Matriarch, Elder Stateswoman, Entrepreneur
Bernice Baratuapre Orubo was a respected Ogbia personality that also kept footprints on the sands of time in the Niger Delta space. She was a formidable woman leader that promoted the girl-child and women’s development in the early 70’s.
Madam Bernice Baratuapre Orubo was a daughter of a foremost Lay Reader from Ogbia kingdom. No doubt, she was quite pretty and a sought after in her spry and formative age in Otuabagi community. At age 17, she was married to a man of affluence from her community Otuabagi. She was a home builder and a virtuous woman worthy of emulation. From in the 1970’s, she thought it wise to empowering the Ogbia women on the true essences of womanhood and family development.
She was among the pioneer girl-child advocates from the Ogbia tribe that shaped her kinswomen on how to be self-reliant, productive and resilient. Her kindness and godliness towards any person was too impeccable. Madam Bernice Baratuapre Orubo a widely traveled matriarch. Most especially, she was a staunched member of the Anglican faith that kept to the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Mrs B.B. Orubo as fondly called passed on sometime in June 2022 at a good age of 90.
Madam Bernice Baratuapre Orubo was born on the 29th of February 1932 into the family of late Lay Reader A.A Idumesaro and late Mrs Awa Rhoda Idumesaro (nee Etaki), both of Otuabagi in Ogbia Local Government Area of former Eastern Nigeria now Bayelsa state. She was the first of four children and only daughter. Her parents were staunch Christian as her father late Mr. A.A Idumesaro was one of the pioneer Lay Readers of the present Ogbia Anglican Church Deaconry.
Mrs B.B Orubo as she was fondly called grew up with her parents in Otuabagi, they were peasant farmers who traveled around the coastal area selling their farm produce. That made her assume the role of a mother to her younger ones at a tender age which created a strong bond with her predeceased brothers; Clever A. Idumesaro, Marlin Jeremiah Idumesaro and Ibor Idumesaro. It is worthy say here, her brothers were great minds that imparted the old Rivers state positively and made their marks.
Bernice Baratuapre Orubo was quite brilliant while growing up. She enrolled at the St. Clement Primary School, Otuabagi and she did well. Subsequently, She abruptly stopped her elementary education at standard four. This was due to the command of father who was anti-feminist at the time. It was a norm then, the girl-child must not be educated. So, she got married and stopped her education at the insistence of her dad.
At age 17, beautiful Mrs B.B. Orubo, was one of the most sought after maidens when she was a young, she got married to Mr. Robebe Sylvanus Orubo a man affluence in 1949. He was a staff of Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC). Subsequently, she moved with her husband to Zaria, Lagos and later to Port Harcourt. Her sojourn in these parts of Nigeria enable her to speak the Hausa and Yoruba languages fluently. In view of, improve her background, she attended courses in Sewing and Catering with Singer Sewing School, Broad Street Lagos and Catering School at Health Center, Ebute-meta, Lagos state.
She was blessed with Six biological children (Four alive and Two deceased), Three adopted children Seven-laws, Seventeen grand children and Two great grand-children.
As a wife and mother, she was a most supportive, dedicated, caring and loving woman who was a backbone to her husband and family. Mrs B.B. Orubo supported and encouraged him in his career and ventured into several businesses to assist her family, including buying and selling, general contracts, farming etc. She was a major distributor with carbonated drinks and had shops where she conducted her various businesses.
Mama never allowed her educational qualification deter her from achieving and breaking barriers, she was confidence and intelligent enough to hold conversations with leaders in society from all walks of life. She traveled around the world with her family in the late 70s, early 80s and later in the 90s. Mama always visited her children in parts of the globe, especially during childbirths and dedications with the customary Agbara fish (big Tilapia), spices and clothes for both mother and child. In early 2000’s mama traveled severally to spend time with her son and family in UK (London).
Motherhood was seemliness to mama, she was a very loving and supportive mother, a disciplinarian who believed in the saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” and at the same time a loving and doting mother, a first class host as her home was always to all; her siblings, children’s friends, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and neighbors. You don’t visit Mama at her residents 24 Harold Wilson Drive, Borokiri, Port Harcourt without getting entertained. Severally, she gave out her last penny just to assist others, and more also, she was a firm believer that God will provide for tomorrow and it worked for her as it is written in Matthew 6:31-34 which says
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek”. For your heavenly father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. “34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things, sufficient for the day it its own trouble.
Most especially mama was a very neat person; her residents were as clean as the Buckingham Palace United Kingdom.
Mama was love personified, she never forgot the birthday of any of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, she would even borrow just to give a little gift for their birthdays. She was passionate about families staying together, her slogan when you complain to her about your siblings and other relatives was Wele e!. meaning (Let It Be).
Mama as later called was a devout Christian, she served God diligently throughout her life. An Anglican by birth. She continued her membership of her home church, St Stephen Anglican church, Otuabagi, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa state, where she supported the church both financially and spiritually through prayers. More so, She was a member of St. Cyprian’s Anglican church, Port Harcourt for over 50 years, she belonged to various groups in the church and was a founding member of some of these groups which includes:
- Mother’s union/Women’s guide
- Young women’s christian association
- Young adults
- Bible Society of Nigeria
She served in different capacities in the church like:
- Member Diocesan Emergency Planning Committee 1983
- Member Steward Guild of Cyprian’s Anglican Church 1990-1991 and much more
Also, in recognition of her services in the vineyard of the lord, some of these groups the belonged bestowed on her some awards such as:
- Women’s Guild Conference Mother 2015
- Patron of Young Adult Society 2015
- Bible Society of the day 2019 and lots more.
Mama loved God and devoted her time in serving Him. She read the Bible daily and never missed a church service on Sunday prayer and fasting meetings on Wednesdays and Class on Friday excerpt she was ill or out of town and above all prayed fervently for all her children.
Suffice it to say, Mama was a strong woman even during her trials of life, like Job in christian literature text. Her two sons died untimely sometime in the 80s and 2014 respectively, and with other challenges of life while she was in her spry. In all this, She encouraged herself in God and was never despaired.
Mama was an achiever through self effort, a pacesetter and strong role model for both men and women. She was an advocate of self reliance at the same time an advocate for strong family bond which is greater and more important than any form of personal achievements one can have.
In the late 70’s, She was one of the founding member of Ogbia brotherhood women’s wing, a sociopolitical group of the ogbia people. She was a co-founder of a sociopolitical group called Odionin Kabai (meaning Unity Is The Best) in 1979. This group led to the empowerment and enhancement of the Ogbia women. The group which started in Port Harcourt was later taken on road tours, that led to the enlightenment of women in many villages in Ogbia, old rivers state. She was an active member of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the late 70’s and early 80’s and also she was actively involved in the campaigns that brought Chief Melford Obiene Okilo in as Governor of the then Rivers state.
It is worthy to state, Mama belonged to a group of three notable women with like minds that fostered the early civilization of the Ogbia women. These Three women worked in love and unison to ensure that the Ogbia woman competed favorably with her counterparts in old Rivers state (Bonnys, Opobos, Nembes Kalabaris, Okirikas etc). The trio taught the ogbia women how to play politics, how to be self-reliant, how to dress, how to marry and how to maintain a happy and peaceful home. The importance of the girl child education was advocated by these women.
These three wise women were:
1. Late Mrs Fidelia Osain- Leader
2. Late Mrs Bernice Orubo – 2nd in command
3. Late Mrs Dinah Ben Kalango
She was also the founder of a cultural group called Ibebawianazza Otuabagi, meaning (meaning the Beautiful Girls of Otuabagi) in the 80’s which cased the rich cultural heritage of the ogbia people through dance and costumes, a co-founder of Abagi Development Union in Port Harcourt whose aim was to champion the cause of development in her community. Mrs B.B. Orubo was custodian of the rich culture of the Ogbia nation and by extension the Ijaw Nation. Mama was made a patron in some group which promoted unity and self improvement like Abagi Ambassadors of Otuabagi.
Upon the creation of Bayelsa state in 1996, she was formally recognized by the then Bayelsa state First lady Chief Mrs. Margaret Alamieyeseigha as one of the well respected Elder States Women in the state for her contribution towards the development of womanhood.
Madam Bernice Baratuapre Orubo passed on 9th June 2022 due to natural causes. She was Interred on 3rd December, 2022 at Otuabagi community.
Madam Bernice Baratuapre Orubo will be missed by a lot of people, especially the Anglican parish churches of St Cyprian’s and St Stephen’s Port Harcourt and Ogbia respectively.