AS VIOLET ODISO 'SBC' OBIORA GOES HOME
If we take arts as an independent barometer of value for the society, a telling measure of Mrs Violet Odiso SBC Obiora (1933 - 2011) standing would be her repeated invocation as a poet's delight by popular musicians such as Charlie Boy and Osita Osadebe.
In a musical selection entitled 'People's Club of Nigeria,' which Osadebe released in the early 1980s, the maestro paid tribute to her as one of the critical players behind the club which was a strong social network in Eastern Nigeria at a time when such a forum was a serious aggregation of communal interests as opposed to the individualistic commodification of interests that was beginning to take hold. Her recognition, regardless of the patriarchal underpinnings of Igbo culture, captured the beauty of her self-transcendent dedication to her community in particular and humanity at large.
Ogbuefi Odiso Obiora is widely acclaimed as a role-model for all, especially widows. Married at the relatively young age of 18 years, she supported her husband to attain good education as a lawyer, build up a successful career, and obviously grew an enviable marital relationship. Unfortunately, her matrimonial bliss was disrupted due to the civil war at the end of which her husband succumbed to a protracted illness that resulted in his death in 1973 when she was only 40 years old. No one could imagine how this young mother of 9 children, ranging from ages 21 to 5 years, would be able to carry on, let alone make ends meet. To survive such a tragic blow and reestablish her footing to the point of engaging in social/philanthropic endeavors of the kind that earned her popular admiration of renown artists such as Osita Osadebe is not the function of random luck for winning a lottery, but speaks volumes of the character in question.
With the demographic challenges that mark Africa's predicament, it is not flippant to say that an African who lived up to the age of 78 years was indeed blessed with long life. However, Mrs Violet Odis Obiora will be sorely missed. Born on March 20, 1933 to Ogbuagu-Oshiiji Orjiako Nwakuche and Oguefi Ogbuzuru Ntianu Anene, Mrs. Obiora had six siblings of whom she is only survived by her brother, Ogbuagu Gogo Nwakuche. She attended primary school in Jos and obtained a diploma in Home Economics in England. She was married in 1951 to Sam B. C. Obiora and they were blessed with 9 children before his untimely death in 1973. The reputation and accomplishments of the children is today her biggest testimonial as a wife, mother and citizen. There is her daughter, Professor Leslye Obiora, a patriot, a one-woman anti-poverty squad and an Africanist who happens to be a tenured and full Professor of Law in the United States as well as a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, son Alex - a psychiatrist, daughter Esther and son Noel who are both lawyers in the US, son George - an engineer in the U.S., daughter Juliet - an Accountant, daughter Ngozi who is a pioneering fashion designer and daughter Nkechi who is talented artist. She was predeceased by her first son, Sam, an entrepreneur whom she loved most dearly.
There is a sense in which it could be said that Violet saw herself essentially as Samson's wife, taking no credit for anything she did but doing everything for the love of her life. Notwithstanding her own Herculean undertakings and accomplishments, it spoke of her modesty and respect for the husband that she primarily defined herself as his wife to the subordination of all else. It was interesting to discover that, after close to four decades of being a widow, one of her two most frequent exclamations remained 'Sammy, duwu mu o!' which hailed her husband. The other exclamation was 'Ine mu Amede!' which acknowledged the maternal grandmother whose value-orientation must have imprinted on her indelibly.
It is the society's appreciation and celebration of the life she led and the vacuum imposed by her loss that will be the comprehensive burial rites with which kith and kin, friends, community and nation will welcome her body from the US on November 7th, 2011 till her burial on 11/11/11 in Oguta, Imo State, the hometown of Flora Nwapa - Africa's first published female novelist who was her sister-in-law, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa -the acclaimed legal luminary who was her cousin, and many such other illustrious persons. She obviously lived up to her name, Odiso, which meant 'Worthy of Emulation'. When the full story of her life is told, she would, indeed, turn out exemplarily worthy of emulation in fortitude, productive loyalty, virtue, inner strength, philanthropy, religiousness and, above all, cultural authenticity.
• Onoja works in Government House, Dutse, Jigawa State