By Wole Mosadomi
LAGOSâ€”THE Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Metropolitan See, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, have condoled with erstwhile military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, (rtd), on the death of his wife, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, in a US hospital.
In two separate telephone interviews CAN Secretary, Engineer Samuel Salifu and Cardinal Okogie who described the former First Lady as a charismatic women mobiliser, expressed grief that the sad event is coming at this yearâ€™s Yuletide.
Salifu, who was spending the Yuletide holiday in his hometown in Nassarawa State when the news of the death broke, said the former First Lady would be thoroughly missed by millions of Nigerian women and Nigerians generally.
He described her as a patriot who dedicated her total life to the service of the nation and humanity, stressing that Nigerians would not forget in a hurry, her noble contributions to the nationâ€™s women when she established Better Life for Rural Women.
â€œThe woman left indelible footprints for other women leaders to emulate,â€ he said, adding that the nation had lost a rare gem. Salifu prayed God to grant Babangida and the entire family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
In his message, Okogie said the death came at a time when the nation needed her expertise the most, stressing that she was an advocate of the ordinary women in the country.
Describing her death as a great loss to the nation, the fiery cleric lamented what he called poor information management in the country, saying that like the case of President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s illness, the nation was inundated with news of Mrs. Babangidaâ€™s death some weeks back only for officials to deny the rumour.
According to Okogie, â€œI was discussing with a friend in Minna when the news broke and naturally I commiserated with him but he told me point blank that we are just hearing of the death. I think Nigerian leaders must learn to take the masses into confidence by always briefing them about the state of health of their leaders.
â€œIt is embarrassing that our president is sick. Nobody is above illness, but why canâ€™t we be briefed on his progress at the Jeddah hospital where he is receiving treatment? Why should the nation be kept in total darkness, that even certain ministers cannot see him in the hospital?â€ Okogie wondered.
He explained that sickness is not the exclusive prerogative of any particular person, saying â€œIf I am sick today, I do not expect anybody to say to the world that I am hale and hearty while I am on a sick bed somewhere. Donâ€™t we see what is happening in other parts of the world?â€
Asked if he had formerly spoken with the former president to commiserate with him, Okogie said he does not have Babangidaâ€™s phone number but he would soon do a formal condolence letter to him.
Okogie also used the occasion to renew his call on the PDP government at the centre to immediately hand over the reins of power to the vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, while the president is still undergoing treatment in Saudi Arabia.
â€œWe are praying for his recovery but I must say it here and now that even nature does not abhor vacuum,â€ he maintained, stressing that the nation is bigger than one single individual, â€œtherefore, the National Assembly should brace up to its responsibility by swearing in the vice president as the acting president of Nigeria.â€