A Mother Like Lady Stella!

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

“Death is . the absence of presence. the endless time of never coming back . a gap you can’t see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound.”

— Tom Stoppard Czech-born, English playwright.

“Something startles where I thought I was safest” — Walt Whitman (quoted in George Lamming’s novel, In The Castle Of My Skin)

Nigerians are generally very good, passionate mourners. Most of the time, the extent the mourning could be stretched depends largely on the calibre of the deceased, and the possible political, social or material capital that could be reaped from the most enchanting and elaborate eulogies by those who are able to formulate them. We cannot, however, deny the existence of genuine mourners (sometimes, also, made up mostly of those whose boundless privileges have been brutally terminated by the person’s demise), but, it is still evident that mourning periods in these parts seem to have become the most suitable period for advertising crude, repelling dissembling, by men and women, with less-than noble motives.

About three weeks ago, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo (nee Abebe), the most prominent among the several wives of Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo, was buried in Abeokuta, amidst tears, eulogies and great pomp. She had, reportedly, died in far-away Spain of complications arising from cosmetic surgery. The dominant thinking, re-enforced by statements here and there by her friends and acquaintances, was that since an elaborate, and probably multi-million Naira, “talk-of-the-season” birthday bash was being put together to mark in style her sixtieth birthday which would have taken place on November 14, she had gone to undertake the surgery (tummy tuck) to trim up herself and look really pleasant and ravishing on that day — a quintessential birthday girl. Unfortunately, that frivolous pursuit turned fatal, and the rest as the cliché goes, is history. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

I have taken time to examine the various tributes paid to late Stella Obasanjo by several characters that have over the years over-tasked the public space with their uninspiring presence. The most prominent description of her, which was later seized upon by countless unimaginative mourners and plagiarized and recycled several times over to the point of almost turning it into a national slogan, was the one in which she was called “the mother of the nation.” It would be interesting to look out for the inventor of this ingenious phrase, who, most unfairly, stands the chance of being denied due dividend for his “intellectual property,” as his voice has been effectively drowned by more strident ones in the battle by mourners to out-mourn each other.

Indeed, many people may want to contest the propriety of describing Stella as the “mother of the nation.” Well, that one is their business. What no one would be able to deny her is the fact that she was a very good, caring mother — to her only son, Olumuyiwa Obasanjo. She loved the boy so much, and was hundred percent committed to his welfare, happiness and comfort. Now, the young man has just qualified as a lawyer, at 27 (don’t ask why so late), and while his peers are pounding the streets looking for job, a comfortable mansion, at the staggering sum of $537,129 (over N75 million naira) has already been purchased for him at No. 704 Carol Street, Brooklyn, New York. When you look at that sum, in a country where human beings are practically feeding from dustbins and sleeping under bridges, where people die because they are unable to provide the five thousand naira required to pay for drugs and sundry treatments at our dilapidated hospitals, you would then begin to appreciate the

true worth of the love this mother had for her son.

Now, remember that Stella was merely a housewife, and had no employment from which she earned any income. Remember also that her husband is a loud anti-corruption crusader, and so would not bring himself to commit state resources to purchase such an expensive house for his son. The implication then is that Stella, an unemployed housewife, may have “struggled hard,” more than other housewives, to raise this over N75 million (don’t shudder), maybe, from the aprico she usually squeezed out from house-keeping money and from her wardrobe/cosmetic (surgery?) allowance, to buy this palatial mansion for her beloved son. And as soon as mourning period is over now, Olumuyiwa, a fresh law graduate, the beloved son of his mother, would invite the world to his exquisite palace in Brooklyn, for his predictably lavish wedding banquet, the type his mother would have ensured he had, and give Owambe, sorry, Ovation magazine and other promoters of vanity like it, fresh, glossy photographs to splash

on their pages. Certainly, this lucky son of an extremely fashionable mother, would be counted upon not to disappoint in this regard, at least, to show his peers, whose mothers were not caring enough, what they really missed in not having mothers like his. Swee-eet, Mother, I no go forget you, for de suffer, you suffer me-o-o-o!

And what happens after this? This lucky son would certainly have enough balance in some accounts, carefully placed above the gaze of London Mets, to wallow in every imaginable luxury that suits his fancy. It would be unlike his exceptional mother not to have taken extra care to ensure enough resources are laid up for him, to last him a lifetime. So grateful was Olumuyiwa that he recently called upon everyone that cared to listen to celebrate his mother. “Indeed, as you mourn her passing, please, also remember to celebrate her life,” he declared at the special session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting convened to sympathize with President Obasanjo.

Those who insist that Stella was their “mother of the nation” certainly know what they are saying. If anyone is in doubt, let the son of another public officer make that kind of purchase, and let’s see whether Nuhu Ribad

u and his EFCC would not whisk him and his father away, even in front of his mother’s corpse? Yet, this beloved son of “the mother of the nation” walked free, with his fiancée, and even addressed a FEC meeting in Abuja, right under Ribadu’s nose. For all you know, the story about the house and its scandalous purchase has been securely buried with “the mother of the nation” in Abeokuta amidst profuse eulogies and enthralling dirges.

Stella was also a darling sister. During her burial proceedings, I saw one grief-stricken young man on TV, Somebody Abebe, lamenting bitterly: “Imagine, she just gave me a job last month. She just gave me a job at NDDC. And now, she has died!”

What a pity, losing such a nice sister. How many sisters can just wake up and “give” their brothers plum jobs at places like NDDC! It’s so unfair, losing such a sweet, big sister like that. What now would be the fate of other Abebes who would soon graduate from school? Who would “give” them plum jobs at NNPC and NLNG? What a pity!

A TV report listed the NTA station at Iruekpen as one of Stella’s “legacies.” I would remember that when that TV station was commissioned, our inimitable Reuben Abati, (who incidentally turned forty last Monday) had described it as “Stella TV.” But in some reports last week, the people of Iruekpen, Stella’s hometown, claimed that they had nothing to show for giving Nigeria a “First Lady.” And people are asking, what really is the meaning of “first lady,” and what does a nation profit from it? Well, it does seem that while some are counting their gains, others are complaining bitterly. Na so dis world be.

Well, if the Iruekpen people are complaining, I don’t think the Abebe family would join them. Stella had their comfort and welfare uppermost in her heart. Remember the Ikoyi House Scandal which led the president to publicly say that he was embarrassed by the way choice houses were wantonly allocated to several members of his wife’s family. The minister who supervised the allocation was fired, and the matter ended there.

Indeed, a unique mother of a lucky son has gone — to face her Maker. She loved life, especially and the frills and thrills of it. Money was not her problem, and so she sought vanity and fulifilment anywhere they could be found. She spared no cost to seek to look beautiful and younger, irrespective of the prevailing mood in the country. The tummy tuck she had gone to do at the elite hospital in far away Spain was at a huge cost. This at a time, when the nation is bored stiff with endless calls from her husband and his countless aides to tighten our belts.

Indeed, many were surprised that despite the still fresh scandals of the purchase of houses in Ikoyi and Brooklyn, a lavish sixtieth birthday bacchanalian revel was still being planned by her and her like-minds to paint Nigeria red, and show everyone that in her coffers, there is always a surplus to spend. This must be painful thought to the generality of Nigerians battling for survival in an impossible economy worsened by the directionlessness of a wayward leadership.

She had powers and wielded them without reservation. She once gave orders that Atiku’s wife and wives of state governors should desist from allowing themselves to be addressed as Her Excellencies, a title she felt should be reserved for her alone — even when there is no constitutional provision for the “office” of First Lady. This attracted a harsh reaction from the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka. Till today, Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo still insists that she was the one who ordered the arrest and detention for two weeks of the publisher of Midwest Herald, for the magazine’s cover story captioned: “Greedy Stella”

Despite all these Stella deserves to be mourned. She was after all the founder of Child Care Trust, that sought to bring succour to a couple of physically challenged children. She was also a man’s wife, a boy’s beloved mum and some people’s sister. It is painful she had to die, and more painful that her death was clearly avoidable.

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Tobore July 6, 2006 - 11:14 am

Unarguable truths that cannot be ignored,but it shouldnt just end on stella alone.For starters where are the women role models,we have in the society today? No where to be found!only just a few live up to that expctation ,while majority are in to frivolities, extravangant spending,vain thoughts and indecent dressing.Very few mothers are indeed mothers ,very few women are indeed virtous,strong and dedicated,while unfortunately the majority of women are trying so hard to delude themselves of what they are not..I wonder how the future of the Nigerian female youths will turn out to be,with these role models in our society..it really saddens my heart.

Anonymous December 5, 2005 - 7:06 am

good comment

Stella O. (not related or connected with the decea November 28, 2005 - 4:57 pm

Nigerians (and Africans in general) hate to say anything bad (true, false, or mixed) about a dead person. Reading the article and the comments that follow reveal the diversity of the Nigerian mindset.

While the article and some comments (perhaps brutal) pointed out some truths about the deceased (and many Nigerians mindset upon vanity) other comments are sentimental. At this point Nigerians need to simply forget about the sudden death of the woman (Stella) and move on to better things. She (Stella Obasanjo) is dead. She (Stella Obasanjo) is gone, never to return.

Anonymous November 23, 2005 - 10:25 pm

Your article brought tears of joy to my eyes…there is light at the end of the tunnel !! If Nigerians can address all forms of corruption directly …without being a respector of persons maybe one day Nigeria will produce Leaders that will build and not tear down. Stella was no different than Imelda Marcos !!!

Anonymous November 23, 2005 - 9:20 pm


Be objective when you write and avoid speculations while you write.I don't know how you were raised but I expect even a moron to be respectful of the dead.Stella,like all mortals died…end of story.I am no longer interested in how and why.Please move on and look for a better topic to write on.

Khoon ka Khoon November 21, 2005 - 1:22 pm

Lagbaja: Comment #4 is simply true and to the point without any "bullshit". The comment is not sugarcoated. The comment is direct and straight. The comment is from a straight-shooter who says it exactly like it is. That is an opinion, probably not from a lying dollar-hungry pastor or anthropologist opportunist or bamboozling politician or backboneless Nigerian.

Though Comment #4 seems unsympathetic to the late Stella, but reading Comment #4 and the main article reveal that both writers are totally sympathetic toward the pathetic status and situation of the entire Nigeria citizens.

The issue with Nigeria is that there are 130million (minus 1 or 2 or at most 1000) dummies like you (Lagbaja) roaming about in the country allowing the pedantic and barbaric manisfestation of the evil leaders to continue.

Mind you the corrupt leaders in Nigeria have no atom of sympathy on you, your family, Nigeria and Nigerians at large. Throw emotional sympathy out the window and be realistic. Get out and smell the roses. Shame on you and people like you. When are you (and your likes) going to learn and be truthful. Tell the truth and let the devil (parading as Nigeria leaders) be ashamed. As one high ranking US official once said, "Nigerians are a bunch of liars, cheaters, and rogues. They are abominable creation of Satan".

I would like to join Comment #4 to stone you, though not to death, but just to a point of no return comma because …….

Lagbaja November 20, 2005 - 5:58 pm

comment number 4 is bullshit..! So U haven't sinners like u are not meant to be joined issues with, the problem is that there are 130 million people like u in the country!

Anonymous November 20, 2005 - 2:50 pm

Stella Obasanjo died a non-pitiful and most stupid death. Technically she committed suicide! I understand she had breasts augumentation (plastic surgery reconstructions) before and was warned by the surgeons never to attempt "lippo" (or tummy tuck) or else…….

The doctors totally refused to perform the plastic surgery on her in USA hence her stupid reason for going to Spain. Furthermore she did not even tell her husband, Obasanjo, about her plans to have the surgery in Spain. Mind you all that her husband knew was hat she was supposed to be in France to deliver a speech. Therefore who was she trying to fool…. Obasanjo, Nigerians, or God

To those defending her successful suicide, you are all as dumb as dummies. To those saying, "…cast the first stone if never sinned…", you are lucky I am not next to you, I would have stoned you to death (honestly, as God is my witness, I would have gunned you to death with my AK47).

The writer of this article clearly highlighted the vanity upon vanity that led to Stella's stupid self caused death. There should be no pity whatsoever for her from anyone or any quarter. All those (moreso all Nigerians) that publicly express pity on her death should be executed. Case closed!

Her now successful suicide should have opened an investigation to the frivolities and national economic abuses in the president's office with the President's impeachment as the goal.

Anonymous November 18, 2005 - 3:52 am

There was nothing about Stella Obasanjo to suggest that she could in any way be described as the mother of any nation, Nigeria included. She was essentially the wife of the President.

Full stop.

Her excesses were no diferent than those perpetrated by others in her position, and though any human death is regrettable, one cannot but question her need to resort to cosmetic surgery in the first place.

Were the looks God gave her not good enough for her

May she, and millions of poor Nigerians who die in less glamorous circumstances every year, rest in peace.

Anonymous November 17, 2005 - 6:06 pm

Na true una talk my brother. How come the pickin dey buy half million DOLLAR house when him just dey comot for law school where dem get that kind money from Nigerian people be dummies I think. Nigerian better revolt, drive that gorilla and him cohort comot from aso-rock or watever u people dey call am. not be drive comot only but chop off dem heads….all dem people from abacha, babagida, shagari, sonekan, etc etc and every member of dem family. make nigerian masses carry on total bloody revolution o!

Please excuse my attempt at what I am told (and taught) is Nigerian English Language.

There is no peace and progress without war and revolution,

that's my philosophy.

Anonymous November 17, 2005 - 11:00 am

pointless write-up. Let those who haven't sinned cast the first stone ARe u giving ur own salaray to the poor or those living under the bridge Talk is cheap! Clearly you cannot see two sides of the coin and say that regardless of whether Stella married OBJ she was never a poor woman, her father ruled UAC before and she was clearly well to do. Nigeria is a capitalist society, and don't preach as if we are coms!


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