She got married at 17 but that didn’t prevent her from achieving her dreams. She went ahead to obtain a PhD. Every Christmas , she organizes empowerment programmes for widows in her home town in Anambra State. She told Sunday Sun the story of her life among other issues at her residence in London. Excerpts:
Tell us about your background and efforts?
I’m from a good family. My father was a philanthropist. He looked after widows and widowers, so as a child after service every Sunday, my duty was to give hampers to them. They were given rice, tomatoes, meat and money. So, I grew up having a soft spot for them. Due to the plight of widows in this part of the world, I now decided to start a widow’s ministry and it’s waxing stronger. I started in Uganda, because that was where the Lord led me to first. I executed what the Lord taught me to do for widows and i t worked. We don’t give them fish but we teach them how to fish. I teach them simple book keeping and give them money to do business and I monitor them. Everything goes very well and within a year, they are financially independent. In my town, Ojoto, Anambra State which is nine miles from Onitsha, widows are waxing stronger. At a time, I had to register with the Anambra State government. When their husbands were alive, they were okay but as they’re gone, their wives become something else. They’re ostracized by their husbands’ families. I also look after orphans and like the Bible says in Isaiah 51, I love them. I grew up in Markurdi, Benue State. My father was a civil servant. He was quite loving and was my role model and mentor. He was an educationist. My upbringing was great. I had everything from my father, he was a lovely man. He gave me a good life.
How do you take care of widows since you live in the UK?
I have coordinators, people who oversee what they do but my duty is to run workshops for them four times a year. We have big conferences, workshops and teachings. I like teaching, because knowledge is power. I call them a lot. I spend money calling. I call everyday and night to know how they are doing. I preach the gospel to them and in addition sponsor their children’s education. We even sponsor some widows’ education and one of them bagged a BA in Education. They are doing well.
How do you get funds to sponsor them?
Having done it for 15 years single-handedly, I now thought it’s time to source for funds but I didn’t know where to go. I started first by going to the Anambra State government to see if they can help. So far, they have not, but I’m hopeful they will help because they have promised to help. I went to the commissioner and the director for woman affairs and they all promised to help and I believe them.
I wasn’t a widow when I started and when my husband died seven years ago. I now saw their pains. The widow doesn’t matter in Igbo land. The way they’re treated when their husbands die is horrific. I resolved to live my life for them and give them quality life from whatever I make from my preaching and my businesses in London . I also have a College of Theology (Bible College) in South East London.
With your wealth of experience, would you want to come back to Nigeria?
Definitely, even I am trying to relocate my children. My baby is now doing her youth service in Nigeria. Yes, I am coming back home. I’m trying to return home, but it’s a gradual process.
What was it like getting married at 17 and how did you meet your husband?
I had no clue of what I did. I just met a man who promised to be my father, my friend and build a castle in the air for me and I believed him and I married him, but my father wasn’t happy about it. He felt I was too young and I should further my education . The man allowed me to go back to the university after raising my kids. He molded me as a child. He was a lawyer. He was good to me and we have lovely children.
He has gone to be with the Lord. He was my second love. I secured admission at Harvard University and I was to do medicine. So, I went to tell my uncle and I met this charming young man. He did not talk to me, I was going up and he was going down. He told my uncle “I want to marry her” and I found it strange because I never had a boyfriend and a stranger proposed to me.
So you enjoyed the marriage?
Yes, he was much more older than I. I just finished secondary school when we met . He nurtured me and honestly sowed into my life.
What did you like about his career?
I don’t think I like his career, I like his personality. I’m not saying lawyers are bad but they don’t speak the truth all the time. They change things around. I read Law myself. He made me read Law at Buckingham University UK. I refused to practice because I’m averse to lying and I can’t tell my client to lie. When he married me, he was working in a bank as a company secretary. I was comfortable, because he had a good job with benefits and driver. I was living at Ikoyi at that tender age and going on holidays also.
How is life without your husband?
Sometimes, it could be lonely but preaching the gospel, I think, is the best thing that happened to me. When I knew there are thousands of people depending on me, I had to be strong. I don’t wallow in self pity but sometimes I remember him and miss him but then life goes on. I just live for Christ and my lovely children.
You are still beautiful , won’t you give re-marrying a shot?
The bible says you can marry as a widow and as a widower but then you think about it, is it worth it? I’m so busy with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t think I can serve two masters, because men are demanding and you have to devote your time to them. They are big babies, aren’t they? So you have to choose one. Either to go for Christ or go for a man. Really, I am not looking for a man. You may end up marrying one that abuses you everyday, emotional and spiritually, so why get involved? I thought I could but it isn’t worth it. There will never be dull moments as long as I preach the gospel. There are my children and spiritual children who are always around me. I miss my late husband because he was my friend. Most men these days are not serious; some of them are Casanovas .
What was it like when you started your ministry?
The challenges were there. I tell women, do what you know how to do best and I command respect from men because I know what I am doing. I don’t believe any man can surpass me in preaching or doing the work of God. They know me in England that I preach the gospel the way it is written and I work hard. I’m not a lazy woman. When a man knows a woman is not lazy, she is not depending on him, they have to respect her. The challenges are there but I bulldoze my way around and I tell them I can do what you do better. That is where the respect comes from. But you know it’s a mans world. To be honest, look at the home, you have a man , you have a woman, the man comes back from work , he is watching TV while the woman rushes to the kitchen to cook, looks after the children and helps them with their homework. Wives pick up their husbands’ shoes from the living room, their jackets they left on the chair and feed the children and tuck them into bed but the man sits right there asking “Iyabo, is the food not ready?”. Remember that you went to work and he went to work too. It’s a man’s world, God has created us to be like that. I tell women to be courageous, respect their husbands as they are the head but don’t deny yourself your identity, don’t do things to please somebody and displease yourself. Do what is right in the eyes of God and in the eyes of men and you will have joy but don’t enslave yourself.
You look good, what’s the secret?
It’s the glory of God. I don’t mess around, I have never messed around, even as a child. My husband was my first boyfriend and he was the last boyfriend I had. I’m very proud of myself. I take care of myself by eating good food, having enough sleep, working hard and exercising. I don’t have headaches, stomach aches or arthritis. When I jump at the pulpit, you will think I’m 20 years old. To God be the glory. I think He loves me, I am a special breed.
There is something I do in England which is very famous. I call it Breakfast with the King of kings. We gather women once a month to praise the Lord about issues pertaining to life, family, relationship, how to be a good mother, how to be a mentor and a sweet wife. These are things I encourage women to do and we call them “virtuous women”. A virtuous woman loves God, her husband and loves people. I started it in Nigeria, in my town, five years ago. I’m starting it in Lagos this year. We are mothers of the nation, we must play our roles as mothers.