Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia has commiserated with the families of the late Dr M.I. Okpara and Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi over the death of their nonagenarian matriarchs.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reliably learnt that Mrs Adanma Okpara, wife of the former Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, died on Sunday morning in her Umuekwu Okpualu Ohuhu country home.
Also, Mrs Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, wife of the first Military Head of State, died on Monday morning at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia.
Both families hail from Umuahia North Local Government Area of the state.
Efforts made to speak with a prominent member of the Okpara’s family, Chief Uzodinma Okpara, who nursed the deceased for about two decades before her death, were unsuccessful.
NAN also made an attempt to get Aguiyi-Ironsi’s first son, Amb. Thompson Aguiyi-Ironsi, to confirm the news of the death of his nonagenarian mother.
However, in a statement issued in Umuahia on Monday, Ikpeazu expressed shock and sadness over the death of Okpara at 97.
The statement, signed by Mr Onyebuchi Ememanka, his Chief Press Secretary, stated that Ikpeazu received the news of Okpara’s death “with a heavy heart and a deep sense of gratitude to God for a very fulfilled life”.
He paid glowing tribute to the deceased, saying that she supported her husband to give the region “a first class government, whose achievements continue to reverberate even till this day”.
“Widowed since December 1984, she remained a model of good and excellent womanhood.
“She was a fountain of knowledge from which most women, especially in Abia, tapped freely.
“Her death has robbed us of one of our most iconic female legends,” Ikpeazu stated.
He expressed gratitude to God that she “lived a fulfilled life, served God and humanity and had the exceptional privilege of seeing her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“At 97, she saw it all,” the governor stated.
He assured the family that the state “will always treasure her memories, just the way it continues to treasure the great memories of her late husband”.
He also urged the family to take pride in the “imperishable legacies” left behind by their parents and “keep the flag of excellence in public service, hoisted by their parents, flying at full mast”.
He promised that the government would work closely with the family to give her a befitting burial.
In a related development, the governor expressed profound sadness over the death of Aguiyi-Ironsi at age 97.
He described her as an “iconic Abia woman” and “a personification of the finest ideals of public service and a permanent resource person to successive First Ladies in our state.
“Till death, she carried herself with great dignity and charisma,” he said.
He thanked God for preserving her life up to 97 years “at a time when life expectancy in Nigeria is on the decline.
“This death has robbed our state of one of its greatest political and historical icons,” he stated, adding that her place in contemporary history was assured.
According to the statement, Aguiyi-Ironsi’s death, 24 hours after the death of Okpara, bears some philosophical significance.
“The death, in quick succession, of these two iconic Abia women is very significant.
“They were both great historical icons. They were both First Ladies. They were both from Umuahia, our state capital,” he added.
The governor extolled Aguiyi-Ironsi’s resilience in filling the vacuum left by her husband’s death six months after he became the Head of State in June 1966.
“She was undeterred by the tragic death of her husband and managed to groom her children to become great and responsible members of society,” he stated. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)