Dr Titi Omeche Ogiri is dead and gone to meet her maker. However, the totality of activities around her burial has made her departure a subject of reflections and questions. In Africa, it is very rare to hear people speak bad of the dead. But here is where the sense of loss is not only so self-evidently genuine but runs deep in the minds of the stakeholders. And look at the vastness or diversity of the stakeholders. In fact, she made nonsense of all the fault lines in modern Nigeria: religion, ethnicity, region, gender and culture.
The title of this report had to be conceded to an expression that would intrigue many. The expression had to be adopted as it was used because it captures the amazing in Titi Ogiri so powerfully. The title is in Idoma (who call Titi Ititi) but the user is not of Idoma identity. It is doubtful that an Idoma speaking element can provide a more apt expression.
As it was within Nigeria, so was it was outside. Migrating to the United States of America was for the manifest objective of acquiring further education, including a PhD. But the latent essence was marriage to an American, a relationship which produced a child who could have been a prodigy, courtesy of the Nigerian/African foundation upon which the American way of life was being built before the future prodigy lost out to death.
Yes, it is true she was born the daughter of the first Och’Idoma of Idoma but that was an identity she quickly transcended. At death, she had extended the boundaries of living too far to be compacted into a core. She had become a truly global citizen, a gender activist, a community activist, a development expert and, above all, a religiously involved person.
All these make the question inescapable to critical observers: how does Nigeria handle leadership recruitment that such a truly rare gem as Dr. Titi Ogiri was sidelined in favour of some of those who have been so prominent in Idoma and national politics in the last 20-25 years? It is not a question of whether she was ambitious for political power or not. Rather, it was a question of the exclusionary character of democratic politics in contemporary Nigeria that pushes aside the ‘beautiful ones’ whose absence in politics has made democratic dividend an illusion.
Titi Ogiri as a ‘beautiful one’ is the conclusion we end up with if we rely on just two members of the Abuja Women Collective to which she belonged.
By Debrah Ogazuma
I had thought I could hide under a general tribute from friends but how can that be? I tried to withdraw from the thought of recalling the meaning and purpose of our relationship from 1967 to 2017, because of the fear of opening the floodgates of emotions. But then our God and Father, whom you increasingly trusted and loved as time passed, assures us that He has not given us the spirit of fear ”but that of love, courage and a sound mind.” It is in that assurance that I write this.
I recall the “our people say” fascinations; the pure joy and laughter of the early days, the daring and adventurous escapades of being seventeen and full of life; the quick wittedness and fascination with the often embedded humorous dimensions of serious issues of life; the fearlessness in engaging with people in authority and the depth of empathy with those in need; the sometimes tossed out barbs that were never meant to hurt but really to bring about right thinking and right behaviour – the teacher in you.
I recall the sessions of analysing the issues of life and as time passed, ferreting out the length and breadth and height and depth of the words and poetry and love and blessings and passion and chastisement and humour and grace and salvation of our heavenly father.
I recall, my first rude shock at the knowledge of Sickle Cells Anaemia and the many lessons I and others learnt from your handling the pain; the almost macabre humour in locating where the pain had decided to lodge and the accompanying pressures, squeezes and pillows provided by your loving family and friends; the courage and capacity for bearing the pain and the nature to quickly plunge into and get on with the work at hand, never wanting to indulge in self pity.
I recall your willingness to help pull up others and giving your brilliant services even when it very often went unrewarded.
I can go on but I must stop. I must however recall that in your strong belief in quality mothering, which included allowing your friends to participate in multiple mothering just as you participated in ours, you, by the Grace of God, raised an excellent son in Oche Ogiri – Little, a beloved one with whom you are re-united. You are re-united also with other loved ones who passed on before you.
To God be the Glory.
You will be missed by all your Wesley Girls, Otukpo, Sisters, Holy Rosary Adoka Sisters, Advanced Teachers College Zaria friends, St. Enda’s Students and teaching colleagues, Frank E. Little and I believe friends like Femi Boy and Girl in the USA, colleagues from the NNDC days and friends since then and of course Sisters of the Abuja Women’s Collective and our families.
Good light (not ‘night’ for you are now in the Eternal Light of God), my friend and Sister.
Celebration of the Life of Dr. Justina Titi Ogiri (PhD)
By Asmau Joda
My Dear Titi
1 write this letter to wish you well. You have left us but we still feel you. 1 cannot do what proper English demands: to refer to you in the past tense as you will be alive in my heart forever.
I remember the stories of all the mischief you, Moyeni and Julie got up to…You never really lost that as the years went back as we did do quite a few mischievous things together.
You were a huge part of my life. I remember the time we met at NNDC, being neighbours in the Guest House and contributing to the mothering of Oche and Charo, you were there for me when i needed a place to lay my head and provided a vehicle to move me around especially when i had to be careful living in a rural area, where there was no basic services such as a healthcare centre if my baby was bitten by a reptile or needed emergency service. You taught me how not to spoil my daughter, while letting her know she was very loved. You stood in as “a father for both my daughters”, one by being there and the other by being on hand to receive her when she was born. We cannot forget you and you cannot leave us…you will always be there in our hearts.
When we found Abuja too quiet and having no life, we joined forces with other girl sisters to form the Abuja Women’s Collective so that we could, at least, meet once a month in a relaxed atmosphere and be free to share food, love, laughter and care. These sisters included: Julie; Ade-Cole, Sarah Amason, Hannatu Akilu, Charmaine Pereira, Zainab Kuchi, Zainab Saab, Barbara Erikpo, Bisi, Debrah Moyeni Ogazuma, Titi Ogiri and Asma’u Joda. We did have fun, love and care for each other and even though the collective has gone into hibernation, we have come together to celebrate each other and, today, we come to celebrate the life of one us.
Titi, we were farmers together, trades together, mothers together and just simply soul mates. We joined someone to form a waste collection business, which never took off. We were part of Jibiro Trading Company (Hanne, Dada, Titi and Asma’u) and Jibiro ltd; an estate development group (with Professor John Dada, Comfort Kazanka, Zainab Saab, Titi, Bala Dada, Saadu Yahaya, Bilkisu Mahmud Buba & Asma’u Joda).
Titi, I can go on and on and on…May the life beyond also be fun, may we catch up one day in a pain free environment, where we can have even more fun.
Adieu, I have to say, adieu on behalf of all those mentioned in this letter, my beloved. I feel like crying but i will do my best not to cry because, in all honesty, we can only give thanks to the Almighty. At the end of the day, you fought and always came out victorious. We cannot but give thanks. After all, all those born will taste of death. Rest well!
Asma’u Joda on behalf of friends, sisters & family, (December 2017)
Titi’s death is a celebration of life. She was a winner. She beat the boundaries that even a drawback such as sickle cell anaemia intended to set for her. Thousands with better opportunities to make a mark are alive but full of sadness and regrets across Nigeria today. None of that for Titi because she delivered! May God grant her eternal rest!