RACHAEL ONUKABA (1977-2009)
Rachael Onukaba (nee Ogirri) was fun loving and considerate. She adjusted easily to whatever circumstance we found ourselves. She was always complemented on her beauty and dress sense. Like most women, Rachael liked to look good at all times. She spent quite a considerable amount of time dressing up for every outing. I was always complaining. She insisted on a minimum of two hours notice before attending any formal or semiformal event. Every morning when she was fully dressed up for work, she would saunter into my room, strike a few catwalk poses and waited for me to compliment her. I was in big trouble if I failed to commend her looks.
She was born in Abeokuta on January 19, 1977 to Robert Ogirri, a retired Soldier, and his wife, Anne Ogirri, a retired Nurse. Her father hails from Ayua town in Etsako West Local Council of Edo State while her mother came from the prominent Okoh family in Uromi. She was the fourth of five children – two men and three women. She attended Saint Bernedette Private School in Ibara, Abeokuta where her father was then stationed as a Soldiers, and Saint Maria Goretti Grammar School in Benin City before proceeding to Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, where she graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language. She was performing her national service with Tell Magazine as the time we met in April 2002.
The magazine was doing a story about age falsification and other related scandals among contestants in the Miss Nigeria Beauty Pageant organised annually then by The Daily Times of Nigeria Plc. She had been sent by her bosses to interview anyone in the company willing to speak on record. I had to be persuaded to see her. But I was not cooperative. I urged her to drop the story, but she said it was beyond her. Finally, I decided to satisfy her by responding to her questions. I denied the allegation that age and certificate falsification was pervasive, arguing that one isolated incident should not be used to generalise.
At the end of the interview, the rookie reporter wanted to know my name and my position in the company. She had been ushered into my office without being told who she was going to meet. She looked so innocent and lovely. It was clear that she was not cut out for the hard grind of journalism. But I could see the har grind of journalism. But I could see a child-like enthusiasm to learn as much as possible during the one year national service. She was not intimidated by the personalities she was meeting and interacting with. She was self confident, articulate, warm and friendly. Though only 25 then, I would later discover that she was mature and wise beyond her age. She was also a very sensitive person and could easily be moved to tears by harassment, persecution, injustice and undue pressure.
Six months after we met, Rachael and I got married in Benin on October 19, 2002. It was love at first sight. We were both convinced that we were meant for each other. Since getting married, we have lived peacefully together raising our two lovely children and my niece from age three, and witnessing high and low moments, including the tragic death of her mother in April 2005. In Rachael, I found an irreplaceable soul mate, a genuine friend, a loving wife, a trusted sister and a kind and caring mother.
“You look gorgeous, Miss Estako”, I would tease her, referring to a place of origin she knew so little about. If she bought a new dress or made her hair, she would be eager to know what I thought about it. “It is fantastic”. I would quickly declare in order to be left in peace.
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