By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
TO millions of Nigerians, Dr. Tai Ikomi’s name may no longer ring a bell. Her father is late, but her mother, a foremost Abeokuta-born educationist is still alive. She is 91 years old.
A Yoruba woman who left Nigeria for the United Kingdom several years ago where she got married to an Itsekiri man who she had met earlier at a Christian Fellowship in Lagos, she is currently based in theUSA. Dr. Ikomi is a publisher, minister of God, writer, having written about 30 Christian books covering family issues, practical Christian leaving to devotional life.
According to her, she attended St. Agnes Secondary School, Molete, Ibadan, Oyo State where she did her WASCE and HSC and proceeded to the University du Benin, Lome, Togo. In 1991, she graduated with an M.A. degree in Theology from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK and a doctorate degree from Shepherd College, Florida. She has taught New Testament and New Testament Greek in various Bible institutes and colleges.
Explaining, “I couldn’t hold on to a secular job. I also engage in publishing and that gives me the latitude to travel and also work. The only secular job I had taken was as an associate professor in theology. When you talk of an associate professor in America, it is different. Here in Nigeria, a professor is perhaps the highest title you can give to a lecturer, but it is not so in America.
Once you lecture in a college and you have a certain degree, you can be given the title of an associate professor. I did that for some years and after that I went into full time ministry.” Dr. Ikomi wrote a best seller titled, His Beauty For My Ashes, after she lost her husband and their three children to a drunk driver on Easter Sunday in 1986. She was just 32 years old then and was the only survivor of the accident. How has she coped with the development. Had she forgiven the young man who was later jailed for few months?
These were some of the questions, Dr. Ikomi answered in this interview in her twin sister’s house in Ogba, Ikeja recently. Excerpts…
You started by reading French and later Theology. What were you searching for?
My desire in life was to be an attorney because I liked argument, or reasoning but in the US, before you can be admitted into Law School, you have to get your LSAT for law but when I was preparing for that, we had an accident where I lost my husband and three children. As a result of that, I had to abandon my dream of becoming a lawyer. And I was led to go into theology school.
Can you recount the incident that claimed your entire family?
It was in 1986, April 1, precisely. My husband, I and my three children–Temple, the eldest who was a day to his eighth birthday, Tosan and Ejima (two and half years) were all travelling from Fayetteville, Arkansas to visit the University of Arkansas where my husband, Johnny, had applied to do his graduate studies. As we were approaching a construction site on Highway 29 in Platte city, Missouri, suddenly, there was a bang from behind and the car went into the air.
According to eye witnesses, we were thrown into the air. Although, I did not realise what had happened, the noise of the impact sent an unending echo to my ears. I later saw two men who approached me, but I am not sure if they were white or black, and they instructed me that I need to get out and the next thing that I could remember was that I needed to get out. The next thing was that I found myself outside the car and there were many people around.
I tried to observe my environment and to myhorror, I saw the rear of our car in flames and immediately I recollected that we were travelling and I have my husband and three children inside the car and I had to save them. But all my efforts to open the car were not successful. Suddenly, I heard the cry of my daughter in the car and I tried again to open the door, but it was jammed. About five minutes later, I did not hear the cry of my daughter any longer, after crying for about three times; but I knew it was not the fire that killed her. She was choked due to the smoke.
People were trying to get fire extinguisher to put off the fire but there was nothing anybody could do. But the interesting thing was that nobody saw the two men! I was the only one that saw them.
A year later, when this man was taken to court, even though I didn’t want him to be taken to court, but because what he did involved life, left for me, I would drop all the charges. It was during the pre_sentence that one of the probation officers was asking me of the impact the incident had on me, so that they could know the kind of punishment the court would mete out on him.
I told them that I wanted to know those two men who saved me and they replied that there were no two men and that the first person to arrive at the scene of the accident said he saw me coming out of the ditch.
He thought I was an alien because they couldn’t figure out how I escaped or came out of the car. Even the Police tried to investigate but they couldn’t come out with any explanation. Then, it dawned on me that the two men were angels; but if they could save me, why not my husband and my three children?
This drunk driver hit your car from the back or what?
Yes! The young man was illegally twice drunk and his speedometer stopped at 86 miles per hour which is very high.
How have you coped?
I will say it is the grace of God because till today, I don’t think I went through the full garment of the pain. Although the pain was deep, so deep that it is only experience that can relate it. It is a deep tunnel of pain, of loneliness, sadness but through it all the grace of God held me together. Alongside my pain and sorrow was this divine hand that was couching me; and the major thing that really helped me in those days was my emphasis on Bible meditation.
I did a lot of Bible meditation and thank God that I discovered what Bible meditation is all about in the late 1970s and when I meditate on those scriptures, it gives me joy and happiness. I will just have this joy in my spirit for no reason. And after the accident, I was thinking, if Bible meditation can really help me to overcome this sorrow that is ready to bury me then, but thank God that it did.
Because the Bible says ‘thy words were found, and I did eat them. Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: For I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.’
The Word of God is embedded with the life and attribute of God and this is the greatest single factor that sees me through.
Another thing that helped me through was praising God. On the day of the funeral which personally, I dreaded because I didn’t want to see them buried, but my twin sister who had travelled from Nigeria to keep me company, asked me to come and sing praises to God! I asked her, today, when I am going to bury my family and see the last of them? How could I sing or praise God on such a day?
But later, I reasoned that there was nothing wrong; neither would any harm come from it. So, I started praising God and suddenly I found myself in heaven before a very big throne and there was somebody on the throne.
I found myself bowing down before this throne and in the natural world, I was not bowing down and as I was praising this Being, I looked to my right and saw my husband with the three children at the other side of the throne, also praising God. I asked them what they were you doing there when they were supposed to be dead.
Suddenly, I came back to the world and instead of seeing a day of sadness, it was transformed to a day of joy. Eventually, we went for the funeral which was a two service, one in the church and the other at the cemetery.
Another interesting thing happened there too. I had requested that they all be buried in one casket and not four caskets and my reason was that when Christ eventually comes, I want them to rapture together since they all died together. I also requested that the casket be closed because I didn’t want to see their charred remains. I still preferred to see them in my mind as handsome, beautiful and not charred and it was done. Although my head had assented to their death, my heart would not let go and as my hands run across their names which were engraved on the casket, thoughts started pouring into my minds.