By Alex Enemanna
It was Elizabeth Berrien who in her Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick’s Path From Loss To Hope that wrote, “A feeling of pleasure or solace can be so hard to find when you are in the depths of your grief. Sometimes it’s the little things that help get you through the day. You may think your comforts sound ridiculous to others, but there is nothing ridiculous about finding one little to help you feel good in the midst of pain and sorrow!”
The 6th day of January, 2021, when the compliment of ‘Happy New Year’ was yet to fade from the people’s lips will for a long time remain fresh in the memory of family members, friends and associates of Barr. Esther Obianuju Uzoma. It was a day she was separated from us. It was the day her toil and labour on earth ended. It was the day her Creator invited her to be with Him.
While the scars of the death of Barr. Esther Uzoma will forever remain in our hearts, there are avalanche of good memories, like Berrien noted, for which the virulent, dogged and the ebullient activist will be remembered for in the human rights community, the women fold, the civil society umbrella, the legal and media profession. Undoubtedly, the news of her departure sent chill down the spine of friends and colleagues. Like thunderbolt, they were struck in awe and utmost surprise. They cried, wept, wailed uncontrollably, called her name but deafening silence resonated. They were pained for she has gone to meet her Maker at the very early stage of her life.
If only weeping, mourning, and grieving from those whose lives she touched was enough to raise the dead, Barr. Uzoma would today be in our midst. A fearless activist and pro-development campaigner, she died in the very system she fought so hard and passionately to fix. She committed her entire life fighting with grit and zeal to ensure that all areas of our national life receive significant improvement, including the medical sector. Her commitment to ensuring that the right of the people to effective service delivery across board was upheld, was uncompromisingly contagious. She devoted her youthful age ensuring that families are not put into grief and pain on the account of dilapidated health system. She became vocal in fighting to ensure that resources mapped out to minister to the health needs of our people are not mindlessly siphoned by those in authority. Unfortunately, the system failed her.
An energetic human rights lawyer who fought with vigour to ensure that the citizen’s rights as enshrined in the constitution are respected, guarded and protected vociferously, she was a friend of the media industry. She stood tall in the defence of press freedom and right to information. She was at the forefront in protecting the constitutional right of the journalist to hold the government accountable and inform the people without fear of harassment or intimidation. For legion times, she defended journalists in court on pro-bono basis. She was a shoulder to women who fell victim of various kinds of abuses on the account of their gender. She was a mother to many orphans and depraved kids. She was the succour which the vulnerable in the society craved for.
In advancing the rights of women and girl-child, she founded and became the national co-ordinator of Proactive Gender Initiatives, a platform that afforded her the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the Nigerian Human Rights jurisprudence. One of the notable milestones she achieved was a pro-bono matter which she instituted in 2013, where for the first time in the history of Nigerian human rights, she enforced the fundamental rights of a two-year female minor who was molested by a Police Corporal.
A beautiful woman with heart of gold, she won several awards in the course of her advocacy and defence of human rights, particularly the vulnerable as represented in women and children. She left visible footprints, beautiful enough to give our bleeding hearts some comfort and relief.
While we mourn, we must also draw solace in the fact that our sister lived and died in active community service. She committed her experience, time, resources and energy in building a system that will outlive her. Even though she is separated from us, there are lots of footprints she left with us for which her memory remains evergreen. The International Women’s Day celebrated across the world on the 8th of March never passes without Late Barr. Esther Uzoma highlighting on the very dark spots that still pose challenge to the development of women in the society, particularly in Nigeria. She was greatly missed in this year’s edition and will be missed in more to come.
Her death is a lesson that we do not live for ourselves. At 49, age largely considered to be youthful, she went to meet her Creator. She is remembered only by the legacies she left behind. In all we do, we must strive to leave a memory behind for which we will be remembered after our earthly journey. Death is a debt payable by all human.
Adieu Barr. Esther Obianuju Uzoma.
Alex Enemanna, an Abuja-based journalist writes from firstname.lastname@example.org
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