By Timiebi Koripamo–Agary
On 31st August 2020, our world came crashing at the news of the sudden passing of our dear mother, sister, friend and auntie.
Nwadinafor, Chinyelu, Irualueze DeSouza (Nee Okediadi) was born on 22nd March 1949 in Egbu Owerri, present Capital of Imo State.
Nwadia or Adia, as she was fondly called by members of the family as well as friends, was the first child of Late Samuel Iyasele and Mrs. Eunice Chinedo Okediadi of blessed memory.
Nwadinafor in Igbo language literally means, “there is a baby in the womb.” This name was given to Nwadia when she was born, to reflect the apparent delay experienced by her mother before she conceived, a delay which caused her mother much embarrassment and worries as a young and newly married girl as she watched her mates, and even those who got married after she did, bearing and birthing babies. Oh, the pressures we put on our women because of our pro-natal culture.
Therefore, to register the landmark experience of her parents, the name “Nwadinafor” was given to her at birth and during her church baptism. The name “NWADINAFOR” (connoting one child), miraculously transformed to its plural context of “UMU –dinafor” as Nwadia opened her mother’s womb to a flood of children as she was followed in quick succession by another girl, Nkiruka, and three boys namely Oseloka, Chukwuma (Chuchu), and Centenary (Centy).
Papa Nwadia, Late Mr. Samuel Iyasele Okediadi was from Ogbeukwu Quarters in Aboh Kingdom, a riverine town which is the headquarters of Ndokwa-East Local Government Area in the present-day Delta State of Nigeria. Mama Nwadia, late Mrs. Eunice Chinedo Okediadi (Nee Onyeabo), was the third daughter of late Bishop Alphonso Chukwuma Onyeabo who was the first Ibo Anglican Bishop from the Royal family of Onoli Onyeabo of Umuaroli village in Onitsha (Onicha-Ado).
Her parents were missionary teachers who were, as was usual in those days, transferred from one station to another. Therefore, those frequent movements informed the fact that Nwadia had her primary education at various schools in different towns, including Egbu Owerri, Onitsha, Oba, and Awka.
Nwadia was internationally educated in Nigeria, France, UK, USA, and Côte d’Ivoire. She had her secondary school education at the famous and prestigious Archdeacon Crowther Memorial Girls’ Secondary School, Elelenwa, Port-Harcourt in the present-day Rivers State. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in French from the University of Ibadan (the first and best) in 1972, after a brief period of teaching in Benin after the Civil War. In 1971, she obtained a Diploma in French Studies from the Université de Nice in France. She went on to obtain further qualification in Journalism from ORTF, Institut de Formation in Paris, France. She was also masterful in her use of the English Language, and got certified in England for her professional craft. She received a Postgraduate Diploma in Conference Interpretation Techniques from the Polytechnic of Central London (Now the University of Westminster, London, England. In 2000 she received a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree from the Université d’Abidjan, Cocody, Côte d’Ivoire.
Indeed, Nwadia excelled in all she encountered ranging from the academics where she had various scholarship awards, and in sports, particularly the short distance races, where her style of running evoked laughter because she seemed to run sideways, while swinging one hand, in a “kurukere” way. She also took part in long and high jump, among other events.
In the early days of her professional career, she worked with the Red Cross Society for the management and distribution of relief materials to refugees and the vulnerable members of the society in the defunct Republic of Biafra.
Nwadia met her late husband, Emmanuel, in Paris and they got married in Paris in 1975. Because of the political upheavals in Togo, his home country at the time, they decided to relocate to Nigeria when it was time to leave Paris. Emmanuel, a hardworking and gifted Architect, ran his own architectural firm and worked between Lagos, Abidjan, and Paris. Okey, their only son was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1977.
On one of Emmanuel’s trips to Paris, Emmanuel was drugged and abducted on the flight and taken to Lomé where he was incarcerated for years as a political prisoner. Those were indeed very difficult and challenging years for Nwadia, who used all her energy, human and material resources to try to free him.
She joined the African Re-Insurance Company and later the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to access international networks to intervene in her husband’s situation. She met political influencers both in Nigeria and Geneva, through Amnesty International, to intervene. Through her doggedness and perseverance, and the support of the Nigerian Government, she not only gained access to see Emmanuel in detention, but saw to his eventual release. Upon Emmanuel’s release, the family relocated to Abidjan in 1985 to their family house beautifully designed and constructed by him.
She was an international civil servant for many years and served in organisations with both regional and continental reaches, the last of which was the African Development Bank (AfDB) where she served for more than two decades as Conference Interpreter and retired as the fourth Ombudsman and the first female ombudsman of the Organisation. No one could have done the job of preserving a wholesome workplace environment as Nwadia. For she was a leader who got things done through her love for people.
Even after retirement, she continued to work and consult for organisations as a language specialist and conference interpreter, and in Workplace Dispute Management. She was an internationally certified mediator.
She was a poet, a talent she brought to bear in her work as French/English interpreter, and bilingual translator. It was sheer joy listening to her at international conferences and meetings. She was very intense at work, a far cry from her usual happy, relaxed persona.
Nwadia was a faithful, loyal, and loving wife to her husband Emmanuel until his demise over a decade ago. Throughout Emmanuel’s terminal illness in their later years, Nwadia stood by him, providing all the support required whether they were in Togo or Paris where he went for medical care. She remained faithful to him and his memory until the very end.
She was a doting mother to her son Okey. He was her life! She gave him everything a child required to be a success. She protected him during the period of his dad’s incarceration because he too was a target. She doted on him but was never clingy. He was the centre of her universe, but she also allowed him his space to grow and thrive. She imparted Christian principles into him and remained his rock always.
She described herself as “first and foremost a woman with an unfathomable and fathomless sense of gratitude to our Lord and God for a life rich in experience, trials, opportunities, successes, and victories.”
Her gift in the creative arts found expression in music where she inspired her siblings and others to great heights in singing and playing the organ. She was a pioneer on the African Gospel music scene. She has two music albums of mostly gospel music to her credit and was always quietly satisfied and fulfilled to hear tunes and songs composed in the remote crannied of her bedroom being sung and reprised all over the continent and beyond. She created the now defunct but highly successful Grace Choir of the IFC for Women who thought they could not sing, and was deeply pained when the choir disbanded.
She was also a painter. She took up painting as a hobby after retirement in 2009 and turned out the most beautiful paintings of nature: people, plants, trees and flowers, and some abstracts. Nwadia was endowed with manifold natural gifts but above all, she personified love in the Christian meaning of it all – loving God Almighty with her might and everything in her, as well as loving her neighbours as herself.
When it comes to love, Nwadia poured love without discrimination to her late parents, siblings, relatives, friends, and indeed anyone who came her way. The various churches spread across the globe from the local church in Aboh, Delta State to Onitsha, Asaba, Abuja, Lagos, Abidjan, Tunis, Togo, France, and the U.S.A, have something good to remember her for either in kind/cash or otherwise.
She had strong and loving ties with her brothers, Chukwuma in Asaba and Centy in Missouri. She was very good at maintaining contact with family and friends. She always had the contact of some long-lost friend from school and reconnected them to other school friends.
She treasured and appreciated God’s blessing bestowed through her son, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friends, colleagues, and her church family. Unity in the Body of Christ was one of her greatest dreams, surely inherited from her maternal grandfather, Bishop Alphonso Onyeabo, MBE, the first Anglican Ibo Bishop. She was a firm believer in the assertion that God blesses one to bless others, and strived in her modest fashion to live it out in her daily life. She believed in the indispensability of women in God’s execution of His scheme of things. And all the testimonials confirm her awesome love for God, her family and friends. We shall keep her alive in our hearts, with love.
As her family prepares for her final burial rites on October 9th 2020 in Lomé, Togo, we pray for her peaceful repose.
*Dr Timiebi Koripamo–Agary, OON, KSM wrote this tribute in honour of Nwadinafor Chinyelu DeSouza