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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Eulogy To My Ohafia Queen Nnenna Agnes Nnamani: Tribute By Chimaraoke Nnamani

Chimaroke Nnamani (Center) with his son and daughter
Chimaroke Nnamani (Center) with his son and daughter

Coming out here this morning I was invited to greet my people. But why an eulogy? Why a tribute? Tribute by who and to whom? Would I at 55 pay tribute to Nnenna, 47?  Or would a living Nnenna pay tribute to me? Would Chima or Chichi pay tribute to their mother in the presence of their living father, or out here paying tribute to their father in the presence of their living mother?

But who can question the paradox of life? Who can question life’s irony? Who can question the tragic comedy inherent in the vagaries of human life? Who can question how the Lord dispenses His privileges and benevolence? As the great Archbishop Chukwuma would say, mysterious tremendum et facinance (the mystery of the Lord is tremendous and fascinating).
The Remains of Late Nnenna Nnamani
The Remains of Late Nnenna Nnamani

I was not tongue-tied when I met the Ohafia damsel 30 years ago. So I would not be tongue-tied today as we say goodbye to her. 30 years ago when I ran into the most beautiful woman in the world. As they would say today, I had the flow and swag and the words came out in staccato and promised to impress.

Today in the summer of my youth, the words refuse to flow, dampened and with the temperance of age, realism, the concatenations of life, and a body battered by the tempestuous storms of life’s arduous journey.
In the beginning, she was not called Nnenna. I called her ‘AGINESI‘, but she always protested and it was ‘Ichowakwalam…aham bu ÁGNES’, and I would say ‘Ok AGNES’, and somehow we settled for NNENNA. 

I met Agnes on a glorious afternoon at Ohafia where I was serving as a youth corps doctor with official designation as Local Government Health Officer. I remember that day when I saw her on the road at Akanu heading towards Ebem Ohafia. I told the driver called Ghana-man that he should stop, that I had seen the most beautiful woman in the world.  Ghana-man told me as I continued asking him to stop, ‘Ngbaa break, anyi ga-enwe accident’. That memory stayed with me and more or less haunted me.

I was consoled by the words of John Burroughs (1837–1921), in ‘Waiting’:
Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.
I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.
As my mother Elizabeth would say: Chimaroke nkem, nyem ya. I instinctively knew that if I ever set eyes on her again she will be my wife.

Few weeks later when I again saw this beautiful lady sitting in front of her home with her friends and relatives on an evening dusk chatting away, I told Ghana-man to stop, that this time we won’t miss this opportunity. Ghana-man cautioned me to no avail and asked if I was really sure, because it looked like the mother was also sitting there with them. Like in the faint echo of the spiritual, I said I would go; yes I would go to see what the end would be.

We stopped the car, alighted and approached. Agnes and her group ran into the house and we continued our approach and advance and now accosted her mom. She said Ghana-man, what is the purpose of this visit this evening? Ghana-man said well, this is my oga, a young doctor at the local government, he wants to see your daughter Agnes.
And she blew us off and of course the price was too much, hence any humiliation and embarrassment was well worth it. And Ghana-man said to Mama, well, Nne, such a young man is looking for your young sapling maiden and you are asking why? You might as well keep her and let us go. As we took our leave humbled and with my tail tucked in-between my legs, the young girls burst into laughter but we were not embarrassed and not humiliated. It was all worth the price.

At this point, Mama, also an Nnenna, changed her mind and said, ok, whatever you want to tell her, tell her here. And she summoned her daughter and at this juncture, all I could mutter to her was my name and the business of my sojourn at Ohafia. Thereafter, I smiled all the way home like a little kid in a candy store. And the rest, they say, is history. 
I Don Get Alert … Godwin
Dem Be Wan Steal My Joy… Godwin
When I left my youth service and proceeded for my specialisation and sub-specialisation training, Agnes tactfully handed to me her goodbye gift, a fine picture of her. In the hustle and bustle to integrate into the medical profession in America, at down times and up times, I would bring out her picture and look at it and my sisters would make fun at me. But for me any embarrassment was well worth it for the price of Agnes.

In the second year of my residency in obstetrics and gynecology, I was to undertake a perilous journey to Canada on a Thanksgiving Day to “bring” her to the United States, a move that would have aborted my academic and social ascent. Prior to that, her uncle, a medical doctor, and my doctor colleagues had cautioned me that she had a variant of sickle cell hemoglobinopathy of the thalassemia type. But that was not to deter me as I was being trained as a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology with sub-specialisation in maternal and fetal medicine and high risk obstetrics, also with post-doc training in molecular biology and tissue cytology. My rationalisation was that God was training me to take care of Agnes, now Nnenna. 

Now again in the summer of my youth, I have been able to situate the life and times of the mother of my children and my wife Nnenna Nnamani within the realms of Igbo mythology. Igbo mythology in the practical demonstration of the trinity of Igbo character, Njepu –Travel,  Igbambo – Struggle, Akpauche – The court of reason.

So as I pay tribute to her today, I pay tribute to her progenitors, the Ohafia Abam sub-ethnic nation of the Igbo. Indeed, I have tried to theorise and deconstruct the strength, character and myth of the Ohafia woman which was part of my inspiration to come back to Nkanu land, my own people of Nkanu sub-ethnic nation with one of their daughters.

In Ohafia, the Ohafia woman is queen, the Ohafia woman is also king. As her man went out for work as a warrior and mercenary, she was not sure when and if he would come back. It is thus predictable that through natural evolution, the Ohafia woman would be father, mother, sister, brother, hunter and gatherer. Thus, a refrain as in the last chapter of Proverbs:
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
  She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her;
29 Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

The story continues…
An alpha female from the great Ohafia Abam clan meets an alpha male from the great Nkanu nation, an Nkanu lion, a double lion at that, and a swashbuckling lioness from Ohafia, in the wilderness of the land of Abraham Lincoln. Again, the rest is history. 
Nike Nike ka anyi ji aru oru
Na-aru-oru nike nike
Through Agnes, I salute all the great women of Ohafia Abam clan, the warriors and custodians of the brute strength of the Igbo nation; I salute the Nnennas, the Achamas, the Mmia Nnayas, the Oyidiyas, the Ikodiyas, the Ularis, the Afos. I thank them for contributing and strengthening the genealogy of my people, the Nkanu sub-ethnic nation.

At 55 today, 30 years later, I submit and pay homage and respect to that great Ohafia lioness, Agnes Nnamani, Odibeze, Achama, Achalugo-nwaanyi,Ugoeze, Omalicha nwa, Omauma-asa-aru,Elelebe-ejehi-oru, Ifenkili, Ego onyibo. I acknowledge her; I hold her in high esteem and submit to her acclaim. I associate with the aplomb and celebration of her role in this journey of life. I understand and salute her independence, her strive, her hard work, her ambition, her dreams, her control and her marriage philosophy.

I thank her for the time, for the sacrifices and selflessness. I look at my son Chimaroke Ferguson Nnamani, I say thank you Nnenna, Dalu, Imee.  I look at my daughter Chinero Yobachi Nnamani, I say Nnenna, Dalu, Imee, tushia. For Nina, Stacy Nnamani, I say thank you.
If you look at the brochure and you see Nina and Chichi and you see the resplendence in queen’s dresses, you would agree with me that there is no other woman in the world that will dress and groom their children the way she did. As it is common in America to subject our children to the rigours of hair braiding that will last for weeks, she could not subject her children to that, but found ways to put together on a daily basis ribbon in different hairstyles and buns.

There she lies today, transformed from an Ohafia amazon to an Nkanu matriarch. From a young damsel to a mother, she exits to the great ballad of Frank Sinatra, ‘My Way’.
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.
She indeed did it her way.

In a related development, THE  body of the late Nnenna Agnes Nnamani, wife of Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of Enugu State, has been laid to rest in a grand ceremony in her husband’s compound in Amaiyi, Amakpu-Agbani in Enugu State. Many prominent Nigerians, sons and daughters of Enugu State attended the burial ceremony to pay their last respects to Nnenna and commiserate with the entire Nnamani family. Nnenna, 47, died in a hospital in Orlando, Florida, United States, on September 4, following complications from sickle cell disease and ruptured cerebral aneurysm.

The funeral service on Friday, November 27, which was conducted by Anglican Archbishop E.O. Chukwuma of Enugu Eccelestical province, was witnessed by other clerics from other Christian denominations including Catholics and Methodists. Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, who was chief of staff when Nnamani was the governor of Enugu State and incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Uwuanyi and his entourage from the state government and former commissioners, who served when Nnamani was the governor of the state also attended the burial ceremony.

See photos from the burial below and  credit to Real News 

The officiating Priest, Emmanuel Chukwuma
The officiating Priest, Emmanuel Chukwuma
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu Chatting with Goddy Agbo
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu Chatting with Goddy Agbo
[R-L] Goddy Agbo, Ike Ekweremadu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okechukwu Itanyi
[R-L] Goddy Agbo, Ike Ekweremadu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okechukwu Itanyi
[L-R] Enugu Police Commissioner, I. Adamu, Itanyi, Ugwuanyi, Ekweremadu and Goddy Agbo
[L-R] Enugu Police Commissioner, I. Adamu, Itanyi, Ugwuanyi, Ekweremadu and Goddy Agbo
Chimaroke Feguson Nnamani
Chimaroke Feguson Nnamani
Chimaroke Nnamani reading his tribute
Chimaroke Nnamani reading his tribute
Ike Ekweremadu and Chimaroke Nnamani
Ike Ekweremadu and Chimaroke Nnamani
Ike Ekweremadu delivering his tribute
Ike Ekweremadu delivering his tribute
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (left) discussing with Chukwuma
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (left) discussing with Chukwuma
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu conferring with Chukwuma
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu conferring with Chukwuma
The Remains of Late Nnenna Nnamani, taken to the Grave
The Remains of Late Nnenna Nnamani, taken to the Grave
Ike Ekweremadu walking hand to hand with Chimaroke Nnamani flanked by Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi
Ike Ekweremadu walking hand in hand with Chimaroke Nnamani flanked by Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi