From Steve Oko, Umuahia
Abia State has been in festive mood as the wife of the pioneer Deputy Governor, Dame Gladys Nne Chima Nwafor celebrate her 70th birthday.
The prestigious event slated for today (Sunday, August 11, 2019) expectedly, will draw guests from all walks of life in view of the personality and enviable life achievements of the celebrant.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu will lead Abians and other guests from across the country and beyond to St. Clement’s Anglican Church, Umuojima Ogbu, Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area, for a church service to herald the event.
Gladys Nne Hemuka was born to Late Nelson and Jenny Hemuka of Abayi Amaugwu in today’s Osisioma Ngwa LGA on 11th August 1949 and was the fourth child.
In 1955 at age six, she enrolled at the All Saints School, Abayi Umuocham. In 1963, she moved to Anglican Girls Grammar School, Umuahia, and in 1973, she joined the popular Women Training Center (WTC) Enugu.
On August 22nd 1968 at the heat of the Nigeria Civil war, she was married to Dr. Chima Nwafor at the age of 22.
But before her husband was elected the first Deputy Governor of Abia State, Dame Gladys had given account of herself as an accomplished public servant.
She was a trained teacher and her career took off when she was employed to teach at St. Clement’s School, Umuojima Ogbu in 1975. She was there till 1983 when she took a break and went to the University of Port Harcourt to take a degree in Education/Biology, and later in Political Science.
In 1992, she was appointed Education Secretary for the old Obioma Ngwa Local Government Area and upon the creation of Osisioma LGA, she became the pioneer Education Secretary of the council.
After 17 years in the administration of primary schools in the two LGAs, she retired in 2009 as a Director in the Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB).
Dame Gladys was a strong pillar of support to her husband who later served as the Deputy Governor under Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
It was as if the end had come for her and the family when in 2006, suddenly in a circumstance that has remained a subject of debate till date, her husband, Chima Nwafor died.
After this dark period, Dame Gladys was able to pull the family together again, sustaining the integrity of the late husband.
She was able also, with divine assistance, to carry on with the onerous task and responsibility of training the fruits of her union with her late heart throb.
She never relented in ensuring that her six children got the best of training any good parents could afford, and they are all accomplished in their respective careers.
Attesting to her candour and resilience, Gov. Ikpeazu said : “Under her close watch, her six children have blossomed beautifully into top achievers in their various callings.
“They are not just successful but have proudly carried on the family legacy of dignity and excellence. They have brought to fruition, the dreams of their parents to become beacons of hope and encouragement to our people.”
In 2009, she was appointed by the President as a Member of the Governing Council of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka.
From there, she was appointed Board Member of the International Institute for Agricultural Research, Ibadan. She served there till mid 2010 when she was called upon to higher service as Federal Commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
She was there for five years and discharged her duties with dignity and integrity.
She is currently the Women Leader of the Ohaneze Ndigbo worldwide, a position she was elected into in 2018.
Dame Gladys has also excelled in community service, hence the conferment on her of many awards.
She is also a recipient of the award of the Doctor of Letters Degree, Honoris Causa from the Evangel University, Louisiana, USA.
In 2007, the old Anglican Diocese of Aba admitted her into the exclusive cadre of Dames and she is a PRIMATE’S NOMINEE to Anglican Conferences, an honor conferred on her by the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev Nicholas Okoh.
According to a family source, “she and her husband dreamt of building a house of worship for God but that dream was cut short by the death of her husband.
“Yet she never lost hope and encouraged her children to keep the dream alive and in December 2016, at the 10th memorial anniversary of her husband’s death, a brand new and ultra modern church building which replaced the old building was dedicated at St Clement’s Umuojima, built by her children. ”
At the age of 70 Dame Gladys has remained a symbol of excellence and a role model; a source of inspiration and an accomplished Igbo woman whose life philosophy and achievements will remain a reference point.