Pastor drops dead, hours before ministering at burial service

The leadership of St. John’s Anglican Church, Agbarho in
Ughelli North Local Government  Area of
Delta State was thrown into confusion when the church vicar, scheduled to lead
a team of  ministers at a funeral
service, suddenly died after he was rushed to hospital.
Venerable Stephen Eseteru Ogue, JP, 53, author of several
Christian books, including ‘Escathology: The rapture of the Saints’,
‘Foundation for marital bliss’ and ‘The potential power of the Holy Spirit’,
died at about 7.45 a.m. on Friday, December 11, 2015, two hours  before he was billed to officiate at a
funeral service. 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.

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 a.m. for the service billed for
10.00 a.m.
Unaware of the tragedy that had occurred, the mourners, who
had been warned the previous night against lateness to the funeral service,
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. Meanwhile, other members of the church and visitors kept trooping
into the church premises for the funeral service.
Worried by the development, 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.
Eventually, 60 minutes after 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. Nobody was providing answers to
questions. Not even his assistant who, some observed later, appeared agitated
and confused to the extent that, for the first time in a funeral service, there
was no communion and there was no offertory. By far, the most worrisome was
the  treatment accorded 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
As the mourners departed the church for Okpara Inland, venue
of the interment, there was no word about the sudden death of the vicar of the
Agbarho church where another Anglican canon, Rev. Benedict  Akpoguma, took over proceedings. Put simply,
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
University, 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.
When a Vanguard correspondent visited the home of the vicar, the
wife [Felicia] was lying on the bed despondent with a few church members
shielding her and making sure her health condition did not degenerate. Only the
first daughter, Oghenenyoreme, could volunteer comments, although, she was
unable to explain the mystery behind the death of her father,  as, according to her, they were trained to
submit to the will of God in all circumstances.
However, the daughter said they had prayed together that
morning in accordance with family tradition, without any visible signs of
danger, and the ebullient father retired to the couch in the sitting room
apparently to relax.
“After a while, I noticed that daddy was no longer breathing
normally and I raised the alarm to draw my mum’s attention. She quickly called
the driver and we carried him to the car and drove straight to the hospital in
Warri. That is all I can tell you, because nobody told us anything about his
state of health until the bishop came later that day to break the sad news to
us,” she tearfully narrated.


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