As Ms Chinwe Agams has advocated, Akalites need to tell and document their own stories by themselves in order to be a part of the new and emerging tomorrow. The story of Eziada Mrs Philomena Ezigbo Nne Onyejiemeonu Nwariwe (nee Ezeala) is an inspiring life history of a woman of substance who against all odds created prominence for herself both in and outside Umuaka. With the giant strides, recorded by women like Mrs Nwariwe, you will agree with Ms Chinwe Agams on the need for Akalites to tell their own stories to the world.
Today, Mrs Philomena Nwariwe would have perhaps, been the first female professor from Umuaka or the first female permanent secretary or minister but as Phil Collins would put it, “something happened on the way to heaven” which seriously, retarded and brought to an abrupt end, her academic career. Her late father, Mr Samuel Ezeala, the father of the late Professor JOL Ezeala, who himself was an educated man and a court clerk in the old Orlu District, knew the importance of education as he enrolled all of them to school. Philo, as she was fondly called in those days by those who moved very closely with her, was a brilliant little girl who finished her Standard 1 and moved to Standard 2 in flying colours.
As one of the few girls whose parents allowed to enroll for academic studies then when training of women in school was seen as a taboo in Igboland, the pretty and well built girl did her best to make her parents proud by taking her academic activities very seriously. She was very optimistic and she loved academics a lot. She had hoped to move to Standard 3 in a few months’ time but unknown to her, she was just attending her last days at school. Her mother put to bed a set of twins at a very critical time in Igboland when killing of twins was seriously being practiced. Her parents were confused and never knew what to do with the twins. The rule of the game then was that the twins must be killed, even if the parents of the twins had no child at all. But the Samuel Ezeala family decided to secretly keep the twins.
To perfect the whole safety measures on how to keep the twins alive, he withdrew his daughter Philo from school so as to assist her mother in nursing the twins. This plan was perfected to the extent that it was not known to the society then that the Ezeala family had a set of twins. For a period of 6 years, Philo nursed the twins and saw them through their infancy. This sacrifice, totally rubbished the academic ambition of the young Philomena.
Now time to resume schooling again for the little poor girl has come but her age then was not compatible for Standard 2 pupils. She had already outgrown that class by 6 years and her former classmates had all graduated over 4 years ago. That signalled the final end of her academic sojourn. Alternatively, her dad took her to Bishop Shanahan Domestic Centre Orlu where she was trained in sewing of dresses and cake making. This training allowed her to go into business at an early age as she started making money so soon.
In 1958 another turnaround came her way. The late Mr Phillip Ndigwe Nwariwe, a young and promising farmer who has been keeping a close watch on Miss Philo Ezeala approached her for marriage. Like a miracle, she accepted and they got married.
The marriage was indeed an expression of unconditional love and a unification of two opposing forces. The Ezealas were an enlightened and Christian family while the Nwariwes were just mere farmers and pagans as well. People who thought the marriage would not hold were surprised to see the marriage growing stronger day by day and year by year.
As God would want it, Mr Phillip Ndigwe Nwariwe did not stay long in life before God called him. Together they had 7 children: 4 boys and 3 girls including Chief Oliver Chukwuma Nwariwe, a medical scientist and the Isiaku 1 of Umuaka Ancient kingdom and Pastor Vitus Nwariwe, a South African based man of God.
As a women leader, Eziada Mrs Philomena Nwariwe contributed a lot in the development of Umuaka. Her role during the building of Girls Secondary Technical School Umuaka was so prominent that on December 28 2019, the Umuaka Wives and Daughters Union presented a Merit Award to her in recognition of her role during the construction of the great institution. Eziada Mrs Philomena Nwariwe till date is a member, Ezigbo Nne Social Club of Umuaka, ex president Catholic Women Organization Obinwanne chapter. Ex president Obinwanne Women Organization. Ex president, Ogaku Development Union women’s wing. Former treasurer, Obinwanne Development Union, women’s wing.
Outside the shores of Umuaka and in far away Ogun State, she has been recognized by the famous St Vincent De Paul Seminary School with yet another merit award.
A grandmother who is now enjoying her retirement from active business and community services, she has travelled to France, Germany South Africa, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom. He woman of substance whom we celebrate today just returned to Nigeria from the United States to pay her last respect to her elder brother, the late Professor Jude Ezeala.
Mama, may God bless your efforts. You are a real woman of substance and a role model for the youths of today. Umuaka Times celebrates you.