Ernest Chinwo Muhammad Bello and Segun James
First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, has cut short her trip to Geneva, Switzerland, following the death of her foster mother, Mrs. Charity Obah, in a car crash on Monday.
THISDAY learnt yesterday that the first lady, who was said to have been devastated by the news of the accident, which occurred on the East-West Road, is billed to return to the country today.
Condolences have also started pouring in for the first lady as Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, and his Bayelsa State counterpart, Hon. Seriake Dickson, commiserated with her.
The first lady had been in Geneva since last week, where she was formally appointed Champion for Child Online Protection by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which launched the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative in 2008 as part of the overall thrust to strengthen cyber security.
The Rivers State Police Command, which confirmed the incident, gave details of how the accident, which also claimed the life of a 14-year-old girl, whose name was simply given as Favour, a student of Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School, Elele, happened.
Obah’s body was deposited at the Kpaima mortuary on Elechi Beach, Mile One, Diobu, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, around 6pm, by the self-acclaimed “Speaker” of Rivers House of Assembly, Evans Bipi, who was accompanied by many policemen.
A top presidency official, who demanded anonymity, told THISDAY yesterday on the phone that the first lady was shocked when the news of her foster mother’s death was broken to her.
She was said to be so devastated by the news that she was unable to attend to scheduled engagements.
About three months ago, the late Obah was in Germany to receive treatment for an undisclosed ailment. At that time, the presidency was compelled to break its silence on the then foreign trip of Mrs. Jonathan, saying she travelled to attend to her mother who was on medical treatment.
The source said: “The first lady is indeed very devastated by the sad news. We are expecting her back in the country tomorrow (today)”.
The police in Rivers State yesterday gave details of how Obah was killed in the road accident at the Elele axis of the East-West Road in the state.
The command’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Angela Agabe, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), told journalists in Port Harcourt that the late Obah was travelling in company with her driver, Stanley Enyinnaya, and two others in a Toyota salon car with registration number ABU 153 AE from Port Harcourt to Bayelsa when the vehicle had a tyre burst and the driver lost control of the car. The car veered into the bush and hit a tree, causing the death of Obah.
She said the driver and the other passenger who sustained injuries were being treated at the Save the Life Hospital, Government Reservation Area, Port Harcourt.
Agabe explained that the late Obah was not the natural mother of Mrs Jonathan but took care of her after the death of her mother.
She added that the bodies of the dead were deposited at Kpaima mortuary, Elechi Beach, Diobu, Port Harcourt at 7.30pm on Monday.
She said: “She (Obah) died on her way to Bayelsa. Within Elele, there was a bend and the driver was on a very high speed and one tyre pulled out and the vehicle veered into the bush. There were four occupants in the vehicle; two died and two survived.
“The mother of the wife of the president died, a 14-year-old girl also died. The driver and the other occupant survived.”
Condoling with the first lady over the death of her foster mother, the Cross River State governor described Obah’s death as painful and unfortunate.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, Imoke said the incident was tragic and saddening.
“It is with a sense of shock and loss that I received the sad news,” he said.
He urged the first family to find consolation in the fact that “she lived an exemplary worthy of emulation.”
Imoke said the deceased would be sorely missed.
In his condolence message, the Bayelsa State governor expressed shock and regrets at the sudden death of Obah.
Dickson described the death as a great blow and an irreparable loss to the first lady’s immediate family and the nation as a whole, stressing that Obah’s motherly and wise counsel would be greatly missed by all who knew her.
The governor noted that her demise was coming at such a time when the first lady and her family needed Obah’s support and encouragement most.
He urged the first lady, the family and the Obah family in Okrika in Rivers State to accept the unfortunate incident as the will of God and take it with philosophical calmness.
The governor on behalf of the government and people of Bayelsa State also prayed God to strengthen and grant Mrs. Jonathan and the entire family the fortitude and courage to bear the loss.
Also, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Chief Nathan Egba, commiserated with President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife over the death of Obah.