By Uche Amunike
Nigeria woke up to the news of the demise of two former first ladies, Chief Mrs Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi and Lady Adanma Okpara who died one day apart from each other, over the weekend.
Chief Mrs Victoria Ironsi was the widow of Nigeria’s first Head of State, during the military regime, Major Johnson Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, who was also decorated as the first indigenous General Officer Commanding, GOC, of the Nigerian Army.
She died at the age of 97 as her 90th birthday would have been on November 21st 2021.
The president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his condolences in a statement released by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina which was titled, ‘President Buhari mourns Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi, wife of the first Military Head of State’
He acknowledged that Mrs Ironsi’s strength and exceptional courage during what he called, ‘the darkest moment in the history of Nigeria’ portrayed her as a mother of the Nation. He described her as God-fearing and filled with valour.
He maintained that the late Victoria never ceased to serve the country for its greater good. She worked relentlessly for stability, reconciliation, peace, and healing in the country even though she already lost her husband.
He noted that Lady Ironsi will always be remembered for setting the bar for building a strong foundation for women’s leadership roles in the seat of power and as a pioneer member of the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association, having shown so much passion in championing the welfare of the families of military officers.
He noted that 55 years after she lost her husband her good works still spoke for her.
The deceased Ex-First Lady was also extolled by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha in a statement which was released by the Director of Information, Office of the SSG, Willie Bassey. He said that she will be sadly missed by the former first ladies in the country, considering that she will leave a big vacuum in the meeting held by first ladies as an icon of experience and knowledge in matters concerning the state.
Just like the late Lady Victoria, the widow of Dr Michael Okpara, who was the Premier of Eastern Nigeria region between 1960 and 1966 during the first Nigerian military coup, Mrs Adamma Okpara, died in her 90s. She was exactly 96 when she died.
Both women lived in a way that they gave their husbands encouragement which made them serve the nation selflessly. They gave meaning to the saying that behind every successful man, there is a woman.
Dr Michael okpara was a medical doctor that served the nation simultaneously as Minister of Health and Minister of Agriculture in the eastern region in the 50s before he was to become the premier for six years.
He had no house anywhere in the world until his friends and associates publicly pulled money together for building a house in his home state, Abia.
The death of these two amazing women remind all that public service is a calling and not an opportunity to squander public funds.
These two Amazons will always be remembered for ensuring that their husbands followed the path of honour integrity and common good.