By Donu Kogbara
My dear Auntie, Madame Elizabeth Laaka Orage, quietly passed away on February 23 and was buried on Friday May 13 in Bomu in Gokana Local Government, Ogoni, Rivers State.
A renowned beauty with a vivacious spirit, hers was a dignified, eventful, God-fearing, love-filled life; and she is sorely missed by her devastated children, siblings, in-laws, extended family members, churchmates and many, many friends.
Born on August 16, 1938 in Bane, Rivers State to Pa James Gbora Bayor and Mrs Tagwa Celina Bayor, she was the first of five daughters. She obtained her First School Leaving Certificate from Saints Peter and Paul School Essene (now part of Akwa Ibom State) and went on to train as a midwife at St Luke’s Hospital in Uyo.
But she left nursing to take up teaching in 1956 and became the headmistress of the Convent section of St Dominic’s Catholic School in Bane. She then became the pioneer principal of St Gerald’s Convent School in Uegwere-Boue in Khana in l958.
However, she didn’t stay there for long because she was swept off her feet by a highly eligible bachelor, Chief Samuel Ntete Orage (now of blessed memory).
In those days, Ogoni tradition dictated that first daughters should remain spinsters. But Madame Elizabeth’s parents were persuaded to relent and allow her to marry her dashing suitor because, as their son Desmond Lerabari puts it: “The electricity between my Mom and Dad during their courtship was so profound”.
Including Desmond (who is the second eldest and lives in California with his wonderful wife and daughters, Blessing, Ashley and Tiffany), Madame Elizabeth and Chief Samuel’s happy union produced five offspring: Florence Barinem Orage Goka, Dornu Clare Njamanze, Tom Jackson Orage, Tuma Jane Akpamgbo.
Madame Elizabeth and Chief Samuel also adopted Lena (now late), Chief’s brother Zokoro’s daughter…and a boy called Boniface Akpan Augustine.
Banner on the wall
According to Desmond: “Our parents treated all of us the same. This complete equality between kids she gave birth to and those she adopted was only possible because of the loving and accepting heart of a very great woman…and we weren’t surprised when she was honoured as a ‘Golden Mother’ by the Christ The King parish’s branch of the Catholic Women Organisation in Port Harcourt.”
Madame Elizabeth didn’t tolerate nonsense and was, despite her innate compassion, a vigilant and strict disciplinarian. The pupils she taught – and the youngsters she raised at home – were provided with solid intellectual and moral educations.
Her juvenile charges were compelled to pray before their bedtimes and as soon as they woke up and prior to every meal. She took a personal interest in their homework, regularly communicated with their teachers, foiled any adolescent tricks they tried to foist on her and punished them if they misbehaved.
She was famed for pasting a “Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness” banner on the wall of her residence. Furthermore, despite having several servants at her disposal, she insisted that her children learned how to handle domestic chores. And they fondly and respectfully took to nicknaming her “Margaret Thatcher” and “Iron Lady.”
Madame Elizabeth was a feminist of sorts, in the sense that she made sure that her sons knew how to cook. She also eventually became a dynamic entrepreneur.
We whom she has left behind will never stop grieving about her departure from this mortal sphere. May she rest in perfect peace next to her adored husband.
Tribute to a dear friend
My dear friend, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the former Governor of Rivers State and current Minister of Transport, is celebrating his birthday today, surrounded by well-wishers and with his beloved and devoted wife, Dame Judith, at his side.
Amaechi is turning 51, so can no longer be described as young. But he possesses so much physical energy, so much sheer enthusiasm for life and such a modern mindset that I find it difficult to think of him as middle-aged!
Unlike many members of his generation, he is not stuck in a boring rut or set in his ways or narrow-mindedly allergic to new ideas. And he’s certainly not a typical Naija Big Man, not least because he has an egalitarian, democratic spirit and can not only cheerfully cope with constructive criticism, but actively welcomes opposing viewpoints from those he regards as well-intentioned or well-informed.
There have been times when I and some of the other people around him have made it clear that we do not agree with him on a particular issue. And, instead of coldly shutting us down or pompously pulling rank or angrily flaring up, he has listened.
Sure, he can be exceedingly stubborn and often winds up insisting on doing what he originally intended to do, despite objections from the likes of me. But he can also be exceedingly flexible and sometimes changes direction after reflecting on alternative opinions and concluding that they are reasonable.
Much to the annoyance of PDP-inclined Vanguard readers, I usually support Amaechi to the hilt and followed him when he decided to move to the APC.
But I’ve written, over the years, a handful of reproachful articles that contradict some of the positions he has taken. And he has never held it against me. He once described me as “a renegade”, but he was laughing when he levelled this accusation at me, then invited me to lunch. And, yes, he has a terrific sense of humour.
He has faults like any other human being; and he has, like every other mere mortal on this earth, made mistakes. But he’s VERY nice overall; and I appreciate the fact that I can have a warm rapport with him without being sychophantic. And I’ll never forget the brotherly concern he lavished on me when I was kidnapped last year.
Amaechi has endured a plethora of ridiculous insults and unfair allegations from his political enemies. And these relentless adversaries have persuaded some Nigerian and foreign media outlets to accuse him of corruption (despite lack of evidence).
But he is optimistic, confident and resilient by nature, remains resolutely unbowed by such hostility and is working very hard to improve the transport sector. He is immensely grateful to his Boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, for displaying faith in him; and I and many other onlookers believe that he will do a great job for Nigeria.
More grease to his elbow. May he have a wonderful birthday and productive year.