By Etim Etim

TODAY, June 8, marks a year since Pastor (Mrs) Emily Aig-Imoukhuede went to be with her father in Heaven at the age of 79. She died in Surrey, England on June 8, 2021, four months shy of her 80th birthday.

She was buried in Lagos on July 16 last year. Pastor Emily is the wife of Frank Abiodun Aig-Imoukhuede, OON, and mother of Prof Erekpitan Ola Adisa, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, CON, Oluwakemi Balogun and Aigbovbioise Aig-Imoukhuede, Uncle Frank I recall, was Federal Director of Culture in the federal bureaucracy in the ‘70s who helped in the building of National Arts Theatre, Lagos and the hosting of FESTAC ’77. 

Nigerians would still remember the solemn grandeur that characterised her funeral obsequies. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Aliko Dangote were among dignitaries who personally attended the events. It’s amazing how time flies.

There were condolence messages from the big and the mighty: President Muhammadu Buhari; Vice President Osinbajo; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd); Gen. Yakubu Gowon; AfDB President Dr. Akinwumnmi Adeshina and many governors, politicians and private sector leaders.

To commemorate the first anniversary of her transition, the immediate family will gather at her graveside in Lagos for a small, family-only memorial service in Lagos today. They will pray, sing hymns, read Bible verses and reflect on their beautiful mother whose personality is so vividly captured in the poem: “A beautiful Mother”, written by Amy Finley, an American writer.

‘’Your love, your sacrifice, your smile

You left a legacy in even in smallest things

You gave so much of yourself

You were a light, a beacon, a fire

Burning bright through the years

You put your burdens on the shelf

Giving your heart so freely and beautifully

You brought laughter, learning and joy

Into moments large and small

Your heart was your true wealth

A beautiful mother inside and out”.

In the year after her passing, the children are striving to keep her legacy aloft just as many others have immortalised her. Chrisland University, Abeokuta has named its Girls Hostel after her. Wellspring University, Benin is planning an official ceremony in September to name its library complex after her.

Access Bank has also named its Cape Town Polo Tournament after her. Pastor Emily’s passion was to cater for the weak, vulnerable and women. The foundation she established, “The Dreamland Foundation for Economic Empowerment”, is now the responsibility of the immediate family she left behind.

Its mission has been to empower prison inmates and ex-inmates to live a viable life and contribute positively to society. Pastor Emily was inspired to establish it after engaging with many prisoners through her Correspondence Bible School (Believers Life in Christ Ministries). She found out, to her chagrin, that many inmates became more hardened in prisons after coming in contact with tougher criminals, and end up being arrested shortly after serving their time.

The Dreamland Foundation was therefore established to reform and turn them to better and productive citizens. “It was after she passed that I realised her charitable work was impacting thousands of lives on an annual basis; beyond financial resources it’s her selfless sacrifice that made the difference. We are doing all we can to keep the dream alive”, Aigboje told this writer recently.

Pastor Emily was a quintessential servant of the Lord and leader of people who served the country in many capacities. Among her many national assignments, she was the Secretary of State for States and Local Government (equivalent of Minister of State for Intergovernmental Affairs today) in the short-lived Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Before then, she was the National President of National Council of Women Societies, NCWS, between 1988 and 1993.

The family will always cherish her fond memories and remember her for her fervent prayers for her children, family and country and the legacy of selfless service and kindness she left behind. Pastor Emily was particularly concerned with the welfare of the needy, women and children and she spared no efforts and resources in attending to them. Her ability to make friends and relate with people from all nooks and crannies of the of the country, ethnic backgrounds and social strata portrayed the essential elements of her humanness. Her home was open to all, especially during her days in NCWS.

Among her favourite pastimes, she was an art aficionado. In addition to her work as the curator of National Museum, she established a private art gallery in Lagos soon after the civil war, one of the nation’s first private galleries, and this served as a veritable exhibition ground for budding and experienced artists from across the country. The gallery also provided her own children with early acquaintance with creative works and birthed their relationships with many art connoisseurs like Prof. Ben Enwonwu.

I am not therefore surprised that Aigboje has loaned part of his vast private collection to the recently launched Coronation Art Gallery, in Lagos, having been exposed early in life to these pieces of imaginative creations. Pastor Emily’s life should be an inspiration to young girls and women who continue to find meaning in life.

*Etim, a media consultant, wrote from Lagos

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