How widow, widower lit the way for others,By Zainab Suleiman Okino

Zainab Suleiman Okino
Zainab Suleiman Okino

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The profundity of the quote: “To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die” came to light last week at two separate but related events in Abuja. At the centre of it all, is the death of a spouse whose passing is being remembered, this time, not with tears, but with fond memories of what the dead stood and worked for. Losing a spouse is devastating but remembering their good deeds (and to continue it) is spiritually uplifting.  The family of the late Ambassador Queen Worlu did this and more last Saturday. Queen Rosemary Worlu died July 9, 2018 last year while serving as Nigeria’s ambassador to the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe. Mrs Worlu spent 31 years in Foreign Service and had once served as acting high commissioner in India.

Described as ‘a people person’, Queen spent the better part of her life working for the betterment of the lives of people especially the needy and the vulnerable in the society. Through her Ijose Global Foundation which she floated in honour of her late mother and the Worlu family NGO, the Mini Legal Foundation, Ambassador Worlu gave generously to orphanages and schools in Nigeria, India and Sao Tome and Principe and offer free legal representation to those unjustly incarcerated or too poor to hire lawyers.

In continuation of her “life’s mission and the enormity of the needs of the vulnerable”, the family came together last Saturday to launch the Ambassador Queen Worlu Foundation as a successor effort “envisaged to do more in range and scope”. According to her widower, Sam O. Worlu who also serves as the chair, Board of Trustees of the foundation, the former Director General of the Voice of Nigeria said, the foundation had visited FCT Schools for Blind Children, the Hope for Survival Orphanage in Gishiri, the Kuje Prison and the accident and emergency Unit of the Asokoro District Hospital before the formal launch.

In his remark, the former DG said: “The remembrance of the life and times of our dearly departed should not become the final chapter of a tragic human tale. We can choose to make it an epilogue that runs and runs and runs until it inspires and encourages new and fresh human tales of faith and hope and joy. Remembrance should lead us out of the dreary despair of loss and grief and on to the empowering vigour of action and service. It is our choice to remember our dearly departed Queen as we knew her in life, not as we have ‘lost’ her to death”.

This set the tone for the laudable work envisaged to touch the lives of the vulnerable in our society as Queen did when she was alive. Giving to this category of people, Mr Worlu said is an act of worship, and living a life of service and care for people should be the overriding value that permeates and goes beyond our existence and that we should all cultivate the art of giving even from the little we have, since there is no limit to what one can acquire. He said no one has been remembered in history for having money but for impacting on the lives of others while urging all to join him to sustain the foundation with financial and material contributions.

It can be gleaned from the above that the only worthy legacy is a life lived for others and having compassion for those not endowed like us.

The story of Barrister Gozie Udemezue, who lost her husband in 2013, is another inspiring one. She wrote a book not just to capture that sad moment in her middle age life, but would want the proceeds from the book to be used to cater for the less-privileged as much as to spur widows to their liberation. Titled “Widowhood Redefined”, Gozie wrote the story to inspire and uplift many in her position who are yet to come out of their mourning mode, indicating that life should not end with the death of a spouse. Since 2013, Gozie has rededicated her life and work to humanitarian activities and for the emancipation of women who are still limited and held down by some cultural barriers.

Coming from the South East where there exist harmful cultural practices meted out to widows, it is not a surprise that Gozie is stemming the ugly tide with education and empowerment for those affected.

Incidentally she had established an NGO to that effect before she lost her husband. “Eleven years ago, we registered Healing Hearts Widows Support Foundation in answering the call to bring succour to widows. As we moved from one community to the other, we touched the lives of widows and their children. And we sincerely thought we had done enough until I became a widow in 2013 and realised firsthand the pains, troubles, rejection, despair, desertion, mockery, disappointment and challenges of widowhood beyond classroom theories and compassion which I had for widows even as a kid”, explained the widow who has refused to allow the event of the past to weigh her down.

Thus with her hashtag //widowednotwithered she hoped to reach, inspire, assist, encourage, educate and uplift as many widows as her foundation can handle in the course of time until they fulfil their destinies sold.“Widowhood Redefined aims to help widows of all creed, race, tongue and stature to rediscover themselves and their role in the society; give them mental shift that will raise their quality of life and that of their children to dare and surmount all alps of challenges that may come their way”, she said.

Her message of hope resonates with many that have found themselves in this unfortunate situation, and the support she seeks through the launch and public presentation of her book will go a long way in bringing succour to those whose means of livelihood were taken away because they lost their spouses.

In her keynote address, the former minister of education, Prof Chinwe Obaji said no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of inequality and socially laid woodworks which permanently seek to restrict the widow, limit her values and keep her on her knees.  She said rethinking is compulsory. It is basically a reassessment of a system, idea or plan, in order to bring about change or improvement. When we urge a rethink, it means that the status quo ante needs to be changed because it is not desirable; it is faulty or not progressive”, she said. She challenged widows not to be idle, make excuses or trade blame. Instead they (and indeed all of us) should prepare ahead as did the author, Barrister Gozie Udemezue six good years before her husband’s demise.

Losing a spouse—husband or wife—should not be the end of life for the victim. As a country and at community level, we need a new narrative (instead of the social dysfunction that it is today) about the plight of widows and their children. Time has also come for us to interrogate harmful practices against widows especially in the South East. And for Barr Gozie and Mr Worlu, it is obvious that “the scars you (they) share can become lighthouses for other people who are headed to the same rocks you (they) hit”.  Ultimately we are all victims, because life is not always a cyclical merry-go-round that we all hope for.

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