I mentioned in previous blog post as well as on our FB site, that there was a large event coming up this November. The Chief of Army Staff for Nigeria, his father passed away some months ago, so there has been mass amounts of construction and infrastructural improvement made since then in our village area so that his burial and wake keep could be held properly. As the guest list held some of the most important people in the country, the entrance, location and exit to paying respects had to be proper. New roads were laid, new buildings built, light connected, ect. Also, as the man was the father of the current top Military General in the country and that important people were attending, our villages were essentially put in lock down for a week (although we are always surrounded by military as our village is the Chief’s village and he visits often). I spent much of the week at the Chief’s house and guesthouses, outside of attendance for the two-day event, to meet many of these people. Everyone assumed I came from out of country to attend this event, and were shocked to learn that I lived down the road! It was funny and great to surprise them with that information; it certainly helped keep their attention for the rest of my explanation of why I am here. On Tuesday at a dinner with the Chief and several of his top officers and friends, I met our retired General D. He promised that over the rest of the weeks events he and his wife would have me accompany them so I wouldn’t feel lost or out of place. The next day at a luncheon and then inspection of the events site, I was given a dress that was sown in the head military and family’s colours. It is customary at burials/wake-keeps that uniform is worn; there are different colours and patterns for different groups of people. It was certainly an honour to wear the family’s uniform. On Thursday after a morning of visitors at the home with the children, I was picked up and taken to one Senator’s house in our area. There were multiple people there all visiting before moving to the wake-keep. Some of those individuals remembered me from 7 years before during my first move into Isuikwuato. Eventually we proceeded in a train of cars to the event site. There were tents and stages set up everywhere, and thousands of chairs. As I was with some of the top military and political people, we were all seated directly behind the Chief’s family. As far as I could see there were about four thousand people in attendance so far, and more continued to come. Wake-keeps here start at dusk and continue to the break of day, where there are a few hours rest before the burial program commences. There was an un-ending supply of food, drinks, alcohol, celebrities (artists and actors), music, dance shows, and general partying. I saw many people that I have met before at different houses and events. I saw our good Dr. Hans Van Corput and his wife, as well as several of the SS men (on duty) who had been on our details before). I met several new people and had a great night listening and visiting with some of Nigeria’s current artists. The next day I was picked up to come to the Chief’s house and be in the train of family and close friends to attend the burial events, again a huge honour. It was a very long program and was scorching hot, however there was so much to see it was easy to be distracted from the heat. Again, there were over five thousand people in attendance. The president’s wife came and gave a speech on behalf of her husband, three different state governors where in attendance, many of the top defense Generals in Nigeria, as well as many other important politicians and businessmen. The program lasted about 5 hours, before some of the important people were moved to a reception hall. Inside the hall there was courses of food and drinks as well as a program. As I sat at a table with some of the friends and family, there were countless individuals who came over to greet me as say hi. Of course all of them at a high level, so I, and the entire table, had to stand up every time! It was a bit humorous, the table noted, “Wow, you really know people”. After a few hours I moved with some of the family’s close friends and cousins back up the Chiefs house to see the family and visit.
All in all, it was probably the biggest event I could attend in this country and to be in the presence of so many important people and be introduced to them.