By Prince Osuagwu
The heart-wrenching tales associated with widowhood makes it a tough assignment for any reporter to engage a widow for an interview.
But when a widow of about ten years walk into your office, seeking to unbundle her heart, no reporter can ignore her. So when DrÂ Matilda Chinyere Olufumilayo Akinyemi, a widow of about ten years walked into the corporate headquarters of the Vanguard newspapers last week, armed with the story of her life, we could not do anything than to listen.
But the irony is that this widow is based in the United Kingdom, handles community projects for the Queen of England, has five children, of which some are married and others graduated from the university and working.
She looks gorgeous and showed no sign of deprivation. So what could be bugging her so badly as to seek a shoulder to lean on?
Fortunately, Mrs Akinyemi had documented her ordeal in a book she entitled, â€œA decade of Widowhoodâ€ .
However, that did not stop her from telling her story. She is quick to tell you that pains of widowhood is no respecter of social status. If an educated woman with an assured means of livelihood could feel the pains of widowhood, it sure means that the illiterate village woman stood no chance when the unfortunate happens.
For her, pains of widowhood must be minimised for an unfortunate woman whose husband yields to the cold hands of death, leaving loads of assignment.
As expected, her experience was laden with the usual deep emotional, psychological, physical, and economic scars as well as the social stigma associated with widowhood.
Right from my youth, I was given to
dreams which eventually happens in real life, the way it came to me in the dreams. So at the age of 11 years, I had a dream where my friends and I were dancing and many young men stretched their hands to grab me. In the dream, I found my self drawing closer to a certain young man that does not speak my language.
He held my hands and I woke up. I remember narrating the dream to my parents and everybody laughed it off.
But when I was 18, we met physically. There was a dance and drama session organised for schools in the old Bendel state then. My school came and his own also came.
In my school drama group, I played the role of Hans Frank,Â Hitlerâ€™s lawyer and while I was acting, he placed a bet with his friend that he was going to make me his wife. After the event he approached me. Immediately, I knew I had seen that face before, butÂ could not remember. It turned out he was the man that actually held my hands in the dream seven years ago. One thing led to the other, by age 21, I was married to him. He was 26 then and didnâ€™t bulge, even when they said Igbos will eat his head.
His life that got me worried
My husband was like my enabler. He empowered me a lot. It does not just take a second for him to answer to my needs. He wanted me to be the best. He pushed me a great deal.Â My going to UK in the first place was because when I arrived Ondo state as a wife, I was working in the ministry.
An opportunity came for about four staff to go to the UK to study for one year and come back to teach in one of the training schools the ministry was about to establish.Â He selected me alongside three others but all the secretaries in the ministry went on strike that he selected a foreigner (that was me because I was Igbo) instead of indigenes, all through.
The opportunity was withdrawn and my husband was terribly angry that his wife was called a foreigner. He asked me to look for a school in the UK to study, not for one year but as long as I wanted to study.Â That was him, very nice, taking to challenges and easy going.
But there is one constant thing I noticed about him that got me so worried. He travels so late at night and drives so fast. And that was exactly what claimed his life.
Revelations of his death
But before the accident that claimed his life, God revealed it to me in the early hours of Tuesday, 6 July 1993. In my dream, I saw a ghastly motorÂ accident scene which occurred on a very lonely road, somewhere in Oyo State of Nigeria.
It was very strange, because I was not conversant with that part of Nigeria. In that dream, my husband was the person involved in the accident. I did not know how the accident occurred but standing at the scene of the accident with his right leg shorter than the left one, was my husband. There were no houses nor human beings within that area.
I screamed and asked him why he did not follow the main highway being used by other motorists. I was very angry with him. I did not listen to him even as he was trying to explain to me that the accident was not his fault.
He was covered with red mud from his head to his toes; and by his side there was a sketch of a human body filled with golden flakes rising high to heaven. But I did not see the body itself. It was a very frightening experience. In the dream, I simply said; Thank God, this person made heaven.
I did not know how I visualised that, but as I was about to finish that statement, I realised that my junior brother, 27 years old then,Â who just returned from Germany, was supposed to be traveling with my husband.
They were traveling from Lagos to the East, my home town, but before I could inquire about him in that dream, I woke up. Immediately I woke up my children too, they were quite small then and I narrated my dream to them. We said a little prayer, committing their daddy and uncle into Godâ€™s hand. I also made every effort to contact my husband on the land line in Lagos, but I was not successful, and it was not yet the era of mobile phones.
News of the Accident
On Friday, the 9th of July 1993, I received the shocking news that my husband was in coma after a ghastly motor accident and my younger brother with him, died on the spot. The same spot I had seen in the dream.
It was a very difficult time for me.
The pain was too heavy for me to carry. I was so confused; there was no one to turn to for advice on a very serious issue like this which involved the loss of my brotherâ€™s life at a very young age. My husband who was my best friend, and the only one who could have been in the best position to console me, was also lying there unconscious.
In my little way, I simply called on God to direct my steps and guide me on how to announce the death of my brother to my people. I also prayed that God should speak to them before me. I believe God spoke to them; and they accepted the unfortunate incident as it was.
But, that was not the end of the matter because some people became the devilâ€™s advocate as to the cause of the accident. They tried so hard to destroy the happiness of two families that were once united through marriage.
I was also accused of conniving with my husband to kill my brother to make money. Even though my husband was in comaÂ in the hospital, they asked why he did not die if it was really a genuine accident.
He was in coma for four months, after we flew him to the UK. But he came out of it and we stayed for another three and half years together before he died.
However,Â on the night of February 27, 1997 I had a dream where my husband and I embarked on a very strange journey.
Suddenly, step by step, I noticed that there was a distance between my husband and I. As much as I ran to catch up with him,Â the gap was widening. He was actually taking very slow steps; yet the smaller the steps he took the wider the gap. At a time, I became furious at how far behind he had left me and I had to call out to him to wait for me.
The scene of the place where my husband went was so glorious and very beautiful. The whole area was fully marbled. The angels were moving so glamorously to orchestrate the scene. This was coupled with a highly pitched and smooth sound of a unique type of music. I knew it was a heavenly scene, but how I knew, I cannot explain.
The incongruous part of it was that in all my efforts to attract the attention of my husband,who started the journey with me, even though I was all the time shouting and screaming, I was unable to attract his attention.
The only thing that created the barrier between him and I was just a very tiny straight line like a single sewing thread. That was why I was unable to comprehend why on earth I could not cross such a simple line.
Suddenly, as I was contemplating on how to find a way, a gentleman passed by me. Immediately, he crossed the line and walked over to my husband.
This infuriated me so highly and I lashed out immediately, querying why the gentleman who had just arrived crossed the line before me. As I spoke; the man heard my voice, turned back and screamed, Oga, please do not let my sister come over. Immediately, my husband turned and with a great force, stretched his hands and pushed me back screaming; No- o-o-o-o! Then I woke up.
It was around 4.00 a.m and my husband was still lying beside me. I told him this strange dream. At the end, he responded; To God Be The Glory.
But suddenly, he asked with such an alarming tone Who did you say crossed over to my side? I answered, my junior brother, Boniface. And he exclaimed; Oh God! I asked him why he exclaimed, he didnâ€™t answer me. But three weeks after my husband died, my brother Boniface died too.
Accusation of killing my husband and depression that followedImmediately my husband died, I received
the greatest shock of my life. Those I practically trained and fed in my kitchen turned their back on me. I was even accused of killing him.
They said how could he die in London four years after the fatal accident. Talks that didnâ€™t make sense, really. There and then, depression followed. I suddenly began to hate most things I liked. My involvement in community works, politics began to dwindle. I began to withdraw my directorship appointments in many companies because I couldnâ€™t cope with the demands.
I began to have problems generally, irrespective of the fact that I could earn a comfortable living at the time. I was totally weak to do anything. What I wanted was to join my husband
Meanwhile when the accident happened, my people were planning to also go and kill him in the hospital to avenge the death of their own son. I heard of it, leaked it to my brothers-in-law and asked that my husband be moved from the hospital.Â At that time, everybody was praising me for the love I had for my husband. But when he died, I became the killer. That is the world of a widow.
A visit from late Husband
It took another dream, where my late husband visited me, to bring me back to active life again. In the dream, I saw my husband wearing the same cloth he wore the first day I met him, and I asked him where he has been all the while and that now that I have seen him, I would follow him to wherever he is. He said, I have just come to see you.
You canâ€™t come with me, look at these children, who will take care of them. When I insisted in following him, he said, you canâ€™t come, you have a job to do and he walked away. It was then my eyes opened. That was how I plunged myself into certain activities including lecturing, again.
It was the first of January, 2006, we went to church. Mid way into the sermon, my pastor suddenly jumped out the pulpit and announced that God wanted somebody here to write a book. He said he never knew the kind of book or the title but that God said He would direct the person.
I didnâ€™t know it was me and I never had any intension of writing a book. If I was even to write a book, I would have written on my community involvement.
But in march 2007, I went on holidays in Lisbon with my second daughter and my grand child. As we were comingÂ back, I just experienced a pat on my shoulder. I knew that tap was different. I thought it was my dad because that was the way he does when he wanted to talk to me. And he said I want you to write a book. Title it around your sojourn in widowhood.Â I am your God, the Alfa and Omega.
He gave the synopsis of the book. Every chapter relates to my life. God himself gave biblical references and said there is nothing that happened in this world, that has not happened before. That is how God inspired the writing of the book. It is so educative and inspiring and so empowering.
After this book was launched, I thought it was my book, but God told me that it is not. He specifically asked me to donate it to a foundation. So, that was how Hannah Uwazie Foundation came about. It is for those born into poverty.
I have boughtÂ 20 acres of land in my Village to build a home for the underprivileged. The home will accommodate 50 people, 25 boys and 25 girls, that we are going to cater for their academic careers from elementary to the university.
Those that donâ€™t have ability read will learn skills like motor mechanics, brick laying because it a very lucrative over there in UK. Towards the building of this orphanage, we launched this book on the 18th of July 2009, in UK. We will also launch it in Nigeria and all the proceed of the launch would go into the project.
I have committed my life to ensure that as many as possible widows get leveraged and their pains get minimised.