By CHIDI NNADI AND GEORGE ONYEJIUWA, OGUTA
The funeral mass organised at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Oguta, Imo State for the late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa ended abruptly yesterday as his son, Charles Oputa aka Charly Boy stopped Governor Rochas Okorocha from making a speech in the church.
Okorocha, who was equally angry that protocol was breached by President Goodluck Jonathan who was represented at the mass by the Secretary of the Government of Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim by speaking before him, rose to make his speech but Charly Boy seized the microphone from the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Jude Ike, which created confusion in the church.
The officiating priest and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr) Matthew Hassan Kukah had pleaded with Charly Boy to allow Okorocha speak, but he refused, saying he would not allow his father’s burial to be politicised.
An ostensibly angry Okorocha started fuming in the church, which made the Attorney General of Imo State, Chukwuma Umeh, to order the lawyers who gathered in the church to leave.
As the lawyers were leaving, the dignitaries who attended the mass began to leave in droves as Okorocha and his convoy drove away in anger before the body of Oputa was taken back to his country home for interment.
Governor Okorocha had voted N20 million for the burial of Oputa, but the state lost track of the burial arrangement as the Oputa family shot the door on the burial plan. Charly Boy was quoted to have warned the Imo State governor to stay away from his father’s burial, but no reason was given for his action.
Anyim had read the president’s condolence message to Charly Boy in the church with Jonathan saying that he received with great sadness the demise of the eminent jurist.
Jonathan described the late Oputa as a respected public servant, patriot and internationally acclaimed jurist.
“He was not only an outstanding icon, he also readily gave himself in the service of our fatherland in demonstration of his faith in the emergence of a strong, united and prosperous Nigeria,” Jonathan said.
In his sermon at the mass service, Bishop Kukah said that the late Oputa was a man of justice and equity who, while was alive, ensured that other people were not treated unjustly.
Kukah who served in the popular Oputa panel with the late jurist advised Nigerians, particularly politicians to emulate his legacies.
Dignitaries who attended the funeral mass included Senator Anyim; Labour Minister, Chief Emeka Nworgu; Deputy Speaker of House of Reps, Chief Emeka Ihedioha; Governors Willie Obiano, Rochas Okorocha; former governors Peter Odili (Rivers) and his wife Mary; Achike Udenwa (Imo), Peter Obi (Anambra), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo).
Others are Senators Chris Anyanwu, Hope Uzodinma, Ike Nwachukwu, Chris Ngige, Ifeanyi Ararume, Arthur Nzeribe, Uche Chukwumerije, George Akume; Amb. Kema Chikwe; Abia Chief Judge, P.I Okpala, Imo Attorney General, Dr Chukwuma Nwachukwu Umeh.
Also present were Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho; Diamond Bank boss, Chief Pascal Dozie, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and former Police Inspector General, Mike Okiro.
Saturday, 28 June 2014