By Remmy Diagbare
CAN YOU TELL US THE INCIDENCE THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE IN 2006
It was an ugly incident that changed my status to being a widow. It happened on 29th October, 2006. My husband died in a plane crash aboard ADC flightÂ Â heading to Sokoto from Abuja.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN IT HAPPENED?Â WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND? WAS THERE ANY PREMONITION OR INDICATION THAT SOMETHING WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN?
The only thing I can remember was the dream he said he had. He had travelled to Ebonyi State; he called from there saying that he that he had a dream.Â We prayed together and cancelled everything about it.
However, on the eve of the accident, I had a dream. Somebody walked up to me, in the dream, and said that I had not cried for sometime; that I should be ready because, I was going to cry. As soon as I woke up, I began to ponder the dream. But I was preparing for my school examinations and also observing a 70_day fasting and prayer.Â I felt that if I could have that type of dream while fasting, it meant that I needed to do dry fasting. But because of my exams, I decided to wait afterwards to do it.Â But that was never to be because, the plane crashed that day!
WHERE WERE YOU?
It was on a Sunday morning. We both woke up; he in Sokoto and I in Abuja. I got ready and went to church. I came back from church at about 10 a.m. Then, I got a call from one of our engineers in Sokoto. He wanted to know if my husband made the trip, I said ‘yes’. Then I said: â€œWhy did you ask?â€ He told me that it was because, the flight had not landed. I asked what he meant adding that it means the flight did not take off.Â He said that they had called Abuja and it was confirmed that the flight took off. I said: â€œOkay. Did you try my husband on phone?â€ He responded in the affirmative and that the line was switched off.
At that moment, I panicked.Â I quickly dropped the phone and called my husband’s driver. I asked him to confirm if indeed my husband boarded the flight. He said ‘yes’.Â I asked him to return quickly to pick me back to the airport. But because of my confused state, I couldn’t wait for him. I drove myself to the airport. I was so dazed that I missed my way to the airport. I didn’t even know where I was going. Eventually, through the help of some people, I got to the road leading to the airport. However, before I got there, I received another call from our accountant in Sokoto. He confirmed that the plane had crashed. Upon hearing that word ‘crash’, my life crashed that moment!
I couldn’t remember what I did, but I was told afterwards that I stopped the car in the middle of the road and rushed into the bush and started behaving abnormally. Indeed, at that point, I had temporary insanity.
Some passers_by dragged me out of the bush. I remember I saw one man who tried to counsel me. I couldn’t make head or tail of what he was telling me but one thing he kept repeating: â€œAre you not a Christian? Why don’t you pray?â€
Like someone in a trance, I began to pray that my husband would survive. Then, the next minute, I will start screaming and crying. The man tried to console me. Eventually, he took my phone and called the last person I phoned who turned out to be the driver.
When the driver came, I insisted that I wanted to go to the scene of the crash. He took me there but there was nobody. No one had access to the scene of the crash. Upon making enquiries, they told us that the survivors had been taken to hospitals in Abuja. So, I began searching from one hospital to the other. All along, I kept hoping that I would find him alive. But I went from one hospital to the other and couldn’t find him.
Some time later, one of his governor friends advised that we should start searching the mortuaries. They wanted me to go home at that point but i refused. I felt that I had to be the one to identify my husband. Eventually, I gave in and my second son went. He it was who found and identified his father.
AT THE POINT OF REALISATION, HOW DID YOU FEEL?
Since then, my life has not been the same. I have totally changed from who I used to be. While he lived, I was totally dependent on him. People who knew us described us as Siamese twins. My husband was very possessive. He treated me like a baby. He cared for me; he loved me. He spoke on my behalf. He did everything for me. So, the sudden separation was unbearable. I did not think I could live without him. He was a husband, a friend, a lover and a father. He was everything to me. His death affected everything about me.
I became withdrawn from society. I could not interact. I did not socialise any more. Nothing interests me any more. Even the things I loved in the past,I saw myself hating them. Not even the children made me happy. I felt the world had ended. In the first three years, nothing anybody said made sense to me. But I have come to realise that I have to accept what has happened. One has to admit what one cannot change. I am trying to move ahead. I am trying to move on with life.
YOU HAVE SEVEN CHILDREN. HE WAS OBVIOUSLY YOUR FIRST LOVE.
Of course, he was. I got married to him at 18. I almost did not know my left from my right. I lived the greater part of my life with him. He was my senior by seven years.
HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED AS A WIDOW, CARING FOR THE CHIDREN AND THE BUSINESS HE LEFT BEHIND?
We must be practical at this point. Widowhood is a very lonely experience. I don’t even wish my enemy to be a widow.
In the light of my experience, I don’t know if my feelings were due to my relationship with my late husband. It is not easy. You are just alone. The mere thought that you don’t have the man you love beside you is so terrifying. It is one of the things I suffered, initially, when this thing happened.
The thought of whom to talk to,Â who to relate with almost sent me crazy.
Sometimes, I would lock up myself in my house for one month. I wouldn’t want to talk with anyone. I would switch off my phones and just wallow in my sorrow until I am satisfied, then I would come out.
It took God, my personal physician, the support of friends, well_wishers and good children to resolve that. They were all there for me. They know the mother they had is no longer the one they have now. If not for the kind of support and love I received, maybe by now I would have been walking about the streets of Abuja a mad woman.
FROM YOUR PART OF THE COUNTRY, THERE ARE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT MISTREATMENT OF WIDOWS. YOUR HUSBAND WAS A MAN OF IMMENSE WEALTH; DID YOU FACE ANY FROM HIS FAMILY?
The number one thing in those days, when a woman loses her husband, the first thing is the family will send elderly widows to shave her hair. When it happened, I wanted to do it. Of what use was the hair to me. I called my mother_in_law and asked her to send the widows to come and shave my hair. But she refused. She said to me: â€œYou are a Christian. I will not shave your hair.â€ I called the women myself. When they came, they said they were not going to do it. My husband was a knight. I am a lady in the Anglican Church. I phoned a fellow lady to come and help but she refused.
She said to me: â€œHave you forgotten so soon, when you survived a ghastly motor accident, he (my late husband) told the church that if he dies tomorrow, he doesn’t want his wife to mourn him. Because, whatever care, whatever love a man deserves in the heart of a woman he had received it more than adequate; that if anything happened to him tomorrow, nobody should force me to do anything.â€
I would have gone ahead to do it myself but they put fear in me; that there might be negative repercussions. So, I had to abandon it.
Another prejudice in Ibo land is the issue of relatives coming to take possession of the man’s properties. My husband was the bread winner of the family while he lived. To the best of my knowledge, he tried to make every member of the family comfortable. So, there was no reason for them to come and cause trouble. I didn’t have that experience.
HOW DO LIVE YOUR DAILY LIFE NOW?
I live a very simple life. I describe my life as a triangular life.Â I start my day every morning by 5 a.m. We have a chapel in the house. We go there every morning for prayers.Â After that, I do my routine work in the gym I have at home. After that, I get ready for work.Â From the office, I head back to the house; except when I have to go the church. My life is very simple,
YOU TOOK OVER YOUR HUSBAND’S COMPANY AS MANAGING DIRECTOR. HOW DID YOU MANAGE?
When he was alive, he was the managing director while I was the deputy managing director. But that was an office I never utilised while he was alive. It was just on paper. I was busy attending different courses. My duty then was to take care of him and the family while managing my career. He was managing the office but I was managing him. Because of the level of work he was doing, I felt that if I didn’t manage him well, he might break down.
But I wasn’t a total novice hence, it was not so difficult for me to fit in and continue from where he stopped.
I HEAR YOU HAVE DONE VERY WELL WITH THE COMPANY. WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED?
My husband started as an electrician; when he was young. He made a lot of money quite early in life. He started from a very humble beginning. He had an enterprise he called Nweze Electrical Works and Supplies. So, when he made it big, he converted the name to an acronym _ NEWS Engineering and incorporated the company.
It is not left for me to assess myself. But, as much as I know, I owe it as a duty to my husband, my children and myself to keep the flag flying. And that I have promised to do even if it takes the last drop of blood. I am putting in my best. Whatever I need to do to keep the vision up, that I am doing.
Yes, there have been challenges; challenges should be treated as a way of life.
I am a golfer. When you are playing, you are taught to play the ball as it lies. They will also tell you: if your ball falls in the rough or the bunker, you have to play it as it lies because, both the rough and the bunker are all part of the game.
So, challenges are not peculiar to widows, Yes, they have their peculiar challenges but the way I look at mine is that, it is part of life.Â I cannot runaway from it. If I run, it means that I am a coward. The best solution is to face it head_on.
GIVE ME A BRIEF PROFILE OF NEWS.
NEWS is a leading indigenous electrical company in Nigeria. We do generation, transmission and distribution. Our major clients are PHCN and state and federal governments.
When my husband died, the PHCN people thought we wouldn’t be able to function but I assured them that the company will continue to meet their expectations.
NEWS is into anything power. We do rural electrification; we are into street light electrification, transmission line projects, sub_station projects etc.Â We have completed so many projects. In Sokoto State, we electrified over 130 communities. In Ebonyi State, we are doing about the same. In Cross Rivers, we are doing electrification for 43 communities.
One thing about NEWS is that, we are conscious of the quality of work we do.
Our quality speaks for us. We have been enjoying goodwill patronage because of the quality of our work.
YOU STEPPED INTO VERY BIG SHOES, CONSIDERING THAT THE COMPANY IS INTO HIGHLY TECHNICAL THINGS. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO CONTINUE?
Lord Denning once said that â€œany family that lacks a lawyer is not completeâ€. The reason is that as a lawyer, you have access to information. I do a lot of consultations and I know where to get information. As one who studied business to Masters’ level, I already know the concept. All I needed to do was apply what I had learnt. And, as a lawyer, I know where to get information and who to consult.Â And, practice makes perfect. Over the years, I have learnt some of the technical aspects. This has helped me to blend in.
Secondly, I felt I owed it to my husband. I know the dream he had, so the desire to fulfil his dreams has been a driving force.
YOU ARE STILL A YOUNG WOMAN. WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR YOURSELF?
God blessed me early with children. So, I have grown up men and women. My plan is to await the arrival of my sons and daughters in_law and their grand children.
SO, HOW DO YOU RELAX?
You heard me listening to music when you arrived. I listen to music a lot and I use the gym. I like Michael Bolton because he talks about love and life’s experiences,
My passion, right now, is to relate with the hurt because, I have been there. I even had a passion for them before I became widowed. When I did my law degree, I wrote a project on widowhood practices in Ibo land, I came out with suggestions on how to resolve the problems.
SOME WIDOWS ARE NOT AS FORTUNATE AS YOU ARE. DO YOU HAVE PLANS FOR AN NGO?
I have set up a foundation in honour of my husband _ to help widows and to train indigent students in school.
WHAT ADVICE WILL YOU GIVE YOUNG WIDOWS?
There is nothing pleasant about being a widow, so my advice to young widows is: If they can, let them re_marry because, the Bible says that it is only death that can separate a husband and wife. If that separation comes, they must not die also. She has a life to live. After the mourning period, she should remarry. It is better than living a carefree life. In the book of Ecclesiastics chapter 4, verse 9, the Bible says that it is better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. If one falls, the other helps. But if there is no one to help, then it will be tough. Two in a bed warms one another. Alone, he will shiver all night. By yourself, you are unprotected. So, how will a young woman live alone for the rest of her life? Widows should do the right things at the right time.
The elderly ones should put their trust in God. The Bible says the arm of flesh will fail you.
FINALLY, WHAT’S YOUR PREFRENCE IN CLOTHES AND JEWELLERY?
For clothes, I like to dictate my style. I don’t wear clothes because they are in vogue. I wear what suits my body. As for jewellery, my husband spoilt me with jewelleries. He bought me gold, diamonds and every precious metal you can imagine. Before he died, he was already building our mansion in Abuja and was preparing to buy complete new set of jewelleries and a new wardrobe for me. My husband pampered me. He worshipped me. I can never forget him.