The human rights community and civil society groups started the New Year on a sad note with the demise of one of the vocal activists, Barr Esther Uzoma, on January 6. The Imo-state born legal practitioner was the Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Room, and National Coordinator, Proactive Gender Initiatives. CHIZOBA OGBECHE captures the mood through tributes in honour of the deceased.
We lost a courageous, vibrant civil society leader – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in a statement by National Commissioner & Chairman Information & Voter Education, Festus Okoye Esq, stated: “INEC received with shock, the death of Esther Uzoma which sad event reportedly occurred on Wednesday 6, January 2021.
Esther Uzoma was a renowned gender rights advocate and civil society activist and a tireless campaigner for credible elections in Nigeria.
She was until her death the National Coordinator of Proactive Gender Initiative and the Convener of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room.
She has worked closely with the Commission in the areas of election observation, constitutional and electoral reforms as well as in capacity building for staff of the Commission.
Esther championed good causes and spent a considerable portion of her life fighting for a better society.
The country has lost a courageous and vibrant civil society leader.
The Commission commiserates with members of her immediate family, her friends and the civil society community for this irreparable loss. Esther Uzoma will be remembered for her commitment to a better Nigeria.
She was guiding light in endless search for gender equality – Adeyanju
A non-governmental organisation, Concerned Nigerians (CN) has expressed heartfelt condolences to the family of Barrister Esther Uzoma and everyone who worked with her.
The Convener of the group, Comrade Deji, said the late Barrister Esther Uzoma was “a guiding light in the endless search for gender equality, human rights, electoral reforms, justice for women and vulnerable children.”
Adeyanju added that there was no doubt that Uzoma’s courageous activism changed Nigeria’s trajectory in tremendous ways.
“She was indeed a distinguished leader in the civil rights movement. She helped break barriers by using education to empower our girls and fight for their rights through the Proactive Gender Initiatives she founded.
“Our dear sister will certainly continue to be an inspiration to all of us at Concerned Nigerians fighting for justice and equality. May her memory be blessed,” he said.
You’ve risen to the immortals – Hon. Onyejeocha
Writing the late activist the Deputy Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Hon.(Barr) Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said: “I write this with great sadness over the unimaginable loss to the nation, the demise of Barrister Esther Uzoma who was the Convener of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, National Coordinator of Proactive Gender Initiatives (PGI).
“A legal practitioner per Excellence. She stood tall in the fight and the demand to bring to reality equality for Nigerian women.
“She took each day in stride, never always optimistic about growing others and making impact in treating gender based issues.
“This beautiful woman, inside and out, was a wonderful friend to me, a support system to me.
One of her beliefs in life was the importance of being authentic with people, saying what needs to be said.
“I always admired how she never judged or forced her opinions on anyone, but offered valuable and truthful advice and these I will surely miss.
“Esther was special. Dare I say extraordinary!
How do I describe the most selfless person I know? How do I begin to recount the dozens of organizations she helped, the people she inspired, the lives she touched. This is a woman who gave her time and talents to others because she felt called to do so.
“How can I help you?” I can’t be the only person who heard Esther say those words over and over again, no expectation of anything in return. To call her a ‘giver’ doesn’t do her justice. Giving was simply part of her nature.
“You’ve risen to the immortals and now watching over us. Rest on Esther. You will forever remain indelible in our hearts and your legacies will continue to live on.”
… A colossus who made invocations – NUJ
For the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT Council, Esther Uzoma was a colossus who made invocations and more.
In an elegy in honour of the rights activist titled: FARE THEE WELL, ESTHER U-Z-O-M-A, he wrote:
The fires are lit
Maidens in white bearing garlands
For the homecoming of the One who had journeyed greatly
I hear the drums, ancient rhymes for the Deserving
Princess of Anara, Queen of the East, Daughter of Nigeria, Citizen of the World
Even the gods have come to welcome you home.
You were not a happenstance
But refined through time and you shone like a thousand moons.
You who broke asunder the vicissitude of early matrimony.
And cut the bounds of customs so you can say, ‘I’m free, I’m free’
For thousands of others to be FREE!
You walked with the gods and dueled with those who played gods.
You were a colossus who made invocations
For those whose dreams were stolen as young tendrils.
Your voice was not loud but strong and credible.
They called you an activist, but you were just HUMAN
Who knew that gender balance was ideal for HUMANS.
Priestess of law, playful with words
You delighted the vulnerable and intrigued the powerful
You were a riddle, yet understood even by the simple.
Did you hold the tiger by the tail?
Or some took you as toad for supper?
Whatever, you now are garbed in immortality
Even as a thousand songs have been woven for you.
Let those who are guiltless fear not the raging brimstone.
For even the wind discerns when it wishes.
Princess of Light, Voice of widows, orphans and downtrodden.
Tell the gods you ran well, many battles were won and even no Many more will be.
Fare thee well, Esther U-z-o-m-a!
It’s irreplaceable loss – Minister, Women Affairs
The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has expressed shock over the sudden death of Human Rights Lawyer and Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Barrister Esther Uzoma.
The minister, in a press statement, Saturday in Abuja, said: “It’s unbelievable that this dynamic icon of hope and great crusader for gender justice, Barr. Esther Uzoma, is gone forever. What an irreplaceable loss. My heart bleeds!
“Her demise at this time has left a big vacuum in our crusade to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) not only in Nigeria but the world at large. This is indeed a great loss to humanity, especially women and children.
“I recall my last interaction with her in December on an NTA programme and thereafter at a programme she organised on the platform of her NGO, Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI), at the Secretariat of the NUJ Abuja, on that same day.
“Esther was truly committed to the cause of promoting equality at all quarters. She stood for the truth, she was a worthy ally and a great partner of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs. She was a dedicated partner, who at short notice would honour an invitation to support us.
“She was charismatic, energetic, resilient, dependable, her distinct voice held sway for women and children, including the girl-child. She surely left her foot prints in the sand of times. She left an indelible mark in the gender world. She came, she saw and she conquered.
“I, therefore join all Nigerian women and children at this trying time to commiserate with her family on this irredeemable loss. May her gentle soul rest In peace with the Lord.”
It’s great loss to gender activism – DG NCWD
In the same vein, the Director-General, National Centre For Women Development, Mary Ekpere-Eta ESQ, stated: “I received with shock and deep sorrow the news of the passing of frontline gender activist, Barrister Esther Uzoma.
“Her death is a great loss to gender activism in Nigeria. This is because Barrister Uzoma lived her mantra, that women’s rights are human rights. There are many testimonies of how she helped women fight for their rights.
“Barrister Uzoma’s portfolio is replete with cases which she got justice for survivors of Sex and Gender Based Violence.
“She used the law to fight rapists, child molesters, wife-beaters and other persons who trampled on the rights of women. More admirable is the fact that she handled many of these cases pro-bono.
“As a strong voice, Barrister Uzoma always spoke in support of women as important players in the electoral process as a member of the Civil Societies Situation Room on Elections. It is heartbreaking that she died weeks after she was elected as chairperson of the coalition.
“Women of Nigeria many of who knew the late lawyer and activist, as an ever ready ally and collaborator on issues which will better the lives of women take solace in the fact that our late comrade lived a life worthy of commendation, so much that her passing has solicited eulogy which shows that a genuinely committed social entrepreneur can contribute to change and positively affect lives.
“I condole with her family, staff of her Non-Governmental Organisation, Proactive Gender Initiatives, and members of Situation Room. I pray for the repose of her soul and for God’s protection over those she left behind.”
On his part, Chief SM Essienekak of Stand for Rights Initiative (SRi) wrote:
Madam Esther, You just walked away
You did not tell me you will this soon gone.
Now, what then would happen to that girl child violated and brutalized by the almighty Nigeria Police incarcerated for over three months?
Would she now get Justice when you are no more?
You are so quick to walk away?
Barr. Esther, what would happen to the girl you single- handedly paid and sponsored her residency at Save – Haven?
And did you say good night to her before you died?
Learned senior, who will now take care of these vulnerable, the weak, the humiliated
Infamously violated and rejected by the very government that was set up to cover and protest them?
You just only walked away.
What about them?
Most distinguished senior lawyer.
What about those women?
The most brutalized and traumatized hunted by the memories of the heavy bangs of numerous slaps of violent husbands and lover men?
What about those violated infants taken from the slums and gutters of our territorial streets with unidentified and unknown donors you stood for?
The cases in court
A petition at human rights
Who will do them?
Esther Uzoma, have you forgetting the tapestry of the probonic known matri-causes taken to salvage families at the brim?
So, from now on whom will the causes and cost lie on?
You just walked away
Esther, to whom have you given your big briefed shoes to wear?
Who shall hold your brief?
On whose legs can your shoes ever fit?
Shoes over-burden with cares and concerns of a stranger.
Whom have you named and trained to be comforting the weary Nigerian whose lives are already ruined by the shameless political leaders of our state with no clues?
The fine lawyer
The voice of the voiceless
Umbrella to homeless
The hanky that wife the Poor’s eye
Lawyer of the poor
You were everything to everyone
Yes, but you just walked away!
Esther you did not give directions and instructions about the cases upcoming in courts.
Who will your brief hold again?
You just walked away!