The wish of late Thompson Oliha to rest in peace seems a dream too far going by dramatic events that unfolded yesterday during his burial ceremony here in the ancient city of Benin.
After the lying-in-state held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, which featured a novelty match between selected former Eagles teammates and the Kwara Football Academy, his place of last appointment, not a few persons who proceeded to his Upper Sakponba residence for the interment, had a premonition of the confusion that was to come.
After the convoy of vehicles navigated through the traffic-littered roads of Benin and got to the house built by the former Super Eagles midfielder, the drama of what to come started unfolding as the mourners, comprising family members, ex-teammates, friends and relatives disembarked to discover that the grave for the deceased was close to the toilet outside the premises.
Shocked and bewildered with what they saw, some friends and relatives objected to the burial place. They said that Benin tradition was against burying a man who had properties outside his compound. They smelt foul-play and accused the immediate brothers and sisters of attempting to play a smart one on the wives and children left behind by Oliha, who they said deserved to be buried in one of the rooms built by him as a mark of respect or better still in the front corridor.
They said that they were not going to allow Oliha’s brothers have their way on the grave, demanding that the already dug grave be closed while a new one be dug in the front corridor. As the diggers were closing the grave, a mild fracas broke out as the eldest sons of Oliha family, Ayo, came out to direct that the diggers discontinue the closing up of the grave.
But the protesting friends and relatives threatened to deal with him should he carry out the order, insisting that the Benin tradition on burial of men with properties be respected. Ayo Oliha, in a final attempt to have his way, told the protesters that the decision to bury Thompson at the back side of his house was well thought-out.
He explained that the family plans to build a tombstone later so that people can visit him to pay their respects. But one of the protesters fired back that the tombstone would even look better and command more attention of people in the front corridor. He alleged that the earlier plan to bury Oliha close to the toilet outside the premises was for family members to have opportunity to dispose off the property of the deceased.
“If we allow you to bury him outside, you people will sell this house and that would not be good for the wives and kids that he left behind. But as he is going to be buried here, this house is secured from any sale because nobody buys a house where the owner was buried in Benin,” said Modecia Isibor, Thompson Oliha’s best friend . As these scenes were unfolding, the two women who had children for the former Eagles midfielder were sobbing.
They knew that the fight was for them. Isibor said that Oliha had four houses in Nigeria, wondering why a man with such properties would be buried in such a manner. “In Benin City, he had two houses, he had one in Lagos and he was already building another one in Ilorin, before he died on June 30”, he said. In the heat of the raging storm, the Oliha family beat a retreat and a new grave was dug in the front corridor where Oliha was buried at 6.30 p.m. amidst tears and wailing yesterday.
Another friend of the deceased, alleged that the Oliha’s family were already demaning for the release of the landed documents of the former Bendel Insurance player. “I do not know why they want the documents. I guess they want to sell his properties but after this burial, I would run away and they would not see me again.
We have to secure the future of this young children and wives he left behind”, he said. It was learnt that the late Oliha did not legalise his union with his two wives, a development that has made them object of target by the Oliha clan. One friend said that Oliha’s biggest mistake was his failure to legalise his union with his two women, Ajara and Iris, both of whom were seen with their kids yesterday.