By IHECHUKWU SUNDAY, Lagos
Pastor Emily Okheren Aig-Imoukhuede, former President of the National Council of Women Societies, who died in Surrey, England, on the 8th of last month, aged 79, has been buried in Lagos amid eulogies from family, friends, associates and well-wishers who witnessed the colourful ceremony.
Despite the downpour yesterday, Our Saviour’s Church (Anglican Communion), Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, venue of the funeral service, was filled to the brim with dignitaries from all walks of life who had come to bid Pastor Emily final farewell as she journeyed to the Great Beyond on the wings of God’s angels.
Among the dignitaries at the church service yesterday were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Access Bank Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe, industrialist, Aliko Dangote and President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina.
Others were governors of Ekiti and Lagos states, Fayemi Kayode and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, respectively; former governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo; former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Also present were former Governors Donald Duke, Ibikunle Amosun and James Ibori of Cross River, Ogun and Delta States, respectively.
The coffin bearing the remains of the late woman leader was earlier escorted into the church by her four children and 17 grandchildren.
Present also at the service was the chief mourner and Pastor Emily’s widower, Mr. Frank Abiodun Aig-Imoukhuede.
In his sermon, the Vicar of Our Saviour’s Church, Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, The Venerable Ife S. Okupevi, drew largely from the social issues that engaged Pastor Emily all her life- poverty, the plight of women, children, the less-privileged and the weak in society – to remind all present, and the nation at large, of the deleterious consequences of leaving the socioeconomic challenges facing Nigeria, especially the afore-mentioned social groups, unattended to or of not tackling them with the serious they deserve.
Venerable Okupevi emphasised that the late Pastor Emily’s selflessness and altruism in her relationship with the less privileged in society was worthy of emulation even by those in government, noting that a lot could be achieved for the greater good if leaders were to be as selfless as Pastor Emily Aig-Imoukhuede in their conduct of public affairs.
Accordingly, he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to devise strategies to make life more meaningful for Nigerians, lamenting that “kidnappers are killing and abducting our children, especially in the North.”
Assuring that “we shall continue to pray for the president and the Vice President,” the Vicar, however, enjoined the President to step up the war against terrorists and bandits in Nigeria so as to save Nigerians, especially women and children, from untold hardships often arising from the frequent losses of husbands and fathers and, by extension, family bread-winners.
While acknowledging that “governance is not easy” and that “we (Christians) shall continue to pray for our leaders, our President and governors, instead of criticising and complaining all the time,” Rev. Okupevi, however, appealed to those in authority to ensure that the future of Nigerian children “is not left in jeopardy as bandits and kidnappers ravage the land.”
The Vicar, who started his homily by reading sections of Pastor Emily’s biography, described the late former Curator, National Museum as a woman who died “a good Christian and is currently in Heaven with the Lord”, insisting that people like Pastor Emily “are saints because a saint must have holiness and be close to God.”
Okupevi, therefore, urged the congregation to forsake sin and unholy lifestyle and, instead, emulate the late Pastor Emilia Okheren Aig-Imoukhuede, “a role model, teacher and intercessor”, who lived and died striving to serve God through uncommon kindness to other human beings.
Pastor Emily died in Surrey, England on June 8 and was buried in Lagos yesterday. The funeral activities had four events, which began with condolence visits, followed by Service of Songs at her hometown, Sabongida-Ora in Edo State, and Lagos, and a Night of Tributes held at Harbour Point, Victoria Island on Wednesday, July 14.