The burial ceremony of one woman who was a member of St John’s Anglican Church in Delta state, was brought to an abrupt halt, following the mysterious death of Venerable Stephen Eseteru Ogue who was supposed to minister at the funeral service.
According to reports by The Vanguard, Pastor Ogue died at about 7.45am on Friday, December 11, 2015, two hours before he was billed to officiate at a funeral service.
The hearse conveying the remains of the woman whose burial the pastor was supposed to preside at, mourners, including a large delegation of the church’s women guild as well as members of the Anglican fasting and prayer Society, had gathered in front of the church building as early as 9.25 am for the service billed for 10.00am
Sources reveal that, the mourners who had been warned the previous day about late coming, arrived on time and kept waiting, unaware of the tragedy that had occurred in the cleric’s home.
They waited patiently for the officiating ministers to receive the body at the West Door (entrance of the church) in accordance with Anglican doctrine, but no pastor was in sight.
The mourners grew weary of waiting, hence,members of the mourning family began to call the vicar’s phone line and a voice answering to urge them to be patient. The calls to Reverend Friday Erutere, billed to assist the venerable at the funeral service, were initially ignored until he answered to similarly sue for patience, saying he was on his way to the church.
Erutere, who conducted the service of songs with Rev Wisdom Eghagha, the previous night, had warned against lateness, stressing that, in Anglican Church, such lapse attracts a fine of N10,000.
After about 45 minutes delay, a Toyota car, said to be owned by the vicar/archdeacon, hurried into the church premises and made its way straight to the staff quarters, to the relief of those waiting outside the church. Immediately, people started regrouping around the hearse with the hope that the service would soon begin. But, the relief soon turned to despair when the regrouping band of mourners discovered that the occupants of the car were only two female members of the family and the pastor’s driver.
The waiting had just begun. In the anxiety, nobody observed that the car, which was later learnt to have taken the venerable out of the church premises that early morning, did not bring him back. The only occupants of the car at that moment besides the driver, were his wife, Felicia and his eldest daughter, Oghenenyoreme.
After 60 minutes to the scheduled time of service, Erutere, accompanied by two others, arrived at the West Door to officially receive the corpse and proceeded with the funeral service.
Despite the commencement of proceedings, anxiety was still palpable as church members continued to ask after the whereabouts of the venerable, who had, on several occasions, enjoined members of the Women’s Guild to be punctual for that particular service and had promised to lead the church delegation to Okpara Inland for the interment.
The tension was heightened as for the first time in a funeral service, there was no communion and there was no offertory.
Sources reveal that the most worrisome development was the treatment accorded to the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who took time off his church’s three -day crusade at the Warri township stadium, as a mark of honour for the fallen mother.
As of the time when the mourners departed the church for Okpara Inland, venue of the interment, there was still no word about the sudden death of the vicar of the Agbarho church where another Anglican canon, Rev Benedict Akpoguma, took over proceedings.
Neither the mourners nor well wishers, who had travelled from long distances, including Mr John Salubi of the NNPC, Dr Francis Eghwubare of Delta state Uuniversity, Mr Joshua Onoronimighwu of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Victor Onogagamue of Delta state sports commission, Barrister Joseph Ogedegbe, and a former NBA Chairman of Ughelli Local Government, were briefed on the reason for the funeral’s delay.
Venerable Stephen Eseteru Ogue, JP, 53, was the author of several Christian books, including ‘Escathology: The rapture of the Saints’, ‘Foundation for marital bliss’ and ‘The potential power of the Holy Spirit’.
Until his sudden death of cardiac arrest at Lily Hospital, Deco Road, Warri, the Anglican venerable, according to his first daughter, Oghenenyoreme Ogue, was suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure.