If Emmanuel Ikazoboh, Group Chairman, Ecobank, had the power in his hand, he would have stopped death and prevented it from taking away the love of his life, his wife of 40 years, the woman who had been “my pillar of support…the woman who gave up her career to support my children… the woman who was my best dream come true.”
But on Thursday, February 16, the beautiful dream became a nightmare as the cold, wicked hands of death snatched away Caroline Ikazoboh, the woman who dedicated a greater part of her life in the service of God and humanity.
I had penciled down Ikazoboh, a boardroom guru of Dangote Cement and Ecobank fame for an interview for a book on Boardroom Leadership and Corporate Governance. I had targeted 50 Boardroom Gurus just like our other books: “50 Nigerian Corporate Strategists” and “50 World Editors.” With “50 Nigerian Boardroom Leaders and Gurus Sharing The Nigeria Experience,” I had aimed at writing a book that my departed friend and co-author would feel happy reading wherever he is today. He was the one who was so interested in boardroom matters. So passionate about the board that he was appointed the Vice Chairman of the Board of The Sun newspaper group. You needed to see Dimgba Igwe in the boardroom—so cool, calm and sagacious. He conducted meetings with the aplomb, panache and the dexterity of an orchestral conductor. After his death, I was asking myself: What book will Dimgba, in his grave, love to see me write? As I have promised the whole world, Dimgba Igwe would continue to be my co-author from the great beyond where he is today. Even if I write a book alone, it will still bear his name. Because Dimgba Igwe’s name must not die. He would have done the same for me.
But this column is not about Dimgba Igwe. It is about Emmanuel Ikazoboh and his departed wife, Caroline. I had sent a message to Ikazoboh requesting for an interview, letting him know that I have already interviewed all the giants of the Nigerian boardroom for this book. Names like Michael Omolayole (Unilever), Christopher Kolade (Cadbury), Olusegun Osunkeye (Nestle), Biodun Sobanjo (Troyka Holdings), Joe Irukwu, Ibukun Awosika (First Bank), Oba Otudeko (Honeywell, about to be interviewed any moment from now), Asue Ighodalo (Sterling Bank), Okeh Enelama, Christopher Eze (John Holt), Felix Ohiwerei (Nigerian Breweries), Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha, (Chairman, Unilever, ex-chairman, Diamond Bank), Hayford Alile (Nigerian Stock Exchange), Gbenga Oyebode (former Access Bank), Mrs. Mosun Bello-Olusoga (Access Bank Chairperson), Mrs. Osaretin Demuren, Chairperson, GTBank, Chris Ogbechie (Diamond Bank), Sir Remi Omotosho (Standard Chartered Bank), Steve Omojafor (former Zenith Chairman), Chief Ephraim Faloughi (Sovereign Trust Insurance), Ogala Osoka (Nigerian Reinsurance and so many other boards), Udo Udoma (former Union Bank chairman). Can anybody link me to Cyril Odu of Union Bank and Tony Elumelu (UBA)?
The list goes on and on. This was what led me to reach out to Ikazoboh. And I met him at a time he had just been bereaved. I met a nice man, a gentleman who in spite of his grief was willing to grant my request after the wife is buried. I was so touched that I decided to give him the whole of this column today so that he can pay tribute to his beloved wife. I believe writing down something like this is therapeutic. On behalf of all my readers and Facebook fans who have expressed condolence, I wish the Ikazobohs God’s healing balm. And may the soul of the departed rest in peace. This is Ikazoboh’s letter to Caroline, his true love:
“It is hard to accept the death of a loved one, especially when you didn’t have the chance to say goodbye, especially when the deceased was taken so suddenly and so shockingly at the prime of life and most especially when it seems like an irreplaceable part of one’s life is gone. The grief and pain can be unbearable; you cry a river and your sorrow knows no end. You never really know what it’s like until you are there yourself, but you look to God because He is the only one who can comfort you.
“Death and indeed a death so sudden and painful like the death of my wife on 16th February (last week Thursday), makes me realize the brevity of life. It brought clearly to the fore the thin line between life and death. We often take life for granted, too much so. Her death has made me sit down and reflect. It has made me put things in perspective. I am still in a state of shock. Carol and I lived as husband and wife for 40 years, 2 months and 5 days. All through this period she was my pillar of support.
“Our relationship started from our teenage years when both of us were among the 3 primary school students who won the national UAC scholarship for secondary education. Carol was my friend, my colleague, my sister, my companion, my partner and my wife. She gave up her career (even though she was more intelligent than I) to support our children and create a happy home for me to make a success of my career. I gave so much time to my profession and less time to her in the last 40 years and she accepted it with equanimity. I always figured that we still have plenty of time ahead of us to catch up after the children and grandchildren are on their own. I wish I could go back in time.
“Carol was deeply religious. Though she was an Anglican when we got married, she converted to a Catholic on her own volition and studied the catechism of the church so deeply and was a strong member of the Opus Dei. She gave her life to Christ completely. She was involved in so many charities anonymously and her last activity on the day she passed on was to go and transfer funds to some of the charities she was sponsoring.
“Carol, I miss the wonderful plans we made. The memories we shared will never fade. Having you in my life, was the best dream come true. Since you have left this world, words cannot describe the emptiness inside me. I get so lost without you, but I am sure you are with the Lord. You are with angels singing and praising the Almighty whom you served while on earth with all your heart. You can no longer be seen by human eye, but your soul and love that you gave so many will never die. Since you are with the angels, please we (our children, grandchildren and I) need you as our guide and intercessor in heaven. I wish I could tell myself that you will be back someday and will be back to be with me again. I guess this is the way life goes. God’s Will must be accepted.
“I miss a million things, every detail of who you are. I miss your mind, body and soul. I still say I am one lucky man to have been given the gift of you. There are many things I think I should have done for you. Please forgive me for procrastinating. You taught me so much by your actions in the time we spent together. You taught me the value of a family. You taught the value of the truest of love. I know that I should not question God obviously because He knows and has His reasons, but I can’t help constantly asking myself: “Why did you have to die”? We have a number of dreams we hoped we will realize. You served God fervently. Anyway, God knows best. I take it you are the best of the roses in the garden and the Almighty wants the best. I know what you will love to hear and see and I will endeavor to always do those things. I wonder if I had lived the way you did, if God would have taken me too.
“They say only the good die in their prime. Farewell my darling. Good night.”