Former Vice President Abubakar was on Sunday honored by the South African leadership with front-row seat at both the state funeral and private burial ceremonies of global icon, Madiba Nelson Mandela at the late leader’s native home at Qunu, near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape Province.
Mandela’s body was flown here from Pretoria where he had lain is state for three days for a state funeral attended by 4,000 and a private burial witnessed by 400, reserved for key government officials, a few foreign leaders and intimate family members.
Atiku was selected to be among the few lucky personalities to see Mr. Mandela’s final burial ceremonies in the land of his ancestors in accordance with the Xhosa culture by the South African leadership, with which he has maintained an excellent type of relationship since the days when he, as Vice President and the then Deputy President Zuma co-chaired the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-national Commissions. Those was a period marked by important trade and investment relations between the two countries.
A few African heads of state and international figures including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Iranian Vice President and Prince Charles of Britain were similarly honored.
“In a word: humbled,” said Atiku following today’s services. “Humbled to have known a man as great as Nelson Mandela, humbled to have been a witness today, and humbled to have been so honored by the government of South Africa.”
Atiku flew from Pretoria to Mthatha with President Zuma in the same plane. The state funeral was held with extremely tight security under a vast domed marquee constructed for the purpose in the verdant hills adjacent to the house Mr. Mandela built in Qunu.