As the late governor of Kaduna State, Sir Patrick Yakowa, was finally laid to rest in his Fadan Kagoma home in Kaduna state yesterday, his son, Mr Peter Yakowa, said the death of his father has helped to unite Nigerians.
"It was a grand design by God to show northerners and southerners that we are indeed brothers and sisters," Peter said during the funeral Mass for the late governor in his hometown.
At the burial, President Goodluck Jonathan, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon Lar, Senate President David Mark and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah, former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, state governors, and other sympathisers on ground to pay their last respects to the late governor.
Bishop Kukah used the occasion to caution politicians whom he accused of using religion to destroy the north
Yakowa's son described the helicopter crash that led to the death of his father and five others as the will of God.
"A lot of people described the crash in Bayelsa as an accident; I describe it as a grand design by God to show Mr. President and Nigeria that Patrick Yakowa was indeed his brother and sincerely believed in him and his administration," he said.
Peter described his father as an apostle of peace, who always preached peace at every opportunity and spent his life serving humanity.
"He has made the ultimate sacrifice, and that sacrifice was made on the altar of peace. I pray that this sacrifice will not be a wasted sacrifice. I pray there will be peace in Kaduna State," he further said, urging the people of the state to carry on with his late father's focus on peace and unity, and to also give maximum support to the new governor.
On her part, Mrs. Amina Yakowa said she had come to terms with the death of her husband, and she was taking consolation in the universal declaration of the people who have testified to his good nature while alive.
She said the good virtue exhibited by her late husband, which she had imbibed "will live with my children to partake in this bounty."
She also urged the people in the state to immortalise her husband by being committed to his ideals of peace, unity and development.
"May the death of my husband brings unity to the people of Kaduna State," she prayed.
The National Assembly delayed the passage of the 2013 Nigerian budget in deference to late Yakowa's burial. Senate President David described the delay as the only way to show respect to the man who sacrifice his life for peace.
The solemn service started at exactly 11am shortly after the President Jonathan's arrival. In attendance were the Liberian President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamagar Tukur; governors of Plateau, Gombe, Bayelsa, Rivers Akwa Igbom, Niger Nassarawa and Kwara states.
Others were former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; Speaker; House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; former chief justices of Nigeria; former governors; former PDP chairmen - Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Audu Ogbe, Col. Ahmadu Ali; ministers, senators, legislators, diplomats, security chiefs, emirs, traditional rulers, pastors among others.
President Jonathan and others could not control their emotions when the late governor's remains were moved pass them in a procession led by the widow of the governor and her children, members of the Knight of St. Mulumba and an assembly of Catholic Bishops and priests.
Sympathisers who gathered in thousands to pay their last respects to the governor broke into tears as soon as his remains arrived at St. Paul's Catholic Church, Fadan Kagoma, venue of the burial mass service, at about 10:20am on board a Government House ambulance.
The late governor's first child, Kyola Yakowa, took the first reading from the Book of Solomon 3:1-9, while prayers for the repose of the late governor were led by Catholic nuns.
President Jonathan, in a solemn voice, prayed for the repose of the soul of the late governor. He also used the opportunity to warn politicians to stop making statements that were dangerous to Nigeria's growth and development.
Chairman of the Nigerian Governors' Forum and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi said that the late Governor Yakowa died fighting to enthrone peace in Nigeria.
Amaechi, who spoke on behalf of the governors, said, "There is one aspect of Yakowa that nobody has spoken of - which he spoke about several times: he said that when we talk about peace and disagreement, it is the rich men, those in government.
The poor man does not fight a Muslim or a Christian. He said there is no difference between the Kaduna Muslim and the Kaduna Christian. He said only one thing unites them - poverty. He said the solution to peace is to fight poverty. He promised me that the number of years he will be in office, he will fight poverty."
Also speaking, the chairman of the Northern States Governors' Forum and Niger State Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu pledged the Forum's readiness to assist Yakowa's family.
He said, "That Yakowa was a good man is testified to by our presence here. I believe that whatever we prayed for this gentleman, God will grant."
Senate President David Mark who spoke at the venue described Yakowa as a humble, dedicated and committed nationalist.
He called Yakowa "a different kind of politician," and narrated how the deceased united the two major faiths in the country with his death.
According to Mark, "My brother, the Speaker of the House of Representative, came to me and we were discussing the national budget which we intended to pass, but when we weighed all the options, he suggested that both of us should, in spite of the importance of the passage of the budget today, be here to attend this burial Mass. And he said to me, 'You are a Christian; I am a Muslim; if both of us come to this Mass, it will give a clear indication that both Christians and Muslims must work together.'"
We'll miss a peaceful man - Solomon Lar
Former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon Lar, who spoke to journalists, simply described Yakowa as "a leader and somebody who cared for everybody."
He was a perfect husband - Mrs Yakowa
Yakowa's widow, Amina, described her 34 years of marriage to her deceased husband as a near perfect union because the former governor was a loyal husband and a good father and grandfather.
Mrs. Yakowa, who spoke during the funeral of her husband yesterday at Fadan Kagoma, said she could not count the blessings of her union with her late husband.
"Together with him, we made a very beautiful family. God blessed our marriage in many ways," she said. "As if he knew that he will go before me, he imbibed in me all the virtues that have been described: the fear of God, peace, patience, respect, loyalty, dedication, humility, justice, hard work, contentment, sharing, sincerity, prudence, and loving among other things. I will live with my children, to partake in the bounties of these virtues."
Mrs. Yakowa called on the people of Kaduna State to put the family in their prayers, just as she prayed that husband's death would bring unity to the people of Kaduna State.
She also thanked President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice president Namadi Sambo and their respective wives for showing that "my husband was part of you."
She also thanked the governors' wives for showing sisterly love to her.
"I will miss you because I will no longer be in your forum," she said. "Most of you have promised me that this relationship has already been established and it will be forever."
The former first lady also congratulated the new governor, Alhaji Muktar Ramalan Yero, whom she described as her younger brother. According to her, since Yero worked with her husband, he will be up to the task, and prayed that God give him wisdom to succeed in the task just as she called on the people to cooperate with the new governor.
Yakowa stood for every person - Kaigama
On his part, the president of Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama described Yakowa as "a humble, dedicated Christian Catholic."
According to Bishop Ndagosa, "Yakowa was loyal: he loved the church; he was not the pretentious Christian; he was not a Christian by political convenience; he was a Christian from the heart and he loved his God and his people. I know he is with God."
Politicians using religion to destroy the North - Kukah
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, yesterday lashed at political office seekers for using religion to destroy the north.
Kukah, who made this comment when he was delivering his sermon during Yakowa's burial, said: "Those who project Islam as the basis for power have now created crisis that has threatened the foundation of our society, especially in Northern Nigeria.
"Those who use religion, have used the north, and left it poorer that they met it, more divided than when they started. The result is that rather than seeking out men and women of honour and integrity into public life, our country has lost the sense of common vision to create a decent society. We no longer trust the other; only those who worship with us, feed like us and dress like us," he said.
Speaking on the alleged celebration of Yakowa's death by some people, Bishop Kukah described such persons as 'scoundrels' who constitute "the toxic waste of our humanity, who will dance and rejoice at the nakedness of the fathers and mothers in the market place. They should not distract us Christians and Muslims as we hold hands together across the country."
Kuka lamented that "years and years of corruption and abuse of power have turned the otherwise noble profession of politics from being a vocation into a dark temple of money and power, occupied by those who worship the same idol," adding that "Nigerians believe that the good public officer is not the one who is most qualified, most honest, the one with the greatest capacity to do good, but rather the one who is a member of our own circle of greed."
He, however, excluded Yakowa from this group.
"But Mr. Yakowa," he observed, "has managed to build a bridge to unite a people who have started to believe in one another as brothers and sisters despite the difficulties. He was relentless in the pursuit of peace. The result is that he has rather, successfully, blunted the sharp cutting edge of religion in our public lives."