them to attempt to explore their potentials to the fullest.
â€œWe take solace, therefore, in the feeling that though God will reward her abundantly for all she has done for humanity, her good will not be interred with her. They will remain worthy legacies and proud reminders that such a good woman lived amongst us.”
I have lost a mother, ex-CPS
Former Nigeriaâ€™s Ambassador to Spain and one-time National Chairman of Alliance for Democracy, AD, Ambassador Mamman Yusuf, who was at a time Maryamâ€™s Chief Press Secretary said,Â â€œMy family and I have lost a mother, imagine the pain of losing a mother, it is unquantifiable. It is sad losing a mother.â€