13 Years After: Family Recounts Life Without Okadigbo

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In this piece, CELESTINE OKAFOR writes that although it is 13 years last week sunday since Nigeria’s arguably most flambouyant Senate President and frontline politician died, there is an evident positive transformation in the lives of the entire Okadigbo household.

A visit to the family house of the Okadigbos reveals all that have happened in just thirteen years. At the home front, Senator Magery Okadigbo , has shown that she is a woman of strong mettle. Not only that the houses left by her husband have all been restructured and remodeled to suit the modern taste of habitation, the family residences both in Abuja, Lagos and in the village at Ogbunike in Anambra North have all been beautiful rehabilitated to suit the public status of her legendary statesman husband. She has also single-handedly trained her five children (boys and girls) successfully in lvy league Universities  in Europe and America and all of whom have graduated with good grades. Some have also secured jobs in well appointed establishments.

Margery’s feat in the area of child education was equally extended to the Okadigbo’s other children, family dependents and foster children whose hope of good education was almost lost with the death of the “

Great Oyi “. She has been forthcoming in economic empowerment and job appointments with the young and able family members to get on with their lives. It indeed appears that the demise of Chuba Okadigbo has not in any way proved to be a handicap to the immediate and larger members of the Okadigbo family, dependents and political supporters.

“ Odi-be-Eze is a wife and mother in a million to our great family since the death of our brother thirteen years ago”, the Okadigbos told LEADERSHIP Sunday.

Senator Magery Okadigbo though she never knew her husband would die quite early in his life at the age of 61, fate seemed to have prepared her adequately for the job of fostering her husband’s botched political odyssey and looking after the children and the entire Okadigbo family, a job she seem to have effectively accomplished thirteen years after Chuba’s demise. She however did all that in the face of great challenges.

Magery revealed that the first challenge she had to face was the challenge of being a woman. “ Any woman in politics would tell you that the inherent challenge of just being a woman is real.  Second one is the financial challenge. The third was the opposition by those who feel that you haven’t really been in politics. But I always ask the question: living with a man like Dr. Chuba Okadigbo as a wife, what other political tutorial do I need? I think I’ve got all the tutorials

I need to be in politics from my late husband. So basically, you find out that you have the challenge of being a woman and then the challenge of the wallet. And until politics begins to move away from the size of the wallet, we will not get people of substance to represent our people at all levels of the legislature and the executive public offices. Often times, those who have the deep pocket do not have the substance. So it’s either you go for the wallet and get chaffs or you go for the people of substance without deep pocket.

Ever since Okadigbo’s wife served out her tenure in the last seventh senate, the former deputy chairman of the senate committee on health has been busy fighting in the courtroom to reclaim her mandate from incumbent senator Stella Odua who was her main challenger in the 2015 general elections. Besides, she has since been oiling her political machine ahead of the forthcoming 2019 polls, as according to her, she still has unfinished assignment in politics despite her temporary political travails or setback in the last elections.

Senator Magery Okadigbo however tried to draw a political and character similarity between her and her husband Chuba. “ For me politically and character wise, I and Chuba are both very blunt people. That’s our similarity. My husband will tell you things as it is straight out. I am also like that. And that’s what gave us the compatibility in the marriage. I could come up with a view and he would counter it instantly. So we are like that in the marriage. Our children were also raised that way. People have asked me whether I learned that from being married to Chuba and I tell them no, that I have always been like that. I got it from my own father. My father raised us to stand firmly in what we believe in. That even if you are going to be punished for anything, just tell him straight that you did it, and then we can now begin to talk about your punishment that is deserving. It is when you don’t tell him the truth that he would now

mete out the punishment he thinks you deserve. My father always tell me that I should start solving problems from the simple to the difficult ones. Therefore the point I am making is that for me in politics, I believe in telling you the truth.

Senator Magery Okadigbo who has been a practicing lawyer for over two decades told Sunday LEADERSHIP that she was able to hold out strongly and successfully on the home front since her husband’s exit thirteen years simply because of determination to excel in whatever she does despite the overbearing challenges along her part. Besides, the lessons she learnt from Chuba all through the years of their marriage somewhat prepared her. “ When it comes to the family or domestic aspect, I had early experience. Very early in our marriage, in my relationship with Chuba Okadigbo, he entrusted me with a lot of responsibilities. At the time I got married to him, he had other Children who were a little younger than me. So I became like a mother, a big sister to them in the house. Chuba was a husband, a brother and a father. One unique attribute of him is that he was a teacher more than he was a politician. Even in your profession (media), Chuba had a lot of students. He was a teacher in the university and even in the Seminary. Chuba taught in the Biggard Seminary in Enugu and in many other institutions. With him, you can always get a good tutoring. He was very good at that.

“When we were running a news magazine called Platform some years ago, when we are looking at the CV’s of prospective employees and I tell him so and so was just fresh from school, a youth corper with no experience. He would ask me, where do you want the guy to get the experience if he didn’t get the opportunity? If I say to him my love, but this fellow may not be too useful now, he would insist by saying to me “hire him. If he didn’t do well, we will fire him and then he can go with that experience to the next job ”. For Chuba, every body has to get a chance. At home, his name is very strong. He was very popular with the children. He would give you a lecture in any little opportunity he gets. He was known for his lectures, formal and informal. Even the cook in the house will get a lecture. The driver will also get a lecture on how to handle the car up to how to use a spanner and jack to change the car tyres. You found that in all my years of living with him from a very young age, I had excess material to survive on. Every thing concerning the home, family, politics, etc, I had proper tutoring. And that’s why I found myself able to cope. That is why I believe strongly that marriage should be a partnership.

The man and woman should know what the other person does.

“That gap must be filled and nobody should fill it for you. The problem is when you don’t want to confront the reality of your situation, you have issues. If I had Chuba to do ten things and now I had only Maggery, I can only cope with six because I had no Chuba to cope with the extra four. And if I can’t cope with the ten, I will

prune myself down to the six I have the capacity for. That is what I call coping with the realities and dealing with it. And if I live in a big house and I find that it is not what I can manage, I should shrink myself into an accommodation or an environment that I can cope with.

That is my message to the widows all the time. If you have ten cars when your husband was alive and you discover you cannot maintain the ten cars, for God’s sake, shrink it to two. That is dealing with the reality of the situation you have found yourself. You are not there to please anybody. My philosophy in life which I learnt from an old Catholic nun is the philosophy of me, myself and l. It sounds selfish, but it is the reality. She (the nun) used to say to us that it is only me who can take care of myself for her. That was her philosophy, that it is only me who can take care of myself for I. Then can I look out for others. Even in the aircraft, they teach you that you have to wear your own life jacket first before you think of putting one on your child. You have to be safe and alert to be able to save the next person otherwise, both of you will go down. So the nine years after Chuba Okadigbo was not a tea party. It has its ups and down.


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