Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, Owerri
For the Ihedioha family of Mbutu, Aboh Mbaise local government area of Imo State, it is the season of gratitude to Nigerians for the outpour of love during the demise of their matriarch, Dame Dorothy Nsonma Ihedioha.
Their matriarch had transited on Thursday, April 20, 2023 in Abuja, with her family by her side, at the age of 90 years.
After mourning, the family announced two service of songs, one in Abuja and the other in Mbutu, Aboh Mbaise; a lying in state, and funeral service both in Mbutu as well as the interment and outing service.
At the service of songs held in Asokoro, Abuja, dignitaries drawn from different quarters eulogised the late matriarch on her kindness.
The officiating clergy, ArchDeacon Andrews Ukejiofor, the vicar of St Matthews Anglican Church Gwarinpa, emphasised mama’s unwavering faith and commitment to living a life of service and love.
The vicar admonished the congregation to dwell more on God and never boast of the things the world can offer but things of eternal value.
Stories of cherished memories which recounted the essence of a woman who made an indelible mark on those fortunate enough to have known her were shared amidst tears mingled with smiles.
No doubt, her son, Emeka Ihedioha’s political engagement rubbed off on her as she co-hosted guests irrespective of prejudice.
Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi stunned participants when he said he regularly visited Mama Dorothy despite the deep involvement of Chief Emeka in the activities of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obi said, “My brother Emeka and I are in different parties but it will shock you to know that I am always in his house to see mama and his wife. I would tell him that I was there to see mama and not for politics. She always prayed for me, saying ‘God will continue to guide you, whatever you are looking for, God will give it to you.’ That was how motherly she was to all of us. She always said ‘you and your brothers should always be brothers; you people should not quarrel’ and I will respond saying, “mama, we will not quarrel. Politics will not separate us and will not make us quarrel.”
Apparently, Mama Dorothy provided access for her son’s associates to be her personal friends.
Everybody knows that the immediate past governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and Emeka share a special bond despite their religious, cultural and ethnic differences.
Tambuwal had said, “I am still honestly in mourning mood as a son to mama and as a son I am also very fulfilled that our mother is being celebrated for living a very good and fulfilled life.
“We shall continue to remember her for what she’d been, a mother and a pillar of support. She was a mother to all of us who are friends to her children and in my own case in particular, she was a mother to me outside of my own mother, who passed on 21 years ago.”
Wife of the PDP presidential candidate, Mrs Titi Abubakar was on hand to stand in for her husband, Alhaji Atiku.
She consoled the Ihedioha family and prayed for the repose of mama’s soul and fortitude for the family to bear the irreparable loss.
Back home in Mbutu, their country home in Aboh Mbaise local government area of Imo State, tributes poured in torrents for the bereaved family in honour of their matriarch.
In his tribute, Ikechukwu Amaechi, a top-rated editor and publisher of TheNiche celebrated Mama Dorothy for her resilience. “How else can one describe her return to school, 34 years into marriage? Being a woman not contented with the mundane, 34 years after obtaining her First School Leaving Certificate, she went back to school, Bishop Shanahan Teachers Training College in 1983 for her Teachers Grade Two Certificate, with which she taught in various primary schools in Mbaise.
“For her, teaching was not just a career but a vocation. It was a calling that enabled her to extend her motherly care to her non-biological children. Testimonies abound as to her nurturing abilities that ensured the well-being and safety of the children under her care. Her love for education also explains why despite the death of her husband in 1995, all their 11 children had university education”, Amaechi said.
Extolling her prayerful nature and commitment to family, Amaechi said “in her 73 years of marriage, 28 of which she lived without her husband, Nze B.M.G Ihedioha, Nzeudo 1 of Mbutu, she faced the adversity of losing three children with equanimity and uncommon grace, believing in the comforting promise of God in Proverbs 31:25.
“Her first son, Emeka, attained extraordinary heights in politics and national leadership. He was deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and governor of Imo State. And none of these great attainments could have been possible without the support and prayers of a godly mother. Anyone who knows Emeka Ihedioha beyond the razzmatazz of office would attest to the fact that the mother was his pillar of support with considerable influence, yet she remained unobtrusive”, Amaechi who hails from the same area said.
The interment marked a centre of brotherhood as politicians put aside their differences to pay their last respects. Almost everyone converged in Mbutu to bid her farewell.
Dignitaries at the event included Governor Alex Otti of Abia State, Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State, Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, Senator Aminu Tambuwal, PDP vice-presidential candidate and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.
Others were PDP acting national chairman, Amb Umar Damagum; former PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and former governor of Cross River State, Sen Liyel Imoke.
Influential Imo people were also there. Former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha; Imo State deputy governor, Prof Placid Njoku; PDP Imo gubernatorial candidate, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and Nollywood giant, Kanayo O. Kanayo were in attendance.
Everyone had a kind word for the Ihedioha family and Mbutu community.
At the interment service at St Peters Anglican Church, Mbutu, the Primate of Anglican Communion (Nigeria), Rev Henry Ndukuba, in his homily admonished the congregation on the importance of a life of service, noting that death is a necessary end.
The cleric called on citizens to prepare themselves for the day, saying death will happen someday, and admonished people to find a place in the bosom of God for eternity.
Emeka Ihedioha who is the first son of the family was full of gratitude to Nigerians for their support.
He eulogised his mum and shared some wonderful moments saying “My mother lived a worthy and eventful life as has been testified by so many people. She taught us quite a lot, especially prayers, humility, service and forgiveness.
I want to urge you to imbibe these virtues for a peaceful living on earth.
“I, my siblings and the entire Ihedioha family are humbled and indeed grateful for the support, prayers and solidarity shown to our family since the passing of our matriarch,” he stated.
Born on August 28, 1932, the late Mama Dorothy was the only child of her mother who was the second of Chief Nwaobasi Okereke’s seven wives. She hailed from Okpala Eziama in Ngor-Okpala local government area of Imo State.
Due to the special bond between fathers and daughters, unlike her peers, she was sent to school, Okpala Central School, where she obtained her First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC), in 1949, rather than be married off like her peers. After school, she got married to Bernard Ihedioha and together they had 13 children, but lost two.
At the time of her death, she had eight surviving children, 32 grandchildren and one great-grandchild; two daughters-in-law, seven sons-in-law and 15 baptismal children.
Before her death, Dame Dorothy Nsonma Ihedioha served the Christian community with uncommon favour. She was Dame of St Christopher, member of the Anglican EFAC Group, Lay Reader since 1972, Ada Zion since 2002, Guild Member of the Anglican Communion, Mother of Virtue (St James Church Asokoro, Abuja) since 2019, Grand Mother per Excellence since 2009, and Jerusalem Pilgrim since 2000, among others.