….Nigeria’s First Family, Prominent Nigerians On Hand to Pay Last Respect
It was an honour well-deserved, as prominent Nigerians, which included representatives of President Muhammadu Buhari, and his wife, Aisha, serving and former state governors, representatives of diplomatic corps, captains of industry, as well as the Benin and Itsekiri royalties joined the family of late billionaire business mogul and philanthropist, Idahosa Wells Okunbo, to give him a befitting burial as his remains were laid to rest on Friday at a private vault after a funeral service held at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Benin City.
Okunbo, popularly called Captain Hosa, lost the battle against pancreatic cancer Sunday August 8, 2021, in a London hospital. He was aged 63 years.
Leading the crème de la crème of mourners was Nigeria’s first family represented by Halima Buhari- Sherif and her husband, and Zara Buhari-Ndimi and her husband, Ahmed Ndimi. Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki led his counterparts from Lagos, Ogun and Kebbi States, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Dapo Abiodun, and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu respectively, the deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, and his wife, Maryam, as well as former governors of Edo, Delta, Gombe, and Borrno States namely Adams Oshiomhole, James Ibori, Hassan Dakwambo and Alli Modu Sheriff respectively to the event. The Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11 was represented by senior palace chiefs led by the Aiwerioghene of Benin Kingdom, while the Olu of Warri Kingdom, Ogiame Atuwatse 111, was represented by a delegation of senior palace chiefs led by the Iyatsere of Warri, Johnson Amatserunleghe.
In his sermon, Apostle Godheart Ekwueme of the Revival House of Glory Church, Abuja, who took his text from the book of Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 11, described life as “a mystery of sorts”, stating that you really don’t begin to live until you know the meaning of life. He said it takes one to return to the creator to know the meaning of life.
According to the scion of the family of late former vice president of Nigeria, Alexander Ekwueme, “Dr. Captain Wells Okunbo has ran his race for 63 years. He’s fought his battles; he’s broken through into realms of heaven and with the saints triumphant. He watches over the banisters of heaven, I believe, this morning, looking and peering and wishing and waiting that somebody in this room will know the meaning of life and will be qualified to cross over to eternity”.
He regretted that “people today are living without the reverential fear of God; the fear that there is a God … the creator of the heavens and the earth…He’s the one we will stand before in judgment. So, time is given to you, to me, to prepare for eternity. Our beloved brother used his 63 years to prepare for eternity. In the midst of his health challenge, he attested that his last few days on the earth were the best in terms of his walk with God. He was in daily prayer, daily communion, engaging with God in ways, all his years, he had never engaged in”.
Ekwueme who described Okunbo as “a very simple man” recalled that he delivered the homily at his 60th birthday three years ago, where “that day, he recommitted his life to the Lord. But also, in the past one year, he had enjoyed very unusual intimacy with his maker”.
While positing that the whole duty of a man is to love God, fear God, and to keep his commandments, Ekwueme noted that Okunbo “carried the fear of God in his heart, loved people, served humanity; selfless. The lot of the testimonies we heard is that he loved people and was selfless. We’ve come to celebrate life. It’s a legacy he left for us – to fear God and serve mankind because ultimately, everybody, without exception, will stand before the almighty God”.
He challenged all present on the reality of eternity, because according to him, you can’t change your mind when you cross over to the other side. He admonished all to return to the creator, the God of all flesh, the father of all spirits, and to develop the fear of God. He encouraged the Okunbo family and his loved ones that he lives on and is in a better place “watching over you, trusting you’ll run your own race well”.
Speaking on behalf of all the dignitaries present, Governor Obaseki described Okunbo as an uncommon Nigerian who “could be described as a genius, a breaker of glass ceilings, a bridge builder, a business tycoon, a philanthropist extraordinaire”.
Obaseki said “Captain Hosa, as we fondly called him, was a man with a big heart. Although he had humble beginnings, he was armed with unyielding resolve as his children have said, and he was determined to surmount life’s challenges; and he did. He pushed himself to the limits to attain greatness, building an impressive business empire, and transforming the lives of numerous people, many of them of Edo origin.
“A trained pilot, he mastered the air quite early in life and searched for the land in the maritime sector, prevailing in all spheres. He embodied hard work, perseverance, dexterity, and acumen which espoused his Edo heritage. Captain was a philanthropist who gave lavishly of himself, and his resources. He will be remembered for his undying love for Edo people. His desire for the development and progress of our dear state, the Niger Delta region, and Nigeria, as well as his invaluable contributions to building bridges across the country, will never be forgotten.
“In building a vast business empire that spanned maritime, logistics, security, transportation, agriculture and hospitality, he displayed rare business acumen, providing employment for thousands of Nigerians, and contributing immensely to our nation’s development and progress”.
Further playing glowing tribute to Okunbo, Governor Obaseki described him as “a devout family man, a loving father, a compassionate brother, who kept a doting tab on those he loved and cared about”, adding that “He was also generous in love and kindness to his acquaintances and strangers, a trait that endeared him to many who are here today, which has created a strong army of loyal supporters and well-wishers”. He posited that undoubtedly, “his exit would leave a gaping hole in the hearts of all these people who he impacted so dearly”.
Apparently alluding to the frosty relationship between him and Okunbo as a result of disagreements during the 2020 governorship election in the state, Obaseki posited that “Being a mere mortal, all of us, he had his weaknesses. He had his differences with different people on different occasions. But these, in no way, I emphasise, these, in no way, detracted from his charisma and the beauty of how he loved life and the people around him”. Conclusively, he said “On behalf of all brother governors, and senior government officials who are here today, I commiserate with the Okunbo family, friends and associates of our departed brother, and pray that God will grant us all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. Rest in peace, Captain”.
In her eulogy, late Okunbo’s first child and Olori Atuwatse 111, promised she and her siblings would carry on their father’s vision, and strengthen his legacy. She said her father was never too busy to impact people. “He wasn’t too busy, no matter the height he got to, to touch lives; and to me, this is what embodied greatest of virtues – service. My father was a great man; he lived in service to humanity. My father was my hero long before I understood what public power and impact of his life had. I grew up watching him make choices to dissolve the walls of impossibilities and other things, and hardships that he faced. Captain Hosa worked in purpose; and in doing so, he encouraged others to find their path. Everything he was, he taught us to be. I cherish memories of my father leaving important things to attend to his children whenever we needed him. His family always came first and everyone who knew him can testify of this”.
Addressing her 10 siblings, Olori Atuwatse 111, stated that “Daddy’s spirit lives on in our very essence. And as we embrace the fullness of who we are, and maintain this bond that we’ve come to so strongly form over the past year, I can guarantee you that we will carry his vision, and strengthen his legacy because his legacy is now ours to strengthen. He has left this world a better place through his service and sacrifice, and we will ensure that we live upholding his essence to see it passed on from generation to generation, to generation. For us his children, our work is to keep his memory alive and to remind the world of his genuineness and strength of character. United we stand, and we would always be found standing”.
Also speaking, late Okunbo’s first son, Osahon, who described his father as “a complicated man,” said his father’s life was guided by two principles, which he said were love, and mercy. Osahon recalled once asking him “why do you forgive so much; why do you forgive easily? If you know my father, there are so many people around him that have hurt him very deeply but still he had them around him. It was something I couldn’t understand… And he said, my son, do you know the reason God will always deliver my enemies at my feet? And I said why? He said because God knows I will have mercy upon them. That resonates with my very heart…
“I’ve been hearing a lot. Oh, you have to fill his shoes. Captain Idahosa Okunbo is not somebody you fill his shoes; he’s not. He told me something. In the heat of this cancer, he said my son everybody is not supposed to live long; it’s not by the length of your life, but it’s about the impact you lived and had on the world…He said God sent me here to do something… For the past four days, people have spoken on what he’s done”.
Former minister of state, for petroleum, Emmanuel Ibe Kachiukwu also gave a moving poetic tribute in memory of Okunbo whom he said he got to know during his term in office. Lagos City Chorale was on hand to spice the occasion with different hymns – All Must Be Well, Blessed Assurance, Amazing Grace, and the recessional hymn, Morning Has Broken.
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