It was drama galore at the funeral of the late Jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, where protocol necessitated a drama yet unprecedented in the annals of the country!
At his father’s funeral, Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy, the late Jurist’s eldest son defiantly prevented politicians from speaking at the solemn event; a development which resulted in the embarrassing drama that ruffled a few feathers and is the cause of the palpable tension currently pervading Owerri, the Imo State capital in South East Nigeria.
In the course of the Mass, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan, was called upon to deliver his principal’s condolence message.
Anyim was barely done when the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, was called to deliver his own speech! Reacting swiftly thereto, Charly Boy got up and snatched the microphone from Okorocha’s hands retorting angrily that no politician would be allowed to take advantage of his father’s burial to score “cheap political points.” Even the intervention of the officiating Priest, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, could not mitigate his anger.
In his homily at the funeral Mass, Kukah who acknowledged the virtues and character of the late Justice of the Supreme Court admitted that “to tolerate a son like Charly Boy by a man of late Justice Oputa’s reputation is a measure of the greatness of the man.”
Calling on Nigerians to stand up in defence of what is right, the Bishop stated that the late Oputa was obsessed with the concept of justice and equity during his life time.
“Oputa, before he died, was worried about the quality of Nigerian Lawyers and Judges because he believed in the Judiciary as the hope of the nation. Today his legacies are beyond his immediate family,” Kukah further pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Imo State Government has taken exception to the ugly incidence.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor (Media), Sam Onwuemeodo, states: “It is highly regrettable that the son of the late Justice, Mr. Charles Emeka Oputa, aka, Charly Boy threw caution to the wind and turned the church service into a political theatre that saw him acting or playing out the script he drafted in Abuja with some Imo politicians who have remained cowed by the overwhelming popularity of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
“The Imo State governor had worked together with Mr. Charly Boy both when the late Justice was sick (sic), until the time he died and the preparation for the burial which also encouraged the State governor to make substantial financial input and also organised a special day of tribute for the late Justice at the expense of state government with Charly Boy also present with other members of the family.
“This is why the sudden change of character of Charly Boy at the church service, in which case, he insisted that the governor would not talk as protocol demanded could not be understood, except that he was acting out the script handed over to him by some of the gubernatorial aspirants from the State who might have been rattled by the thunderous ovation that greeted the governor by the crowd when he was first introduced.”
Reacting thereto, the Imo State Government’s position was that at a function of this nature, protocol demanded that the host governor must have the floor before any other speaker. The reverse was however the case when Senator Pius Anyim representing the President was first called to speak. Ideally, as a representative of the President, there was no way Senator Anyim would not have been allowed to speak at the event. But protocol would have seen the governor speaking first to welcome the invitees to the service as the host governor.
The communiqué further stated: “Perhaps afraid of the popularity of Governor Okorocha among the Imo populace that has always made them to hail him wherever and whenever he talks, the few politicians from the State in Abuja who are desperate to capture power in the state in 2015, saw a willing tool in Charly Boy for them to ensure that the governor would not talk at the event.
“We condemn the ugly incident. And also wish to advise politicians from the state to stop heating the polity over power since God is the giver of power. In 2015, God will decide who will govern Imo State and when God decides that, there is nothing anybody can do about it.
“And for Charly Boy, we ask God to bless him.”
Okorocha was in attendance at the Mass in the company of his fellow governors: Willie Obiano (Anambra) and Theodore Orji (Abia). Other dignitaries present included the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu; Senator Uche Chukwumerije; former Anambra and Imo State Governors, Peter Obi and Ikedi Ohakim and Senator Chris Ngige.
Charly Boy, the 63-year-old son of the deceased, apparently un-impressed and indifferent to the dignitaries in attendance in honour of his late father wore a sullen look all through the Requiem Mass.
The Requiem Mass of the late Jurist was held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Oguta, in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State; and his remains have since been interred.