From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great lamentation, Rachael weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled because they were no more”.
The above passage, Jeremiah 31:15, gave a metaphorical elucidation of how the mother of Israel (Jacob’s wife), Rachael, wept and lamented over an impending doom, the prophesied massacre of her children (male-born children of Israel), and refused to be consoled.
A replication of Rachael’s biblical cry over 2,000 years ago, sort of, happened in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, on August 25, when all the four children of Mr. and Mrs. Chibuzo Ikwunze died in a family friend’s house. Mrs. Ikwunze wept and lamented uncontrollably; she could not be consoled because all her children were gone.
Mr. and Mrs. Chibuzor Ikwunze of Umukaonu Umuagu, Ohuhu, Umuahia North LGA of Abia State, had, at the request of his bosom friend, Sunday Ogba, from Akanu Item in Bende LGA of Abia State, allowed his four children to pay his friend a visit.
In acceding to the request of Ogba and allowing Kelechi Chibuzo, 12, Sunday Chibuzo, 10, Oluomachi Chibuzo, eight, and Kingsley Chibuzo, three, Ikwunze never entertained fear of anything untoward happening to his children. After all, it was not the first time the children were paying his friend such a visit.
On the arrival of the friend’s children, Ogba went and bought suya and some packs of fruit juice.
After Ogba’s family and their guests ate the suya with the fruit juice, they went to bed and never woke up. Before anybody knew what was happening, seven of the nine persons that ate the suya and drank the fruit juice, including all four children of the Ikwunzes, had died.
Ogba, who bought the suya and fruit juice, also lost his life, along with two of his children, leaving his wife and a daughter as only survivors.
Although, initially, all fingers pointed towards the suya and fruit juice as the cause of death, later, people started suggesting that the fumes from a power generating set said to have been placed close to where the deceased slept that night may have caused their death.
Whatever be the cause of death, which only an autopsy could reveal, the fact remains that a couple who had four children up till about a month ago and may have perhaps called it quits with anything child-bearing, is now childless, back to point zero.
On September 18, the remains of the four children were laid to rest in their father’s compound in Umukaonu Umuagu, Ohuhu, Umuahia North. That day, tears flowed like a river.
At the funeral service, the Bishop of Goodnews Pentecostal Church, Umuahia, Bishop Ugochukwu Ogbonna, urged the grieving parents to take heart, as, according to him, life does not lie in the hands of man.
Basing his homily on the topic “The Journey of this life and the call of eternity,” Bishop Ogbonna maintained that everyone was a sojourner, which made it mandatory that all should live soberly.
He said it was ironical that when a man dies in old age, after acquiring education and wealth, people describe him as successful, but when a kid dies, the same people begin to complai; he, therefore, encouraged men to put their hope in God, who has control over life and death.
While praising Mr. Chibuzo, and his wife for showing their late kids the way of the Lord, he prayed that God would grant their souls peaceful rest.
President-general of Ohuhu, Chief Obi Aguocha, urged the parents and relatives of the children to take heart. Aguocha, who could not hold back tears, while pledging the support of Ohuhu community to the family, revealed that a trust fund had been set up where natives of Ohuhu at home and in the diaspora have raised a substantial amount of money to support the family.
He urged the mourning parents to see their fate as the beginning of a new life as, according to him, great future lies ahead for them.
Equally, the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency, Hon. Ifeanyi Sam Onuigbo, was not left out. Represented by Prince Henry Eleogu, he pledged to stand by the couple at this low point in their life, praying God to grant them the fortitude to bear the great loss.
Father of the deceased children expressed gratitude to all who supported them at their trying time, financially and morally, and prayed that God would bless them abundantly. He described the late Ogba as a former neighbour, who later became a family friend.
Ikwunze said it was not the first time his children were visiting the Ogba family.
He disclosed that the autopsy results would be out in a few weeks, after which it would be properly placed what killed the children, three boys and one girl.
He appealed to the state government to investigate the cause of his children’s death and make the findings known.
For Mrs. Ikwunze, she doubted whether she would ever get over the agony of losing all her four children in one fell swoop. According to her, life will never remain the same.
The distraught mother, who could not hold back tears, said on the fateful day when her four children died, she received a phone call that their family friend, Mr. Ogba, whose home his children had visited for holiday, had lost his life.
According to her, the news appeared unbelievable, having seen Ogba the previous day in Umuahia town.
While still expressing shock, she said she immediately raced to their home, where she saw a large crowd. But her four children were among the dead.
On the sight of her four children, the woman fainted, only to recover after three days in the hospital.
Wife of the late Ogba, Mrs. Chinonyerem Ogba, a native of Akanu Item, said every member of the family, as well as the visiting family friends, ate from the suya and juice her late husband bought on the fateful day.
Mrs. Ogba, who lost her husband and two children, said, 30 minutes after eating the suya and taking the juice drink, everyone, including herself, started feeling intoxicated, before she started screaming and later found herself in the hospital.
A neighbour, who gave his name as Ikoro, while consoling the Ikwunzes, urged them not to mourn like those without hope.
He drew inference to Jeremiah 31:16-17: “Thus saith the Lord, refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears … and there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again.”