Politicians, others besiege Minna to condole with Babangida
measures put in place, therefore, the situation warranted other ad-hoc security measures.
A top ranking security man who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity admitted that the crowd would have been more difficult to control had Maryam not been buried earlier.
Vehicles were made to park about two kilometres to the mansion, an arrangement that forced many people to embark on a long trek.
The visitors ranged from politicians, royal fathers, serving and former public office holders, top military officers (both serving and retired) to business associates of the family. Even the ordinary people were not left out.
Senate President David Mark, dressed in a white caftan, who arrived at exactly 11.20 a.m, led the serving public holders’ categories while former President Shehu Shagari, who had come at 10.25 am, led the category of former public office holders.
And shortly after another prayer was held for the deceased right inside the mansion for the repose of her soul, the visitors poured forth tributes, describing her as a model for women in Africa and beyond.
Mark said: “Her activities were giant strides that were difficult to measure because she did so much for Nigeria women. She impacted so much on the lives of all Nigerians not just the women, but the boys and girls of this country. Her Better Life Programme for the Rural Woman cut across not just the women alone but even the men and I think all Nigerians will remember her for that.”
Former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, dressed in a simple and flowing white caftan, however, would not want to make a comment but when journalists later forced him to do so, he simply declared: “We came here to pray and that is all you can do to those who died. Anything I will say have been fully covered by you journalists. We are all on transition. That is all I can say”.
To the former Information Minister and presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Jerry Gana, “Maryam’s death is a tremendous loss to both Niger State and the nation. Maryam lived a life of compassion, a life of wanting a better life for other people; she was very famous in her Better Life Programme, which she used to transform the lives of Nigerian women. We will remember her as someone who was very dedicated to excellence, dedicated to humanity, dedicated to justice, fairness and equity.”
Former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu spoke in these words: “Her death is not only a loss to her immediate family but to the entire nation. The nation is mourning at the moment because this is a woman who actually changed the face of the nation by creating activities like the Better Life for the Rural Woman that has actually empowered rural women. She put smiles on millions of faces, and I have no doubt in my mind that Allah will put smiles on her face by granting her Aljanat Fiddau. This is the time for all of us to reflect on the good work she did and she has left something for posterity. I will want Nigerian first ladies to emulate her humility and her concern for the less privileged in the society. I will like the Nigerian first ladies to also establish NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) that will outlive them, not NGOs that will go with them when they are out of office.”
Former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu said: “Maryam bore a symbol of patriotism and dedication to women liberation and development all over Africa. She did not use her privileged position only for her self. Rather, she did a good job of bringing liberation to women particularly to the rural folk, the market women especially. She was a very humble woman. I advise Nigerian women to continue to work hard and continue to develop her legacies. They should continue to promote her values and eliminate poverty among our women.”
House of Representatives member, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who was Maryam’s press secretary while in office as First Lady said: “She taught me so many values in life. I learnt so much from her that anywhere you are and whatever you do make life better for other people. Her better life programme is the most successful NGO anybody has ever embarked up till today. Till today, anywhere you go, you see women who tell you that Maryam made them. I will miss her counseling. I will miss her words of wisdom and her advice. Her legacies will live forever”.
In the meantime, encomiums have continued to pour in for Maryam.
Former Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd), in a statement titled: “Adieu! Icon of Better Life for Womanhood,” said: “The death of Chief (Mrs.) Maryam Babangida represents yet another major depletion of the rank of Nigerians who used their privileged position as platform of crusade for enthronement of a better Nigeria.
“It is not life itself that matters but the end of which a life is used. By any definition, Chief (Mrs.) Maryam Babangida lived a useful, impact-full, responsible and highly successive life. Chief (Mrs.) Maryam Babangida, succeeded in making her name, a household name in Nigeria through the famous ‘Better Life Programme for the Rural Woman’ project.”
Diya added: “Chief Maryam Babangida was an epitome of the very best in womanhood – a virtuous and devoted wife, compassionate mother, dynamic, energetic and highly responsible woman leader. Chief (Mrs.) Maryam Babangida radiated much vibrancy, vitality, resourcefulness and humility to a level that made her personality unforgettable.”
Dignitaries who paid their last respects included the wife of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (a former Vice-President), Chief Titi Abubakar, the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akinyuli as well as the Governors of Ogun, Kogi and Imo states.
Mrs. Abubakar described the deceased as a friend and an associate whose death came as a surprise to everyone.
“She was a very beautiful woman,” Akinyuli said.
When asked about rate at which cancer was killing Nigerians in the absence of good medical facilities, the minister noted that regular check-up was important to detect cancer early enough for it to be treated or the growth reduced.
“Luckily, the First Lady Hajia Turai Yar’Adua is building a cancer centre and I know that many NGOs across the country are doing one thing or the other about cancer. By the grace of God the future will be better for women because it is women that actually suffer more from cancer especially ovarian and breast cancer.”
Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said Maryam, had already immortalised herself in the hearts of the people with her good work with the Better Life for the Rural Woman Programme.
Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State described Maryam as “a breath of fresh air” while alive but whose death was a great loss to the nation.
Oshiomhole made the assertion yesterday during a condolence visit to the former military President at his Hilltop Mansion in Minna.
According to Oshiomhole, “she brought a lot of respect to the office of the First Lady, because before her, not much was known about that office and she used that office for the promotion of the rural women.”
He added: “She reminds all of us who occupy public position to not just look at our own material comfort but to have time to reflect on the poor.
“I still can’t find any other programme that can rival her work with the Better Life for the Rural Woman. We all miss her and it is sad that she left at the time that she did, but God gives and God takes and we cannot fault God.
“Of course she had already immortalised her name by her work. Everytime you talk about rural women, you talk about the rural poor, the conditions of the forgotten majority in the rural parts of Nigeria, you can’t but remember the agenda, which Maryam put in place to address and bring to the national consciousness the condition of the rural poor people, particularly the women who are among the poorest of the poor and I think that’s what will be in the memory of Nigerians.
“Of course, future generations may not know and therefore whatever can be done to immortalise her name is something that will encourage future First Ladies to recognise that when they occupy privileged position, they should devote part of it and use their office to address the challenges facing the poor.”
But former elected civilian governor of Cross River State, Mr. Clement Ebri, called for the immortalisation of Maryam’s ideals as a house wife, first lady and founder of the Better Life Programme for Rural the Woman.
Ebri, who governed Cross River State during Babangida’s mlitary presidency expressed shock over Maryam’s death.
He condoled with her husband, children and close relations, including Nigerian women whom he said benefited from the pet project.
He also commended her role in raising political, social and cultural consciousness of women in Nigeria and for giving her husband all the support he needed while he piloted the affairs of the country as president at that difficult period.
Ebri, who spoke from the United States (U.S.), asserted that the late Mrs. Babangida developed the most comprehensive outreach programme for women in the country and tried to sustain the programme even after her husband left office.
He urged Nigerian women to pray for the repose of her soul and for God to make available to mankind more of her type. The erstwhile governor prayed God to give her husband, children and Nigerians the fortitude to bear her loss, which he described as irreparable.