Ebiere Portia Peretei
PROFILE OF PORTIA OLARENWAJU PERETEI ( 1968- 1997)
Born on 7th May, 1968 to Cambridge trained Classics Graduate Mr. Lawrence Iroju and a School teacher Mrs Selina Ireti Iroju, the new born baby was named Portia. There is no doubt her father gave her this name bearing in mind the heroine of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Portia, a rich, beautiful, and intelligent heiress. She was the second child from her mother’s nine children that included two sets of twins. At Ejiwumi Maternity Home, Ebute-meta, Lagos where shouts of joy rented the air and both parents received congratulatory messages, the delicate, supple, fair complexioned baby girl appeared ready to conquer the world with her striking beauty.
Mr. Lawrence Iroju, who was Vice-Principal of the prestigious St. Finbar’s College, Akoka, Lagos out of excitement gave the girl a second name “Olarenwaju” which approximate translation means, “growing in wealth”.
As the baby began to grow, she bore these two names with poise and elegance, reminiscent of her privileged background and nomenclature. Her elementary school began in Lagos, through Ugbo-Nla in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo to First African Church Primary School, Arogbo, dotting the curve of her father’s transfer who by this time was a first Grade School Principal. When, Mr. Iroju arrived Arogbo,Ondo State, his birth place to resume as Principal of Ijaw National High School in 1979, the entire community celebrated his patriotism and willingness to contribute to development of an area that is generally referred to as “difficult to develop”.
In 1980, Portia was admitted into Class 1, at Ijaw National High School, where her father presided as Principal and a strict disciplinarian. At school, she conducted herself with the comportment expected of her status. Participating in Sporting activities, Literary and Debating Society, Dances and Drama. Perhaps, her name Portia drew her more to Arts or her father’s training impacted on her. But before completing secondary school education, the cold hands of death snatched Mr. Lawrence Iroju, leaving behind his family on 25th August,1983.
The responsibility to provide for eight children fell squarely on the shoulders of a widow whose salary as a teacher could hardly suffice to maintain even smaller family. Only Portia’s immediate elder sister ( Victoria) herself a teenager then provided marginal support for mother and siblings from her earnings as a Policewoman. This was the fatality that created an impediment for her further education after she graduated from College in 1985.
The craving to also be of support took on form in 1987 when she was employed by the National Directorate of Employment, NDE attached to the Ministry of Works, Okitipupa. She later transferred to Okitipupa Local Government Council in 1991. Those who crossed her path in the course of her duties talk about her soft spokeness, Queenly steppings, doggedness, fearlessness, generosity and disarming smile.
She met her childhood heartthrob, Kennedy Ikantu Peretei, an Author, Educationist and Journalist who was three years her senior in Ijaw National High School, Arogbo and they agreed to journey together through life. This Union was blessed with two wonderful daughters- Tonbra Peretei and Edisemi Peretei. By 1994, she resigned from the Local Government Service to engage in business and join her husband in Sango Ota, Ogun State. She had a thriving outfit that provided frozen foods and other household consumables. She was a generous giver who if she cooked delicious recipe would invite neighbors and friends to partake. Always ready to assist.
With the creation of Ese-Odo Local Government Council in January, 1997, the family relocated to Akure to enable her husband participate more actively in politics, instead of the weekly travels that kept him away most of the time. It was also thought that based on her experience with the Local Government, there may be a few things she could do with them. But she was already heavily pregnant. She registered at the General Hospital, Akure since the ante natal registration she did at the Ota General Hospital could not be transferred. The days developed into weeks and the weeks grew into months as another baby was expected in the house. On that sad Sunday afternoon, April 6, 1997, she reported at the Akure State Specialist Hospital, with the baby things she procured in anticipation of a male child she had always wished.
There were some complications in the labour room, and she gave up the ghost. Not even the male child made it to life.
She lived a very brief life, but she lived it to the fullest. To the Glory of God, the two little girls she left behind have grown to be Giants. Tonbra is a Lawyer, Called to the Nigerian Bar in 2012, while Edisemi is a Pilot trained at the Pilot Training Network a company under Lufthansa, Germany after a Bachelors Degree in Biochemistry.
The Foundation in her honour is just to continue the good works she was known for while here, and for those behind to savor the memories of shared love.
Mr. Peretei (Husband & Father)