A night of tributes, songs and reminiscences
It was a beautiful night of tributes, reminiscences and songs as friends and family of Pastor Emily Aig-Imoukhuede turned out in resplendence at Habour Point, the posh event center in Victoria Island, to eulogize her. She died on June 8 and was buried, today, Friday, July 16.
The lightings, stage, artists and the overall management of the whole event were simply great, and the compere, Mrs Abosede Osho, quite skillful. The Aig-Imoukhuede family is not sparing any expenses in giving their matriarch a royal burial. I have been told that the series of events are themed around majesty. I might just add ‘splendor’ to it.
The evening opened with a rendition of the song ‘’You raise me up’’, by Dare Justified and Choir born Dare Art Alade, the crooner is the son of Nigeria’s music maestro, Art Alade, who reigned in the 60s and 70s with the likes of Ebenezer Obey and Victor Olaiya and helped give Lagos its unique cultural hue in those days. Dare and his band gave a powerful and soulful performance that captured the mood of the evening and brought tears to a few in the audience. The song was written by the 40-year-old American songwriter, composer, actor and producer, Joshua Winslow Groban, and was described by the compere as ‘’mama’s favourite hymn’’. Large screens beaming different images of the deceased created a nice luminescent backdrop. Pastor Emily’s first son, Aigboje, sandwiched in the first row between his wife and father could not contain his emotions as Dare stepped out, raised his two hands sang his to his lungs full capacity.
With that impactful opening act, the stage was set for the night, which came with more songs, ministrations and eulogies. The only Bible reading, from Galatians 3:13, was taken by Ohiozoje Aig-Imoukhuede, described as ‘’mama’s best grandchild’’. It was quickly followed by Pastor Emily’s well-researched and written profile, which broadcast over the PA system. More music and a slide show of her photographs follow before Pastor (Elder) Shyngle Wigwe gave a brief exhortation. Father to Herbert Wigwe, the GMD of Access Bank, and a longstanding family friend of the Aig-Imoukhuede’s, Pa Wigwe is a pastor of the RCCG. He took his reading from Eccl 12:13 and spoke of the generosity of Pastor Emily, mentioning, to illustrate his message of selfless giving, that she had celebrated her 70th birthday celebrations at old peoples’ homes. ‘’She was very concerned about the welfare of the vulnerable’’, he said. Next was a performance by Gloryaa, one of mama’s favourite gospel singers. She was simply amazing and the audience was enthralled. The artists’ selections, songs and hymns were carefully selected to honour the departed.
But the audience was eagerly anticipating the star attractions of the night: tributes from the children. The first child, Dr Erekpitan Ola-Adisa, tall, black-complexioned and spotting the sharp facial features of her father, spoke first. She anchored her tribute on Proverbs 31, with special reference to verse 10, and described her mother as incredibly strong in her views and devotion to people. She emphasized how dearly she loved her husband, siblings, cousins, other family members, and other Nigerians she met. ‘’When you are her friend, she would befriend everyone around you’’. The daughter recalled her mother’s early days and said that every woman in their community wanted to emulate her good ways. She was also a multi-task specialist, dealing in art collection, owning an art gallery, running a restaurant and a soft drinks dealership, all at the same time. She recalled how they would cook so much on Christmas Day to share with others, especially the less privileged.
We were all waiting for the first son, Aigboje. He took his bearing from 1 John 2:6 and recalled his mother’s unconditional love for everyone she met. He noted that the mother even tried to conceal her ailments from him initially so as to spare him the agony. ‘’What manner of love is so great?’’, he said amidst sobs. Aig tried to stay strong, but the loss of a mother is difficult to bear. Those of us who worked with Aig at Access Bank always saw him as a toughie. But last night, we saw the human side in him. Aina Akintonde, another former staff, turned and looked at me. She was tearing up. The complexities of emotions between a mother and the first son, described as the Oedipus complex, have astounded scholars over time. Sigmund Freud, the German psychoanalyst has studied this and written about it a long time ago, and I am sure many of us have seen it play out in our families. It was such a touching moment.
With the four children done with their eulogies, Herbert Wigwe was invited to speak. Herbert and Aig started out as young colleagues at GT Bank over 30 years ago, then they became friends, then business partners and now they actually regard each other as brothers. The two families have fused together in a rare closeness. Herbert recalled that he was in Kigali when he received the call from Aig’s wife informing him of ‘’mummy’s passing’’. He cried alone all night, he said, and it was not until the following day that the depth of the loss began to sink in. ‘’I have felt a lot of pain in many areas of my life but have never felt the depth of despair and loss that I did when Ofovwe told me that mummy had gone to be with the Lord’’, he said. He cited the many instances Pastor Emily had played motherly roles in his life, including when he and Aig were buying Access Bank in March 2002 and when his wife, Doreen, was seriously sick in 2003. ‘’Mummy was always praying for me and my family. She led me closer to God’’, he announced proudly.
Soon to follow were tributes from High Chief (Dr) Winifred Awosika, Pastor Emily’s best friend of 65 years; and representatives of the Rebirth Ministry; NCWS; Prison Ministry and Promised Land Ministry.
In the audience were the stars of the nation’s social, political and business firmament. Among them was Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo; Mr Philip Shuaibu, Edo State Deputy governor; Subomi Michael Balogun, founder of the FCMB Group; former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; former Governor Peter Obi (Anambra); former Governor Hassan Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe). Seated in a quiet contemplation throughout the evening was Mr Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, the octogenarian widower.