By Henry Umah and Gordons Ejikeme
As Rev. Chris Okotie is wont to say, Nne-Ife Alice Ukamaka Ejikeme (Ugodi) went into “somnolent quietude” on March 11, 2016. Having played her part in the theatre of life, she dropped the anchor and went into a well-deserved rest; free from trials and tribulations.
One constant statement on the lips of everyone who knew her is that she was a good woman. Indeed, when Pope John Paul VI, in one of his litany addresses, said: “Give me a good Christian mother and I will renew the face of the Earth,” he had virtuous women like Nne-Ife Alice Ejikeme in mind. She was virtuous in every material particular. She feared the Lord all her life, worked diligently in His vineyard and cared for the less privileged in society. Always cheerful, the heart of her husband safely trusted her while he lived. She spoke with wisdom and inculcated the virtues of respect, discipline and hard work in her children. No wonder they excelled in various field of endeavour.
Nne-Ife Ejikeme was born 85 years ago to the family of late Pa Emmanuel Enuma of Okpono-Umuogali village, Oba in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. Joy and wild celebration took centre stage as thanksgiving and praises were offered to Almighty God on the safe landing of another ambassador of the family.
Education for women in mama’s time was not given a priority. However, she was privileged to attend up to standard four in primary school. In the 19 80s when the government of Anambra state introduced Adult Education Scheme, mama took advantage of it and completed her primary school. She continued the adult education until a time when she opted out because it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to combine schooling, working and taking care of her home.
Mama got married at a very young age though to the man of her dream, who prior to marrying her resigned from the Nigerian Police Force and started his own business. Her husband opened a shop for mama in Lokoja, where she started selling some household goods and she used the proceeds to assist him in payment of family bills. She was enterprising and assisted her husband to build a vast business empire.
In 1967, as a result of the Biafran War, mama, with her family relocated to her country home, Oba, where she stayed until her death. After the War in 1970, she agreed with Papa that they would not go back to Lokoja but stay and do business in Onitsha because at that time, nobody was sure of the future of Nigeria considering what they lost as a result of the civil war. Such lost properties included 19 Mercedez Benz lorries 911. They came to Oba with these trucks but they were confiscated by the Biafran Army and were used to prosecute the war even as his personal 403 car was taken by the Biafran Army. The small estate they were developing in Lokoja, during the war was treated as abandoned property and taken over by the indigenes. So, while in Oba, mama took up appointment with Girls’ Secondary School, Oba, as a non-teaching staff and retired in late 80s. She was enjoying her pension till death.
Her support for the family, especially during trials and downturns of life is unparalleled. She was an amazing pillar of support to the husband and family, especially during the civil war. Mama risked her life during the war to keep the body and soul of the family together. Mama was an epitome of love, a beacon of hope and unwavering pillar of strength in periods of adversity. She lovingly gave to her family the gift of her time and the gift of herself.
Mama was a real pious Christian woman, whose faith remained unshaken in the Anglican Church. She was born, baptized and confirmed, married and did chains of work of faith in the Anglican Church. Her life was that of total service to God and humanity. She was a member of EFAC, women Guild and Mother’s Union. She was at one time, the Financial Secretary, Women Meeting of St Peter’s Anglican Church, Oba. No wonder in 2004, St Peter’s Anglican Church, Oba honoured her with the title of Nne-Ife (mother of light). She was a community leader.
Mama was a quiet person. She cannot be described as an outgoing person, though not an introvert, she most times prefers staying at home to take care of her children. What informed this personality was because of the personality of Papa and his business, which was taking him out of town or home most of the times, and his social engagements being a community leader and a chief too. Mama, in 1980, accepted an invitation by some good women of Oba to form the group known then as Otu Anuli Social Club of Nigeria, with headquarters in Oba. Mama was also a member of the association of wives of Igwe’s cabinet.
On March 15, 2013, she was admitted into the prestigious Ogbueshi group in Oba having reached 80 years and above. Mama gave birth to eight children, namely: Engr. Osita, Gladys Chigozie, Barrister Gordons Chukwuanugo, Benjamin, Winifred, Dr. Hubert, George and Justine. Mama was our only parent, who would flog hell out of you if you commit any offence. Papa never beat his children but will tell you what you will never forget. And therefore, the fear of mama’s cane will make you carry out your homework and take your studies seriously. With her support, both of them were able to have eight responsible children.
Mama and Papa have done so much to train all their children, who are contributing positively to the development of Oba and Nigeria in general.
Mama died at 11:50pm on March 11, 2016, after four days of brief illness. She died quietly in her sleep in the presence of her son, who is a medical doctor at the age of 85 years. Mama, though you are gone, it is our wish to say, “You are a rare gem and very special; without equivocation, we strongly believe that you are now with the Lord.”
We all love you dearly. She will be buried today.