Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, Saturday stood still as President Goodluck Jonathan led other prominent Nigerians to pay their last respects to the late former National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen Owoye Andrew Azazi, at the Heroes Park.
Azazi, who died penultimate Saturday in a helicopter crash at Tombi, some distance away from Okoroba in Nembe local government area of the state alongside five others including the former governor of Kaduna State, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, was buried at the Heroes Park, Yenagoa.
Azazi’s wife and children wept as they performed the dust to dust rites for the former NSA after the funeral oration by the Bishop of Bomadi Vicariate His Lordship, Most Revd Hyacinth Egbeboh.
Among the dignitaries at the funeral ceremony were, wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan; Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson and his wife, Rachael; chairman of the Governors Forum, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his wife, Judith; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State; former Bayesa State governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; former Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Alexander Ogomudia (rtd); Rear Admiral John Kpokpogiri (rtd); former governor of old Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff; former NDDC Managing Director and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Timi Alaibe; former JTF commander in the Niger Delta, Major General Sarkin Yakin Bello (rtd); PFN/CAN President Ayo Oritsejafor; and former transport minister, Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni.
Also present were former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; Speaker of the Bayesa State House of Assembly, Benson Kombowei; Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke; Finance Minister, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,;Aviation Minister, Ms Stella Oduah; Minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe; and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
The casket, drapped in the nation’s green-white-green colours bearing the remains of Azazi, arrived the Heroes Park, venue of the funeral service, in a Nigerian Army ambulance marked, NA 459 E 01 at 10.02 am.
When the casket was brought out from the olive coloured ambulance, it was carried by officers of the rank of Major General to the podium specifically set up for the purpose of the commendation service while a military helicopter was hovering over the arena ostensibly on reconnaissance mission and in honour of the departed four-star general.
The solemn ceremony commenced shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife, and Governor Seriake arrived the venue at about 10.30am.
Azazi was a patriot – Jonathan
In his remarks, Jonathan described Azazi as a patriotic Nigerian. The president, who relived his time with his former National Security Adviser said the late Azazi believed in merit and competence, noting that if only 50 per cent of Nigerians could imbibe his virtue, the country would be better off.
He said, “Saturday, December 15, 2012 was a sad day in the history of Nigeria. Gen Azazi, though we are from Bayelsa State and the Ijaw ethnic nationality, I never met him until 2004 when the then Brigadier Azazi was made the Director of Military Intelligence.
I was then the deputy governor of Bayelsa. Somebody came to me to say one of our own had been made the DMI boss and that was a prestigious posting in the army. And I decided I was going to receive him and have a little party for him. I hosted him one evening in Abuja at an Officer’s Mess. From that time, we remained in touch; then he was promoted to Major General and made the GOC One Division, Kaduna and then he was also made the chief of the army staff. That was another level of our interaction in 2006, by which time, I was the governor of Bayelsa State. I also hosted him as chief of the army staff alongside the current Minister of Petroleum Resources (Diezani Alison-Madueke), then as the first female executive director of Shell. It was also my first time of meeting her.
“He was made chief of defence staff in 2007 when I was vice president to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’dua. I also made him the NSA when I became president. I saw him as somebody who meant well for this country. Sometimes, people wonder why good people die, it is quite touching.”
While urging Nigerians to imbibe the qualities of Azazi, the president said, “If we change our attitude to do what is right, the country will change for the best.”
We have lost a hero – Dickson
Lamenting the demise of Azazi in the ill-fated helicopter crash, Dickson said, “Truly, we have lost a visionary leader and statesman and there may be no greater tribute to General Azazi’s illustrious military career than the fact that he was a first class military officer, who rose through the ranks as a professional soldier and duly earned his place in the history of the Nigerian Army as the only decorated four-star general who truly earned his rank”.
The governor assured that the life and times of Azazi would be documented by his administration to serve as inspiration for the youths and generations yet unborn.
Amaechi names street after Azazi
Amaechi described Azazi as his elder brother whom he looked up to for advice whenever he was troubled.
The Rivers governor announced the naming of a street in Port Harcourt in honour of the former NSA and thanked the Bayelsa State government for giving him a state burial.
A big tree has fallen in Ijawland – Diezani Allison-Madueke
“A big tree has fallen in Ijawland and the clay pot that supported the state has fallen,” lamented the petroleum minister as she fought back tears.
A former governor of Bayelsa, Alamieyeseigha, had, on Friday night eulogized Azazi, as a man who lived a life of service to humanity, noting that his demise is an indication that all mortals are on a journey on earth, which will come to an end one day.
In his homily, His Lordship, the Bishop of Bomadi vicariate, Most Revd Hyacinth Egbeboh, described death as a puzzle to man and stressed the need for mankind to exhibit kindness at all times as death can come calling anytime.
He urged Nigerians to imbibe the qualities of Azazi and carry on with his legacies of service to humanity even as he lamented the deplorable state of the East-West Road which has claimed the lives of several road users and called on the authorities to take urgent steps to rehabilitate the road.
The cleric also enjoined the family and people of the state to take solace in the fact that Azazi lived a fulfilled life and left behind worthy legacies.