For the dark and lovely wife of former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, March 23rd every year is set aside to celebrate the birth of the matriarch, Barrister (Lady) Chioma Ohakim (mni).
Born to the family of Mr & Mrs Christopher Ahamefule of Umuneke Anara in the same Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. She is the third child and the first daughter in a family of ten. The then little Chioma left no one in doubt that she is an achiever who will not give in to the restrictions imposed by a typical Ibo society, where many felt restricted from achieving their dreams due to the perceived impression that the place of the woman is the Kitchen.
Undoubtedly a thorough bred nwafo as Ndigbo love to be described, Barrister Chioma always wows everyone with her thoughts no matter the topic.
She is not given to pretences because according to her “We are sojourners here on earth, why belabour oneself with what is unnecessary”.
To describe Barrister Chioma Ohakim as a person would be quite a herculean task. No one word best describes her. To many she appears as strong, others committed, but you can never miss the attribute of humility in her. Not given to pretences, she always speaks her mind on any issue no matter whose ox is gored, that is irrepressible Chioma for you.
You may not be wrong if you describe her as tough, perhaps she comes off as one. But beneath the hard stance is a woman with the compassionate heart of a mother or how else do I describe the four years I worked for her as Chief Press Secretary or image maker if you like.
The first day I was ushered into her office, she said ” Wow, young lady, you are beautiful. I love ladies who are comfortable in their dark complexion and make no attempt to tone or bleach their skin. I love the fact that you did not tamper with your colour. Can I be your friend?”
Here she was, wife to the most brilliant Governor of Imo state then and asking to be my friend! Of course, I agreed, who would not? And since that day in June 2007, Barrister Ohakim became my boss, friend, and quite naturally mother.
She is a stickler to details, while you may hoodwink her on anything, it can never be what relates to details, am still waiting for who can. Thus many joke that while you can cheat her husband out of anything, she is a hard-nut to crack.
A grandmother already, (unfortunately I can’t remember her age now so indulge me), Barrister Ohakim rocks motherhood well, she can give other women a run for good health. When asked her secret she said “You know am a water addict! I can drink water for Africa! I avoid serious chemical products because like I always say, the manufacturers don’t have exactly my Anara genes, so anything they produce can do damage, its better I avoid them or use very minimally”.
You can’t meet her and not notice what I call ‘her wicked command of Igbo language’, she will simply leave you enamored!
Barrister Ohakim is probably the first woman who has an Igbo adage to anything she says, and I mean it to the letter!
My favourite remains “anaghia gpo meeting nelu nmayan onye ozo”, (You don’t use another person’s drinks to host your meeting). That is vintage Barrister Ohakim for you, she definitely will not suffer gladly just so you invade her space for meaningless issues.
An avid reader (actually you can’t be associated with Dr Ohakim without being a lover of books) Barrister Ohakim stays up late nights just to cross her tees and dot her iis, and if she is not satisfied with the concept of a thing, she does not hesitate to seek assistance and if need be, change it entirely so long as it will benefit humanity.
A committed wife who works hard at shielding her family from the eyes of invaders, she is one of the reputed few women who despite being in public office has a grip on her husband, children, and home. How she achieved that is a lesson to many. Call her Thatcher Chioma and you may not be far from the truth because while her husband embarks on a mission outside, she keeps the home balanced.
As the First Lady of Imo State between May 27, 2007 to 2011, she was Chairperson, South East Governors’ Wives Forum; Leader, Imo State chapter of National Women Coalition on AIDS (NAWOCA); Patron, Women for Change Initiative (W4CI) Imo State; and Convener, New Face of Imo Family Prayer Project.
She also founded the Empowerment for Women and Youths Initiative (EWAYI) NGO with headquarters in Owerri, Imo State, a platform she used to reach out to many indigents in Imo State via start-off capitals for small businesses; houses for indigent widows; scholarships for indigent students, and education of the girl-child.
A stickler for decent dressing, she champions proper dressing for girls and women, condemning all forms of obscenity under any guise. Like she says “you are dressed the way you wish to be addressed”.
She holds a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business Administration and Management from Yaba College of Technology in Lagos; a Law degree from the Imo State University. She is also a graduate of the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja; a Law Masters degree from the Abia State University; and a graduate of the prestigious Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and thus has the coveted Member National Institute (MNI) attached to her name.
Come Saturday, March 28, all roads will lead to the commissioning of the EWAYI ultra modern centre almost along the busy Port Harcourt road, Owerri.
Her Excellency is married to His Excellency, Dr (Sir) Ikedi Ohakim, the immediate past Governor of Imo State. They are blessed with five children, two males and three females, and now grandchildren. Her hobbies include meeting people, reading, researching, and engaging in community services.
As you advance in years today, I join your innumerable children across the world to celebrate you.
Eight years after government house, you have remained true to your values and family. Happy birthday my own irrepressible dark and lovely ma!
Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, a Journalist served as Barrister Ohakim’s image maker when she was the First Lady of Imo State.