Originally Written by Maria Onyia
Edited by Daniel Chukwuemeka
There are several women who are referred to as strong, successful, independent, focused, and determined. They have framed and continue to frame the determination of women and young girls (and boys) to be self-sufficient and supportive in their spheres of influence. Not only have they made exceptional contributions to society, these women are known to have (had) a deep-seated passion for purposeful leadership leading to timeless legacies.
One of such women is the one we refer to as an uncommon visionary, a legend of the ages, Mrs. Amaka Lauretta Ndoma-Egba. Her story speaks of one who tightly aligned passion, purpose, principles and remains a reference point to all committed to making a positive difference where they find themselves.
Early in life, Amaka and I worked as pioneer staff of Diamond bank, Calabar, and quickly became friends. Everyone was Amaka’s buddy because though beautiful and very sophisticated, she was, at the same time, amiable and unassuming. Meeting her, I wondered if she lifted a finger towards any chore. The hair, nails, lashes, unique accessories, and all the works would make anyone think she was being attended to permanently. Then I got the shocker when she asked me to follow her home to pound yam for her husband during our short lunch break. Pound what yam, I thought to myself? You can pound yam? How? Why? She responded by saying Victor is very good to her, and if all she can do is make fresh food for him daily, she’s willing to take off her heels and jacket and cook the food. For the period we spent together in that branch, I watched her rush to market, cook, clean, care, fix, design, and pamper Victor. She effectively co-ordinated the home and office affairs while maintaining that DIVA look. I remember the day we almost joined labourers in laying marble tiles to surprise her husband. I learned that one could be a great wife at home and a super successful professional.
Years after we left Diamond Bank, Amaka was in the USA to put to bed, and we discussed career prospects. I remember that day vividly. I had started teaching, and Amaka needed to venture into something different. We considered interior design because she is creative. We discussed a superstore for accessories; we looked into estate development and management and then thought of Educational Services. For the love of children, Amaka settled for Education and established Start-Rite Schools. From one structure housing the Nursery to the current state of the art mini-city accommodating K-12 Programme, Start-Rite is one of the best schools in Nigeria and maybe in Africa. In facility quality, curriculum content and design, pedagogy, assessment tools and procedures, intervention, students’ achievement, teacher quality, leadership quality, extracurricular activities, etc., Start-Rite is a step away from the best. It’s been years of hard work. Arduous work and dedication to the cause of child development, and we are still aiming higher. Amaka is permanently on a mission to make her school exceptional.
If we speak ten times, seven out of the ten are brainstorming sessions on how to move ahead and become even better. We have little or no time for cheap chats, and when it comes to regulating our organisations, we do not suffer fools. Amaka has zero sentiments when dealing with anything or anyone that jeopardises the welfare of Start-Rite children or the organisation. She is a passionate and intelligent CEO aiming for excellence in every aspect of the organisation. Yet Amaka remains a dedicated wife, and caring mother to her children and many others who call her mum.
We have had problems, battled demons, and been in circumstances that would bury overtly vulnerable people. Amaka’s first and last suggestion for all difficult situations is “God.” I can’t remember how many times I have heard the phrases ”Mari Mari, na God or God can do anything or Na prayer” and the likes. Amaka has Chapels in all her homes and will also explain why by saying, ”we have a covenant with God or Victor has an agreement with God.” When things get tough, Amaka will pray down a miracle. Amaka is a staunch catholic and a child of God. Many college students have passed through her home. The Chef I met in their home a long while ago is now a graduate and a manager in her organisation.
There are categories of friends. Those who get together to gossip but disappear when you need them. Those who lie to you, lie about you, deceive you and watch you go down the wrong path. Some are with you for what they can gain while others are enemies disguised as friends. Amaka is a different kind of friend. She is brutally honest, loyal to the core, available with wise counsel, and ready to assist if she believes there is a need. Amaka is full of “wisdom and understanding.” With this Fearless, “Alpha” Woman, it is
Mrs. Amaka has built businesses from scratch, faced challenges, struggled, pursued excellence, mentored young people, and given back. She refused to lower standards, compromise on excellence or give up when things get tough. Today, as we celebrate her, we are reminded of the fact that purposeful leadership is not about titles, but total commitment to purpose, habitual excellence and service to humanity. For young people, Mrs. Amaka remains a remarkable example of one whose life’s achievements capture the theme of this year’s memorial lecture. Drawing inspiration from her life, young people must learn to be resilient and utilise God-given potentials in every area, including Godliness, academics, skill acquisition, leadership, entrepreneurship, family, and service to the community towards thriving and succeeding at something. Thriving does not always mean perfect or living without challenges, it also implies strength and determination to give your best in all you do.
The growth and successes recorded in the last two years at Start-Rite Schools is testament to the fact that Mrs. Amaka’s vision is alive and vibrant. At the time of writing this piece, Start-Rite Secondary School was just taking off. From eighteen students in 2018, the secondary school now boasts of over 200 students with a soaring waiting list. It is hoped that young girls (and boys) will learn more about Mrs Amaka and be determined to be better and even bigger versions of this passion driven woman.
I frequently joked with Mrs. Amaka by saying “you are a man,” but the real truth is that you are a….. WO-MAN worthy of celebrating. To all the women (and men) who wake up, go out, toil, break a sweat, fight, and come back bearing fruits with a heart full of love even when they feel unsuccessful, unloved and unappreciated, keep inspiring the younger generation to follow the path of honour.
Originally Written on October 26, 2019
Mrs. Maria Raphael Onyia Ph.D. is a friend to Late Mrs. Amaka Lauretta Ndoma-Egba and the Group Managing Director, Orglearning Consult and Academies