From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Okey Sampson, Umuahia
President Muhammadu Buhari, former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu and others have mourned the deaths of Mrs. Victoria Nwanyiocha Aguiyi-Ironsi, first military head of state and Mrs. Adanma Okpara.
Widow of the late Nigerian head of state, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, died at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, Abia State, yesterday morning while Adanma Okpara, widow of the first republic premier of the Old Eastern region, 96, died on Sunday morning in an undisclosed hospital in Enugu State.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement by, Femi Adesina, condoled with the Aguiyi-Ironsi family, and government and people of Abia State on her passing.
He affirmed that Lady Victoria’s incredible strength and exceptional courage during one of the darkest moments in the nation’s history pedestals her as a mother of the nation, God-fearing and foremost woman of valour.
The president noted that the former first lady would be remembered for laying a solid foundation for women’s leadership role in the seat of power and as a founding member of the Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association as she passionately championed the welfare and wellbeing of families of military officers.
Buhari similarly commiserated with family of the late Okpara who he described as an enterprising, disciplined mother, worthy example of humility and hardwork to her children and the many women she mentored in her community.
Dr. Kalu also commiserated with family of the first Republic Premier of defunct Eastern Nigeria. In a condolence message in Abuja, he described the deceased as a woman of virtue, stressing that she was a pillar of support and source of inspiration for the womenfolk.
The former governor also condoled with friends and associates of the Okpara family, adding that the good deeds of the deceased were worthy of commendation and emulation.
Kalu admonished the family to sustain the worthy legacies of the matriarch.
“She was selfless, patriotic and easy-going and played key roles in advancing the cause of the people at all levels.
“She lived a purposeful life, committed to the service of mankind,” he said.
Kalu prayed God to grant the deceased eternal rest and give the family, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Dr. Kalu also commiserated with the family of Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, describing the demise of the matriarch as a huge loss to the nation, Kalu urged members of the Aguiyi-Ironsi family to sustain the good deeds of their late matriarch.
Born on November 21, 1923, she was first lady from January 17, 1966 to July 1966. She married Aguiyi-Ironsi as a 16-year-old student of Holy Rosary Convent School, Okigwe in 1953. Her husband was killed in Ibadan, Oyo State, on July 29, 1966 in a coup, and she never remarried.
Kalu prayed for the repose of the soul of Mrs. Aguiyi-Ironsi.
“She was forthright, kind, urbane and selfless. She was a role model to the womenfolk.
“The late Chief (Mrs) Veronica Aguiyi-Ironsi will be remembered for her good deeds. Her life was remarkable and purposeful.”
On his part, Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu said he was pained at the death Lady Adanma Okpara and Mrs Aguiyi-Ironsi.
“The death, in quick succession, of these two iconic Abia women is very significant. They were both great historical icons. They were both First Ladies. They were both from Umuahia, our state capital.”
Governor Ikpeazu observed that the Lady Aguiyi-Ironsi was undeterred by the tragic death of her husband and managed to groom her children to become great and responsible members of society who also imbibed the finest ideals of public service, especially her first son, a successful career diplomat, His Excellency, Ambassador Tom Aguiyi Ironsi, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Togo and a former Minister of State, Defence.
On Lady Okpara, Ikpeazu said the support Adanma provided to her late husband was instrumental to the monumental success he recorded as Premier.
The governor noted that despite losing her husband since December, 1984, Lady Adanma remained a model of good and excellent womanhood.
“She was a fountain of knowledge from which most women, especially, here in Abia, drank freely.”
Vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Peter Obi, expressed his condolence to the government and people of Abia State on the death of their two great matriarchs, who he said, had their names etched on the history of Igboland in particular and Nigeria in general.
Obi encouraged the government and people of Abia State to accept the deaths as God’s will while imbibing the good legacies left behind by the matriarchs.
Obi said the death remains a painful experience, especially the death of a loved one, more so, a mother. He appreciated the fact that they lived till old age.