By Chioma Ndife
Amidst the controversy generated by the Ukekwe family of Umudunu Egbengwu Nimo in Njikoka LGA, Anambra State, the maternal home of the late Mrs. Gloria Ukamaka, the remains of the deceased have been laid to rest in her husband’s compound, Ezinimo Village, Eziowelle Community, Idemili North LGA, Anambra State without the physical presence of her blood brothers.
Fides gathered that the late Mrs. Okafor who died on 19th February 2021, at Good Shepherd Specialist Hospital, Uwani, Enugu, was laid to rest 7 months and 11 days after her death as a result of problems which her sudden demise brought between her husband and blood brothers. Her husband and children were denied access to her body amidst the associated tension and stress over the period.
The late Gloria Okafor, who died at the age of fifty-five, of chronic kidney disease, until her death, was a Deputy Director with the Post Primary Schools Service Commission, PPSSC, Awka and was the wife of Dr. Laz Okafor, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Utilities, Awka.
In his homily at the Concelebrated Burial Mass held at St. Edwards’ Catholic Church, Eziowelle, attended by over 40 priests from Onitsha, Awka, Ekwulobia and Enugu Catholic dioces, where family members, relations, colleagues, friends and well-wishers came to pay their last respects and pray for the repose of the deceased’s soul, Rev. Fr. Prof. Wenceslaus Ofojebe recalled that the deceased was known for her work of charity, commitment and service to God and humanity.
Fr. Ofojebe from Ekwulobia Catholic diocese, attributed unforgiveness as one of the factors that hindered prayers and one’s blessings, urging the Christian faithful to always forgive one another, no matter the situation. He siezed the opportunity to enjoin the deceased blood brothers to reconcile with their dead sister and the family of her husband.
Adding his voice during his remarks, the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Christopher Odimegwu, commended the bereaved for weathering through the storms and challenges that faced them during the ill health and subsequent death of the late Mrs. Okafor.
He stated that the grace of God was necessary for any individual to wade through the storms of life and maintained that such grace enabled the husband of the deceased to scale through, noting that Dr. Okafor lost his mother while caring for his sick wife who later joined the heavenly saints. He said the death of Dr. Okafor’s wife accumulated more problems and challenges, saying that Dr. Okafor pulled through like a good Christian.
Speaking to Fides, the husband of the deceased, Dr. Laz Okafor, expressed surprises to the events that took place after the wife’s death between himself and the in-laws, saying that he had neither had any conflict with them nor the wife over the past 28 years they were married as husband and wife.
He said that his family had nothing against the Ukekwe family, noting that their daughter, his wife, was a great asset, not just to his family but the entire Eziowelle Community.
He explained that what led to the kidnap of the wife’s dead-body by the brothers was still a mystery to him judging from the fact that he had been enjoying mutual peace with the in-laws and they never came to settle any dispute between him and the late wife.
He recalled that the issue started when his wife died in his absence during dialysis session at Neo-clinic, Independents Layout, Enugu and the wife’s youngest brother, a medical doctor at UNTH Enugu, diverted the corpse to an unknown mortuary. He said that his wife went for the dialysis with her second son, her eldest sister and her two brother after he had returned to Awka to run around for his mother’s burial arrangement.
He said the family assaulted him, both in Enugu after he demanded to see the wife’s corpse and in Abuja when he went to discuss plans for the burial/funeral of his wife with her two brothers’ resident in Abuja.
He disclosed that he took the matter to the wife’s kindred at a point and the kindred in a meeting with his own kindred from Eziowelle, resolved that the family should allow him have access to the corpse to enable him perform the necessary burial/funeral rites.
He said that even after the resolution reached by the kindreds for the corpse to be released to him on the 15th May, 2021, the family still held on to the corpse till they brought it less than 24 hours to the burial date.
He disclosed that his in-laws wrote two outstanding petitions at Police Zone 13, Ukpo, which were initiated by the wife’s brothers in South Africa through a SAN and another working in a Law School in Abuja. He said that he had forgiven the family and had nothing against them to enable his children to have a healthy and cordial relationship with their mother’s family.
He noted that the presence and testimonies of those who came to condole with his family were a great encouragement to the family, especially at their mourning period. He thanked all who came to commiserate with them and those who stood by their side during their moment of trials, describing his wife as a peace loving woman.
According to the children of the deceased, Dr. Nnaemeka, Mr. Favour and Master Uchechukwu Okafor, their mother would be greatly remembered for her humility, patience, courage, large heartedness and passion for training young people.
For the Anambra State Head of Service, Barr. Harry Uduh, who led the College of Permanent Secretaries during the condolence visit, urged the deceased’s family to take heart and not weep like those who had no consolation in the resurrection of the dead.
Various guest at Eziowelle Civic Center field, venue of the funeral activities, included the former Anambra State Head of Service, Barr. Ngozi Melifonwu, the former Provost of Nwafor Orizu College of Education and former CWO Director of Awka Diocese, Dr. Ego Uzoezie and her husband, the Provost of Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Dr. Ify Osegbo and the Registrar of the College, Mr. GU Okeke, the Director of Awka Diocesan CWO, Mrs. Sabina Ndigwe and her husband, the Chairman PPSSC Awka, Mrs. Ify Okaro and Deputy Chairman, Mrs. Pat Okonkwo, the Executive Secretary PPSSC, Mrs. Ngozi Onuora and her husband, Engr. Eugene Onuora and Director and Fire Chief, Anambra State Fire Service, Engr. Martin Agbili, among others. They all attested to the good virtues of the deceased and how Dr. Laz Okafor struggled to save the wife’s life.
The Annunciation Catholic Parish Awka were there in their numbers with the voice of angel choir who gave a special rendition on the life and times of the deceased as well as staff of the Ministry of Public utilities who trouped out in their numbers to support their permanent secretary.