By Festus Adedayo

On Thursday last week, I had just arrived in Enugu for the funerals of Ezinne Margaret Nebechi Nwomeh of Ozalla in Enugu state when another news of demise hopped in like a demonic apparition. Big brother and friend, Ayogu Eze, senator who represented Enugu North, had passed on.

I met Eze 21 years ago there in Enugu. Once the commissioner for information in the first term, I felt it a great honour to serve with him in the state. Blessed with a gift of the garb, Eze was detribalised in every sense. Perhaps resulting from his matrimony to a woman of my stock or his years as a journalist with the Guardian newspaper, Eze had inspiring stories to tell about his association with the Yoruba, a language he struggled to flaunt.

A couple of years back, when I told him I was visiting Enugu, he visited me in my hotel room where, for hours, we filled the gap of physical absence from each other. I reciprocated later on by attending his father’s burial at Enugu-Ezike in Igboeze North where I was treated to a variety of Igbo culinary delicacies.

Talking of culinary delicacies, Mama Nwomeh reminded me of my Enugu years when her son, my friend, Dan and I used to dash to her Ozalla, Four Corner home. Her first demand was what we would eat. As we gathered in Ozalla for her wake ceremony on Friday, I spent quality time with her son, Benedict, a professor of surgery and vice-chair of global surgery in the department of surgery at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where he drilled down on the humanity of his mother.

Widowed at the age of 23, Ezinne Nwomeh single-handedly guided her five children to the zenith of their lives. She could have taken them to the motherless home for the challenges ahead of her were daunting. Wrote Ben in his tribute to Mama: “On the fateful day of March 12, 1970, tragedy struck our family as Papa was called home, leaving Mama shattered. The war had just ended, and Mama, at the tender age of 23, found herself widowed with five young children to care for. Angela, the eldest, was merely 7 years old at the time. Mama was thrust into a world of uncertainty, facing homelessness and the daunting challenge of providing for her children with no means to do so.

“Amidst the haze of post-war years, my earliest memories of Mama began to take shape. Even as a young child, I observed her unwavering resolve to secure our survival. One poignant memory stands out vividly: Mama’s relentless struggle to ensure we had food on the table…While instilling in us the code of honour expected of the “children of Peter Nwomeh,” Mama also went to great lengths to ensure we enjoyed a normal childhood alongside other neighbourhood kids. She taught us the importance of family, tirelessly working to maintain connections with all our extended relatives, in every direction, and never once attempting to sever our ties with anyone.

“Mama fostered a spirit of generosity within us, serving as the driving force behind the creation of the Peter Nwomeh Foundation. In honour of both our parents, it will now be renamed The Peter and Margaret Nwomeh Foundation, and its sister charity, the Peter and Margaret Nwomeh Foundation USA.

“As we bid farewell to Mama, we do so with hearts full of gratitude for the seventy-seven years of love, sacrifice, and unwavering devotion she bestowed upon us. May her soul find peace in the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father, and may her memory continue to inspire us all.”

Yesterday, as we celebrated this amazon’s 77 eventful years on earth in Ozalla, my heart grieved on the passage of Ayogu. He was an avuncular spirit who left fond memories in the hearts of everyone he encountered. Sleep well, Ezinne Margaret Nebechi Nwomeh and the great soul, Ayogu Eze.