Tears, tributes as Ibidun Ighodalo goes home today
At the night of hymns, psalms and candlelight held earlier in the week, tears flowed in the small audience that gathered to honour and celebrate the life and times of the remarkable woman. By the time her daughter, Zenan, took to the stage to render a worship song, emotions ran high, until she ended up in her father’s arms.
Ibidun passed away in the early hours of last Sunday, in her hotel room in Port Harcourt, where she had gone to set up a COVID-19 Isolation Centre for the state government. Founder of Elizabeth R PR and Events Company, and Ibidunni Ighodalo Foundation, which helps families to conceive through IVF, she would have been 40 on July 19, 2020.
Born in Ibadan, Oyo State, as the fifth child of eight children of late Olaleye Ajayi, Ibidun as she was fondly called, attended K-Kotun Primary School in Surulere Lagos, before heading for the Federal Government Girls College, Oyo State for her secondary education. She proceeded to study Microbiology at the University of Lagos, Akoka, after which she acquired further training in Business Management from the Lagos Business School. She was also a fellow of the National Institute Marketing, Nigeria (NIMN).
Her epic life journey started significantly while she was waiting to gain admission into the University of Lagos to study Medicine, which was her father’s choice. And because she loved her father, she also fell in love with the medical sciences. But unknown to her, providence had charted another course for her when her admission letter erroneously got mixed up and sent to someone else, which left her devastated. The young lady was left with no choice than to study another course. This, in a way, made her indecisive on what career to pursue.
However, her life took a new turn when she won the first-ever Miss Lux Beauty Pageant in 1999. She got into the limelight and seized the platform to boost her desired career in event management. She founded Elizabeth R, a PR and event Management Company in 2003 and thrived as one of the leading events agencies in the country. Over the last 15 years, she has no doubt dominated the events management and decoration business in Nigeria, especially in Lagos and Abuja.
Her entry into that space really changed the headlines as she launched her luxury 4000-capacity event centre, The Dorchester, in 2014. By 2016, she launched a bridal store Avant-Garde.
Ibidunni met her husband, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, at a wedding where she was the chief bridesmaid and they got married on February 16, 2007. Their marriage was not without its challenges, as she struggled to conceive; years rolled by without a child. After several attempts on assisted reproduction treatment at fertility clinics with numerous failed IVF procedures, the couple adopted two kids, a boy and girl.
Having gone through the emotional and psychological trauma due to her inability to conceive, she decided to help couples going through same challenges by providing spiritual, financial and psychological support with the creation of the Ibidunni Ighodalo Foundation. The foundation created awareness on fertility issues and got into partnership with a number of fertility clinics with high success rates that were willing to help with discounted costs for treatment; a lot of families benefitted.
For Ibidun, parenthood is a reality that should not be denied to every couple that desires it, and she used her foundation to change the infertility stories of a lot of families.
Her husband of over a decade was in church on the day the sad incident occurred to officiate a funeral service of a church member. While on the pulpit, he said, “nobody has control over life, a lot of you know that I really shouldn’t be here. At 2 am this morning, I received a call that shattered my life. Life is a deep mystery, there’s no human being, no matter how wise they are who can say they understand life; life is nothing. Let us accept the mystery of life. We don’t have any control over most things in life.”
Meanwhile, tributes have continued to pour in for the woman with a heart of gold. From President Muhammadu Buhari to Vice-President, Yemi Osibajo, Speaker of the house of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, former Vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, state governors, pastors, colleagues, media, family and friends… tributes kept pouring in.
Celebrity photographer and a close friend of Ibidun, TY Bello, shared a screenshot of a WhatsApp message the late former beauty queen shared with her, which read: “Sweetie, it’s my 40th birthday next month and I want to help 40 couples have their babies, what do you think? That’s all, no parties, no surprise; I just want to make 40 homes happy.”
The singer-turned photographer said, “This is who she was; this was what she had on her mind. She never forgot others going through the pain of waiting even at the very end.”
Chioma Ikokwu, CEO, Brass and copper said, “God why? 2020 has already been bad enough, but to take away such a beautiful soul from us? A heart made of literal gold. She was so warm, kind, vibrant, positive, encouraging and full of joy. I don’t even understand how we’re talking in the past tense. Only God can give the entire family the fortitude to bear this untimely loss. We can only pray for them.”
TV personality Tomike Adeoye, who had become like an adopted daughter to the late Ibidun, left a long note on her IG page, having been thrown off guard by the news of her sudden death. A part of her message read: “Mama, how can you promise all this and leave me less than a month after? The last assignment you gave me was to give my family members foodstuff during the lockdown and I’m so grateful I did that. At the beginning of the lockdown, you chased me for my account number. Jumoke suddenly asked for my account and I suspected it was you, so, I refused! You had done too much for me during my wedding last year; you planned it for free! Wedding gown, free! Decoration, free! That goodness was enough to last me a lifetime but you never stopped. I did and you sent us 100,000, saying it’s for your baby and your son to buy foodstuff. Last night, I understood the meaning of heartbreak. Who will love me as you did? You see that shoe you gave me as a wedding present, I wore it to bed last night. I woke up with burning toes, but I felt comforted knowing I slept with you close to me. I also slept with that autographed devotion you gave me on January 1; it’s all I have left. I will be strong! Very strong! I will wipe my tears, go back to work and rejoice! Makes no sense but I will praise God regardless. I love you, my heaven-sent helper! With you, I understood this word! I love you, my mama.”
Ibidunni’s story lends very strong credence to the statement by the late philosopher, Gautama Buddha, that “the value of life is not based on how long we lived, but how much we contribute to others in our society.”
Ibidun impacted her world till the very end and would be dearly remembered for her unending kindness and uncommon commitment.
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