By Francis Ewherido
My earliest memories of my aunt, Chief (Mrs.) Julie OroweriodiaEgoh (my siblings and I used to call her Mummy Jand, meaning London Mummy), were the stories my mother, Mrs. Paulina Powder Ewherido, told us of their childhood. They grew up together, although she was three years older than my mother. My mother often caressingly called her Urhobo name, “Oro-we-rió-dia.”
Mummy Jand also happened to have been my father’s (the late Pa. Joseph Ewherido) classmate at some point. My father called her “Julie” and said she was very intelligent when they were in school. Although we saw her once in a while in those days, my first major contact with her was in 1987, when I came to Lagos. I stayed with her until she went back to London.
Later, after I settled down in Lagos, I used to visit her whenever she came down from London. As time went on, she reciprocated my visits. On one occasion, she came to my house and met my friend, meanwhile, I was not at home. For about five minutes, she was quizzing my friend to be sure that his visit had no ulterior motives.
She could not be bothered whether or not her questions rankled my wife.Though she was very fond of my wife, she just wanted to protect the interest of her “son.” My friend only got a respite when she was satisfied that his visit in my absence had no ulterior motives. Mummy watched your back and protected your interest once you were one of hers.
She was inquisitive and in face-to-face conversation, she had this penetrative gaze that made it difficult to parry questions or tell lies. Mummy was blunt; she spoke her mind without minding whose ox was gored. She resented liars and cheats, and she was impatient with lazy people. This did not endear her to some people. Her bluntness rattled as well as ruffled some feathers.
Mummy was one of the few people I knew, who combined immense beauty with great intelligence, knowledge and wealth. She was rich. She certainly had a deep pocket. The level of financial and material support she gave to friends, family members in Uwheru and Ewhu, including people she grew up with in Ewhu; her over all philanthropy and support for the Catholic Church, especially, over four decades, could only have been sustained by someone with a deep pocket. In appreciation of her humanitarian activities, she received many titles and awards: Onirigho of Uwheru, Emuisigbalo of Ewhu, Erhuvwur’Ewhu of Ewhu, Patron, Club 87; OlorogunAtete of Olomu, Grand Commander of the Order of Merit, Club 87, Obotemuyovwi of Ewhu, amongst many others.
Mrs. Egoh started making good money when she left paid employment in the mid-60s and went into private business. She was one of the biggest dealers in jewelry and coral beads in Nigeria. During the Nigerian Civil War, she diversified into textiles. She was among the top three importers on “George” and “Single” wrappers in Nigeria.
She travelled all over the world in search of bargains and innovations. As the value of the naira nosedived and the prices of wrappers from the UK, Italy and Austria became prohibitive, she shifted to emerging markets. She once informed me of one of her trips to India at a time when I was also in India. What amazed me was that in her 80s, she travelled to distant places unaccompanied. When I asked her, “mummy, you travelled to India unaccompanied?” She shrugged and said “there is nothing there.”
Such was the substance Chief Mrs. Julie Egoh was made of: unstoppable, relentless, fearless, industrious and restless. Mummy worked hard and played hard. She loved life and lived it to the full. While taking care of people around her, she did not forget herself. She pampered and spoilt herself to the full. She was a socialite who lit up the social scenes both in Nigeria and England.
Her presence at social events reverberated. She was a pioneer member of Urhobo Ladies’ Association (ULA), Lagos Branch and also served as President of the Urhobo Ladies Association (ULA), United Kingdom.
Chief (Mrs.) Julie Egoh was born in Ewhu, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria, to the Royal family of HRH OmokoZiregbe, OvieEkade IV of Ewhu Kingdom and Queen Monica OnoriakporochekoZiregbe, on 29th October 1929. She was the eldest daughter of the 17 childrenof HRH Ekade IV, comprising six females and 10 males.
At the age of five, young Julie Ziregbe, started school at the Catholic Primary School, Ewu, and later proceeded to Mount Carmel Catholic Girls’ School, Ebute-Metta, Lagos. In 1951, she returned to Ewhu and took up a teaching appointment at the Catholic Girls’ Primary School, Ewhu, where she worked until 1959 when she left for the United Kingdom to join her husband, the late Chief Albert MukoroEgoh. She is survived by six children, many grandchildren, a great grandchild, brothers, sisters and many other relatives.
Mummy, in the tradition of women of Ekrur’OphoriQuarters, Ewhu, you lived to a ripe old age of 90 years. It would not have hurt to have you much longer, but God said your work here on earth was done. Adieu, Chief Mrs. Julie OroweriodiaEgoh, aka MummyJand, you came, you saw and you certainly conquered.