Flora Abiodun Sogbesan: A Rare Gem Bows Out

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Michael and George Etomi
Mrs. Flora Abiodun Sogbesan (nee Etomi), who was our sister and mother, was born in December 1936. She was the eldest child of the late Bernard Hanoba Etomi, who was the first Commissioner of Police in the then newly created Mid-Western region of Nigeria. Our father true to his time was a polygamist who at the time of his death in 1970 had over 30 children. Out of this number, only Mrs. Sogbesan had left school having graduated from the prestigious Yale University eight years earlier and was married to the late Abayomi Olusola Sogbesan, Who later became a Senior Advocate.

Most of us were in our early or late teens at the time of our father’s death and thus unable to appreciate the full impact of his sudden death at the time. Our late father had had a distinguished career in the Nigeria Police Force, being the most senior police officer from what was the then Mid-Western region of Nigeria. Before then, he served at various times in Lagos, Warri, Abeokuta, Ilesha, Port Harcourt and Ibadan amongst others where his career blossomed. It was no surprise that when the Mid-West region was created, he was moved there to head the police force. He retired shortly afterwards. Our father was very loving, caring and doted over all his children. He was concerned about unity and harmony among us notwithstanding that we were from different mothers; a wish our sister helped him fulfill.

When he died suddenly in 1970, one could only have imagined the level of uncertainty that overcame the family. Most of us at the time were with him in Benin when this happened. However, within 24 hours, our eldest sister accompanied by her great husband showed up in Benin. Their reassuring presence was only the beginning of a story that has led the Etomi family to where it is today. First, they took the decision not to disperse all of us to our respective mothers. Really who would have blamed them they if they had done so? After all Mrs. Sogbesan was the only child from her mother; was a Yale scholar; had gotten married to the up and coming brilliant lawyer, Abayomi Sogbesan; had a very lucrative job at Igbobi Hospital while Mr. Sogbesan was a lecturer at the University of Lagos. What made these two decide to open their door and their hearts to the entire family, to put it mildly is one of the wonders of God. A “me, myself and I policy” from her would have been the natural thing to do and being an only child in a polygamous setting even lent itself strongly to that temptation.

The mystery even deepens when you realise that Mr. and Mrs. Sogbesan were only in their early 30s when they placed upon themselves the roles of mother and father to most of us. She along other senior members of the family like our late uncle, Pius Etomi, our older brother Dr. Cyril Etomi and older cousin, Prof. Julius Okojie taught us the art of living for one another. Now that we are of full maturity with our own families, it becomes truly amazing the sacrifices they all made to give us a chance in life.

Mrs. Sogbesan joined the Nigerian army in 1970 and served meritoriously for 20 years before her retirement in 1990. She made history by being the first dietician in the Nigerian army. Her personal lifestyle was a story of discipline, industry, fortitude, love and philanthropy.

Realising the enormity of keeping everyone of us in check, she established ground rules for harmonious living. These rules taught us to respect one another, protect one another, love one another and stand up for one another. They are attributes that have served us throughout life. We learnt to share our adversities and celebrate our successes together. The most abiding gift in all of this was a sense of hope that became embedded in all of us. In return, we excelled.

One after another she saw us graduate, get married, have children, christen them and her motherly presence graced every one of these occasions. The galaxy of professionals in the family is an eloquent testimony that we did not let them down. She was a fine example of womanhood and our sisters embody that pride and excelled in school and character also.

Our Sister was presented another of life’s tests in 1990 when her ever supportive husband, Abayomi Olusola Sogbesan died suddenly in his fifties (like her dad). Lesser mortals would have given up on life, but our sister exhibited her angel’s worth. She kept herself busy with the school she established just the year before in 1989 in the depths Of Orile, Iganmu. She named it ABS Primary and Nursery School. ABS stood for Abayomi, Abiodun Sogbesan. In doing this, she moved one notch up in fulfilling her destiny. First, through the name, she immortalised her husband, and as we now know, herself. She also brought education to a community that would otherwise have been shut out from the benefits of good education.

Simultaneously as she was nurturing the school, she got another calling, this time for direct service to God. The idea of the Mountain of Fire Ministries (MFM) had just been born and together with other children of God, became a foundation member of the of the church that today has its tentacles all over the world. Not only was she ordained a Pastor, she was the head of the Widow’s Ministry, Women’s Foundation and the Elders Forum of the church.

Neither the death of her father, nor her husband diminished her faith in love and life. Instead, she told her story through practical deeds to uplift others. It is therefore no surprise that her appellations started evolving. From ‘Big Sister”, she became “Big Mummy”, she became “Nana” and by the time of her last major family outing in December 2015, she became undoubtedly, the matriarch of the Etomi dynasty. Our Sister according to her wishes will be interred in Lagos and we can never find the words to say thank you to this very special creation of God.

As an epilogue, we salute Flora Abiodun Sogbesan, daughter of Bernard Hanoba Etomi, wife of Abayomi Olusola Sogbesan, maiden and trailblazer of the Etomi clan, mother par excellence, grandmother emeritus, matriarch of the Etomi family and anointed child of God. Go forth into your deserved rest and may the angels usher you into the presence of God. We love you more than words can express.
Rest in perfect peace.

Ikpeazu Renames Umuojima Road after Late Dr. Chima Nwafor
A three-time former Deputy Governor of Abia State and renowned surgeon, Late Dr. Chima Nwafor, last Wednesday was given a posthumous honour by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who renamed Umuojima Road in Aba after him.

The late Dr. Nwafo was first Deputy Governor to the First Civilian Governor of the State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu from 1992 to 1993.

He was later appointed Deputy Governor under former Governor, Orji Uzo Kalu, in 2002 to complete Orji Kalu and Enyinnaya Abaribe tenure, when Abaribe resigned.
In 2003, Nwafor was elected as Deputy Governor to Kalu during the second tenure of Orji Kalu, but died in office before the end of the tenure.

In recognition to his contributions in the struggle for emancipation of Abia State, the late elder statesman was honoured as Governor Ikpeazu renamed Umuoijma Road in Osisioma area of Aba after him. Late Dr. Nwafor is a native of Umuojima Village in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State.