By: Luka Binniyat & Wole Mosadomi
MINNAâ€”Scores of dignitaries literally fell over themselves trying to condole former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, as the body of former First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, was buried yesterday, near the family mosque at the Hilltop residence of the Babangidas in Minna, Niger State.
The ex-military President sat amid some former Nigerian leaders, his children and very close associates about 100 metres away, on a marbled porchÂ entrance into the labyrinthineÂ mansion.
The official security attached to the mansion did a yeomanâ€™s job trying to ward off the throng of dignitaries. But the VIPs came with their own body guards too, who tried to outdo the former Presidentâ€™s men for their principals to reach the man who sat with a wane toothy smile.
The scenario was akin to that as a hefty security man would shove off a â€œbig manâ€ from going to see the chief mourner amidst the crowd of sympathisersÂ just for his own guard to push him back, towards the Generalâ€™s seat.
It reached its climax when the Emir of Zaria, Alhaji Shehu Idris, stormed the place with a coterie of whip-bearingÂ traditional palace guards in red and green costumes.
Plain-cloth security-men formedÂ a human shield to prevent the monarchÂ from reaching the chief mourner. The palace guards, dogaris, reactedÂ by trying to lift off the security men away from the path of the Emir. It was like some sort of traditional wrestling. There was scuffing for about five minutes, within which the Emir and his entourage were badly ruffled which made them force a retreat.
Maryamâ€™s body had spent justÂ nine hours in its eternal resting place. She was buried at 12.45 a.m. yesterday.
A battery of pressmen also took vantage positions close to the surging crowd to add to the commotion. Cameramen, and security men traded words as they tried to take shots.
There were also common people in their thousandsÂ too. An association of the blind was very visible. But they never joined in the frenzy.
The whole thing must have stressed the former military President as he quickly left his seat and went inside the mansion. Yet, the commotion continued outside. However, when the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan Goodluck, arrived at 9:40 a.m., with an entourage comprising some female members of the National Assembly, and some female Federal cabinet members, among others, they were allowed through the heavily-guarded door.
They went into one of the sitting rooms where the wife of the Governor of Niger State, Hajiya Jummai Babangida Aliyu, received them. No pressman was allowed in.
The VPâ€™s wife later went behind the house to pray with her visitors and later quietly left without saying a word to the press. AtÂ 10:34 a.m. ex-President Shehu Shagari arrived the house. Hewas immediately ushered in without resistance.
Former military Head of State, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, later arrived, and also allowed in.
Shortly after, Governor Babangida Aliyu Muazu arrived in a long bus with Gov. Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State; Gov. Ali Modu-Sherif of Borno State; and Gov. Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, entered the gate to the mansion on foot at 10:55 a.m Some senators came with him.
He had parked his vehicle about 200 metres away. He stopped and greeted some people before going through the door. All the while, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, was in the house.Â At 11:05 a.m, Babangida came back to his balcony where he sat with theÂ former Presidents.
All entreaties to calm down the crowd for the fatiya prayers to start, was to no avail.
But, by 11:05, the Chief Imam of Minna, Shiek Abu Fari, cracked the noisy air with and started the prayers.
It was not clear when the prayers ended because the commotion drowned his voice.
Moments later,Â the Senate President left and made for his car. On the way, he was stopped by reporters. â€œShe was a big loss to this country,â€ he said. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, arrived at 1p.m.