Home » Anambra, Headlines, State News » Anambra: Catholic community in Nsukka buries mad woman like queen

Anambra: Catholic community in Nsukka buries mad woman like queen

For those who knew her, it would have been better passed as an April Fool joke as the news filtered on April 1, that Ngozi Ogbe, nee Obetta, had died.
Ngozi had lived in refuse dump for 25 years, where she delivered and nurtured a son, but was retrieved and rehabilitated by a Catholic sister. She, however, died of breast cancer.

Ngozi of refuse dump as she was referred to among the local people of Nsukka was a “popular” mad woman in the Nsukka urban of Enugu State.
She had spent half of her life time living in a mound of refuse along the strategic Enugu road where she shared her strange abode with rodents and reptiles.
Ngozi had sat daily on the refuse dump that overlooks the gate of St. Theresa’s Catholic Cathedral adjacent the Intercontinental Bank for over 25 years. Among the litany of afflictions suffered by Ngozi while she was alive was a festering sore on her left leg diagnosed as elephantiasis and which was not treated for 25 years. Ngozi, a daughter of a Chief Priest of Ugwutazu deity was a native of Isu hamlet in Edem-Ani, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.

The untreated sore on her leg which hosted maggots in various stages of development was another big burden for Ngozi as it emitted a stench that prevented prospective benevolent alms-givers from assisting her.
Family sources told Daily Sun that Ngozi from cradle to the grave had passed through crucibles of unprecedented vicissitudes of life.

Ngozi, a child of circumstance born into a polygamous family had her late mother unable to bear a child as a result of which her father took her to a native doctor at Olakarami in Benue State, her mother’s paternal home.
According to Juliana, Ngozi’s sister the native doctor had entered into a covenant with their father which their father broke. Consequently, the aggrieved medicine man imprecated Ngozi, hence, she became mad. Another version of Ngozi’s travails had it that she burnt the Ugwutazu shrine alongside the costume of its dreaded masquerade, called Edi Ogbene, propelled by youthful exuberance of religious fanaticism. Ngozi’s kinsmen and biological relatives believe so much on this idea hence they avoided witnessing Ngozi’s burial as was allegedly instructed by a native doctor. Ngozi’s mode of dressing seemed to have given credence to this version. Ngozi for 25 years dressed in a rather bizarre manner depicting Edi Ogbene masquerade. Her attire was awful and presented an unsightly and amorphous spectacle. Her dresses consisted in dirty pieces of rags she picked from the refuse dump and tied together and girded around her body, sparing only her eyes. Except for occasional movements, a passerby would find it difficult to distinguish Ngozi from the mound of rubbish. It was a kind of spontaneous coloration adopted by some insects and animals as defence mechanism.
Her kinsmen and biological relatives avoided her burial except for her two sons, Sunday, a product of an early estranged marriage and Chukwuebuka, who was conceived, born and nurtured in the refuse dump.

But the Catholic Church and Sister Josephine Udeji, founder of De Veronicans, a Catholic Non-Governmental Organization accepted Ngozi in both life and death. De Veronicans that takes care of mentally sick people was founded upon the retrieval of Ngozi from the refuse dump by Sister Udeji.

Since then, Udeji had been championing Ngozi’s cause. When Ngozi later was diagnosed of breast cancer, Udeji was back with her to the Bishop Shanahan Hospital where she was first rehabilitated and treated of the sore on her leg.
Through support from the Catholic Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr F.E. Okobo and other philanthropists, Udeji also built Ngozi a house at her home town Edem-Ani. Before she died four days to National Assembly election, Nzogi made a passionate appeal to her closest friend, Udeji: “Aunty, please when I die, make sure you deposit my corpse in the mortuary; buy a coffin and place my body there for burial”.

After the plea, she announced to Sister Udeji: “Aunty, there is a handsome young man standing beside me wearing white flowing garment with ‘permed’ hair.” When Ngozi later died on April 1, 2011, Sister Udeji did not only do all the biddings of her dying friend, but also with the help of the church, accorded her a most befitting burial like a queen.
So, on Tuesday April 12, 2011, four days to the presidential a colourful motorcade led by Bishop Okobo brought Ngozi’s body in an executive funeral procession from Bishop Shanahan morgue to Isu, a remote hamlet in Edem-Ani Community, Nsukka LGA where it was committed to Mother Earth after a requiem mass officiated by Bishop Okobo himself and assisted by eight priests and a Vicar General.

The funeral was richly attended by personalities from the area among them, Chief Bala Ugwu , a veteran journalist and chairman of FADAMA Nsukka LGA who described Ngozi’s burial as one of the greatest work of charity.
He described Sister Udeji as the Mother Teresa of our time and urged all and sundry to emulate the examples of the Catholic Church and assist the De Veronicans in its onerous assignment of catering for the mentally sick persons in the society.

Dr Nnabeze, medical director, Bishop Shanahan Hospital 

Ngozi was my second wife. My wife accepted her as such and she was part of our family. Ngozi’s death is unfortunate. She did not die when she was living in the refuse dump. On the cause of the cancer, Dr Nnabeze ruled out her long stay in the refuse dump. He said that her long stay in the refuse dump has nothing to do with her breast cancer, adding that breast cancer could attack any woman.

Tribute by Sister Josephine Ogochukwu Udeji, founder of De Veronicans
Sometime in March, 2008 about three years ago, I came in contact with Ngozi Ogbe (Nee Obetta). As at that point in time, Ngozi made her home in a popular refuse dump opposite Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka. The refuse dump also shared common boundary with Intercontinental Bank Plc., Enugu Road branch, Nsukka. Ngozi had lived there for more than 20 years.

On this fateful day, Ngozi on seeing me, invited me to help her. Moved by her request, I decide to find out from Ngozi what kind of help she wanted from me. While we interacted with each other, Ngozi’s need at the moment was unveiled: she requested for food to eat. The request was promptly granted and from that day onwards, Ngozi and I became friends.
Inspired by the kind-hearted responses of late Mother Theresa of Calcuta, India and by Divine enablement, I took the initiative and led Ngozi out of what had hitherto was her home. On April 7, 2008 Ngozi’s companion and her cloak of dehumanization, her ‘coat of many colours,’ was completely removed from her. This cloak of dehumanization which was Ngozi’s hallmark and identity was made up of foul-smelling, variegated and tattered pieces of cloths from only God-knows-where she had picked them. When she was divested of this mark of dehumanization, on the orders of His Lordship, Most Reverend Dr. F. E. O. Okobo, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Ngozi was taken to Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka where I stayed with her for 10 months.

After, Ngozi who was subjected to various medical examination, treatment, was cared for and had fully recovered, she was taken to Edem-Ani, her paternal home but because she had no place to stay she was roundly rejected by all her relations. However, on the orders of His Lordship, Most Reverend Dr. F. E. O. Okobo, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Nsukka,  the cooperation and interest of the Parish Priest of St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Edem-Ani, Reverend Father Patrick Ujah, spirited efforts of De Veronicans and some kind-hearted individuals a three-room apartment was built for her where she lived with her sons. At this point in her life, Ngozi was fully rehabilitated. Unfortunately, in 2010 in Ngozi was diagnosed of breast cancer and was returned to Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka were she received treatment and died on April 1, 2011. What a cruel fate!         


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