By Uche Anichukwu
As our fathers taught us, no man counts himself truly successful until he has taken a wife. Even though the Bible assures that he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from God, the promise is for those who marry according to God’s will. Sadly, not every man is so blessed.
History and the holy books are replete with examples of what difference women in the precincts of power could make, for good or evil. Jezebel rendered Ahab’s regime irredeemably bloody. God blessed Potiphar exceedingly because of Joseph’s presence, but his lecherous wife had Joseph thrown into jail for refusing her obscene overtures. For Herodias’ sake, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist imprisoned and subsequently beheaded. Queen Mother, Athalia, almost wiped out all heirs to the throne in a reprehensible quest for power.
There are also the femme fatale (fatal women), who misused their beauty to pull down Kings and empires, and themselves, ultimately. Daji, Maosi and Moxi are among the most disreputable in ancient China. According to Creation of the Gods, a Chinese classic book, Daji, an evil woman and temptress from the Shang Dynasty, manipulated King Zhou and turned him into a cruel and self-indulgent oppressor, which eventually caused his downfall.
In William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, whereas the witches play a prominent role in misleading Macbeth, it is actually the resident ‘witch’, Lady Macbeth’s inordinate ambition that is the real architect of Macbeth’s tragic fall.
On the other hand, virtuous women whose mouths drooped with wisdom and their hearts with milk of human kindness also abound. Abigail saved her wealthy, but foolish husband, Nabal from destruction and also turned David away from bloodguilt. Although Pontius Pilate washed his hands after sentencing innocent Jesus Christ to death, the bloodstain remains on his name, for he did not heed the dissuading voice of Claudia Procula, his wife.
To adapt a Chinese proverb, some women are like sunshine, they illuminate the faces; some like the rain, they make people grow; some like the hurricane; they wreak havoc; and yet others are like the flood, they destroy everything on their path.
As a young secondary school leaver, Senator Ike Ekweremadu covenanted with God to use him to lift his community and environs from the reproaches of poverty and underdevelopment. In return, he would build a church for God. But to prepare him for the task ahead, the Omniscient first crowned Ikeoha with a virtuous young woman imbued with the superlative qualities of rain and sunshine.
Lady Nwanneka Ekweremadu is not just a paragon of beauty, brains, and character,Nwanyioma, as Ikeoha calls her, is her husband’s version of Telemachus in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “Ulysses”. Of his heir, Ulysses boasts: “This is my son, Telemachus/ To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle… /Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere/ Of common duties, decent not to fail/ In offices of tenderness….”
A typical Waawa (Enugu) woman, Lady Ekweremadu is certainly not the type that throws her weight about or hugs the limelight. She prefers to live her normal life. Humility is her lifestyle, giving is in her character, and caring is her habit.
Here is a VIP, who not only cooks when at home and manages the kitchen from any part of the world, but also throws even her inner dinning areas open to her husband’s members of staff, supporters, and associates. On one of our trips to Enugu, two of our staff and I were at the dinning for breakfast. We made to leave when we discovered that nothing had been touched- obviously the husband had not eaten. But she sighted us from the private living room. “Please eat, oga will soon join you”, she said.
Osinachiadimma is my only child born after I joined the Ikeoha team. “Uche, has madam put to bed?” Lady Ekweremadu always inquired. “Don’t worry, she will climb down safely”, Her Excellency would reassure me, with an encouraging smile. It was for such show of care and support by the this uncommon family that my wife and I chose Ikeoha as Osinachi’s godfather at baptism, an offer he readily accepted and has lived up to.
Acharaugo Nwanyi is a boss’ wife who appreciates even the smallest effort members of staff put in. Sometime in 2015, I had finished meeting with Ikeoha and was about to drive off when I was told Her Excellency wanted to see me. “Well, I just wanted to know how your family is doing and also thank you for your efforts”, she said. And this is her habit.
These instances may mean little to those who have had it rosy all their career lives, but millions out there who have endured hostile work environments where their sacrificial efforts only earned them abuses, while their personal or family wellbeing never mattered to their employers, surely understand.
It is not about the food. No one starves in his/her house. You will also do the job for which you are paid, whether you are appreciated or not. But life is not about Naira and Kobo. Am talking about that humble disposition; that respect for the dignity intrinsic in people’s humanity; that extra care and love; that inspirational smile; and indeed that big heart not only to give, but to also forgive and reform, knowing that no man is infallible. It is these attributes radiated by Lady Ekweremadu and Ikeoha that trigger in the Ikeoha team that spark of hidden energy and productivity, uncommon courage, and irrepressible loyalty that have sustained it as a formidable and ubiquitous force.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to write a line of tribute to Lady Ekweremadu on her Golden Jubilee without a mention of the Ikeoha Foundation, which is very dear to her heart. It has literally given a new lease of life to countless women, widows, and youth through scholarships, vocational trainings, and adult literacy programmes, among others. Even in this season of recession, the Foundation recently doled out N40.7 million in scholarships in addition to empowerment items to other segments of the society.
Born on September 10, 1966, to the family of Chief John & Lolo Monica Okah of Umuori hamlet, Enugu-Agu, Achi, Oji River LGA, and Enugu State, Lady Nwanneka Ekweremaduattended Iva-Valley Primary School and Idaw River Girls’ Secondary School, both in Enugu. She pursued higher knowledge at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, and later the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) where she obtained BSc. (Second Class, Upper Division) with honours in Accountancy and Economics.
Not done, Nwanneka proceeded to the Enugu Campus of the UNN, where she obtained a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) and subsequently to the Ebonyi State University, Abakiliki where she obtained Master of Science (MSc.) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Accountancy in 2009 and 2015, respectively.
Lady Ekweremadu worked as a teacher at the Federal Government College, Enugu and Federal Government Boys’ College, Apo, Abuja. A Chattered Accountant, she currently works in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation as an Assistant Director.
She is also a Lady, Order of the Good Shepherd, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, and recipient of several merit awards and traditional titles.
Your Excellency, hand that gives socour, Omuo Onezuta Anya, epitome of beauty, golden heart, the lowly river that receives tributes of a million mountain streams, matriarch of the Ikeoha dynasty, the praying woman that conquers on her knees and dances like King David, the goldfish that has no hiding place, and priceless jewel, we celebrate you as you clock 50. Keep being you. Jide ka iji.
–Anichukwu is Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of the Senat