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GONE TOO SOON

Story by Michael Effiong

The outpouring of grief was overwhelming. Nothing could have prepared Nigerians, indeed the world, for the shocker that erupted on Sunday, June 14, 2020 when news filtered in that top event planner, amazing angel and wondrous personality, Ibidunni Olajumoke Ighodalo, owner of famous, Elizabeth R Limited had died.

For many, the news was unbelievable. How could she die? Some people queried. It is not possible? Others screamed. Is she not the one that was playing with her husband, Pastor Ituah, the other day on instagram as she was embarking on a trip?

Was she not the one in a video who struggled and climbed hills, cutting through bushes to her father’s graveside?

It all seemed untrue, it all seemed so surreal- when it dawned on everyone that the story was true, the whole country, indeed, the world was thrown into mourning!

Instagram, twitter, all other social media platforms were on fire. #ibidunighodalo and #tributetoibidunighodalo hashtags trended for days. Popular gospel singer, Tope Alabi released a moving song and celebrated photographer, TY Bello released their last conversation, gradually everyone began to publish their own personal encounters, torrents of tributes flooded cyberspace.

Many who did not know her could relate, when they were told that she is the same woman behind Elizabeth R, the company that lit up Lagos some years, the company that has been everywhere mounting Isolation Centres and involved in major events.

It was obvious that she was a friend to all. She was described as fearless, respectful, hard working, a doting mother, a compassionate philanthropist, a passionate Christian and loving wife. She wore so many caps, played many roles but surprisingly, like a skilled performer, she played all her parts so well, so efficiently, as to earn applause.

Ibidunni represented many things to different people:  The high, the middle, the low. She cut across age brackets, and built bridges across religious or ethnic barriers, she was a star that shone brightly where ever she went.

Though just 39, she had made great impact while alive, and in her death more impact is being made as her foundation and engagements like the Timeless Women have vowed to keep the flag flying and the fire burning.

Talking of her age, she would have been 40 years on earth on Sunday, July 19th and as revealed by TY Bello, all she wanted was to sponsor 40 women through their fertility challenges, what a wonderful soul! Ibidun was so popular because her life was an open book, she shared her trials and triumphs, her pain and gain, according to her, by sharing her story, she believed, it will help others learn valuable lessons. It was in a bid to expand the conversation that led to the Ibidun Ighodalo Foundation.

Talking about her Foundation, she stated ” It was born out of pain, when you get married you expect to just start having children, and everything just will work fine. First year you are not pregnant…I just thought, it would come, it would come”. She waited 11 years and endured 11 IVFs”

According to her ” I just woke up one morning on my birthday, I usually have this thing I do on my birthdays, I sit down, I pray, and have a conversation with God. And I said to Him. “You know what, I am not doing this IVF thing again. How you’re going to do it, I do not know and I do not care but I am trusting you completely. And I heard something. “In the meantime, just go ahead and help as many people as you can”

“I felt life, I felt like, this was why I was born. And the meaning of my name, Ibidunni, “sweet to give birth”, “sweet to have”, came flooding through my head. And I just decided to trust God. That conversation led to this Foundation” The Foundation has since revved into action and has even won laurels. And though she had planned not to have a birthday, her 40th will be marked with glitz and glamour at a global worship concert. The event will see top stars like Ron Kenoly, Tope Alabi, TY Bello, Muyiwa Olanrewaju, Kunle Ayo, BJ Sax, Efe Nathan, Mike Aremu, Sammie Okposo, Tosin Alao, Yetunde Are, Seyi Ajayi and more performing.

From Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,  Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu, Governor Godwin Obaseki, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to Africa’s riches man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Rev. Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi and her husband, Dr Ademuyiwa Ajayi, Ovation Chairman, Bashorun Dele Momodu, Former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, it has been an outpouring condolence visits, tributes and phone calls since her death was confirmed.

The Ikoyi, Lagos home of her husband, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo was  bombarded daily by well wishers, church members and men of God who wanted to comfort him in this moment of sadness and grief. After the dust settled, with Asue Ighodalo, Dr Kweku Tandoh, Pastor Robert Omole, Pastor Bayo Rotimi, Pastor Niyi Akenzua, Pastor Tosin Alao, Chike Ogeah and Afolabi Oke as members of a Committee, plans began to take shape for her funeral.

The first event was a Praise Night and it was held at the home of Pastor Ituah. It was an evening of soulful worship, praise and prayers to God for the life of Ibidun, who many confirmed, came, saw and conquered. The members of Trinity House, the Church which Pastor Ituah serves as Pastor came out in full force to celebrate the lady who not only worked in the vineyard of the Lord but was family. After that evening’s event, the funeral ceremonies shifted to the hall of Deinde Harrison’s Ebony Vaults, Ikoyi where a Night of Tributes was to be held.

The venue as expected, was creatively transformed to make it heavenly and convivial. It was a very restricted event because the family wanted to stick to the COVID-19 Protocol. Of course, Ovation International was granted full access to cover the event and we beamed it live on all our platforms to world, as well as have the pictures to keep for posterity. The event itself had Pastor Bayo Rotimi as compere, there were a few in-person presentation of tributes, but many were via the Zoom platform.

From Mrs Titi Adenuga, wife of Globacom Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr. to Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Pastor Femi Atoyebi, Hakeem Muri-Okunola and Pastor & Mrs Paul Adefarasin to Ibidun’s cousin, Dr. Ben Adeyemi, aide, Jennifer Bello, Co-founder of Sahara Energy, Tope Shonubi to Mrs Tosin Bakare, the world was regaled with the excellent history of Ibidun. We were given different aspects of her life: Her work life, her Christian life and her private life.  The most emotional tribute of the evening was from Ibidun’s daughter, Unuakemonyi (Keke), it moved many to tears!

But one thing was clear, Ibidun Ighodalo lived a life that was action-packed, purpose-driven and God-ordained. She had left the world like a candle in the wind, and only her memories remain.Her Saturday, June 21, 2020 burial was a spectacular affair.  It was as expected, co-ordinated by Trinity House, Zion Centre and Elizabeth R. Mrs Bola Okoli of Bonix and many other personalities in the event business were on ground to offer a helping hand. The day was bright and beautiful and was fitting for the farewell service for such a beautiful angel.

There was a short lying in-state and prayer session at the family house before her remains, which laid in casket. draped in a special flag with the Trinity House insignia emblazoned on it, was ferried in a see-through hearse to the Ebony Vault. The funeral cortege was made of strictly family members because again, due to COVID-19, only a select number of guests were invited while it was beamed live on Arise TV as well as social media platforms of Trinity House and Ovation TV.

By the time the cortege arrived the Ebony Vaults for the funeral service, Mr Asue Ighodalo was waiting, he received his brother and family, placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, as the pall bearers took the remains of the departed out of the hearse, and taking careful, measured, ceremonial and well-choreographed steps, moved her casket to the bowels of the hall as the processional hymn “For All The Saints Through All Their Labour’s Rest” wafted from all corners of the hall.

Already, a few of the people in the audience had begun to shed tears, maybe they had been living in denial, but it was no film trick, Ibidun was no more and was about to make her final journey home. Pastor Bayo Rotimi again was compere and he handled proceedings expertly.  After a short worship session by Emmanuel and Chinwe of Trinity Voices, Prof Konyisola Ajayi, SAN was invited to pray for the businesses and causes that Ibidun founded, had significant passion for and was leaving behind.

Thereafter, Mrs Iheoma Okoroafor of Timeless Women, a group the departed Ibidun founded, took centre stage. She revealed how Ibidun was always joyous at the birth of a child from the support of her foundation. Then Keke, who seemed to have emulated the trait of having supreme confidence from her mother, took the second Bible reading taken from Psalm 112.  Thereafter, there was another wondrous rendition of “Sometimes A Light Surprises” by Trinity Voices led by Tosin Alao, before Ibidun’s elder sister, Mrs Nneka Folake Ikejiani was invited to read her biography.

The Trinity voices again took centrestage with a medley of songs, but the spirit in the hall moved a notch higher when they began singing Lara George’s Ijoba Orun. Pastor Ituah was so moved that he not only rose but went on stage to join the singers. He ended his session with the words “Ibidunni I LOVE YOU! There was a short sermon before Pastor Idowu Iluyomade, Special Assistant of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God  (RCCG) was called upon to pray for the family of Ibidun who was described as God’s General. According to Pastor Iluyomade “weeping can only last for a while but surely joy will come in the morning. We are looking forward to days, weeks, months and years of joy for the family”.

The vote of thanks was by Mr. Asue Ighodalo, who described himself as Ibidun’s Twin (They share the same birthday). He took time to carefully and respectfully thank everyone and encouraged all who loved Ibidun to donate to the Ibidun Ighodalo Foundation. The closing prayer was by Pastor Tony Rapu. Immediately he finished, the choir broke into the processional hymn, Abide with me.

As the casket bearing Ibidun’s taken to the graveside, the heavens opened up and there were torrents of rain. This was a clear sign that indeed she has gone to be with the LORD. The graveside activities was only attended by family members and there was no doubt that Ibidun was given a glorious farewell, the kind that she would have packaged for a client.

Pix by Ty Bello

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