The sad news came through a short text message. It was from my wife. She got the information from her colleague in the office. It started as a conversation that had little or nothing to do with her until she over-heard the name Ndoma-Egba. She became instantly interested and asked desperately: “What happened to him?” The little detail she got was scary enough. That was when she sent me the message.
I had been so busy that morning — conducting a two-hour long interview. The mobile telephone was on silence. But when her name appeared on the screen, I had to read the short message, then scream: “What? No, this cannot be true!”
Instinctively, I called Senator Effiong Bob. His response to my call lacked the usual warmth. He did not even allow me to raise the question. “Sam, have you heard? I was just about to call you. Victor has lost his wife.” That was the first confirmation! I could almost touch the tears in Bob’s eyes.
Shocked beyond words, I couldn’t say anything. It sounded like a deadly joke. Suddenly another call came in. “Sam!” It was a known voice. “What is this I’m hearing about Victor?” At this point, tears were already streaming down my cheeks. I could hardly respond.
Bad news has always traveled faster than good news. In journalism, it is believed that no news is bad news. But last week was an exception. The news was terrifying. It shook my bones. I’m far from recovering from it. Will I ever? You need to be me to know how it feels. The woman in question wasn’t a mere wife of a big brother but someone I can audaciously call a friend.
Recently, I wasn’t a regular visitor to her house. That did not go down well with her. So, anytime we met, I would spend several minutes trying to unsuccessfully explain my absence. She was simple and beautiful — in the outside and on the inside. Amaka made a visit to Victor Ndoma-Egba’s house a pure delight. She was the kind of woman that would make you eat her food even if your mother warned you not to eat in anybody’s house. Why would you turn down a meal from such a woman with unnerving smiles and unusual courtesies? Suddenly, she is no more.
Mrs. Amaka Victor Ndoma-Egba woke up that morning without giving anyone a hint that it would be her last day on earth. She was her exuberant self. As usual, she put her house in order as she prepared to leave for the airport on her way to Akure in Ondo State. I can imagine her hugging her daughter and all the adopted children that gave her hope and joy over the years, assuring them that she would be back by the weekend.
Then she turned to her husband — the love of her life—and joked: “Make sure the #EndSARS protesters do not come here while I am away ooh” For them, no issue was ever too serious for a joke. A few weeks earlier, criminally minded protesters had burnt down their country home and cars in Calabar. This happened after they took time to remove all the doors, windows, sofas, pictures, books, bathtubs, everything from the house.
The entire well-furnished house was completely ripped-off in a mass operation that lasted several hours without police intervention. So, in a bid not to raise any blood pressure over what could not be reversed, the Ndoma-Egbas had turned the ugly incident into something to laugh about.
Her flight to Benin was fun. In the midst of other women, Amaka joked and smiled and laughed. It was the journey from Benin Airport towards Akure that brought tears to our eyes. Suddenly, a careless truck driver, who was either asleep or drunk, veered off his path, smashed the two vehicles conveying the women, and sent them to their early graves. What a world!
The incident made instant headlines across the country and beyond, because Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, was — by extension — involved. Victor — as those close to him call him — has been a lawyer since 1978. He served in the Senate for three terms. Simple, unquestionably cerebral and blunt, he and his wife remained such a great pair of humans — inseparable. They waited patiently till about mid-2000s when their daughter was born. We all heaved joyful sighs of relief. Last week, the news came that she was dead. What a horrible bulletin!
A few days ago, I saw a message posted by Victor on Facebook during Amaka’s last birthday. It speaks volumes. Here is a part of it: “God has been very partial to me in every conceivable way. I cannot count His blessings, they are too many, blessings that I do not deserve because of the multitude of my sins. In spite of my sins, He blesses me and has crowned it with the gift of an uncommon woman, beautiful outside, and even more beautiful inside, a prayer warrior, a pillar of strength and support, my number one critic, my cheerleader, my counselor, my friend, partner and consort with the heart of gold for a wife whose date of birth I celebrate today.
“Citing Proverbs 12: 4 which says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” Victor went ahead to state, “With you as my crown, any doubt why I have found favor with God? A good wife, my wife, is evidence of that favour. Happy birthday to the love of my life. You are not aging. You are only getting better. Because of your kindness and goodwill to all, your generosity and consideration of others especially the weak and vulnerable, God’s grace will continue to locate you always and everywhere, you will laugh, sing and dance into ripe old age surrounded by your children and their children.”
Unfortunately, she won’t grow into that envisaged ripe old age. The mere thought that Amaka is dead feels crazy. It hurts. It’s unthinkable. She was full of life. Wait a second! Imagine that statement I have just made. Look at that singular verb: “was” I can’t imagine I’m using that word to refer to her. That means she is simply no more. She now belongs to the past? What shall we tell her daughters—her precious jewels! Who did this to us?
To my senior brother Victor, I can only say be strong. Look up to God for comfort. I know these things are better said than experienced. Look around you. Your daughters need your support. Don’t let them down. Amaka has left behind a good name and an incorruptible memory. May her soul rest in peace.
. Akpe is an Abuja-based journalist.