The remains of late General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Dr Musa Asake, were recently interred at his country home in Unguwar Rimi Bajju in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State. SIMON REEF MUSA attended the event and reports on the essence of the fearless cleric who stood for God and man to the last hour
The road to the interment of former Secretary General of the Christina Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Dr Musa Asake, who died on Friday May 11, 2018 ,started with a Service of Songs at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at 5pm. In attendance were the President of CAN, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle, former President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Elder John Dara who is the former National Secretary of the Middle Belt Forum and members of CAN executives, among others. Various speakers extolled the life and times of the former CAN’s scribe, with Evangelist Matthew Owojaiye delivering the sermon where he challenged Christians to live up to their calling and embrace righteousness and sincerity.
After the Service of Songs, the Commendation Service was conducted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 9am at the same venue. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, among other dignitaries, was in attendance. The vice president described the death of Asake as a great loss, but praised the late scribe for a well lived life. The CAN President recalled the excellent spirit of humility and loyalty that were the hallmarks of the late scribe. A staff of CAN noted that Asake was not only a nice boss but a father who was genuinely concerned with issues affecting the Nigerian Church.
Abuja: the morning of May 8, 2018 was devoid of rain. Asake’s family members, friends, mourners and top officials of CAN had assembled at the National Hospital Abuja at 5:30am for the journey to Kafanchan for the funeral service in honour of the late CAN’s scribe.
With truckloads of security agents, including members of the Federal Road Safety Corps and other paramilitary officials, the journey from Abuja to Kafanchan was hitch-free. As the body of the late CAN’s scribe arrived Kafanchan and headed towards the Stadium, venue of the funeral service, the town seemed to have been shut down as people made their way to the Stadium.
At the stadium, no fewer than 4,500 people had assembled to pay their last respect to a consummate cleric. Among the dignitaries were CAN’s officials led by its President, Rev Dr Ayokunle. In the dignitaries’ list were the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, among others.
Aminchi, first son of Asake, who spoke on behalf of his mother, recalled the struggling life of his father in the USA as a student. Against all odds, he ascribed the academic excellence his father attained while in America to an act of God. In appreciating the Creator of life for assisting his late father for attaining various accomplishments in life, Aminchi said, “my father saw God as the reason behind his successful completion of his academic pursuit in America.
“Coming from a humble background, the dreams realised by my father could only have been through the grace of God. We have been told to give God 10 percent and keep the 90 percent; but my father gave God 90 percent and held back only 10 percent,” said the son, while reminiscing on the life of his father.
Former member of the House of Representatives and younger brother to the late CAN’s scribe, Hon Jonathan Asake, read the biography at the funeral service and sums up the essence of what his elder brother would be remembered, “ He will surely be remembered for the many efforts he undertook to ensure justice for the weak; equity for the oppressed and fairness to the marginalised.”
The CAN President described death as wicked and rude as he recalled the life and times of the CAN’s Secretary General whom he had worked with in the last five years. Asake, according to Ayokunle, was someone who loved his people and always agonized and worked toward alleviating their predicaments.
“I remember when we came to Southern Kaduna to distribute relief materials to people displaced by the killings. He took me to his home church at Unguwar Rimi Bajju where his pastoral work began. I never knew that the visit will be the last with him. Dr Asake was loyal and humble at all times. I pray to Almighty God to give the Southern Kaduna people the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”, Ayokunle said.
Professor Gana sees the life of Asake as symbol of excellence. Apart from being an extra-ordinary expositor of God’s words, the late CAN scribe, Gana added, was a man of peace who loved peaceful co-existence among Nigerian people. He called on Southern Kaduna and Nigerian Christians not to lose hope, as God is aware of the nation’s present conditions and will arise at the appropriate time.
Chief Ogbeh, who represented the Presidency, only read the letter written to the widow of Asake, Tabitha, which was personally signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. He praised the life and times and times of the man many called the ‘Village Boy’ and challenged others to stand up and emulate the worthy works of Asake.
Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, described Asake as one of God’s generals who loved the Christian faith and was a moderating voice in the bitter throes of killings by merciless herdsmen. He recalled that if not for men like Dr Asake, the reaction from Nigerian Christians would have plunged the country into an unprecedented bloodshed.
“I recall clearly when he visited me at my home in Abuja and we discussed on some national issues, including the killings of Christians. He was so pained at what was happening in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt, especially on the killings by herdsmen. He was a man of peace as he never believed in retaliation. He preached peace and even when the killings reached a level where some people were thinking of other options, Asake never encouraged retaliation. He still believed that God somehow will make a way for peace.
“Let everyone here knows that the restraint so far shown by Christians is not a sign of cowardice; it is because we love our God who demands of us to live peacefully with all men. I call on the Federal Government and security agencies to rise up and put a stop to killings in Nigeria. Let me state here that I am proudly South-west and living in the North. Let the people of Southern Kaduna and Middle Belt people be informed that the South-west, South-east and South-south people are with you. Together we shall work towards building a better Nigeria for all, irrespective of ethnic and religious difference”, said Fani-Kayode who also called on popular clerics to rally support for the Ayokunle-led CAN to unite Christians in Nigeria.
Professor Yusufu Turaki, who was a former teacher to the Late CAN’s Secretary General, preached the funeral. Describing Asake as “my crown of glory”, he said he was not delivering a sermon but a personal tribute. He praised his former student for what he stood for in life and commended his courage of being a fearless cleric.
Turaki faulted the narrative being peddled that herdsmen were at war with farmers in Southern Kaduna and in some states of the Middle Belt. According to him, there’s no war between herdsmen and farmers. He alleged that there is a deliberate ploy to take over lands of indigenes through grazing reserves.
“We do not need grazing reserves. What we need is for the government to come out and unveil the economic plan they have for farmers. Why do you first of all attempt to empower herdsmen through creation of grazing reserves without unveiling the economic programme to empower the farmers who own the land? I am calling on both the Federal and State government to evolve economic strategies to empower farmers and stop concentrating on grazing reserves. Our people do not want grazing reserve; they want programmes that can empower them economically,” Turaki said.
With the funeral service over at 2pm, the journey to his country home at Unguwar Rimi Bajju for the internment took about an hour due to the slow vehicular movement. At about 3pm, the remains of Asake, the man whose life and times demonstrated the creative combination of fearlessness and humility, were committed to mother earth in his country home amidst screams and sobbing of family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. With the burial over, the gathering clouds soon turned into a shower of rain that soon increased in intensity, pouring over the town that had produced such a great man of many bravery feats .
There is no doubt that the Burial Committee, led by Rev John Kennedy Opara, PhD, left no stone unturned in ensuring a hit-free programme put together by CAN and the Asake family. The unity of Nigerian Christians as clearly demonstrated by the unanimity of the five blocs comprising the umbrella Christian body in bidding farewell to Asake remains an indelible high point of the burial programme. As those who came to bid farewell to the cleric departed to their various destinations, not a few expressed hope that the flame of unity sparked by what happened in Kafanchan on June 8, 2018 will be sustained in the months and years ahead.