Latest feelers emerging from the Federal Ministry of Sports indicate that the Federal Government will be absent from the burial programme of Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, former captain and coach of the Super Eagles who passed on at a private hospital in Benin City in the wee hours of Wednesday, June 8.
The reason for this shocking twist of events lies with the Honourable Minister of Sport, Barr. Solomon Dalung who had stressed his discontent with the Keshi family’s failure to heed the Ministry’s plea to postpone the burial of the late coach until after the Rio Olympic Games in August. An authoritative source at the Sports Ministry, said: “We don’t want a haphazard burial for such a great patriot, that is why the Minister of Sport has said that the Federal Government will play its own part after the Olympics. We will unveil details after the games.”
The stance of the Federal Government did not come to many as a surprise, since Dalung had recently, shunned series of meetings scheduled to hold between the Federal Government (represented by the Sports Minister), the burial committee and the Keshi family. A detailed plan to give the departed player a befitting burial was arranged soon after Stephen Keshi’s children, Jennifer, Stephanie and Stephen Jnr had a detailed parley with the top brass of the Nigerian Football Federation and the Federal Ministry of Sports in mid June.
However, official obsequies released by the Stephen Keshi Burial Committee reveals that the rites of passage for the former Super Eagles captain will begin in Benin City, Edo State on Thursday, July 28. The events for the day will take off with a requiem mass at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin City at 9am. Afterwards, the corpse will lie in state at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, where sympathizers, mourners and other dignitaries will be treated to a novelty match organised by Keshi’s former teammates and colleagues led by former Super Eagles Coach, Augustine Eguavoen.
The next port of call will be Asaba, the capital of Delta State, where the corpse will be displayed for soccer fans to pay their last respect to the “Big Boss.” The Asaba Stadium venue of the event, was named after Stephen Keshi after the Nations Cup Victory in 2013 by the former Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan.
After the series of observances at Asaba, the burial train will move straight to Illah, Keshi’s ancestral hometown to be received by the monarch of the community, His Royal Highness Obi Gbemudu, since the late Stephen Keshi himself was a titled high chief of the kingdom. Keshi’s final interment in Illah will be preceded by a church service at the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Illah. The body of the late coach will also lie in state for one hour right inside his own building at the Keshi quarters in Illah.