Ogbuefi Nneoma…. Ije Awele!
‘Mummy Ogbuefi’ was how I always greeted you when we talked on the phone or when I saw you. I have been accustomed to this all my life. You taught me all you could about our customs and traditions. You helped me understand the world as a child growing up under the care of a single parent, how it worked and how I could fit in and become whatever I wanted to be. You taught me that I could achieve all my goals so long as I studied well, sacrificed and worked hard. You taught me to keep good and responsible friends as one of the best ways to stay out of trouble and achieve success. You taught me how to pray, too. You also taught me to be kind to other people.
My mummy, my provider, my caregiver, you were a survivor and an extremely caring and compassionate person. You made sure that as children in the 1980s we did not lack the basics. From your salary as a secondary school teacher, with loans from moneylenders and extra income from your side hustle [baking and cooking], you sustained us and bankrolled our education. Three of my older siblings were in tertiary institutions at the same time, but you were undaunted.
I was in primary school and my older sibling was in secondary school. I knew you were under a lot of stress, but you never showed it. You just kept grinding and always told me we would be alright. “Just read your books and be a good student. Everything will be okay by the grace of God.” You always assured me. I was your last child and always scared for you at that time. I knew the burden on you was very heavy. You took it all in your stride and even encouraged our relatives to send their children to be enrolled in school under your tutelage. For you, good education is the best legacy every parent should bequeath to their children.
You were one hell of a fighter, a warrior and my all-time heroine, my G.O.A.T. Thankfully, your sacrifices and bet on us paid off. You produced three successful generations of our family – 17 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren during your life on earth. We all miss you. You lived to witness your grandchildren earn a PhD and multiple post-graduate degrees, just like your children did you proud with similar feats in Law, Medicine and the Humanities. The values you imbibed in us then remain the cornerstone of our journey on earth.
Your grandchildren, Chidera and Udochukwu, as you fondly named them when they were born and your favourite son, myself and Mayen, my wife and your daughter, have struggled to accept that you are no longer with us. Your fond memories, however, will dwell in our minds and hearts forever. Thank you for loving me the way you did and I am thankful that I made you proud.
Mummy, I have so many sweet and fond memories of you. Since you passed on, several that were buried in my mind that I had not remembered in decades have surfaced. These memories of my childhood with you, I shall cherish forever. I recall how you used to walk my older sibling and I to morning mass and sometimes evening mass in the 1980s. I recall how you used to give us money for offering during the offertory and asked us to pray first before putting it in the offering box. I am tearing up again! Wow…. I recall you would always take me to school with you whenever I was not feeling too well so you could keep an eye on me. You also taught me how to cook and bake so well that I used to bake and ice my birthday cakes myself. I could make chin-chin, buns, doughnuts, meat pie, bread, etc. I was proud of these and my friends used to tease me as the true son of a Home Economics teacher.
Roseline Obiajulu Oganah, my mummy, my moral instructor, teacher and cheerleader. Ogbuefi!
My ideal tribute to you should span hundreds of pages, but words fail me. My emotions have been everywhere since that afternoon when you slept and never woke up. I knew you were tiring because of age and the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown which drastically changed your daily routine. In October last year, a few months before you departed earth, as you started to struggle with your strength, you told me not to worry that you had asked God to call you home if your body continued to struggle. You said you did not want to stress us or even be in lasting pain yourself. I smiled and murmured ‘vintage mummy’ as I held your hand and kissed it and your forehead.
I will never forget February 20, 2023, that was the day I got that call everyone dreads. It was around 4.30pm. I was in my Lagos office for work, but I was struggling to stay awake. So I decided to nap a bit on the couch. It was awkward because I had a very good sleep the night before. My sister’s call woke me up about an hour into my sleep to break the news of your passing!
Mummy Rose, sadly, I will never hear you say ‘AU nwam, ndo’ again. I will never hear you call me ‘AU Bobo’ again. I will never see you again. I am tearing up again. My eyes, my cheeks are watery, draining tears. Every time I think of you, I cry. I shed tears because those times I shared with you are priceless. They are the only things that I can hold on to now. I will never see you again until I get to heaven where I am certain you have your eternal home with an altar to worship our creator and adore Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.
My mummy beat the odds! A true matriarch she was. My darling mummy, the peaceful, gentle but strict woman that raised me, thank you for everything, for all the sacrifices you made for me and my siblings. You gave me a chance to fight for a good life and future as a kid when life suddenly threw us lemons. You made lemonade out of it and taught us how to do the same. I am eternally grateful for all the good times you sacrificed so I could get a fair chance as an aspiring child to compete fairly with my contemporaries who had the gift of complete parents in their lives. It made a lot of difference to me.
You led me into the Catholic faith at age 7+ when I knew nothing. You encouraged me to become an altar boy when you noticed I was developing a keen interest in the Catholic faith. I confided in you my love for priesthood, but you wanted me to finish secondary school first before proceeding to the senior seminary in Bodija, Ibadan for my journey to priesthood. Well, as providence would have it, my career path changed as I got older while in secondary school. You were my moral counselor throughout my university days and even until death. I am happy and fulfilled that you lived your full cycle and enjoyed your last years on earth to the fullest. Your story is an inspiration to all single mothers reading this.
Thank you for the priceless memories and times we shared together. Your legacies and memories are here with us all forever.
I will forever love you.
Your darling ‘AU bobo’, Austyn Ogannah
•Ezinne Princess Roseline Obiajulu Oganah (March 27, 1939 – February 20, 2023). Interred on April 28, 2023 in Onicha-Ugbo, Aniocha North, Delta State.