It is with deep sense of reflection and missed feelings that my mother, the late Mrs Ikhide Hannah Ukotemi (Nee Omole), daughter of the Most High God, returned to her maker, where she should never had left in the first instance. Late Mrs Ikhide’s absolute calmness, angelic kindness, human gaiety, hard work, devotion to family, spiritual consciousness and social genre are the rarest qualities I have encountered so far in my life.
However, her exit at the ripe a a century – for me – is mission accomplished. Not just so for being a vehicle through which I and all my elder siblings were sired into existence in continuation of the sojourning for 9th and 10th times of fullness of human evolution circle. It is more so because of the indomitability of her solid spirit for growth; achievements, success and most of all, comportment of a dutiful and dedicated house wife and the contentment of a peaceful mother.
More than anything else, as a growing ‘troublesome child’ under her watchful eyes in those dangerous times in Eruere community, many of such instances in which I would have lost my life, her tender hands miraculously nurtured me back to life. Her long suffering and perseverance in those hours of needs, having lost our father in 1987, exposed us to early responsibilities, while forming a bulwark of protection around her as husbands and children.
Late Mrs Ukotemi’s absolute care in nurturing a generation that is managing to live above the perilous times calls for a worthy tribute to her staying powers, being an intrepid tribune to the enviable strides of womanhood. My mum was one of the last wives and mothers standing that every husband and children could wished for, now that her tribes are gradually departing.
Many times, before my very eyes, she paid a price for her deep sense of human solidarity and for her inclination for justice. Here was a mother who understood the very core of the humanities, as a reflection on how to live, on how to be a human being, on how to live with clarity, dignity and insight and not to be afraid of standing out and standing apart as a lonely voice of conscience in the wilderness.
“Iyonme” or Iyin-lucky”, as she was fondly called with my propitiatory name attached to her motherhood, she was deliberately conscious of the liberating passion and the inner satisfaction that comes with critical opinions and self introspection. She was conscious of the significance of personal freedom, the potency of delivering oneself from herd’s mentally; from uncertainty, from discomfort, from internal torture and turmoil, the moment you domesticate yourself to your mind and God only, without externalizing personal frailties.
Looking back, I can say unequivocally that Madam Hannah Ukotemi had a DNA infused into her that abhorred bully, both physical and emotional manipulations of the minds. Being her last child – I am proud to say that she was one of the most prominent voices who chastised children for misdemeanors as well as rewarded them for excellent behavior or performance – regardless of their social backgrounds.
It’s on the basis of her love for education and development while on earth that I decided to institute scholarship award April this year, in her honour, beginning from next year 2024 and that of my late father, Dr Johnson Okpeku Ikhide, for the overall best student in Oseze Primary School; the school they both attended (Saint James’s Primary School then), the same school I also attended.
This constrained space would not be enough for us to fully grasp her deep response to spirituality, people, culture, politics, community and events. It will be difficult to condense Madam Ukotemi’s community support and total care for her children, grandchildren, great great grandchildren, sons and daughters in-laws and the rest of her output to a scale that can be fully described in this tribute.
She was a community ‘Guardian Angel’ that every other community dwellers and other role models have been looking up to for mentorship. As an institution, she was an extraordinary wife and mother with physical and inner strength, a connoisseur of Iuleha history, a gifted satirist laced with noble qualities; an incredibly courageous voice of freedom, redemption and libration; a symbol of a free society and a courageous feminist, and an epic woman with a head on her shoulders!
I learnt the lessons of bitter truth about moderation and the transient nature of the fading humanity, from my beloved mother! You’re no more available to point to television with trembling tones, “I saw you here a few days ago in fierce debate, engaging the authorities in a seemingly reckless stand-off”.
You have repeatedly told me that your earnest wish/prayer is that I must not die before your own demise as result of my activism and confrontation with corrupt state power undermining Nigeria development. I perfectly understood your mortal fear. You lost Grace, Godwin, all your five siblings and my father in their prime. Now, I’m left alone all by myself and God without you, missing your dutiful guidance and warm embrace!!
As one of the rare prides of your legacy and, being part of the privileged heritage of a courageous and fearless philosophy; and a fierce thinker, we’re here to celebrate your glorious exit as the earth awaits your remains in the month of your birth. May we walk this part enduringly much longer than you did, Iyonme!!
Adieu mother; mentor, teacher, heroine and my spiritual shield!!!