Ada Obaje is a marketing consultant and Managing Director of Lenpriss International Limited, a firm that engages in human capital management, brand development, marketing, etiquette training and brand strategy consultancy and sales strategy development. She provides strategic advice to organisations and individuals on wealth management. In this interview she talks about her mum who passed on recently and how she plans to sustain her legacy of caring for the underprivileged.
Please tell us about your mother
My mother, Ezinne Priscilla Nwobiara Okereafor was married to Ezinna Leonard Anele Okereafor, and my parents were very passionate about doing charity and for this reason they were bestowed with the titles “Ezinna” and “Ezinne” by the community for their charity and contribution development. She hailed from Umuoka Elelem, Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State.
My mum was a disciplinarian, but very loving. She was raised by her uncle who was the headmaster of the village school at that time. My mum was a very fashionable person who cared so much about her appearance. Though a very modest woman, she had this outstanding look whenever the occasion arose. She bore 10 children and was a complete house wife who spent all her years raising all of us. While in Warri, mum loved the way the people made blouses. Till death she still had her blouses made in Warri because of the way the women made clothes. According to my mum, Warri women have a unique skill for making clothes and she never allowed any other environment or place to make her balance. She was a stylish woman. She imbibed in me what it takes to be a woman. I was the eldest child, and her firm conviction was that if the first one gets it right then others would follow suit. She was particular about who we could mingle with. Whenever my siblings and I came on holiday from the boarding house, she would go through our boxes, and if she found anything that she did not give to us when we left for school, the guilty person would face her wrath. She was very detailed despite the fact that her educational status was low, just primary 6. She never left the room without wearing a bra. Her day always started the very moment she woke up. I do the same now, and I got that from her. She never interfered in our marriage, she was interested in building the home. She was fully committed to family values and never assisted any of her children to govern their homes. She died recently at 71. My mum would be buried on April 6. My eyes are still teary.
What was your mum’s reaction when you first saw your menstruation?
Something happened before the menses issue. I was approaching puberty and the telltale signs were evident – like growing breast and hair in the armpit. When my breast started developing (my mum is endowed with it and she knew I would have to wear bra, she bought some for me.) I was not comfortable with it. I refused to wear the bras, my father could not help me because she insisted I was going to wear them. It was painful to me, but I had to follow her orders because that decision was not a choice on my path. When I noticed the blood flow without knowing what that meant, I told my mum and she asked me to take my bath. Before I came out of the bathroom, she brought sanitary towels for me to use. She taught me how to use it. My mum taught me how to become a woman.
As a teenager what did she tell you about boys?
My mum told me that if any man touched me I would become pregnant. The instruction was no man should touch me. And I obliged, because I was scared I never allowed anyone touch me because to me that statement was a death sentence. Given what I know now, I think mothers should give better explanation of that instruction.
How did she measure up in the kitchen department?
My mum was a great cook and father loved to eat. My mum cooking was really good. Everyone that visited our house can attest to that. She was hospitable, always cooking for a crowd as if it was a party. People usually stopped by to eat in our house because Mama Ada’s pot was large enough to take extra mouths. She derived joy doing so, she was exceptionally warm. We had schoolmates who visited us because of my mum’s food. I learnt how to make the home and do domestic chores from my mum.
Which was your favourite food that your mum prepared and she equally liked?
Her oha soup was out of this world, it tasted really good. Though we both loveokazi soup, the way she made her oha soup made a lot of sense.
What do you miss about your mum?
Everything. I miss her special skill which deployed in raising children. When she was alive, whenever my kids were ill and I told her, she would just calm me down and advise me on what I needed to use and the child’s temperature would come down. There is this grace associated with this aged women better than that of a paediatrician. My mum was confident about raising her children. We were raised with so much fun. My mum taught me hospitality. You could not come to our house, stay for two minutes and you were not offered food, water or drink. You would be treated well. If I go out to visit anyone and the person spent five minutes without offering me something, I would write you off the person. My mum said it is proper to offer kola and let the person decline, you must make them comfortable around you. Even after she became incapacitated, she never stopped giving to charity. A lot of widows and orphans who benefited from her wept profusely when she died, wondering how would cope henceforth. She would be remembered for her charitable deeds.
How do you intend to keep her memory alive?
I want to embark on a foundation although it existed while she and my dad were still alive but the network would be broader and the coverage wider because I have decided to pool resources to fund the foundation in honour of my parents. They left a legacy of charitable giving that impacted on the needy. So we would sustain that legacy. Touching lives is the whole essence of living.