By Uche Amunike
Among so many things, death has been described as a bad reaper. It has a habit of reaping the very best when it strikes. It has no mercy. It has no compassion. It has no sympathy. Such was the manner in which it visited the Nwadis when it swept away their mentor, breadwinner and family head ten years ago. Since he passed on, the void he left has remained irreplaceable and the scars his death inflicted have refused to heal. I write about none other than the very amiable Late Justice John Carter Nwadi. He was the husband of the Fides Proof Reader, Lady Ifeoma Nwadi and the father of Barrister Chinonye Nwadi, Ifeoma, Chubby and Kenechukwu. In this edition, they bared their minds on their pain and disappointment at his untimely demise. This is one of my most difficult interviews because I had to keep my emotions in check as I listened to his widow and children discuss their pain, heartbreak and unshakeable love for a man they all called daddy...
LADY IFEOMA NWADI
I want you to be the one to tell his story because you lived with him all these years and was there even till his last moments. So, who was Justice John Nwadi?
Thank you. John Nwadi was the love of my life. He was my friend, my confidant. He was the life of the family. He was a lawyer, a judge, a philanthropist. Because of the kind of person he was, when he was initiated into the Ozo title, he took the name, Ezenwanne of Nimo. He didn't care about the judgeship. If you see how he relates with his driver, you will be marvelled. So, Ezenwanne loves people. Some people call him Father Christmas because of the way he gives and gives and gives. In a nutshell, that is who he was.
So, ten years after he left your life and his family, I know it has not been easy. Having spoken with your girls, I honestly feel their pain. Asking you if you feel pain would mean asking the obvious. What I want to know is how you have been able to cope all these years with the kids, psychologically, emotionally and financially.
I would say that the Knights and Ladies of St Mulumba actually helped me a lot because they continued to keep in touch. Rev Fr Obinna Dike has been of immense help to me and the children. I won't also forget my siblings. Their support has been awesome. You see, I realised that when you are bereaved, you will know who your real friends are. My husband had so many fair weather friends and we found out when he died. As for his family, they never gave me any problems and his sisters kept on giving me words of encouragement. I always try to tell my children, especially the last one, Kenechukwu to be strong. At times, you will see him in his room talking to himself. And you know, he died in the same year my first son was leaving the house for the first time for secondary school. So, it wasn't easy for any of us. I keep telling them to remember him with love no matter how much they hurt. I believe that love is what has helped us. I remember that when he was alive, he never missed taking us to vacations around the country every August which was the holiday period for judges and lawyers. So, when they remember the good old days, they start crying. We also spend Christmas together at home. So, these two months, August and December are really special in my family. They are dedicated months of love for our family. It makes them sad now that he is no more but I keep telling them to remember him with love. The healing process is not easy. For instance, I thought I would feel happy with the memorial mass held for him on Monday, but I was shocked that even a day after, on Tuesday, I was numb. I couldn't talk. I found myself being sort of useless the whole day. But I thank God, it's over. I just wanted Mass said in the compound on the exact day of his memorial.
When you look at your family now and the way you struggled to bring these kids up to the level where they have all found themselves, do you think there is anything they are really missing out on because of his absence?
They are missing that love, majorly because they bonded. Even as a judge, he was still able to lie down on the floor and all of them will climb all over him. I'm telling you. Even when he became sick, he was still able to do it for them. So, I can only try my best but there is no way I can do what he was doing for them. I try to bring them up morally and provide their needs. Sadly, that gap is still there in spite of all my efforts. It's not easy.
Is there anything you would like to do to immortalise his name?
Well, I haven't thought of anything but we already have a foundation which is registered already. It's called John Carter Foundation. We use it as a platform to live his dream by helping people in need.
Alright, if you have an opportunity to speak to John Carter right now, what will you say to him?
I will tell him to sleep on, that I'm doing the work he left for me with the help of God. He should sleep on in the bosom of the Lord. He should also pray for his children and for stability in the family, just as we are praying also because I believe in the communion of saints.
BARRISTER CHICHI NWADI
You were in India with your mum and dad during his last moments in hospital. You witnessed it all.
Yeah, I was there from the beginning till the end. From Nigeria to India. Everything.
Tell me your story.
It was a terrible experience that shattered my whole world. I didn't know my mum would survive it. I know she's strong and they always stand by one another because they were best of friends. So, his death was a big blow to her and to us. I wasn't even expecting it because I was hopeful that everything would work out but then, after all those complications came up, he died and that was it. I still remember I was just hitting his body at the Intensive Care Unit and hoping he would respond. I've survived so many things both in the profession and outside the profession. I've survived this too. That's it. Not easy, but God has been good.
You are his first daughter. What was your relationship with him like?
Well, I know he's dead but I still see him as my best friend. We were very close. You know, sometimes we talk as if we are equals and I will call him John Carter and he will answer. Sometimes, when we're playing around and he calls me, I will answer him, 'My Lord, I'm coming'. Then, I'll do what he asked of me at my own time. We were like that. Sometimes, if he's talking about anything in life from politics, human beings, to my dreams and aspirations, we talk like friends. At times, if he discusses things with my mum, whether it's serious or not, he will also discuss with me and ask me what I think about it. He'll ask me, what do you think we should both do as a couple? You can imagine he's asking me as a first daughter, what I think the family should do about different things. We were very close. Even at the time we were posted to different locations and he was going for court cases or maybe a tribunal or he was doing other client jobs, at times he would call me and say I haven't said this to your mum and your siblings. I just want to tell you first. I don't know what's going to happen to me wherever I am, but no matter what you are my ada. I just want you to know this is what is going on. We were really best of friends. Daddy is one man who was always there for his family. If my mum is busy, he'll be changing my brother's pampers. He's like, I'm not a parochial man the way most of these Nigerians and Igbos are and I remember him sending out some people who would come and say let his wife or daughter do it. He'll ask them. What is wrong if I do those chores in the house. Am I not the head of the family? I should be a part of the household chores. That's my dad for you. You know, he never felt big. Even if everyone was busy, he'll go to the pot and take his food himself. If he knows I was coming to any location where he was, he didnt wait for anybody. He cooked and he would set the table for me. You can imagine. I'm his daughter and even if mummy was busy at conferences and working late, he helped out without waiting for her like most Nigerian men. He will pick us up. Take us to school, etc. That's my dad. Whether we had a househelp, Chef or cook, he still made out time to take care of his family. Sometimes, he can suspend his plans for us, just for him to be able to care for his relatives. He will tell us that nothing will happen if we didn't go back to school other people who needed his help more than we did. He taught me to share. He'll tell us that people were stranded and hungry but that he will never turn his back on them. So, we were inconvenienced so that others will learn from me.'. My dad made me have a broader view in life.
To be continued...