When death comes (and it will surely come), we do not have a choice in the matter. Death is inevitable, and because we are mere mortals, we cannot fight back. Even when we do, due to advances in medical science, the effort does not last the distance. We eventually surrender when death knocks on the door.
Why should we even be afraid of death anyway? Didn’t William Shakespeare write about “Death counterfeiting sleep” in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’? What is the difference between death and sleep? As our mum laid-in-state, beautifully draped in a white apparel, you could think for a moment that she was sleeping. So, death can imitate sleep? Even in death, Mama was beautiful.
Death has a way of teasing, taunting and challenging us to a contest: in the red corner is where you would find death in its massive and ebullient frame, jumping up and down and behaving like a bully, ready to strike and deliver the deadly upper cut, while the rest of us are sequestered in the blue corner, absorbing all the punches until we are down and out.
Death also oppresses. How do we, for example, restrain cancer that has become the harbinger of death in many forms? If it was possible to cut a deal with death, I am sure Steve Jobs, the American inventor, entrepreneur and co-founder of the highly successful Apple Inc. that now has a market cap of more than $2.85 trillion, would still be alive. When Steve surrendered to pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011, he was only 56 years old.
While we are still alive, it is the impact that we make on the lives on others that is important than the money we have in the bank. We must constantly aim at making the world a better place through our humanitarian interventions.
Until our mother, Mama Rose Osovbakhia Braimah (nee Abebe), passed away on November 4, 2023, she always talked about a humanity that thrives, spreading joy, happiness, success and peace. Each time a new administration was inaugurated in the country, Mama used to wonder whether it will be better than the previous one.
During her lifetime, Mama was a dependable care-giver, gracious philanthropist, engaging story teller and unrelenting activist for a better society. Mama was an extraordinary woman in several ways. As she grew older, Mama was concerned about the pervasive economic hardships and deteriorating quality of life of Nigerians.
Mama was born in Ughodin Quarter in Iruekpen, Ekpoma, in Esan West local government area of Edo State. Ughodin is one of the 12 contiguous quarters of Iruekpen, my home town. The others are Ikhin (where I hail from), Idumebo, Idumogo, Abia, Idumemalua, Idumoza, Ogbomo, Idumehonle, Idumeke, Idumegbede and Evbokpe.
The late Christopher Ebhodaghe Abebe, foremost human resources executive and distinguished Nigerian who later became the chairman/managing director of the United African Company (UAC), established in 1879 as a trading company and evolved as a conglomerate – where he spent his entire career and became the first indigenous African to be appointed to that position in 1975 – hailed from Abia in Iruekpen.
Pa Abebe was the father of late Stella Obasanjo, wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. So, elder statesman Obj (Baba Iyabo) is our in-law. Pa Abebe retired in 1980 and was honoured with the Order of the Federal republic (OFR). He died in 2018 at the ripe age of 99 years.
Our Matriarch, Mama Braimah, was a beautiful woman, resourceful wife, highly respected community leader and exceptional fountain of knowledge. Her worldview was shaped by the values of hardwork, respect and perseverance which she imbibed from her parents. It explained why she was a strict disciplinarian.
As a young woman of 23 years, Mama was betrothed to our late father and she travelled from Iruekpen to Kaduna by rail – escorted by our late uncle, Pius Akuza and Alfred Ilenre, a noted Iruekpen emissary who has also passed away – to meet him to start a family.
My father worked for the government in the ministry of education. Due to his frequent postings, Mama had to traverse the length and breadth of Nigeria with our father.
Mama was an enterprising small-business owner. While at Ughelli (now in Delta State), for example, she travelled frequently to Onitsha for her business. The transition from being a member of a large community of farmers in the village to becoming self-employed in different cities was remarkable.
If Mama wasn’t buying and selling food items and other merchandise, especially bags of rice, you would see her behind her Singer sewing machine. She was also a seamstress. At other times, she was either cooking or praying. Mama was a kind and generous soul, always ready to hand you a gift and lend a hand.
Our late mother was a Deaconess in the Christ Chosen Church of God International where the presiding pastor is Apostle Promise Okafor. She worshipped at the Upper Lawani Street Parish in Benin City, and devoted her life in the service of God.
Her commitment to the Christian faith was profound. She could pray and fast for long hours. Mama averred that every course of action in life was ordained by God. She believed in destiny.
Mama always told his children that quality education is priceless, and she explained that it was the best meal ticket for a child to escape the shackles of poverty. As far as she was concerned, illiteracy is a disease!
Our mother had a strong analytical mind, and instilled the values of discipline, hardwork, love, kindness, courage, perseverance, selflessness, humility and leadership in all her children and those who had the opportunity to drink from her fountain of wisdom and knowledge.
Mama provided exemplary leadership in all her civic engagements, and she frowned at our permissive society that encourages impunity.
Deaconess Braimah was fond of singing and dancing, praising God in her elegant dance-steps. Mama lived a life of purpose. One of her wishes was that parents, teachers and religious leaders should uphold strong family values in a decent society that is fair and equitable.
Before Mama’s glorious life ended peacefully in her home in Benin City, she lived in the ancient city from 1980 to 2023. This was after our mother and her family lived in Ughelli for 10 years. During this period, I completed my primary education and gained admission into Government College, Ughelli – one of the best secondary schools in Nigeria – as a young lad.
Mama Braimah was blessed with nine children. Sadly, three of them preceded her in death. She was also survived by three step-sons, a brother, two sisters and grandchildren. When Mama’s funeral obsequies were announced, it was a week-long activities from January 23 – 29, 2024 to celebrate her life: service of songs, funeral service and interment, reception and thanksgiving service which held in Benin City.
But her traditional and final rites of passage held in Iruekpen, Ekpoma on January 29.
Meanwhile, we had to perform the final burial rites of my old man who died 27 years ago on January 19 in Iruekpen before we could commence the burial rites of my mother. For most young members of the family who asked questions, we had to explain to them that tradition and customary laws must be obeyed.
In the village, respect for one another and the rules of engagement are based on a hierarchy of leadership that has been passed on from generation to generation. Age grade determines everyone’s position and station in the village and there are sanctions and fines for bad behaviour. Interestingly, the women in Iruekpen have a strong voice which cannot be ignored in the conduct of community affairs.
As I travelled with family members by road from Lagos to Benin City (twice) and between Benin City and Iruekpen (thrice), we had our hearts in our mouths due to the “unfriendly” condition of the roads. We also feared for our safety but the presence of policemen and soldiers on the way allayed our concerns.
I am using this opportunity to appeal to the federal government to fix these roads as soon as possible and consider a minimum of 50 metres setback after the thick bushes on either side of the busy highway must have been cleared. Most accidents occur as motorists struggle to avoid the numerous potholes and failed sections of the highway. The Benin – Iruekpen road is a death trap.
On January 24, our mother was laid to rest at her home in Benin City. During the service of songs the previous day, it rained briefly – for about five minutes and stopped – as I read her profile.
We are thankful to family members, friends, colleagues, associates and well-wishers for their support, generosity, kindness, prayers and participation.
May Mama’s memory continue to be a blessing.
- Braimah is a global public relations and marketing strategist. He is also the publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng) and Lagos Post (https://lagospost.ng), and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.