By Etim Etim
The avalanche of beautiful eulogies, condolence messages and tributes pouring into the Aig-Imoukhuede family on the passing of their matriarch, Pastor Emily Aig-Imoukhuede, attest to the beautiful and accomplished life she led for almost 80 years.
Her death has gripped national attention, for she was a woman of virtue, a true daughter of Zion and an angel of the Lord in many ways. Pastor (Mrs) EMILY OKHEREN AIG-IMOUKHUEDE was called home by the Lord peacefully in her sleep in the night of June 8, 2021 in Surrey, England.
Naturally genial, amiable and kind-hearted, Pastor Emily, as she was widely known, has had a beautiful life of service to God and humanity. She was a loving mother and grandmother who loved and served the Lord till the end.
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; former Head of Interim National government, Chief Ernest Shonekan and former President Goodluck Jonathan are among the dignitaries that have sent in powerful messages to the family. From the private sector, industrialist Aliko Dangote and bankers, including the management of Access Bank, from where the first son of the deceased retired as the chief executive seven years ago, visited the family with their soothing words of comfort.
Among many national assignments, Pastor Emily was the Secretary of State for States and Local Government in the short-lived Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Before then, she was the National President of the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) between 1988 and 1993. She also served the country in many other capacities.
Pastor Emily’s children and the entire Aig-Imoukhuede family are sparing no expenses in giving their mother a befitting send forth. ‘’It will be a royal funeral’’, says a family member.
Funeral activities have already begun with condolence visits to the family. On Tuesday next week (July 13), there will be Service of Songs in her hometown, Sabongida-Ora, and Night of Tributes in Lagos the following day. Another Service of Songs, in Lagos, is on Thursday July 15 while the funeral will be in Lagos next week Friday (July 16).
She retired from active life in the last one year and spent a great deal of her time with her children and grand children. Her days were filled with prayers, quiet moments, supplications, meditations and praise and worship.
She prayed fervently for her family, friends, the Church and Nigeria. Yes, Nigeria – the country she loved dearly and served most passionately in many capacities. Nigeria was on her mind all the time. She listened to messages from the US evangelist, Kenneth Hagin and the Singaporean Preacher, Joseph Prince. Her favourite TV programme was Fareed Zakari GPS, the Sunday talkshow hosted by the brilliant Indian-American journalist on CNN.
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; and former President Goodluck Jonathan have condoled with the Aig-Imoukhuede family over the death of their matriarch, Pastor Emily Aig-Imoukhuede. She was former Secretary of State (Minister) for States and Local Government Affairs died on June 8, 2021.
A condolence letter jointly signed by General Yakubu Gowon and his wife, Victoria, urged the family to stay strong and be comforted knowing that she had played well her part and the family also played the roles expected of them to ensure everyday of her life was very well spent. Gowon’s letter read: “At a time like this, it’s difficult to find the right words to express the depth of the loss of such a fine-spirited woman leader who made sincere and wholesome contribution to nation-building as a former National President of the National Council for Women Societies, NCWS (1988-1993).
Her voice on behalf of Nigerian women was strident and hard to ignore. Her appointment as honorable Secretary of State (junior Minister) for States and Local Government Affairs in the Federal Executive Council in 1993 affirmed that women are no pushovers.
“As a mother, she raised phenomenally successful children, Erekpitan, Aigboje, Kemi and Aigbovbioise who have also made indelible marks in their personal and professional callings. As an ordained pastor, she worked tirelessly to win souls for God’s Kingdom. we are confident that her good works will remain an everlasting legacy of her time here on earth.”
Former President Obasanjo, in his condolence letter addressed to her son, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, described the late Emily Imoukhuede as an ”illustrious daughter of Africa.” “As we mourn the passing of this illustrious daughter of Africa, we must resolve that her great labour of love shall not be in vain,” the former president said.
Noting that the late Emily Aig-Imoukhuede served the nation loyally and with distinction, the former President said her enormous contributions to the nation in particular earned her an eminent position in the nation’s gallery of unforgettable public servants.
Obasanjo’s condolence letter read: “It is with a deep sense of loss that I wish, on behlf of my family and on my behalf, to commiserate with you and the entire members of the Aig-Imoukhuede family on the passing of your dear matriarch, Pastor Emily Okheren Aig-Imiukhuede, on June 8, 2021. “On occasions like this, it is indeed difficult to find the appropriate words to soothe the anguish of the irreparable loss.
She was arguably a great lady who was to her children a mother in a million and one who served variously as a public servant, women’s champion, teacher, confidant, counselor and pillar of strength to you all through her lifetime. Her enormous contributions to the nation in particular earned her an eminent position in the nation’s gallery of unforgettable public servants.
“She served her country committedly, loyally and with distinction, notably as the Honourable Secretary of State (minister) for States and Local Government in 1993, among others. Indeed she left her mark indelibly in whatever she was called upon to do. Indeed, she was a dutiful and hardworking fellow and gave her very best to the end in the service of her fatherland.
In all the assignment she was called upon to do. She was a dutiful and hardworking fellow and gave her very best to the end in the service of her fatherland. “In all the assignments she was given, quality and integrity were her imprint and legacy, while she left an indelible mark in her national assignments at the federal level and various facets of the private sector.
Her life was, indeed, a clear testimony of divine favour as well as the power of a devoted, loving upbringing on the fortunes of her children. There is no doubt that her memory will remain evergreen well beyond the family. But we must encourage you to accept the inevitable with faith in God’s unfailing love according to His will and purpose.”
Chief Ernest Shonekan, in whose government she served as secretary of state for States and Local Government Affairs, described her as “an elegant, very kind and good woman.” His letter read: “It is with a very deep sense of loss, yet, with gratitude to God for a life well spent, and also an immense honour for me to be afforded the opportunity on behalf of my wife and children, to pen a tribute to a recently departed, most treasured friend, wife, mother and grandmother. “Emily and my wife, Margaret began their lifelong friendship as contemporaries at the University College lbadan, in 1951.
They both distinguished themselves in their subsequent careers, with Emily as the Curator of the National Museum, and Margaret at the West African Examinations Council. Through them, our children became and have remained friends. Subsequently, they both were appointed as Trustees of the Chrisland University, Abeokuta.
“I remember with fondness and gratitude a beaded walking stick she gave me on my fiftieth birthday, when she also divulged to me that I share the same birthday as one of her sons. lt was such a beautiful work of art, which I have kept to this day. ln 1993, I was privileged to work with her directly when she served in the lnterim government which I led, as the Secretary of State for States and Local Governments.
“Emily always had a smile for everyone. She would have built just as distinguished a career as a diplomat. She was a friend to amazingly diverse people, a devoted family woman, and a most decent human being. Almost all who had the privilege of meeting her in life will acknowledge her extreme kindness, generosity and a very large heart.
I have met very few people in my own life, who have matched her capacity to go out of her way to be of assistance wherever she could, even to complete strangers. lt would have come as no surprise to those who knew her well, of her later calling in life to evangelism and expansion of the kingdom of God.”
Also condoling with the Imoukhuede family, former President Jonathan in his condolence letter addressed to Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, described her as “an accomplished public servant and philanthropist.” Jonathan said her legacies and contributions to national development, especially in the health, education and energy sectors, would continue to endure.
Former President Jonathan’s letter read: “I learned with deep compassion, the news of the passing on of your dear mother, Mrs. Emily Oheren Aig-Imoukhuede, to eternal glory. “Your mother was very special to you and your family for which her death would have left a deep void in your heart and in the hearts of all those she dearly loved.
“Please be comforted by the fact that Mrs. Aig-Imoukhuede was an accomplished public servant and philanthropist whose legacies and contributions to national development, especially in the health, education and energy sectors, will continue to endure. “She will also be remembered as an exemplary matriarch and epitome of motherhood, having nurtured and brought up distinguished Nigerians and successful entrepreneurs like you and your siblings.” The former President prayed God to grant her soul eternal repose and the family the fortitude to bear her absence.
Mrs Emily Aig-Imoukhuede founded many charity organizations through which she served humanity. She was particularly moved by the plight of prisoners and the inability of ex convicts to fully reintegrate into the society after serving their time. She founded an NGO, The Dreamland Foundation for Economic Empowerment, to empower prison inmates and ex-inmates to live useful lives so as not to return to crime after serving their prison terms.
This came to being after her engagements with many inmates through her correspondence Bible School (Believers Life in Christ Ministries). She had noticed that that most of the prisoners became hardened criminals while still in prison, not outside it. This explains why they almost always returned to crime upon release. Dreamland Foundation started giving out grants for empowerment to prisoners and ex-inmates and those that call upon the Foundation for help.
With a Second Class Upper degree from the University of Ibadan, Pastor Emily was widely travelled. Despite her accomplishments, she was unbelievably self-effacing. Ten years ago, she walked into a branch of Access Bank I was managing unannounced and without airs on her shoulder to do her business. Her son is a major investor in that bank and was the chief executive then.
There was no display of ‘’Do you know who I am’’ attitude which many privileged Nigerians are wont to wear on their faces. PASTOR EMILY OKHEREN AIG-IMOUKHUEDE (NEE IHONDE) lived a fulfilled and accomplished life. Spiritually, she was a woman of faith, totally committed to serving God in various ways, including her many charitable initiatives. May the good Lord receive her in eternal rest and comfort her husband, children and the rest of the family.
Etim writes from Abuja