Death is inevitable. It is however, not the terminal end of man’s life, but the beginning of a journey into afterlife. This maxim, which is supported by religion, acts as checks against the excesses of man. That is why it is often advised that life on earth be devoted to worthy cause for as Braveheart suggests, though “every man dies, not every man lives.” The man dies who has no positive legacy that makes others to remember his sojourn on earth.
According to Alan Calinao Dy, “life is too short if we think about it. But if you live a good life, people will remember you eternally.” This is an all-time truth. Thus, many great men and women of years past have continued to live in our hearts because, while alive, they lived a worthy life of selfless service, love and concern for their fellow men and women. Hence, they etched an indelible imprint in the annals of time.
So, it was with Madam Charity Fyneface Oba, mother of the First Lady, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan, who answered the final call on Monday, July 22, 2013, at the age 67. Mama Sisi, as she was addressed by many, was still in her prime, full of life, hope and feelings for her fellow beings. Death struck while she was on her way to Bayelsa to attend to family engagements. Those she spoke to early that morning before she embarked on the ill-fated trip said she was in high spirits and had been talking for some time about marriage plans for one of the children.
When death calls, a man or woman’s history is put on re-play for all to review. The reviews of Mama Sisi’s life since her death shows her as a true mother, with an industrious spirit, a rallying point for many, a detribalised person, deeply religious and full of love to all. Mama Sisi was every inch human, kind to a fault and with forgiving spirit.
Mama Sisis was born into the family of Late Mr. Oriaku Ezuruike and Late Mrs. Okanma Oriaku Ezuruike of Umunlewe Umuekwule Afugiri, in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State Nigeria. She was the last and only female child of this marriage. But as fate would have it, she lost her parents at a tender age.
This sad experience might have left a sharp mark on her life as she grew into giving special care to orphaned children, many of whom she nursed through life into becoming successful graduates. But Mama Sisi did not have the joy of full education. She attended Methodist Central School Afugiri briefly but had to withdraw in standard three because of the sudden death of her parents and due to lack of means of funding her education.
During her brief stay in school, Mama Sisi was known to be a brilliant student but fate had a different plan for her. Thus, after the death of her parents, she left Afugiri to stay with her aunt in Onitsha, who introduced her to trading.
Mama Sisi got married to Late Mr. Amagberepakakie Fyneface Oba of Sokobe War Canoe House in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State in 1971. She proved to be a devoted and loving wife, a caring mother not only to her children but also to other children in the family. Her marriage was blessed with many children. As a deeply religious woman, Mama Sisi brought up her children in the fear of God.
From her tutelage under her aunt in Onitsha, Mama Sisi grew into an accomplished business woman. She started with petty trading and later diversified into the sale of snails, dry-fish, frozen foods and textiles. In her lifetime, she was known to have had over thirty employees in her businesses. Mama Sisi was known to be an industrious, energetic and widely travelled business woman whose house was a rallying point for people from Benin, Jos, Calabar, River-Seven, Abasi-biye, Down-blow, Lagos, Aba, Umuahia and many other places her trading activities took her to.
Her life was devoted to the search for the divine truth and the face of God. Her religious explorations took her to several churches. Mama Sisi joined the Cherubim and Seraphim Church at Onitsha when she was staying with her Aunt. She continued with the Church after she got married and came to Port Harcourt to join her husband. During her sojourn with the church, she was an active member, chorister, prayer warrior and ordained Senior Lady Leader.
Mama Sisi joined the Sabbath Church in 1990, due to her passion for the work of the Lord. She was a cheerful giver who gave bountifully to support the propagation of the Gospel as she strongly believed that ‘God will work in your vineyard if you work for Him.’ Her dedication to charity, in tune with her christened name, earned her the rank of Senior Mother. Mama Sisi was a member of both Sabbath Women Conference (S.W.C.), and United Council of Sabbath International (U. C. S. I), Port Harcourt.
She was described as a benevolent woman, a good listener and an epitome of humility. Above all, she never tolerated injustice. All these qualities were considered when her people, the Afugiri Federated Union, (Women’s Wing) honoured her with the title of Ada Ukwul of Nlewe.
Mama Sisi would definitely be missed by many. There may be many like her, but there would not be someone exactly like her. While paying tribute to the woman who happened to be his mother-in-law, President Goodluck Jonathan described Mama Sisi as a compassionate and caring mother, who would go the extra mile to help those in need.
The President noted that his mother-in-law’s kind, selfless and accommodating nature made her sudden death all the more painful but consoled himself with the philosophical saying that “life is ephemeral,” noting that it was therefore important for each individual to do his or her best in every opportunity that presents itself.
The First Lady herself described her mother as “a mother in a million who was a devout Christian” and whose place cannot be filled in her heart.
Thus, a man or woman’s true worth may not be fully appreciated until he or she dies. Conversely, we may not know the true worth of a thing until we lose it. The demise of Mama Sisi shows her true worth, as the gap she has filled in the life of many will now begin to yearn for re-filling. God bless the soul of the good woman and all like her, with hearts of gold.
*Dr. Aliagan is a principal officer in the Office of the First Lady
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