By Emmanuel Aziken
The import of the gathering of some of the country’s most important political actors in Onitsha, Anambra State penultimate Friday was showcased when Senators Chris Ngige and Uche Ekwunife embarrassingly ran into each other as they separately arrived at the GRA country home of Senator Joy Emodi.
The two politicians who for years fought over the Anambra Central Senatorial seat apparently had not attended the same social gathering until fate brought them together at the burial of Dr. Okey Emodi, the deceased husband of Senator Joy Emodi, Adaoranma.
After an emotive funeral service at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church Onitsha, that was interspersed by political remarks by former Senate Presidents, serving and former governors among others, guests relocated for the reception at Senator Emodi’s Onitsha residence in the GRA of the commercial city.
That was where embarassingly Ngige and Ekwunife ran into themselves.
Ngige had arrived about 12.58 p.m. and sat back briefly in his SUV apparently to gather himself before stepping down. As he opened the door to step down, and behold Senator Ekwunife was stepping forward behind his door. Both political actors apparently made to avoid eye contact but in the confusion, Ngige’s walking stick tipped at Ekwunife’s flowing white dress forcing the two senators and political rivals into an embarrassing stop!
Ngige was forced to help untangle the mess and for about 20 seconds the two political rivals were forced to help themselves to disentangle themselves before they separated themselves and moved into the reception area where two former Senate Presidents, David Mark and Bukola Saraki among others were also gathered.
Indeed, the burial of Dr. Emodi was a rare opportunity for Nigeria’s senior political actors from different camps to come together for socials.
At the church service it was a delicate act of protocol by the officiating ministers to recognize and sit the dignitaries.
Church officials may have pondered with agony how the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi would be seated in the presence of Governor Willie Obiano, the incumbent governor.
In the end, Obiano helped the church ministers by delegating his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke to stand in for him.
Obi also helped them by also seating away from the “big men” as he sat well at the middle of the church away from the VIP seating!
However, Obiano in his address read on his behalf by his deputy governor, in a rare salutation to his political mentor, Obi, extended a hand of fellowship to him and every other dignitary that came for the service.
Senator Bukola Saraki, the immediate past president of the Senate was the first to speak as the officiating priest called for words of exhortation from the dignitaries. Saraki a Muslim, started his speech with a Praise The Lord that was greeted thunderously by the congregation.
He noted a relationship between his family and the Emodis which he observed had positively impacted upon him.
Though he did not say it, his father, the late Senator Abubakar Olusola Saraki had alongside Chief Emmanuel Iwanyanwu nurtured Senator Joy Emodi politically.
For him his presence was not just to honour a political colossus in the person of Senator Emodi, but a family responsibility from his heritage. Senator Saraki was to also observe the positive influence Dr. Emodi played in his wife’s sterling and unblemished political career.
Senator Mark, the first Senate President to serve a full four year unscathed term in the Fourth Republic spoke after Saraki.
Senator Mark apparently seeing the gathering of the various political actors from different political persuasions was to enjoin them to use the sobriety they brought into the church service into their lives.
“If asked all of us will say we want to go to heaven, but we dont want to die,” Senator Mark said.
Senator Mark was at the service with his wife, Mrs. Helen Mark. Senator Emodi served in the Senate at the time Mark was president of the Senate and like many of those gathered may have been positively influenced by the decorum and discipline that Emodi brought to her politics despite her well known political capacity.
Though Ngige, the minister of labour and productivity and Senator Emodi had rarely shared the same political platform, he was both at the church service and at the residence for the reception.
He found a relationship with the late husband who he said was his contemporary at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where the late academic was known for his left of centre inclinations.
Dr. Ngige was to showcase the Emodi family saying “they lived their life and they lived it well and produced good children.”
Mr. Obi, the immediate past governor of Anambra State and the 2019 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP said he could not have avoided the gathering noting: “Joy is my senior sister. Joy is Joy Obi before becoming Joy Emodi. In politics in Nigeria, you cannot count men without counting Joy,” he said as he urged all to use the solemnity of the occasion to again put Nigeria in prayers.
The church service and the reception was graced by several other dignitaries including Senator Enyinninya Abaribe, Senators Stella Omu, the first female chief whip of the Senate, Senator Grace Bent, Uche Ekwunife, Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah, Prof. Charles Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, former Governor Achike Udenwa, Chief Emmanuel Iwanyanwu, Hon. CID Maduabum among many others.
Dr. Emodi as Dr. Ngige hinted at was a highly principled man who inclined himself towards socialist thoughts and ideals.
Though his wife turned into a political ’s political prowess, the late Dr. Emodi in a rare interview told Saturday Vanguard at a reception for his wife in 2011 after her appointment as a presidential adviser that “she was his successful student.”
He spoke against the background of the fact that he was a young lecturer when he met and courted the beautiful Joy Ifeyinwa Obi who was then studying for her first degree at the Department of Geography.
For a man who was pivotal into moulding the political and principled woman that Joy Emodi has turned into, it was as such not a surprise that clergy, political actors of different persuasions came from far and near to bid him farewell after 77 years on earth.
He was survived by his wife, Joy and four children, Mrs. Nneka Emodi-Eze, Mr. Onyechi Emodi, Mrs. Chibogu Illozue and Mr. Chuka Emodi.