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The distraught wife of a Nigerian doctor watching her husband dying in an Indian hospital has recalled how Dr. Ikenna Onyeno, fighting for his life told her: “I am going. I want to go.”
A terrified and anguished Mrs. Nwanneka Ik-Onyeno had to resort to begging him not to go.
“I put my Bible on his chest, prayed for 12 good hours from past 3am to past 3pm the following day,” she recalled.
He had been operated upon on a Tuesday. The operation appeared successful initially. For three days, he was doing well.
“After the surgery, he spoke with his mum, his children and my sister-in-law, his only sister who had come to stay with the children in Lagos,” the wife said. “By Sunday, I realised he was palpitating. They placed him on oxygen and he stabilised. They placed him on sleeping tablets. He managed to sleep a little. At past one, I woke up and he was awake. He was palpitating.”
He had to be rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with the wife left crying and praying.
A cardiologist and a counsellor later came to tell her that there were complications that early morning and he was on life support. The counsellor urged her to “ask God whatever you want God to do.”
She dashed off to a nearby Catholic Church. “While I was praying, an Indian woman came and joined me to pray. She was crying and praying with me. After the prayers, she gave me a crucifix.”
She returned to the hospital from the church. There, a lady from the international patients unit came to the room and joined her in praying.
“She held my hand and prayed. Towards the end of the prayers, I noticed the tune of the prayer changed. She said God should give my family the strength to bear what had happened. I didn’t say amen to that prayer. I looked at her. Then she turned into a different tune and ended the prayer.”
Later a team of doctors all gathered to address her, saying solemnly that they had tried their best but he didn’t make it. He passed out. And that was the end of the 20 years of a loving relationship between a Nigerian Romeo and his Juliet.
“For 20 years, he never said no to me,” the wife told me, paying tribute to her late husband. “Once I say to him: ‘Honey, it’s OK,’ that’s all. He loved me from the first day he met me.”
The couple met for the first time at the University of Benin where he was a medical student and she was studying foreign languages. They courted for ten years and had been married for ten years.
“We got married in 2007 while he was serving his National Youth Service. We never parted for one day. We didn’t part for even one minute. Immediately after his housemanship, we did our introduction and engagement in 2006. We are blessed with a daughter, Chimamanda, 8, and a son, Kamsi, 6.
“He has never been sick. That’s the most painful part. He was a meticulous person. He wasn’t careless with his lifestyle. He was disciplined with his eating habit. Once it is 7 o’clock, he doesn’t eat anything. He eats twice a day.
“I noticed late last year that he was losing weight. I personally asked him to stop jogging because I didn’t like the way he was losing weight. He said I shouldn’t bother him. And that because I was lazy, I didn’t want to jog. But Saturday is the only day I have, so I have to sleep.
“He lost his cousin and bosom friend Ifeanyi sometime in November last year and had been preparing for the burial. Around January, he complained sick. He treated himself of malaria but he wasn’t feeling better. We travelled to the East on 7th January for the burial and he drove all the way, drinking water.
“We went to LUTH and eventually we were referred to India for further investigation. We went through Dubai.
“With the death of my husband, people ask me am I disappointed with God? In a way, I was. But as a woman of faith, I still have to turn to God who is my maker and who knows everything and why it happened. I bless the name of the Lord. The Lord who saw this happen would not leave me and the family alone.
“Yes as a human being, there was nothing I didn’t say. When I was praying, I told God: ‘If you can’t do this for me. You know, God that some of the Indians are not Christians. Don’t let them mock my God. If you allow this to happen, they would mock you. They would say her God does not exist. I was like a mad person. I held my Bible up, my rosary up. They couldn’t control me. I held onto my faith, even when the faith was failing me. God gave me a good thing and decided to take it from me.”
He died aged 41! He was the doctor who lived on our Dele Orisabiyi Street, Okota, Lagos. When my bosom friend Dimgba Igwe died, Dr. Onyeno was the one coming to take care of Mrs. Dimgba Igwe, checking her blood pressure, giving her medications and words of encouragement to be strong and live on without her husband. He came regularly and became a close member of the family. His death was a big shock to Mrs Igwe, a widow who has seen it all and is now the one consoling Mrs. Ik-Onyeno, the late doctor’s wife. The residents of the street and colleagues at work would miss a perfect gentleman, a kind, humble man, a Good Samaritan, a doctor who watched doctors battling to save his life in India, far away from home where our hospitals are nothing to write home about.