When I was eleven, I pleaded (or maybe demanded) that my mother allow me to attend boarding school. The common entrance exam results had just been released, and judging by my score, I was qualified to attend the elitist Federal Government Girls’ College (FGGC) in Benin City, Edo State. I didn’t know back then that my mother’s meager salary as a teacher was insufficient to cover the expenses. But somehow, she made it happen.
When I was twenty-one, I was selected to participate in a six-month youth exchange program sponsored by the British Council and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in the United Kingdom. For the first three months, I volunteered as a researcher in a nonprofit organization based in Birmingham, U.K. For another three months, along with other youth volunteers (eight British and nine Nigerians), we spent another three months volunteering in Jos Plateau State, Nigeria. These experiences influenced my career choice in global development, and my mother’s investment in helping me gain independence early on built my confidence and grit.
I never got a chance to connect these dots with my mother through a reflective reminisce because, on June 26, 2023, four days before my 39th (thirty-ninth) birthday, she transitioned from this precarious world as we know it.
My mother, Princess (Mrs.) Margaret Otayo Ehidiamen, née Oseghale, was a lover of life. She cultivated every second of it, sharing her life and light with others. Born to the royal family of Omontuemen Okojie, my mother grew up in Uromi, Edo state. She attended Our Lady of Lourdes Girls Grammar School Uromi; Mary Mount College (OLA), Agbor, Delta State; and College of Education Abraka, Delta State (which has evolved into Delta State University); and the University of Ibadan, where she earned her educational certificates.
My mother pursued careers in sports and teaching. She represented her schools in many sporting events, including swimming, track, long tennis, and badminton. Her athletic prowess was well-known to many, and she often talked about how she took part in a track competition while pregnant.
My mother married my father, Asia Ehidiamen, at an early age, and they had seven children (six surviving children) in good wealth. I am the sixth (technically, the seventh) child, and the two greatest gifts I received from my parents are a good name (good character) and a quality education.
Growing up, I enjoyed being called a teacher’s daughter and all the extras that came with the title, such as not paying for the famous PTA levy, not being punished by other teachers, and not being mishandled by peers or bullies at school. From my mother, I learned the art and act of being strong and tenacious. As a teacher, she spent years contributing to the human capital development of the youths in Uromi before moving to Lagos State, where she continued to work as a teacher, then elevated to the position of assistant headmistress and retired as a headteacher (headmistress) after 35 years of active service as a civil servant. Many accolades/awards of excellence distinguished my mum’s career as a teacher. I have had one or two people stop me on the street or send me messages on Facebook to ask if I am Mrs. Ehidiamen’s daughter. They would then recount how their lives were impacted positively by my mother’s classroom influence in primary school. It is always very inspiring to take it all in.
My mother was undoubtedly a hardworking, multi-talented woman who invested time in solving multi-dimensional challenges in her community. Even though she was a teacher by profession, she expressed her entrepreneurial acumen and talents through other channels. My mum was a talented singer and thrived as a chorister at the Church of God Mission, where she first embraced the gift of Salvation and generously propagated the gospel of Christ to others, including her family members. She was a hair stylist (she owned a Salon in the early years). She was a farmer (in Uromi), and many years later, she still enjoyed keeping a small garden (in her house in Akute/Magboro). She was a social butterfly who did not miss an opportunity to celebrate with others and often would be trusted to cook large party meals (friends and families trusted her skills even though she didn’t own a professional catering service). As a well-rounded entrepreneur, my mum’s interests were not limited by international borders. She would often spontaneously travel out of the country (to Benin Republic/Togo) to buy goods, which she traded in Lagos. My mum could knit/crotchet with her eyes closed, or use a sewing machine to create a garment and repair a slit like a trained seamstress. Beyond the business focus, my mum was an encourager. I recall people often came to her to seek counsel/guidance. And she was generous with her home — accommodating relatives and strangers who needed a place to stay.
A lasting legacy
My mother, Mrs. Margaret Otayo Ehidiamen, will never be forgotten. She has left a lasting legacy through her accomplishments and impact. Her positive values, memories, and love will be passed down to future generations. I will always remember her as an extraordinary woman who tried everything.
News Credit: Many thanks to my older siblings, who provided the much-needed details to make this article accurate and robust.
The Nation Newspaper first published this article.