IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE
As they took his body into the aircraft en route Katsina, I shook my head. The President was leaving Abuja, the nation's seat of power in the cargo compartment. No security aides running to guard him. No minister walking beside him. The president could not wave. Yar 'adua was done with Abuja. He was done with the lies and the liars. He was free at last.
Finally he was being lowered into the grave and as mother-earth opened her arms to receive him, I shuddered in my seat. So this was it. That was the end of a president and his Presidency? Just like that? 21 gun salutes? But did Yar'Adua hear? No, he was long gone, far away from these parts. He was in a quiet place where there are no guns, no threats of coup, no power play, no selfish men. He was free at last, free from all the men who used him like an ATM card, a meal ticket. From now on, the parasites were on their own. They must look for another prey. The tapeworms must find other hosts.
Did you notice that some of those tapeworms were not in Katsina? Yes, the men who went on and on like they loved Yar'Adua more than you and I were not at his burial. Shakespeare's Casca and Brutus, all of them. Julius Caesar was dead. The cowards had gone into hiding clutching security reports.
Yes, 21 gun salutes and plenty military noise later, everybody left the cemetery. PDP stalwarts, governors, former and serving, ministers, friends and family, they all left. Yar 'Adua was dead now and they are still alive. Yar'Adua was buried and they walked back to their cars. The president was left in the arms of mother earth. The country must move on. It was sobering, humbling. Once again, God had reminded us that He is the one in charge, the ruler of the affairs of men, and women. The king who sends other kings to the warfront, the king who enthrones other kings and dethrones them. The final judge whose judgment you cannot appeal. The king who kills kings.
Fast-talking lawyer, Mike Ighini had earlier sent shivers down my spine when he said we all are in the departure lounge, holding our boarding passes and waiting for our flights. Hmm, so Yar'Adua's flight had arrived and he had used his boarding pass. He's flown away. The rest of us are still here, in the departure lounge, waiting for our flights and discussing what Yar'Adua did and didn't while he was here with us.
So, what would we say of your stay in this departure lounge? Would we say good riddance to bad rubbish when you depart? Would we miss you? Would your departure be the end of a nightmare, the morning of a new dawn? Would your family wear black for a full month or heave a sigh of relief when you go?
This is beyond Umaru musa Yar'Adua. We must try to see through our tears or dry them if we can't because a 'tank-full' of our sorrows won't bring him back. He's gone now. His poor old mum, Hajia Dada Yar 'Adua is in the grip of pains only mothers who have buried their children can comprehend. To hear the rain beat heavily on your roof and knowing your son or daughter is out there alone, soaking wet in a lonely grave…
To accept that you'll never see your son, the one you carried in your womb for nine months and taught how to walk, talk and his first manners… yes, he became president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but he sucked your breasts. You stayed up all night when he couldn't sleep. You had tears in your eyes as he struggled with his first pair of teeth. You nursed him when his mouth burned around your nipples with fever.
The fears of a mother when her child's fever doesn't break and she thinks it is either polio or measles or both and she's going to lose him. The great days. The joyous innocence of a three-year-old. His primary school days, his gangly frame in his graduation gown and a mother's pride. You watch and pretend not to as the girls bat their eyelids at him. Then he marries, gives you your first grandchild and you think you are in heaven already with the angels.
I'm not a grandmother yet but when my five-month old niece spent the weekend with me, I forgot I had malaria and when she left, I missed her so much I sent her mum a text at midnight to tell 'me baby' I wanted another visit. So, imagine having nine grandkids to dote on. Umaru didn't just make his mum a proud grandma, he made her the mother of a governor and topped it with the 'President's Mum' title.
Then came the storm, the wind, the rage and even more storm of national proportions. It all ended last Thursday with a brief ceremony, a few yards of green and white and plenty of tributes neither the dead nor the living know what to do with. But tributes are part of the rites of passage. We do them like the British do epitaphs.
So, what's going to be on yours, your epitaph, yes?
Are you going to be like some religious leaders who reminded us that religious leaders are no longer what they used to be? Those ones who reminded us that even clerics can be bought and can also speak tongue-in-cheek like the rest of us?
Is the world going to remember you as the leader who stayed on the side of the people even when it hurt? Yar'Adua stood most of the time even when his legs hurt. But his friends didn't when it mattered most. They were concerned much too much for their own political future and how Yar'Adua's exit was going to impact on all that.
Between November 23, 2009 and today, one big lesson we've learnt all over again is that Nigeria is bigger than all of us ; President, Ag President, Governors' Forum, dilly-dallying Ministers, good lawmakers, creative lawmakers, confused lawmakers, dramatic Attorneys-General, thick-skinned public, everybody. Even death. Nigeria is bigger than even death. That is why it is still standing in spite of the stormy wind. Let's all rethink our stay in this departure lounge.
Good night Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. You were a good man surrounded mostly by the bad ones. Good night, Mr President.