From Kenneth Udeh, Abuja
Thursday the 4th of November will forever remain indelible in the lives of the Idagbo’s and indeed, Cross Riverians at large, as Calabar the ancient capital city of Cross River State, known for its serenity and beautiful ambience came alight when Member, representing Bekwarra/Obudu/Obanliku Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Rt Hon Legor Idagbo, hosted dignitaries from all walks of life to celebrate the 80th birthday anniversary of his beloved mother, Mrs Bernadette Barong Idagbo (Nee Bisong).
Joined by his siblings and immediate relatives, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Nigerian content, Hon Legor, left no stone unturned to ensure that their Matriarch was duly honoured and celebrated.
The grand reception held at Events 45 Centre, Douglas Road, Calabar housed up distinguished personalities from the political strata, the business community, the legal profession, security agencies, and other spheres of human endeavours. They gathered with a common ground to celebrate the accomplishments of a great woman of inestimable virtue who brazed all the odds to nurture five children who have become successful in various fields of life.
To Legor, it was a day to remunerate by showcasing to the world a courageous woman so committed to her Catholic Christian virtues, upon which she raised her family despite the unexpected early passing of her late husband Justice Ochikry Idagbo in 1983.
Born to a devout Catholic family on the 4th of November, 1941, in Basan Osokom community in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, MrsBernadette attended Holy Child Convent School Ogoja. Thereafter, attended Teacher Training College Ifuho, Ikot Epkene after which she proceeded to the University of Cross River State (now University of Uyo) where she bagged a degree in English Literature.
The occasion was to reward the Matriarch for her tireless efforts in taking up the responsibility of raising five male children to become successful despite her husband’s death.
The epoch-making event commenced officially with the arrival of celebrant herself, accompanied by a motorcade led by Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wase and other honourable members from the National Assembly.
From kick-off till its conclusion the landmark birthday gig was enchanted with elements and features of a premium birthday bash sufficiently befitting to celebrate longevity laced with the outstanding accomplishments of Mrs Bernadette Idagbo.
The calibre of dignitaries that converged to recognise and celebrate 80 year old Mrs Bernadette validated the top-notch rating of the event, they include; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase; Executive Governor of Cross River State, Benedict Ayade, and the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong.
Also present were a former three-term Senator and former Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Victor Ndom Egba; Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Hon Eteng Jonas-Williams; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Martins Ori; APC State Chairman-elect of Cross Rivers State, Alphonsus Eba and His Royal Highness, High Chief Tony Udiameh.
Other notable personalities who garlanded the event include both serving and former Senators as well as members of the House of Representatives. Amongst them were the Spokesperson for the House of Representatives, Hon Benjamin Kalu; Rt Hon Henry Achibong; House Committee chairman on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji; Nnolim Nnaji; Hon. Victor Nwokolo; Rt Hon Henry Nwawuba; House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, Professor Julius Ihonvbere amongst others.
Also attending were members of the state’s executive council, they include; Commissioner For Local Government Affairs, Hon. Stella Odey; Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Eric Anderson; other personalities include; Dr Frank Ayade and Mrs Elizabeth Ayade.
As expected, siblings, children, grandchildren, extended relatives, and well-wishers were fully on ground to celebrate the Matriarch of the Idagbo dynasty has impacted numerous lives, they were; wife of Hon Legor, wife of Rt Hon (Barr) Legor Idagbo, Capt Cassandra Idagbo; Barr Mrs Alami; Mrs Margaret Kankum Mgbeje; Mrs Monica Taiwo; Justice Philomena Ekpe and five children namely; Mr. Ochikry Idagbo; Mr Piatabuchy Idagbo; Mr Ukan Idagbo; Rev Fr Osang Idagbo and Hon Legor Idagbo.
A-list celebrities in the entertainment industry were also present to garnish the occasion they included; Timi Dakolo, Okey Bakassi, Sunny Neji, and other notable artists.
Moments after the arrival of the dignitaries, the social event commenced with prayers to God Almighty, after which the chairman of the occasion Senator Ndoma Egba set the ball rolling with his opening remarks in which he showered endearing tributes on the celebrant.
Addressing Mrs Bernadette, who sat gracefully and beaming with smiles, flanked by her Sisters, Ndoma said: ‘Mrs Bernadette is mother to all of us not just to the Idagbo’s alone. She is a woman of substance, grace, and a wonderful teacher. Your life at 80 is just the beginning. You have always taken me as a member of your household. This shows how accommodating and open you have always been to everyone who comes across you. Today we are all gathered here not just to celebrate your new age but to reflect on your unique motherly characters and so also thank you for the tenacity in training your children to who they have all become today.
The guests while helping themselves to various sumptuous meals also listened to rib-cracking jokes from MC’s, Real P, and George, accompanied by a lovely speech given by Wase. The Deputy Speaker lauded the Celebrant and wished her many more years. He thanked her for giving birth to a son like Hon Legor whom he said had been instrumental to the successes of the 9th House of Representatives.
‘On behalf of Nigerians and the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, I want to congratulate you specially. Your son has worked with us well at the House. Your remaining years on earth will be better than what you have now and we thank you for giving us a son like Hon. Lego,’ Wase concluded.
Bernadette’s dinner party cruised into the night and geared up to hit its crescendo when the video of birthday wishes from various personalities who weren’t able to attend the event physically was played on a large Monitor Board. The dignitaries who took turns Felicitate with the celebrant include; Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Former Governor of Cross River, Donald Duke; Mrs Bernadette’s son, Rev Fr Osang Idagbo, and other notable persons.
On his part, son of the Celebrant, Legor Idagbo expressed his gratitude to his siblings, lovely wife, and relations for their support towards making the event a success. Legor took time to mention each of the special guests for coming, he also extended his gratitude to the media, office staff, and other groups of persons for their contribution and attendance. To his dear mother, he prayed for many more years of health, happiness, and God’s blessings.
An ineffaceable highlight of the occasion Legor Idagbo gifted his dear mother Mrs Bernadette Idagbo, a brand new car. He described the car as just a token of his love for her in celebration of the milestone age.
Her great-grandchildren were not left out as they took to the stage with their musical instruments to render melodious birthday songs to their grandmother, who was seated and watched them with keen attention and smiles all over her face.
Amidst good music and a grandiose banquet in the magnificently decorated hall, Gov. Ayade took his turn to deliver his speech about the Celebrant. In his opening remark, the Governor wished her a happy birthday and blessings of God upon her and the entire family. He described her new age as a new beginning saying that the Matriarch still had more to contribute to the family and the society. Ayade lauded her courage and forthrightness.
Ayade ended his speech by announcing a birthday gift of another brand new car to the celebrant.
Another memorable moment was when Governor’s Ayade and Lalong led “Mama” to the dance floor in which the Celebrant danced actively to the admiration of the guests showing no signs that she is an 80 years old woman.
Shortly after the dance, the trio proceeded to cut “mama’s magnificent birthday cake” after which various categories of photos were also taken with the Mama’s children, grandchildren, in-laws, siblings, friends, members of the National Assembly, amongst others.
Performances by Timi Dakolo, Sunny Neji and the live band on stage got the crowd rocking all night followed by a rib-cracking comedy delivered by Okey Bakassi and other comedians.
Other guests extended their felicitations to Legor’s amiable and beautiful mother and said prayers for good health, happiness, and prosperity for her.