Today, October 8, 2021, a dark pall hung over Edo State, unfurling from the sky to drape the state capital and ancient city of Benin in a thick shroud of grief.
There wasn’t a smidgen of joy anywhere as the city listed under the burden of sorrow, accepting with unbearable tidiness, that the burial ceremony held in honour of Captain Hosa Okunbo meant that he would never stir to the nudge of the morning sun nor would he partake of the food, laughter, camaraderie, and philosophy of life oft ascribed to the state fondly regarded as the ‘Heartbeat of the nation.’
From the Service of Songs on Thursday, October 7 to the burial ceremony at the Nigerian Airforce Base by Prestige Hotel, Airport Road, Benin City, reality dawned on the friends, business associates and family of the deceased that, finally, he has retired to a world beyond their reach.
This bitter truth knelled a hard note to their souls. It struck like a Pentecostal blow from the axe of the seraph of death, spattering the hopes of both young and old, with tragic residue.
Like the tiny droplets that precede the torrential rain, the mourners meandered into the tinseled ambience of the venue. But unlike the proverbial rain droplet, each guest loomed large in repute thus making the gathering an assemblage of aristocrats, political and industry titans.
They had all travelled to Benin City in honour of late Captain Hosa Okunbo, late philanthropist and top businessman. Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Governor Babajide Sanwoolu, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo,Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu. two daughters of President Muhammadu Buhari – Halima and Zara – and their husbands; former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori; former governor of Gombe State, Hassan Dakwambo; and former governor of Borno State, Alli Modu Sheriff, Nduka Obaigbena, Aare Dele Momodu and so many others came from far and near to honour Captain Hosa Okunbo.
Also, the Oba of Benin and the Olu of Warri sent prominent palace chiefs to the event.
At Captain Okunbo’s funeral, psalteries resounded through the broken hearts of his family and friends, into the empyrean firmament of the afterlife.
Until his death on August 8, 2021, Okunbo led a fruitful life as a business magnate, philanthropist, and trained commercial pilot. He served as either chairman or director on numerous company boards in Nigeria, spanning multiple business sectors such as the agro-allied, petroleum, power, telecommunications, real estate, and banking industries.
As an accomplished magnate and gentleman, Okunbo tried to shepherd into his immediate society, humanity encrusted with love, comradeship and the trappings of collective wealth. But his life was upstaged by the ugly reality of death.
Benin virtually careened on its fringes, groaning under the weight of mourners thronging the funeral of the accomplished son of Edo State. Captain Okunbo could not have wished for a more perfect farewell. The sky over his native land was a colourful blue and the ambience of the town morphed into subtle gloom as if in mourning with the bereaved.
His family and friends watched with undisguised grief as the pallbearers bore his casket to the grave.
Okunbo’s final departure from mortal life was no doubt a spectacular affair. For a man who lived an impactful life, it was only fitting that he enjoyed the rare privilege of such a grand funeral.
The quiet amplified the sounds of the cortège as it set out to Captain Okunbo’s final resting place: the rumble of wheels on tarmac, the click of shoe heels on concrete and the soft thud on mother earth tolled at listless intervals. But as the procession came into view, residents of Benin, family, neighbours and childhood friends of Captain Okunbo turned out in honour of the departed.
The deceased would definitely turn in his grave for the honour and unrivalled show of love displayed towards him at his funeral. At the funeral service the creme of Nigeria’s high society comprising incumbent and former public officers, industry titans, first-class monarchs, academic giants, aviation giants, entertainers, service chiefs, among others, were in attendance.
But, best of all, the people, the ordinary people who he had supported, inspired, and given hope, were there en masse to bid him a tearful goodbye.
That was exactly how Captain Okunbo dreamed his final departure from the mortal world perhaps. Even in death, Captain Okunbo was accessible to everyone, just as he was in his lifetime.
On the streets outside, the crowds were even greater, lined in their tens of thousands along the route of the funeral procession, as the hearse, journeyed from his home and through the neighbourhoods where he was fondly hailed and revered as a man of the people.