SATURDAY TRIBUTE STORIES

By Kelechi Omeni Nzewuihe

No matter how old a child is, he is still a baby to the parents particularly the mother and it is always good to tell sweet stories about our parents when we are alive to bid them good bye from this world to higher Glory. We all love a good story when we see one.

For the family of Omeni Nzewuihe of Mpama Egbu, in Owerri , this is certainly the best time to tell the tell the story of their mother, Ezinne Victoria Ugwuakanma Nzewuihe who passed on to higher glory recently at the age of 73.

Interestingly, Kanma as she is fondly called, certainly did love a good story. She was good at telling good stories too, often pausing and gesticulating, to make the point sink and as she is being bade by we will tell her story, though we may not be able to do justice to the tales in such a short time. Many here know parts of her story. Even many of our friends seated who had come to say bye could tell a version of our mother’s story.

Anyone that had any contact with her during her lifetime could tell a story about her and there may be few here who know parts of the beginning; a lot knows a huge chunk of the middle, and some know part of the end.

I will however attempt to tell the whole story about the woman whose life whose story is that of going from grass to grace, that of a humble beginning, that of life of sacrifice, care and love, an independent woman with a heart for charity.

As script writers and great historians will always tell us, every story begins with ‘once upon a time’ and once upon a time lived one Sergeant Jacob Dozie Nwaneri of Umuihugba, Umuodu Owere and Regina Ndeakwa Amadi Okere of Obike, Ngor-Okpala was one of his wives. On Friday, October 13, 1944, they were blessed with a baby girl, who was the first daughter of Dozie Nwaneri, named Victoria Ugwuakanma. Her name indeed was prophetic, Victoria denoting royalty and Ugwuakanma showing the futility of allowing detractors and haters determine your course in life.

Victoria indeed had a fairly royal beginning. Enrolled in Christ Church Elementary School where her academic excellence was stellar. Finishing top of her class and receiving accolades from her teachers and mates, she got accepted to Queen’s School Enugu, Elelonwo Girls’ and St Catherine’s Nkwerre, all very prestigious schools at the time. However, fate dealt a blow to her; her father became very sick, making it difficult for her to continue her academic pursuit. This changed the course of her life forever. But this is where her real story begins.

She was not deterred, but determined, intelligent, hardworking and an exceptionally gifted girl, who could not pursue her desire for further education (which, having watched her, would so easily have led her in a some excellent career path). She could not be persuaded to take a lower road to become someone’s secretary. So from the beginning, she did demonstrate a good level of independent mindedness and that sweet, non-confrontational stubbornness, which we all saw in her. These events led her on a different path. At the age of 16, she became married to Samuel Omenichekwa Nzewuihe of Umudozie, Mpama Egbu.

Mama loved history. Mama was an expert in tracing lineage. She made sure we knew all those related to us, explaining every relationship in details through different generations. It is still a marvel to me how she was able to feed so many mouths with so little. Mama’s hard work paid off. It is not so hard to see how much grace was upon her and how much she has been lifted in her lifetime: 9 children, 8 sons and daughters 23 in-law, 24 grandchildren. In the last 21 years, mama has done this without her husband, who died at the age of 67 years in 1996. In life, she knew sorrow.

On the morning of Saturday June 9, our dear mother drew a final curtain on the earthly phase of her journey. She was sick for a very short period. At the time of her death she was 73 years old. Mama’s journey may not have been as long as we would have wanted; but she lived a very eventful life, she lived a happy life, she lived a life of charity and she did leave a mark, a legacy. In her own words, she saw it all.

Although mama’s academic pursuit was cut short by her father’s ill health, but in her children and grandchildren, she has acquired multiple academic and 24 professional qualifications: from engineering to banking, health sciences to management; law and behavioral sciences. Today she is a college professor.

Her name is also known in the political landscape of our state and beyond. Furthermore, mama became a mother to many in the service of God, including priests and even Bishops. All of our friends called her mama, and she indeed was a mother to them all. In her lifetime she did a fair bit of traveling across several continents. But one of the most remarkable of these in her opinion was her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. To walk on the ground that Our Lord Jesus walked on was very humbling to her. It brought the reality of the Lord’s suffering and the veracity of several bible stories home.

She was never shy of talking about this, albeit with smile and assuredness. She chose her own funeral order and hopefully we all have done our best to honor her wish. Mama, this is new for us. We do not know how to live without you. We have never done it before. It will be tough. You thought us to trust God (whom you often referred as okacha ama – omniscient God); so we will trust Him for the courage to carry on, to show us a new path to continue your and papa’s legacy. We will not fail you. Just as birth marks the beginning of earthly journey, death marks the end of it. To the unbelieving, death may mean a hopeless end. But no matter what we think of it, it is an unavoidable event.

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A Tribute to Mallam Adamu Ciroma

E

arly in my career as a young attorney, I had a sweet encounter with Mallam Adamu Ciroma, then Dallatun Fika.

The sweet and unique memories lingered in my memory for almost 3 decades after. I was cutting my teeth under the tutelage of the trio of Late Marafan Sokoto, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, Late Dr. Hamed Kusamotu and Chief Tunde Olojo, via Shinkafi, Kusamotu, Olojo & Co.

It was in a libel matter which was instituted by the firm on behalf of Late Mallam Adamu Ciroma against the Nigeria Tribune. The Tribune misreported the evidence of the late strong man of Kwara (Dr. Olusola Saraki) in the celebrated case of Saraki vs Kotoye.

It was reported that Dr. Olusola Saraki gave shares to Mallam Adamu Ciroma to secure the banking licence of Societe Generale Bank. This was contrary to the evidence on record. Mallam was peeved, hence the Suit. Initially, I was wondering what the issue was but when he explained the ethical issue involved as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), my respect for him soared. He lived and breathed integrity. He displayed patience and was always ready to go by the rules. After the victory in the trial Court and the Tribune’s appeal was becoming prolonged, he was always showing understanding for the process until the appeal was disposed of and he won. It was before Justice Yahya (J.C.A.) then at the High Court of Kaduna State.

Each time I went for the case, I would go to the Mallam’s house on Reeve Road where he would always give me dinner. Before the dinner, we would both go to Bello Mosque very close to his house to observe Magrib prayer and we would both stay in the mosque till after Ishai. It was from him I learnt the culture of staying over between magrib and Ishai prayers.

I noticed his deep connection with the Almighty without any display or airs. He was always modest and very polite. I was just about 30 years old, yet Mallam would sit with me in the car and drop me at my hotel on wharf Road. Despite my very young age, he never doubted my ability and he often told me that greater achievements are often recorded by the younger ones. He encouraged me and I gained a lot of confidence from my interaction with him. On one of my visits, and after the court proceedings, he sought to know if I was interested in accompanying him to Potiskum. I answered in the affirmative and pronto I joined him on the very informative and educative ride to Potiskum from Kaduna.

He spoke about life generally and his views of Nigeria and I am convinced that had he been privileged to rule Nigeria, perhaps the situation will be different today. He was deep and very sound with a huge sense of justice.

I often recall one of his great sayings during the third term debate to wit: if they extend their tenure, can they extend their life span?

This saying remains a food for thought for both the proponents and opponents of the alleged 3rd term agenda and indeed a food for thought for all of us.

The great Patriot studied in the University of Ibadan where he distinguished himself. He married a Yoruba lady of Egba extraction which clearly shows that he was a detribalized Nigerian in the mould of Gen. Obasanjo, Gen. Babangida, Late Umaru Shinkafi and a few others.

His politics was based on conviction and not mere passing convenience. He refused to be blackmailed into joining a sectional agenda when he was in the PDP. When some folks decided to be less honourable in handling the affairs of PDP, Mallam quietly and honourably withdrew and he stayed at the background.

While only God has no one to compare with Him, the type of Mallam Ciroma is rare to come by nowadays. His passage is a major blow to the human race. The Nigerian nation has lost a huge moral barometer and an astute Statesman who will be missed dearly.

May the Almighty Allah repose his gentle soul and reward him with Aljanna firdaousi.

––Raji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) wrote from Abuja

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