By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan
As I remember the Late Barrister (Mrs) Lily Mamudu, nee Okungbowa (1947-2020), I am impelled to believe that good things don’t last. That good things don’t last may mean different things to different people. To some, it simply suggests that the Subject passed on before attaining the age of 40. To others, it serves as a reminder that when a good person dies even at the age of 150 years but from an assassin’s bullet, it is still an untimely death, and yet to the category of today’s Subject who is caving in at the age of 73, it means that nothing short of living forever will be satisfactory. In all this, the Almighty God is the final arbiter. We surrender all to Him.
It was in the Summer of 1964, at the Headquarters Offices of the defunct Akugbe District Council, Owa (now Evbuobanosa) in the present Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State. She was a student at Anglican Girls Grammar School, and she came for some official engagement to the Council where I had just been engaged as a Clerical Assistant, awaiting result.
We were meeting for the first time. The moment we met, we carved out a niche for ourselves – she was my Sister and I was her Brother. Unknown to many, this relationship was not within any degree of consanguinity, but it flourished by the day; plus the fact that back home at Igbanke, our two families – Igbinedion and Okungbowa – were already closely knit.
This explains the fact that at her demise, I received more messages of commiseration than her children.
The Divine relationship was soon further concretized with Lily’s marriage to my childhood friend and primary school classmate, Mike.
One of the saddest moments in my life was when the duo got separated. It was not an easy task, maintaining an equal but separate relationship with two estranged lovers. But God did it for me. Till date, my relationship with the two and their emerging families has remained new every day.
Admittedly, attempting to enumerate the attributes of this lady is more than a full time job. The only safety valve we find here is to restrict ourselves to one illustration in each case.
Again, because her life was an open book that provided lessons at every stage – the good, the bad and the ugly – it becomes expedient to dwell here on the good lessons, thus leaving the rest for another day.
Lily was an extrovert and an extremist of sorts. By the time she found Christ and began to burn for Christianity, she was unstoppable! She carried Christianity on her head and put everything into it. She soon became a fisher of people and a planter of Churches – solid Cathedrals for that matter!
Lily did good to all manner of people. She was a humane human – an exponent in human kindness who renders service to humanity without counting the cost.
THE GOOD MOTHER AND THE BAD FATHER:
After the M.K.O. Abiola debacle of 1993 when we were sacked from Government, she invited my wife and I to Lagos where we stayed with her for two years under some Executive Refugee status. It was a fattening room of sorts; but essentially this was where we were thoroughly indoctrinated into Christianity. This was perhaps the most eventful period in my life.
She loved good company. She was the good mother. But because her husband was an introvert and not always around, I found myself falling into the role of the bad father. The children must be disciplined and kept in check; their school work must be checked; and they were not to play pranks around Madam’s finances. This was a role for which some of the children hated me then – they did not see the need for an external auditor in a place where they thought they had hit a gold mine.
I kept telling them that there is no royal road to geometry. All’s well that ends well. Today, those children are making waves across the world. They now realize what I did for them and they contribute enormously to my retirement benefits.
Lily’s life provides a lesson in hard work. She performed at her optimum when challenged. Just throw a little challenge to her, she will be waiting for you on the other side of success Both in finances and campaign activities, Lily contributed humongously to the 1983 campaigns of the defunct NPN.
In return, she had been penciled down for a ministerial appointment. Alas, her gallant gamble ended in the dust! They disappointed her on the ground that she was not a graduate.
She took the fight to integrity; polished up her old papers and soon landed at the University of Abuja where she obtained a good degree in Law – if for nothing else just to check the NPN insult!
To this virtuous woman, the Esther of our time, patience was a good virtue. She maintained, perhaps with monotonous regularity, that no one loses by being patient. One day, properly equipped with a good recommendation from the Chief of General Staff, CGS, Supreme Headquarters, we proceeded to Warri to see the General Manager of a Federal Parastatal. We arrived Warri as early as 7.00a.m.
The GM came around 9.00a.m., passed us at the reception and went into his office. Around 1.00p.m., the GM went for lunch and returned around 3.00p.m., still leaving us at the reception.
I was totally agitated but Madam insisted we must wait. Behold, we were invited into the GM’s office around 6.00p.m. We presented the introduction letter and in less than five minutes, the GM had mounted on it, “APPROVED”. This was a deal that rolled in millions monthly for as long as it lasted!
For her, honesty is the best policy. It is a sin against the Holy Ghost to cheat on tithing. That is cheating on God. The tithe must be complete. If your tithe was
N1million and you paid N999,999 that is N1 less, it would be better that you didn’t pay anything!
At the peak of her prosperity, we conveyed her tithe to church in 50kg bags. That was before it ever dawned on churches that tithe could be paid by cheque – before Nigeria went cashless. Honesty ran across every aspect of her life.
As an exponent in human kindness, Lily believed that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child. She showed her children equal love.
Like the holy book, Lily believed that a man is the head of the home – the height attained by the woman, notwithstanding. Every successful venture must have a father figure. That explains why she formed the Igbanke Ladies Club and had me as the only male member a tree among flowers – you might say? For her, when temperaments and sentiments rise, there must be a man who will hit his hand on the table and say “Enough is enough!” That was the role I played under the cover of PRO.
Madam was a jolly good fellow. The Club enriched my wardrobe because at the end of every year they bought new clothes and before I knew what was happening, my “Agbada” was ready – lace at its best when lace was lace. It was the best of times!
Lily worked hard and enjoyed hard. At the Nigerian Military-Industrial Complex; in Commerce and Industry; and in General Business and Contracting, Lily was a major player and, to the glory of God, anything she touched became an instant success! She was a detribalized Nigerian – one Nigerian who applied justice to all with universal equality. She lived a good life; ran a good race; fought a good fight – a fight of faith; and she finished her course. Like the great Apostle Paul, we hope the crown of righteousness already awaits her in the bosom of the Lord.
She finally departed this sinful world on May 25, 2020. That was the midnight at noon! That we miss her already is an understatement. But we submit totally to the will of the Creator who knows best and who has the best for her.
It only remains for us to pray fervently for the good Lord to give her survivors the fortitude to bear her temporary separation from them. Accordingly, we so pray.
July 28, 2019