The story of your tender life began when Late Mazi Lazarus Ogbonnaya Okereke, then a wealthy produce merchant who franchised for J.B Ollivant, UAC, John Holt in the Northern Nigeria from Amuvi Village, Arochukwu, met and married Late Mrs. Hannah Mgbafor Okereke of Umukpaleke Mballa Isuochi in present Abia State. Her Late father plied his trade in major cities of the North and eventually settled in Zaria, Kaduna.
Exactly at dawn of the 11th day of March 1944, your birth was consummated and a most bountiful of a daughter was delivered and quickly bequeathed to her late father who named her Agaezichukwuifeogeme Grace! The name stuck on you like nature delicately combining the best of grace with unmatched elegance.
Agaezi grew through the times being the very darling of her late father. Her early education began at Our Lady’s Convent School, Kaduna Zaria, where she finished up and obtained her Standard Six. Immediately after school, she got married to Late John Okwudili Arukwe who later rose to become an Assistant Registrar, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna. Elenma was married off early in life to her husband. The marriage was blessed with four children in quick and regular succession (Christo, Stella, Chibu, Chuma). Soon after, the life of her husband was cut short in his prime by “grim and wicked jihadist” in the criminal absence pogrom in 1966. Her life took a no nosedive for the worst, the children from lofty towers to ground zero. Events and circumstances conspired a movement from certainty to uncertainty.
Elenma immediately became a breadwinner instead of a housewife. This new role came swiftly without any form of assistance coming from any quarters. As the war waged, she became poorer and poorer, together with her four young children. It was during those harrowing period that she was directed to move back to Arochukwu with her children. She did not obey the directive but rather persevered through thick and thin to salvage herself and children. How she pulled through the ravages of the civil war was a tale she never ever finished telling to her children – the story came stumps and bits as circumstances warranted. In summary, her story was an epic struggling of a young widow amidst a turbulent and uncaring environment.
Even when the war ended – the darts and sears remained, becoming inveterate scars that would not HEAL! Even when the pensions and gratuity of her late husband was paid, she knew no peace. Against popular but unpopular directive, you settled to invest in real estate instead of fleet of commercial vehicles. Today, your singular resilience gave birth to #11 Udoji Street Ogui New Layout, Enugu; a property you managed and husbanded with exquisite care, providing accommodation and income to a greater number of persons. In spite of obvious distractions, Elenma grappled with immense difficulty to see her children through education and adulthood. Some of her late husband’s friends gave help here and there. We recall the help generally and selflessly given by Late Prof. Gordian Ezekwe of PRODA Fame. With what she garnered as a registered contractor and supplier with PRODA, Life became greener for her household, but it was not to last too long as Prof Gordian Ezekwe was moved to Abuja as Chairman Nigerian Agency for Science and Engineering. Engr. S.LC Okoli assisted also when he was at the National Oil Plc.
Through hard work and intervention of God Almighty, she raised her children who individually came of steam and began to help and wipe-out her long tears! While all these were going on, she held strong to God in her constant supplications and petitions. She was consummate Catholic and devoted great diligence to celebration of Christ and His people. She was peaceful, charitable to a fault, and did not hold malice to any. She prayed fervently for peace in her Arukwe Family and our dear Community. She served her Community through strong participation in all activities, becoming a National Officer for 8 (Eight) of Ajalli Welfare Union (AWU) (Women) Wing. Elenma, as she was more popularly ascribed, continued to work hard in service of man and in the Lord’s Vineyard. She showed greater enterprise in community spirit, through humility and service by diverse activities such as:
- President AWU, Enugu Branch (Women Wing)
- President CWO – St. Anthony’s Parish, Ogui New Layout Enugu
- AWU Executive Member (Pro & Social Secretary for several years)
- Patron-Catholic Youth of Nigeria, St. Anthony’s Parish, Ogui New Layout Enugu
- Special Mother Award of St. Augustine Choir of St. Anthony’s Parish
- Patron – 5 am Choir, St. Anthony’s Parish, Ogui New Layout Enugu
- Merit Award in Lay Readers Association of St. Anthony’s Parish, Ogui New Layout Enugu.
Above all, you were decorated by your Home Parish, St. Matthew’s Catholic Church Ajalli on the 25th of December 2013 as Nneoma Obiumeala – Mother of Humility. Indeed, we took time out to celebrate you and herald a queen and princess of nobility and rich heritage. You were not yet seventy years old then but we further promised to celebrate your birthday on attainment of the Golden Age of 70! The crowd was large – mixed high and many – you danced constantly wearing a patch of gracious contentment. You thanked God for His joyful mercies in the lives of your children and their children, including and nearly all family members, paid back with emerald joy and choruses of a kindred tribe. It was your day and the Lord made it sound clear and triumphant. But we did not know it was your last dance with us. Walter Raleigh did say that Even Such: is Life! It was all sweet and graceful while it lasted!
We would not even attempt to address you in flowery robes the God Almighty had taken time to craft you in rich embroidery and blessed you extravagantly with such grace and elegance. At 71 years of age, you still stood firm, erect and became better like wine mellowed in ancient oak. You still looked like an Amazon and you shone like a diamond of million facets.
Even in this circumstance, even this sad but solemn moment, even in this uncertain circumstance and even in this loneliness your children, family and friends:
Mourn but not Despair
Cry but are Comforted
Reminiscence but not Regret
For your sissy life remains unabated!
We must stop as the Ecclesiastes admonished – too much reading (or writing is wearisome to the body (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
But how can we stop a conversation between a mother and children, if not by brutal separation from the other which the present circumstance depicts-
But your ideals in us live and thrive
Your hopes remain aflame
Your love unleashed
Your footprints in time etched
You remain a joy and
Milestone in our charts
A beacon of Light to us
And generations hereafter
Dearest Mum, Sisy, Elenma. A Princess,
Wife to John Okwudili Arukwe
Daughter of Okoro Avigbo Amuvi, Arochukwu
Goodnight most excellent Grace!
Most Beautiful, most Elegant Stallion!!!
It is not a goodbye yet until seven eternities meet and untie. While you be gone, remember you have many unfinished businesses with us because the night owls and ravenous clouds are still out hawking – I must admonish you to keep us in eternal vigil. Adieu Dearest One Most Excellent!!!
– BARR. CHRISTO ARUKWE
MADAM AGAEZI GRACE ARUKWE – A TRIBUTE
Madam Agaezi Grace Arukwe’s father, Late Mazi Lazarus Okereke of Amuvi, Arochukwu belonged to the generation of Igbo people who saw the civil war at very close range. Most of them were in the northern part of Nigeria. From Zaria(where Mazi Lazarus was), Jos, Mallumfashi, Kaduna, Kafanchan to Kano they engaged in produce buying and selling. During the season they moved into the suburbs of adjoining towns and villages and bought groundnuts, cotton, wheat and other sundry items which they sold to produce companies like UAC and so on. Those Igbo businessmen were part of success stories that made the Kano groundnut pyramids possible.
Many of them became success stories themselves. They built houses in the north, married quite early and established themselves to the envy of their peers in other occupations and professions. However, the civil disturbances which culminated in a civil war intervened, disrupting the progressive part of a whole generation that could have turned into the fastest rising middle class in Africa in the 1960s. Many of them perished in the pogrom of 1965/66 in the north. Those who made it back to the east never truly recovered from the gross psychological and physical pain they sustained. One of my aunts narrated to me recently how she escaped from her Mallumfashi residence in the heat of the crises. Having just delivered her first baby barely twenty-four hours earlier, she said, she was in the bath when the pogrom unexpectedly started in Kano, Kaduna and other northern towns and villages. She said,that as the bloody mobs from the killing fields approached her street, she rushed out of the bath, collected her day old baby and ran out of the house for safety, and that was it. She never returned. Her story had a happyending because she made it to Igboland. But many like her were not that lucky.
As the first daughter of Mazi Lazarus Okereke,Madam Agaezi must have seen the war too at very close range. It’s a thing of joy that she survived the war; married and raised children whom she brought up to face the challenges of life on their own. And so I mourn with my brothers, Mazi Sunday Okereke on the passage of her beloved elder sister, and Dr Azubike Okoro,son in law to Madam Agaezi Arukwe. To her children, the prayer is that God will give them the fortitude to bear the loss. Upon reflection, we are indeed all pilgrims here. Thus, each death, no matter how painful is a solemn reminder to the living to be prepared for that journey that must be made at some point in their lives.
– Mazi Ben Ezumah, Abuja Nigeria
DILIGENCE, A VIRTUE
Diligence is said to be, conscientiousness, determination , or perseverance. It is the ability of one to swim against waves, and yet, make it to the shore. Diligence perseveres, it does not give up easily, it is careful and cautious therefore, achieves purpose. Diligence demonstrates strong Will. Like the biblical virtues woman, in Proverbs Chapter 31, it is hardworking, This qualifies diligence therefore as a mark of excellence
How else can one better describe Mama Agaezi Arukwe, rather than a diligent woman. A strong Willed woman, who refused to sink, when her boat sank. A gallant fighter, an epitome of duggedness. The story of her life suggested despair and hopelessness at the demise of her husband. However, she refused to give in to that, but rather took the line of Roosevelt who said, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie another knot and hang on”, however, she did not hung on, rather, she continued.
She did not only excel in secular enterprise, she also served the Lord diligently like the biblical Anna, and the Lord did not live her unrewarded. Her children are true testimonials to her conscientiousness. Though today, she has gone to be with the Lord, her children will always look back and say, we thank God for such a rare gift in a mother.
The likes of Mama Agaezi Arukwe are the true “omuta ozi, mgbe ekuru aza and elere emee” attributes of Aro women. Regrettably,today we see the contrary of such attributes amongst the women’s folk.
We thank God for mothers and wives who led life of virtue, therefore influencing their children positively. For the daughters in- inlaw, biological daughters, and relations mama left behind, the baton is now in your hands. The only way we can truly honour a heroine like Mama Elemma is, to make sure her legacy is upheld.
Though I do not know her in person, her profile practically brought her to my psych, and I saw in her, the story of my late mother, who embraced God and diligence; and she was able to bring up six children all alone, and put a roof over our heads; after her husband’s demise during the Nigeria/Biafra war.
Women of such virtue should not be forgotten easily. Aro kingdom needs women of virtue. Women, who the younger generation can look up to as role models. Women, who there husbands and children will call blessed. Women of integrity and dignity. True home builders and peace makers. Women, who truly understand the duties of a wife and mother. Above all, praying women.
Not women, who have thrown decorum to the winds. Women, who are bad influence to the younger generation. Women who have assumed the husband’s position, while he is alive. Women, who has no regards for there husbands and children. Aro Kingdom do not need women, who are debasement to womanhood. Bulldozers and vices oriented women.
Mama Elemma belongs to the class of women with positive attribute. Which class do you belong? The roles and duties of women in the community and home front cannot be overlooked.
Inyom Aro Okeigbo, let us imbibe the Word of God, as our duties demand, and Aro shall be a better place for all of us in Jesus Name… Amen!
For Mama Agaezichukwuifeogaeme, your name has said it all. No one shows God what to do. If He has decided to call you at a time like this, no one can question Him. We can only say,”Gaa Ije gi nke oma’. Good night!
– Eucharia Oti
A TRIBUTE TO A VIRTUOUS WOMAN OF A SPECIAL KIND: LATE MADAM GRACE AGAEZI ARUKWE.
Yes; two dates are most remarkable in the life of every human being here on earth: the date of birth and the date of death. Everyone born on this planet earth must surely die one day. And who can tell that day? Only God knows it all! We know that every journey of our earthly life is laced with uncertainties and it fully begins from the date of birth and ends on the date of death. And another journey to invisible eternal life continues hereafter And who can surely foresee those uncertainties and the content of life hereafter? Nobody can! Again only the Lord God pre-knows it all including every uncertainty that may show up in the life of everyone. And so He makes adequate good plan for each one according to His own will. For He alone knows the end of everyone here on earth even before the beginning of the earth.
When Mazi Azubike Okoro, the founder and current Editorial Board Chairman of Aro News Publications Ltd told me he lost his mother in-law who also doubled as his aunty, I was taken aback, at least for a while. For I knew his mother in-law, our sister Agaezi Grace, the daughter of late Mazi Lazarurs Ogbonnaya Okereke of Amuvi village in Arochukwu, Abia state; the wife of late Mazi John Okwudili Arukwe of Ajalli community in Anambra state and the mother of Christo, Stella, Chibu & Chuma. I believe she was still looking very elegant, youthful, strong and healthy even at her about 71 years of age before the death struck. I never really knew she was all that sick that could lead to her death. What a big loss and pain her death might have brought to all who knew her well and loved her much. Grace was a woman of many parts whose life story is full of great lessons and testimonies.
Having been born in 1944 into a very good family of merchants, educated up to standard six certificate level, and joyfully married out early to a relatively well educated family, she really enjoyed a good upbringing and tested good things of life early in her life. More especially, God blessed her with four lively and lovely children in ‘quick regular succession’ early in her married life. She was counted lucky; for she had a great and beautiful start early in life. But the devil soon came with many trials and temptations to destabilize the peace and joy she has had since her birth and marriage. Barely at her 22 years of age, with her four little kids around, Agaezi lost her husband to death in the hands of evil murderers termed jihadist of the North. And that was in the1966 pogrom that annihilated many Igbo people in the northern part of the country. What an irony of fate in “a country of one nation, one people, one God.” But the Grace of God (the name which Agaezi was also named) prevailed over her life and her children. Today, those children are really very successful adults and all of them have now become part of the living testimonies of that Amazing Grace. To God alone be the glory!
In the face of her subsequent many trials, Agaezi, an elegant young lady as at then, became an example of the biblical Ruth who refused to depart from Naomi (her mother in-law) after the death of her husband early in her life. Ruth, rather than go back to her own people, chose to remain with her mother in-law and the people of her late husband even in the midst of many uncertainties. Ruth faithfully declared to Naomi – her mother in-law: “Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you dwell, I will dwell with you; your people shall be my people, and, your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there also shall I be buried” (Ruth1:15-16). Similarly, Mrs Agaezi Grace Arukwe rejected an offer to go back to her father’s people at Arochukwu with her children; rather she preferred to remain under the watch of her late husband’s people with her children. And she had to go through many sufferings and challenges to salvage herself and children even in the midst of uncertainties and perils of the harsh Nigeria-Biafra civil war. What a wonderful display of a role model spirit of a loving wife and a caring mother! She was determined and inspired by faith to succeed and the Lord God justified her and saw her successfully through all the challenges that might have come her way.
Who can find a virtuous woman like Mrs Agaezi Grace Arukwe? For her worth is far more than any amount of rubies, diamond and gold put together. Strength, wisdom, honor and respect clothed her life. As a model of the biblical virtuous woman of Proverb 31, the heart of her husband even in death safely trusted her. And she did him good and not evil all the days of her life. She took adequate care of their children and brought them up in the way and fear of God. The young widow as at then judiciously managed the proceeds of her late husband’s pensions and gratuity paid her after the civil war. She wisely invested the proceeds on a viable landed property that yielded good returns and still stands today as part of the legacy testimonies of her vision, wisdom, resilience and enterprise. She was indeed a special woman of virtue; a joy to her parent’s people of Arochukwu kingdom; an honor to her late husband and his family; a blessing to her children and to so many others. She was a woman of peace; a lover of God and a servant women-leader both in the Catholic Church and in Ajalli community – an extraction of Arochukwu kingdom.
Mrs Grace Arukwe, nee Okereke: You were indeed a great daughter and wife of Aro-Okeigbo, a special mother of many, an amiable and humble woman to the core. We are all very proud of your exemplary life. You will be remembered by many for quite a long time on earth. We, in Aro News Publications Ltd, will always celebrate you and the people of your kind and character that we may be privileged to meet and know. Your life was very interesting and exciting. Now! We are really comforted by the fact that you will not miss heaven where all of us hope to meet again to part no more. The Lord who has always been with you here on earth shall surely welcome you to the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Sister – Agaezi: Rest in perfect peace. To God be
– Mazi Emma Kanu Ivi (KSM, Ogeneukwu, UgwuAro)/ Chairman Aro News Publications Ltd