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Today, Ma Udeze wraps an exemplary life

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MMADAM Clara Afulenu Udeze (Nee Olisah) lived well and beautifully, her influence was powerful yet comforting. She exuded happiness like a beacon, lighting up her environment, reflecting on people around her. She was an incurable optimist, her sacrifice to the wellbeing of others was huge and inspiring. 

  She was clothed with strength and dignity in a million ways beyond what was expected of motherhood. Her reputation for social intelligence beats imagination due to her level of education of that dispensation. Ma Udeze’s well of wisdom was a fountain that many who came in contact with always found refreshing.

  She was a mother to many besides her own children and grandchildren. Her home was open to many who were in need. She dedicated her time making sure that anyone that came to her house was well looked after.

  Suffice to say her leadership skills in managing both home and community affairs were exemplary. Words are not enough to compose the many erudite qualities of her person. Four years shy of her 80th birthday, the expectation of her was more years of drawing from her virtues and wisdom but death came knocking. For every mortal, death is inevitable, life is not in duration per se but how well lived. Ma Udeze lived both.  

  Ma Udeze, the fifth child of the late Charles Obiora and Madam Victoria Nnodu Olisah from Kosiname family in Abilibose Village, Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State was born 14th September 1945. She took early to education by attending Immaculata (Covent) Primary School, Onitsha, and thereafter attended YWCA, Onitsha, and Zik’s Institute, Onitsha.

  Her brilliance and thirst for further education took her to St Monica’s Teachers Training College, Ogbunike. After her teacher training, Clara, as she was popularly called at the time, could not further her education because of the outbreak of the Nigeria/Biafra Civil war in 1967. In 1968, amidst threats and instability in Eastern Nigeria, she was determined to make the most out of life. She got married to her heartthrob, the late Rev. Patrick Nnamdi Udeze of Umualoji Uzoigwu family in Umuekeke Village, Atani, also in the present-day Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.    

  Immediately after her marriage in spite of the adverse economic situation following the civil war, she decided to start trading not only to help her husband in the upkeep of their young family but also in demonstration of diligence that characterises her personality to date. More specifically, she sold sweet potatoes and yam tubers, and when she could not get enough supply of yams from Atani market, she joined the women traders to buy from Odekpe market.

  Her resilience and dexterity can be simply explained by the fact that in spite of being of young age at that time and unable to swim effectively; other women would not allow her to travel with them in the canoe. Undeterred, she rather trekked from Atani to Odekpe to carry out her enterprise.

  She continued her trade with every determination she could muster until she had her first daughter, Ogechukwu in late 1969. With more responsibility as a young mother and wife, it was indeed wisdom to get her priorities right. She thus opted to change her line of business in favour of something that allowed her appropriate balance between family and merchandise.

  She started frying akara in front of her family house at Umuekeke Village. Always on her lips was appreciation for the priceless support she received from her mother-in-law being an experienced hand in the trade. It would be recalled that the grinding machine was uncommon and unavailable those days. Resultantly, beans to make akara balls were mainly crushed in a mortar and thereafter fried.

  After the war, she ventured into poultry farming and while that prospered, God graciously blessed them with two more children. At a time her husband went to further his education at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; it was yet another difficult period as she had to see to the upkeep of the family all by herself. During this period, God manifested himself by flourishing her foodstuffs business.

  As a teacher, Clara Udeze had a fruitful career. She began her teaching career at Ohuhu Community Secondary School, Umuahia. After the creation of Anambra/Imo States in 1976, she returned to Anambra State where she served at Ogboli Primary School, Onitsha, in 1978, and Bishop Onyeabor Primary School, Onitsha, in 1979.

  Though delayed but not defeated, Clara revived her education desire and in 1991, obtained a National Certificate in Education (N.C.E) from the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, Enugu.

  Teaching took her through many schools and towns due to the nature of her husband’s vocation. Some of the places she had her teaching stints include U.P.E Primary School, Oji-River (Enugu State), Hill-top Primary School, Udi (Enugu State), Umuezena Central School, Umudim- Nnewi (Nnewi North LGA, Anambra State), Eziagulu Primary School, Ekwulobia (Aguata L.G.A, Anambra State), Central School, Akwuzu (Oyi L.G.A, Anambra State), Central School, Nteje (Oyi L.G.A, Anambra State), New Bethel Primary School, Onitsha (Onitsha North L.G.A), Central School Odekpe, Community Primary School, Atani (Ogbaru LGA, Anambra).

  She briefly served at the Ogbaru Local Government Education Authority and later retired at Omagba 1 Primary School, Onitsha (Onitsha North L.G.A), in 2010 as Headmaster Special Grade (SGL level 14) after 35 years of service. 

  As the wife of a priest, Mrs. Clara Udeze was a galvanizer, achiever, and mentor to many in each parish they served. Starting from St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Nteje, where they were posted as the first parish priest in 1992, she helped the women’s ministry of the church within few years to raise funds with which they started and completed the fencing of the church compound. 

  Her style of leadership in the church earned her the title (Oji nlo), meaning Oji nwayo, because she always achieved whatever she set out to do without much anxiety. In 1997, when her husband, Rev. Patrick Nnamdi Udeze was transferred to St. Christopher Seminary, 3-3 Onitsha, as the pioneer vice-principal and chaplain, she helped in moulding the lives of young boys in the seminary. Furthermore, we will not forget in a hurry how she worked assiduously along with her husband to establish nursery/primary at St. Paul Church, Odekpe, when he served at the church as a resident priest. 

  Mrs. Clara Udeze was an officer in the Girl’s Brigade for many years and later was given a life member award from the Girls Brigade of Nigeria. She was the first indigenous priest’s wife to become the president of the women’s home/abroad general meeting of the Cathedral Church of St. James, Atani, from 1992-2006 even after the demise of her husband. As an achiever, it was during her tenure that the old church hall was built. She was one of the foundation members of the association and had been regular in all their meetings since inception.

  A great mother, Ma Udeze will forfeit any pleasure to ensure the best things for her children. During their formative and school days, she gave it her best shot not only to ensure that all her children do not lack the essential things but also to uphold outstanding moral virtues and imbibed them with the fear of God.   She selflessly gave up clothes and fashion for her to realise the dream of bringing up her children effortlessly and uprightly.

  She was blessed with eight children (three boys and five girls) all graduates, married, and doing great in their chosen professions, among whom is Hon. Somto Udeze, Deputy Minority Leader, and House Committee Chairman on Public Procurement, Anambra State House of Assembly. She was also blessed with 21 grandchildren.

  Ma Clara was only 76 years when she passed away on Sunday, December 5, 2021, at her country home at Atani. A day before her demise, she attended her cousin’s burial, even though she was frail. She spent time with her brothers and sisters as if she knew it would be her last moments with them.

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