AFTER TWO YEARS, HOPE RISES FOR BURIAL OF FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT, JOSEPH WAYAS
There is a glimmer of hope that the remains of a former Senate president, Dr Joseph Wayas, who died on November 30, 2021 in a London hospital, may soon be buried in his hometown, Bassang in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River State this year.
Wayas, who died over two years ago, is yet to be given a befitting burial owing to some infighting.
The paramount ruler of Obanliku, Amos Item, gave the glimmer of hope, saying, “We are very busy on the plan towards our late son’s burial.
“We have met over it and agreed to bury him without further delay, perhaps in two months, that is February 2024. But we are still trying to have audience with the state governor, Prince Bassey Otu. Of course, he must be aware of it because he is the one that will inform and get the federal government to action.
“We are getting his children together. They, too, will agree with us. There was no need for the lingering family feud, which is why the funeral of our son was delayed.
“I have been too embarrassed over these issues.”
Also speaking, the president of the Basang Nation and leader of the 8th Executive Assembly of Basang Development Union, where the late Wayas hailed, Mr Sylvanus Anyawho, also agreed that the delay of the burial had become very embarrassing to them.
“This accounts for the reason the paramount ruler had to summon us, including his first son, to a critical meeting sometime ago.”
He said he would be very happy for that phase to be carried out.
In an earlier interview, the first son of the late senator, Joseph Wayas Junior had also intimated that there was an effort to meet with the state governor even though they had to give him time to settle in office.
He strongly disagreed with the funeral committee instituted by a former governor, Prof Ben Ayade, which accused him of being the reason for inability to give the former Senate president a befitting burial.
Ayade had released N200million few weeks after Wayas died in the hospital, where the state government took him to when he became sick.
The funeral committee, which was inaugurated in August 2022 and headed by a former attorney-general of the federation, Kanu Agabi, had linked Wayas Junior to an alleged financial misdemeanor, as well as family controversies.
These led to the resignation of key persons in the committee, including a former executive secretary of the National Planning Commission, Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo.
Ugbo had said in an interview that Wayas Junior “needs to open up on what the issues are on why the burial is delayed. The responsibilities lie with him.”
But in his reaction, Wayas Junior had cautioned the committee members to stop denting his name, challenging them to mention how much they gave to him.
He also challenged them to render an account and point to whatever they expended on the funeral fund.
“It is a complete lie that I asked for, or that I have spent the funeral fund released by the state government. Was I in charge of the fund? How much did I collect from them?
“Let me clarify that I never accessed the fund. Why should they peddle my name, directing focus on me? I am a private person. They spent the money, not me.
“Let them stop denting my name. I have had a good name, which I will strive to maintain.”
Wayas Junior has been unhappy with his stepmother, Catherine Ishiaka Ayim, who he said was never recognised as wife but was using his late father’s name to raise money.
He maintained that his late mother was the only legally married wife of his father.
He frowned at the committee, who reportedly preferred to deal with the stepmother instead of him.
As a result, the matter reached a head when Wayas Junior sued Catherine Ayim, stalling the works of the funeral committee.
His lawyers wrote to the registrar of Grade A Customary Court, Nyanya Judicial Division, to bar Catherine Ayim from parading herself either as a widow of the late Joseph Wayas or representative of his estate.
However, the funeral committee has appealed to the Wayas’ family to sheathe the sword so that the needful can be done.
In an interview with journalists in Calabar, a member of the burial committee, Amos Ojong, disclosed that they met with the paramount ruler and reached out to the leadership of the National Assembly to connect the UK government and repatriate the remains of the late Senate president. “That action is still ongoing,” he added.
He indicated that they would soon brief the state governor.
Blaming Wayas Junior for the delay, he took time to explain what has transpired.
“The allegations by the first son are baseless. He has refused to follow up the actions taken nor assist the committee in view of the challenge of getting the body brought home from the United Kingdom.
“Nevertheless, we appeal that all hands should be on deck to overcome the teething challenges and give our patriarch a befitting burial so that he may rest in perfect peace.
“If he alleges that some committee members are tilting towards the father’s second wife, that is just an imagination. If his mother was around in Nigeria, the same persons would support her.
Customarily, all visitors to his father’s house had to relate with the wife in the house. He also has lived together with her, both in America and here at home/Abuja, eating from same kitchen for over 40 years. They had a cordial relationship and she stood for his mother when he got married in Abuja.
“That on the demise of his father he would not see her eye to eye is a big surprise. He went to court declaring her his father’s concubine and not recognising her children as bonafide children of his father, saying she should not be his father’s widow.
“He has by his actions got many sympathisers to her side; even the family at home is not happy with him,” he said.
Ojong disclosed further that the burial committee was sub-divided into two, one to handle the family side of the planning.
He said N100million was given to them to bring the body from UK to Nigeria, build a mausoleum, agree on a burial date, renovate the old family house and reactivate the borehole, cater for family needs, organise night of tributes and entertain guests.
He also added that the central committee had its own mandate, which covers burial site and completion of the new country home.
“All the committee did was to handle renovation of the old family house and reactivate the borehole, then drew a budget for the remaining items not yet handled.
“Everything was set and we were waiting for them to bring home the body. Money for repatriation of the remains, including the body of the first wife, the mother to Joseph Wayas Junior, who also died in the UK, was provided from the funds.
“We got stuck at the point where the senior daughter in UK, who is the custodian of the body, cut off communication with the committee.
“Renovation works on their home was done, while completion of Dr Wayas’ new house had reached 90 per cent. This was to ensure that the children coming home from abroad had enough accommodation during the burial.”
He thanked the paramount ruler for playing a fatherly role, which is uniting aggrieved parties to give hope for the funeral to hold soon.
Efforts to reach the secretary to the state government, Prof Anthony Owan-Eno, were not successfulIt would be recalled that last year, senators from Cross River State, Gershom Bassey, Prof Sandy Onor and Agom Jarigbe jointly sponsored a motion advocating the immortalisation of the late Wayas.