Posted by News Express | 29 January 2016 | 4,997 times
When Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu was elected Governor of Abia State on April 11, 2015, many Abians, including his octogenarian mother, joyfully celebrated the first ever Ngwa governor. Perharps, late Mrs. Bessie Ikpeazu (Née Nwagwu) in her imagination never harboured the instinct that a day divinely made by The Lord shall come when his son would be democratically entrusted with the enormous responsibility of providing basic necessities to the people as well as guaranteeing their overall welfare.
Mama Bessie Ikpeazu (Nee Nwagwu) who was born on May 7, 1928 to Mr. Nwagwu Anaba and Mrs. Mabel Nwagwu of Umuafor village in Obingwa L.G.A of Abia State, together with her husband, late Ishmael Uleanya Ikpeazu, whom she married in December 1961, and had three children; Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (Executive Governor of Abia State Nigeria), Mrs. Edith Ocheze Ugboaja and Barrister Iheanyichukwu Ugonna Ikpeazu, bequeathed sound morals and quality education to their children. That priceless legacy was relatively what Dr. Ikpeazu needed as springboard in his obviously successful academic and political career.
Upon the emergence of his lovely first son as Governor of Abia State, the joyous and visibly elated Mama Bessie returned to Nigeria from United States of America (USA) where she had resided for years after her meritorious exit from public service. Her stay over there indeed provided opportunity for her only beloved daughter, a public health worker in USA, to clinically take good care of her aged mother.
Her return was heralded with excitement and jubilation as it also presented again another golden opportunity for Mama to happily reconnect with members of her family and loved ones she had missed over the years.
For our dear governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and siblings, Mama’s return evolved the much needed social forum for them to joyfully celebrate and practically show love again this woman of substance, great achiever, community leader, peacemaker and God-fearing mother. Unfortunately, that happened to be her 87th and last birthday celebration. Little did our dear governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, and family members know that Mama was being celebrated for the last time.
A peep into the life and times of Mama Bessie Ikpeazu shows that she remarkably lived a meritorious life worthy of emulation and celebration. When Mama’s father died in 1944, when she was only 16 years old, her mother decisively stood against the wish of her in-laws to get her married at the expense of her education. As a result of this disagreement, Mama and her mother relocated to her maternal home Ukpakiri, also in Obingwa L.G.A, to enable her go to school. In 1945 at the age of 17 years, she started primary school. She obtained her primary education from Adventist Primary School Aba; attended School of Nursing, Adventist Hospital Ile-Ife and graduated in 1959. In 1975, she returned to school in furtherance to her education at School of Midwifery, Methodist Hospital, Amachara Umuahia. She got married to late Mr. Ishmael Uleanya Ikpeazu in December 1961.
As a Registered Nurse, Mama Bessie worked at Ahoada County Hospital, Ahoada, Rivers State, Okpuala Ngwa General Hospital (Matron,) and Nigerian Christian Hospital Onitcha Ngwa, where she served as the Matron until she retired in 1994. During this period, she also served as the Nursing Supervisor for the Motherless Babies Home, Adventist Hospital Aba.
As an entrepreneur, she was the owner and CEO of Ulari Maternity Home/Clinic Umuobiakwa, a clinic where she saved many lives, and delivered thousands of babies for little or no charge.
Mama was a peacemaker, kind, loving, honest, straightforward, transparent and God-fearing woman; she loved her God and her fellow humans and lived peacefully with everyone. Through her warm loving kindness, she touched many lives within the family, the church, work place and in the community. Through her kind generosity many orphans, widows, widowers and less privileged adults and children found a home in her home. These many acts of kindness gave her the name “Nne Oha” as her love for people had no boundaries. Everytime we came home and saw another stranger at home and asked Mama who that was, her response was always the same, “You know that I have many children and they are scattered all over the world, I don’t know them all, but whenever God brings them into my life, I have to be mother to them.”
She was a devout Christian woman, a prayer warrior, a Deaconess in the church and also served as Women’s Ministry leader for her local church for many years. In Umuobiakwa, she was a model wife and a role model to other women in the village. With the help of a few other women, she formed the popular “We-We” meeting for women married into the village. This meeting serves as a melting pot and an avenue for acclimatisation for many women married into the village.
Her hobbies in her younger years included reading, knitting, sewing and agriculture. During her middle age and later years, she continued to read but dedicated her life more to the service of God, prayer ministry and humanitarian work. Nothing gave her joy than putting smiles on the faces of hurting individuals. When her health started failing about 22 years ago and the doctors told her that she did not have much longer to live, she gave away most her possessions to the poor. When we questioned her about her action, she stated that she did it because she knew that we might not remember to give things to this group of people when she is no more. One can say that at this time she began to prepare her life for the journey for eternal life just as Jesus demanded from the rich young ruler.
As a mother, Mama Bessie loved and nurtured her three children and host of other children with such love that is indescribable. Her gentle touch was a soothing balm, her beautiful smile was calming, and her temperament was peaceful. Nothing provoked her to anger as she saw great potential in everyone. She raised her children with the fear of the Lord and taught them love and forgiveness. When things seemed to be going in the wrong direction, she would always say, “Calm down, forgive and let it go; it is better to be a peacemaker than a renowned warrior.” Mama also taught her children and others around her hard work, honesty, dedication and perseverance. She was indeed a Proverbs 31 woman, a virtuous woman and her children arose daily and called for her blessing. Today, Governor Ikpeazu, his siblings and others are thankful to God for giving them an angel as a mother, grandmother and mother in-law. They will truly miss her love and her presence but shall remain eternally grateful to God for the life He gave to her.
Till the end of her life, Mama remained strong in her faith and never wavered, she reaffirmed her love for the Lord, repeatedly saying, “My God is good, the Lord is my strength, I love Jesus and Jesus loves me.” She reaffirmed her love to all her children, grandchildren and in-laws.
Though painful that Mama Bessie lived for only six months within the lifetime of the present administration in Abia State under the able leadership of her son, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, witnessing the ongoing infrastructural revolution and massive roads projects in Aba and other parts of the state, Abians and indeed Nigerians who follow developments in God’s Own State are loudly rejoicing that she truly rejoined her creator as a happy, fulfilled and triumphant mother.
Mama Bessie, Mama Ikpeazu, Mama Governor, as you are buried today, Friday, January 29, 2016, Abia people are biding you goodbye. We wish you eternal rest in the bosom of The Lord.
•Ebere Uzoukwa, a journalist and public commentator, writes from Aba. Photo shows late Mama Bessie Ikpeazu.
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