If it were today, she would have been a model or something of that nature. Her own physical beauty was something else. And no less when the world would have subsequently discovered that she was even more beautiful when we talk of soul of personality. Her public spiritedness soared and overwhelmed her physical beauty. That is what earned for her the title of “mother of all” later in life.
But she came earlier than today when models, along with first ladies, actresses and musicians have transformed into powerful voices in global governance. In her time, especially around Opialu Village in the deep recesses of Edumoga Ehaje in Okpokwu LGA of Benue State in central Nigeria, heavenly beauties were quickly spotted and encircled to be married off to the most successful elite from the area.
That was how she found herself married off to the late Joseph Abba who later rose to the rank of a Captain in the Nigerian Army. It was a spectacular match because Captain Abba was also extraordinarily handsome – fine face, tall and well built. At that time, Opialu, a huge village had several officers in the army. Major Mathew Ojabo, Godwin Idoko and Abba come readily to mind.
Both husband and wife made a success of it. It is understood that when delay in child bearing made the elders to think of piling pressure on Captain Abba to marry an additional wife, no one could bring himself up to tell him that. Soldiers surprisingly love their women in a paradoxical fashion: all the steel-ness or toughness melts before their mademoiselle. In the end, they were so blessed with over five children.
Captain Abba’s discharge from the military and subsequent re-engagement with the State House paved way for Mrs Catherine Abba to be employed in the State House where she continued after the demise of the husband in mid 2004.
At 62, she wasn’t that old but death has its ways with timing. She passed on early morning March 1st, 2021, making orphans of the many young boys and girls who seek a place to lay their heads in her house before looking for where to earn a living upon migration from the harsh life in the dust bowels of rural Edumoga where the more the people vote, the farther away government becomes from them since history.
Her death brings back memories of their own dimension of gender paradox. They come out so beautiful and attractive that the desire for them becomes a roadblock to good education and full development. In her own case, she married into relative privilege. But it could also have gone the other way.
She also reminds us of the competitiveness that even people from the backwaters left behind by development in Nigeria embody. With only her exposure as the wife of a military officer, she was able to fit well into a sophisticated work space as the State House. She would have hit the roofs if she were more educated in a formal sense.
Lastly, their generation is a complete critique of womanhood today. The world is not expected to be static but rural Edumoga is certainly in crisis there. Who will bell the cat now, with the local government system in Nigeria reduced to ATM for local godfathers? The Catholic Church more than the government has done much better by bringing well ordered secondary schools into this long suffering but the largest District in Idomaland. But other actors in community well being do not appear to be complementing the strong Catholic presence. Yet, that is where the challenge is – minimum education for the girl child to remove the disadvantage of neglect!
Sail well, Catherine Abba, aka ‘Mother of all’!