Biography of a truly virtuous daughter of Zion – Ezinne Elfreda Chizoba Aniebonam
By Prof. Manny C. Aniebonam
Ezinne Elfreda Chizoba Aniebonam fondly known as “Ojemba Maama De maama” was born on 17 November 1930 in Ezi-okwe Ndịkelionwu in Orumba North Local Government Area, Anambra State, the only child of her parents. Her parents were late Mr. Okoli Nwajoagu udeoye and Mrs. Onuaku Okoli udeoye (Oji ugo).
Family background/early years
Shortly after her birth, her parents sent her to live with one of her relatives in Onitsha, a chorister that would then have Maama attend choir rehearsals with them, from where she developed a love for Psalms, Hymns, and Classical music. She then registered with the choir at a tender age, and was from then molded into one of the best choristers of her generation. Handel’s Messiah would later in her life become Maama’s favorite of all music, and she would get transformed into a frenzy of hands and head movement at the sound of Frederick Handel’s Cantata of Hallelujah Chorus.
Her married life & her mission
Maama was married to Mr. Louis Echezona Aniebonam at a tender age of 22. She was a mother of seven children, three girls and four boys, with three of the children now late. She is survived by four children (Gloria, Seraphine, Emmanuel and Michael), 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
Maama was a Missionary, earning her the name Ojemba. Over her active years, she visited over fifteen states in Nigeria, in the cause of her missionary work, and knew every town and village by name, history, people and culture. She was a living encyclopedia, a dictionary of Christian missionary movement in Nigeria, and a delight indeed to learn the impact of Christianity in Igbo land. She was a good gospel preacher, an orator per excellence, an organizer, and a center of attention at every activity she attended. You would often hear her voice from the entrance of any event cheering other women into action to make the event grand and memorable… a pleasant and a wonderful socializer and mixer she was.
Before and During Biafra War
Maama with her husband and children spent their early years before the war at Ogoja and Abakaliki in Cross river state and Ebonyi state respectively. She was a consummate business woman, always creating new businesses everywhere she lived. At the G.R.A in Abakaliki where she sold fish, they called her “Mama Azu ndu” as they believed that hers was the freshest and the most desirable. She would continue this business vision during the war, assuring that the family was always provided for even in the midst the Biafran war misery.
Active years: Her ministry and business life
After the war in January 1970, she lived for years with her husband and children in Onitsha, retiring and relocating home after the death of her husband, Louis Echezona Aniebonam in October 1995.
At Onitsha, she was a regular and vibrant soprano singer at St Andrews Anglican Church Choir, Odoakpu Onitsha. She was active at St Andrews Onitsha serving actively in many committees, under Revd. M.S.C. Anikwenwa who would later become His Grace, Most Revd M.S.C. Anikwenwa of Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion.
Continuing as an ultimate business woman in Onitsha in the 1970s and 80s, Maama was named “Mama akwukwo Nni” and was a major supplier of vegetables and other food produce to Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) Onitsha. At Abagana where she continued her good work, she is credited to have brought the plan of St John’s Church, Abagana church building. She was awarded “The Best and Supportive Patroness” in Abagana Archdeaconry. Her undying passion for music endeared her to the choir that she became one of their lifetime patronesses.
Maama’s visit to the United States in 1988 was as dramatic as it was equally exciting. To see the Obodo Oyibo be Ndiocha, where some 10 years before she sent her first son, Emmanuel Chukwunonso Aniebonam, was a joy indeed to behold. She would prefer native food over hamburger and pizza, yet wanted to speak and act like ndi ocha. She loved the sight of winter snow but wouldn’t step out in cold weather. Ka’m nyobie na window, she would delightfully tell us. Like with other grand children by her two daughters, Mrs. Gloria Otuto Ugbe and Mrs. Seraphine Chinwe Nworji, she took special delight in her grand children in the US, seeing that she provided quality omugwo , to her daughter inlaw, Mrs. Daisy Ogochukwu Aniebonam. Being Ojemba even in the USA, knew every street in Silver Spring Maryland and would hold reasonable conversation with neighbors and friends. Highlight of her visit was her eye treatment at the Jewish Specialist Hospital. Bethesda Maryland, with Maama even till last year recalling the names of the doctors, nurses and even another patient she met at one of the visits. Facts and figures were Maama’s hobbies in her 91 years of life. Her brain was as sharp as Albert Einstein’s, and Chike Obi was a dwarf of a mathematician compared to Ojemba Maama.
Mama’s faith and character
Maama’s faith in God was unrivaled and solid as a rock. She believed in the supreme power of the Almighty to make everything right, at bad times and even in stormy weather of life. You will hear her always say that “ife di, nke n’edu ndi nwayo, tukwasi Chukwu obi”. Till the end of her life, even with limited mobility and sight, she never grew bitter nor complained for one day. Tukwasi Chukwu obi….And that gives all of us hope today that the God she served, believed in, and labored for all her life, has called her home where there is only joy and rest.
We therefore must not mourn like those without hope in the Lord. We are celebrating her today and will forever celebrate this virtuous daughter of Zion. She was loving, kind, faithful, and a true child of God. We will miss her ever pleasant presence, her spontaneous sense of humor, her warm smiles and above all her motherly wisdom. But we also know that heaven has gained a golden voice, and the Cherubs and Seraphs above are today singing with great melody in welcoming a worthy member, to the Glory of God Almighty. Adieus Nne m Oma, Ada Mazi!!!. Your memory will remain in our hearts for ever!!!
Picture Memories: in loving memory of our mum & grandmum
Virtuous Daughter of Zion
TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER: A VIRTUOUS DAUGHTER OF ZION
To the world you were one person, but to me and the family you were the world. You and our father didn’t have much, but we always felt like we had everything. You didn’t leave millions in your bank account, but you left a legacy worth much more. So today, we celebrate and honor you.
You taught me love, patience and endurance. You taught me how to have faith in God, and led by example. You encouraged me to work hard in school and when it was time for me to travel overseas for further studies, you said loud and clear to me through signs and prayers that God the Father had approved my sojourn. I believed you and that made all the difference. I still remember your voice as you told me “mu na Chukwu akpago, nna m; ije gi ga aga ofuma”.
I was devastated when you feel ill. In a matter of days, the smile on your face disappeared and was replaced by gloom. Yet you never for once complained nor grew bitter. Your call to glory was as peaceful as the way you lived your life.
Mother you were the truest, dearest, more than a mother to me, my family and my three siblings. I called you Nne Oma, Ada Maazi, You stood alone for many years after our father passed on, and only God knows the inner strength you had to come through in everyday struggle.
You were a precious gift from God, so much strength, grace, love and patience you possessed. You touched my heart in so many ways; your strength and smile even on dark days made me realize I had an angel beside me.
Mother you heard God’s whisper, calling you home; you did not want to leave us and we saw how you fought with your illness. You loved us all so much that you held on tight, until all your strength was gone, and you could no longer hold on. Finally you gave your hand to God and slipped away quietly on that late December morning.
We will forever love and adore you, Mama, Ada Maazi, Ezinne, Ojemba Maama, for everything you taught us in life. Your death took you away from our lives, but we will hold on to the beautiful memories of times spent with you on earth.
Adieu Mama!. And continue to rest in the bosom of our Lord Jesus.
Prof. Manny C. Aniebonam,
Silver Spring MD USA .
For The Aniebonam Family
Tributes to an impactful life of Mama Ezinne Aniebonam
To my dear mother-in-law: you had the fear of God, a woman of great strength, compassion and wisdom. The first day you set your eyes on me, you named me “Obidie” and “Obim – an all-encompassing expression of a person you hold so dear to heart.
And for a fact, all through these years, I have experienced love, fun, strength, positivity, generosity, and a great sense of belonging that can only happen when you are welcomed into friendship by someone like her.
You were interested in every progress and you talked well of everyone. You gave us hope and courage and you were poised ready to defend the downtrodden even outside the scope of the general family. You were meek and at the same time you demanded your dignity; you regarded everyone equally. I observed and learned! You were bold and you made new friends wherever you went, even while you were visiting us in the United States..
Ojemba Maama was a bright light that continues to shine in my life. She was my shining example of how to stand strong and protect your own in any circumstance. I could count on her remembering and celebrating all my children’s birthdays through phone calls, organizing parties for village children in her house, until the end.
My great mother-in-law deserves garlands, not wreaths; Praises not tears; Smiles, not sorrow and Happiness, not sadness.
Though it is hard to see her go, we are comforted knowing she left a good name behind her, and that God has now given her the blessing of endless joy and rest.
Ezinne Ojemba Maama; Grandma “O” – as our children would call her; she will be greatly missed! We will especially miss her combo worship and supplications unto the almighty God for the entire family; a combination of prayers and her angelic worship songs. May the light of our best memories guide you all the way through unto heaven……… through heaven you will travel, until we all meet someday to part no more…
And so I’ll conclude this tribute by signing off the way she would after our phone conversations….Bye Obim…Sure…Sure..Sure…Sure!!!
Mrs. Daisy Ogo Aniebonam
Silver Spring Maryland, USA
The maternal presence of a Grandmother is one that runs deep into the fibers of one’s being. I was part of Grandma O (Ojemba) before I even knew what life was. Part of my being began with her, and part of her being lives on with me now that she has ascended. I have fond memories of living with her in my youth back home in Maryland. She was hilarious, a joy to be around. She was the type
of person who didn’t hold her tongue and said whatever was on her mind whether you liked it or not. My father tells me that I received my singing gifts from her. I had the pleasure of hearing her burst out church hymns on many occasions and her voice reverberated for all to hear it’s glory. The type of tenacity and freedom she possessed in being authentically herself is something I will never forget about her. During our family trips back to Abagana, visiting her felt like coming home. She possessed a warmth that spread over us like the suns’ rays. Her eyes shone like gemstones and her smile was the most infectious. You just couldn’t not be happy around her! I feel immense joy when I think of her. It can’t be helped. Even now, just the thought of her brings a smile to my face. I know she’s singing with the choir of angels now, her voice reverberating through the heavens, for all to hear. To my Grandma- I will always love you Mama, and you will live in my heart forever.
Chidimma Barua (Nee Aniebonam)
Brooklyn New York, USA
To the world you were one person, but to me you were the world. You didn’t have much, but we always felt like we had everything. You didn’t leave millions in your bank account, but you left a legacy worth much more.
You taught me love, patience and endurance. You taught me how to pray and led by example. You praised me whenever I did good and pointed out my mistakes with that gentle voice. You encouraged me to work hard in school and taught me how to read and write. I still remember your voice as you read me bedtime stories. I think about you every day.
I was devastated when you feel ill. In a matter of days, the smile on your face disappeared and was replaced by gloom. I remember I couldn’t leave your side for one second.
I will never forget that fateful Sunday afternoon when you said goodbye forever. The cruel hand of death had snatched you away from us. We miss you every day. I thank God for you and cherish the memories we made. I love you.
Mother you were the truest, dearest, more than a mother to me. I called you a friend, sister, cousin and also dad when I lost dad. You stood alone for 20 years after dad passed on, and only God knows the inner strength you had to come through with my siblings and I.
You were precious a gift from God, so much beauty, grace, love and patience you possessed. You touched my heart in so many ways, your strength and smile even on dark days made me realise I had an angel beside me.
Mother you heard God’s whisper, calling you home, you did not want to leave me, I saw how you fought with your illness. you loved me sooo much that you held on tight, until all your strength was gone, and you could no longer hold on. Finally you gave your hand to God and slipped away quietly without telling us bye.
I will forever love and adore you mom for everything you taught us in life. Your death took away joy from our lives but we will hold on to the beautiful memories of times spent with you.
A woman whose spirit brightened up every room. A woman whose strength was one of a warrior’s. A woman whose beauty was richer than gold, and spanned deeper than the surface.
When she sang, her voice would lift us up. One of my favorite memories was the last time I was in Nigeria in 2016. She welcomed us into her home by singing songs of praises with my dad, and aunties. We hugged and laughed and enjoyed each other’s presence. A memory so vivid in my mind, I won’t ever forget and will forever cherish.
Grandma O has taught me what strength is. What being a lively, loving and wonderful woman is. She lived life to its fullest. And loved us like no other. She named me Queen at birth and her title is one I will strive day in and day out to live up to. I love you Grandma O. Thank you for teaching me how to live fearlessly and in true faith.
Nkechi Darlene Aniebonam
Los Angeles California, USA
Today we got together and named your blessings one by one. Divinely inspired by the way you would typically distinctively name us one by one during our past family gatherings. Only your love for the family could have sustained your mysterious recollection of each and every one of our natural unique identifiers. This mystery persisted up till what we did not anticipate was close to the end of your physical presence with us.
You sang the songs of praise to God with gusto; the lyrics and the rhythms remained intact and your faith in God was unwavering until the end. This is his amazing grace!
We love you and you will always remain in our memories. We believe and we totally submit to God’s promises as encapsulated in the Christian eschatology. We also believe that names and aliases are spiritually representative. So, as you journey to his heavenly realm “Maama-Ojemba-Enwilo”, we pray and believe that God will grant you everlasting peace and grant you eternal rest in the bosom of our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.
We praise God for your life and the impacts you made on the people you left behind. We give thanks and glory to the almighty God.
Rest in peace “Maama-Ojemba”bute
I always knew my sweet grandmother as Grandma ‘O’ when we were younger, as our English tongues had a difficult time pronouncing even the simplest Igbo words. She was consistently patient with us and would even laugh at our mispronunciations. Grandma O was the most radiant person I know; she shined so bright it was impossible not to smile in her presence and not to dance when she sang. She was always singing all the time, she loved singing. Her beautiful voice would fill my heart even on our long distance calls. I would often tell my friends about my radiant grandmother and how she would throw birthday parties for us in Abagana every single year, without fail! Such an impressive woman that any person was blessed to know her. While I didn’t get to spend too much time with her in person, I was always sending her prayers and it would brighten my day anytime I spoke with her on the phone. Grandma O, you are a light that forever shines in my heart, God has blessed us immensely with you as the matriarch of our family! My love is with you always! Rest in Peace!!!
Dubem Sarah Aniebonam
Brooklyn New York, USA