Augustina Alaere Alaibe: Still a Shining Amazon, Eleven Years After


By Eddy Odivwri

A simple one-page Facebook post last Friday was all that was done to awaken my memories of a lady who had stood stoutly for the benefit and progress of fellow women. She had hit the public stage with some bang. Her passion was solid. You could cut it. Her devotion was Pentecostal. It flamed. Suddenly she became an avante guard of the course of women. Especially women who suffered lack and lacked formal education. They were her target. She stepped down from her privileged height and stooped wit them. She literally abandoned her upstream shop, Pretty Woman on Toyin street, Lagos and went in search of these her Bayelsa women.

She released herself into their midst, speaking as they speak, eating as they eat.

But she had her focus and her drive intact. She ran a second chance school for women in her native Bayelsa State. She named her platform Family Re-orientation, Education and Empowerment (FREE). With FREE, she roused the rural women to a new dawn. They saw another life. A new possibility. She hired teachers and instructors to not only mentor the rural folks but to also teach them how to read and write. They had become large community of mentees for Mrs Augustina Alaere Alaibe, the wife of Mr Ndutimi Alaibe, then Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Hers was even beyond the literacy of the rural womenfolk. She had introduced some economic packages to them. They had a co-operative. They had a common cassava farm from which they did some ‘small-small’ businesses. The frontiers were expanding. Prospect was evident. Life was picking up for the women as they began to usher in a new dawn in their lives. Alaere wanted to wrack down the twin malaise of illiteracy and poverty among the women. The story of the transformation of these women was spreading like wild fire. She made it to the cover of several magazines and periodicals. The story of FREE was sizzling. Awards–local and occidental, started pouring in, as added value to the course she had defined for herself.

Then the bomb: Alaere was ill!

Nobody imagined it could be such a terrible affliction. Not for a lady who was not only an epitome of love, but also super finicky on health matters and routines. She was practically a flying aficionado on almost all matters, especially health and public ethics.

The ailment got her sequestered in some London hospital and for a long while, she was off the stage.

Then came January 31, 2009, my friend and brother, Alaibe sent that terse text: “we lost her”. It was terrible news for me. Made even doubly terrible because two weeks earlier, my own father, Chief Jacob Odivwri Edjesa had been kidnapped and killed by some rag-tag, rough neck criminals. It was a heavy season for me.

But time heals. And in eleven years, we look back and thank God for all that happened. On November 9, 2018 when her eldest daughter, Ebitimi, got married, the imprint of Alaere on her daughter was markedly bold. In eleven years, Timi had verily filled the gap and helped to see all the children to full adulthood. No doubt, Alaere would be nodding in heaven, seeing how well her family has carried on . I am a witness. I join others to celebrate this human phoenix, who though has transformed eleven years ago, the echoes of her works still reverberate among we mortals. The princess of Trofani, sleep on.