By Betty Irabor

The life and times of late Mrs. Madeline Chinyelu Obanye holds aloft the torch of tenderness, passion and justice, even in death; and leaves us with no option than to celebrate the exit into greater and divine glory of a national icon and a stellar model to all of us. Like the constant northern star, Mrs. Obanye’s life was indeed a lasting example to her generation and an enduring legacy for the next generation.

Her lifetime was built around passion and a nobility that found expression in a tactful social crusade and fight for justice. Her passion was Nigeria and her pain was what she perceived as the nation’s inability to fulfill her huge potentials in spite of her bright and promising start in the early days of independence.

But Mrs. Obanye’s altruistic mind transcended the borders of Nigeria and found an outlet in the South African Relief Fund (SARF), which she initiated in the mid 1970’s and which inspired the then military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo to make South Africa the centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy.

Encouraged by the uncommon fervor and active involvement of Mrs. Obanye through SARF, the Nigerian government engaged in a diplomatic struggle through financial assistance against the repressive apartheid policy of the white-dominated rule in South Africa, and mobilized other African countries for the liberalization of South Africa.

Because of her exemplary patriotic roles, her efforts were globally acknowledged as she was appointed a member of the Nigerian delegate to the general congress of the United Nations twice in 1993. On that occasion, she addressed a most distinguished gathering of the United Nations General Assembly as chairman of the 3r Committee on Evils of Apartheid.

And when the great Madiba, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of a multiracial and truly democratic South Africa, Mrs. Obanye was the only female on the presidential entourage to that historic event. Also wrapped around her passion was a philosophy that no brilliant mind should go to waste, whether because of any financial incapacities or any other reason. She therefore touched many lives and sponsored the education in school of so many children and youths.

Charity, they say, begins at home. Mrs. Obanye, living true to the saying that behind every successful man is a woman, was a strong pillar for her late husband, Justice BCI Obanye, whom she supported from being a very successful lawyer to being the 1st Nigerian High Commissioner to India, and then later as a High Court Judge in East Central State of Nigeria.

When Justice BCI Obanye died in 1975, the widow’s mind became restive and her selfless donations birthed the South African Relief Fund (SARF). That move provided further motivation for the Nigerian government to dismantle the injustice in South Africa, as through the SARF platform, government raised donations and supported the struggle against white racial domination in the former apartheid enclave.

It is therefore with gratitude to God for a life well spent that the families of late Obanye and Orjiako Nwokike announce the passing into glory of their wife, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother and great grandmother, Mrs. Madeline Chinyelu Obanye. Mrs. Obanye was born in Zaria, Kaduna State on September 29, 1930 and died at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria on June 27, 2009 at the age of 78 years.

She was educated at St. Monica’s College, Ogbunike and Hilcroft College, Surrey, England and was renowned as a patriot, philanthropist, farmer, social crusader and prolific writer. She was on the board of several blue chip companies and organizations in Nigeria and was also a founding member of the Nigerian Women’s Society. Her funeral ceremonies takes place from September 25 – 26 at her residence, 3 Rock Close, Malali GRA, and Kaduna.

* Mrs. Betty Irabor is the Publisher and Editor of “Genevieve Magazine”

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