A Swan with Bull-strength (A Tribute to my friend, Dr. Chidi Ikeakor)

After over a week of receiving the news of her death, I’m still unable to articulate what I’m meant to say. It is ironic how oratory fails when you need it the most, like it did me since Chidi’s sister called by 6am on Thursday to tell me of her death. I decided that I would not put up another post until I have said good bye. This is one week and three days after and I’m nowhere better articulated than I was that morning,  but I’ll try in as simple words as I can muster.

I can’t remember how or when I met Chidi, I believe it was in the office, she had come to visit Ari, but I can’t be too sure because it feels like I’ve known her all my life. What I do remember though, is what brought us together and how our relationship formed. I already knew she suffered from sickle cell anaemia before the day she came to meet. Before then I had formed the general bias common with folk with sickle cell anaemia which is; “they are weak and frail” and she fitted the bill; sunshine fair, slim and weighting nothing more than 55kg, she clearly spelt the word ‘fragile’, but boy did she shock my pants off when I got to know her.

She sat down in front of me and without introduction blurted out,

 “P. I need help, I’m disorganised”

My all knowing smile appeared immediately, as if someone offered me cake and ice-cream,” I need help” usually does that to me. Anyway, I asked her to tell me what she does, expecting a list like “I cook before I go to work, and I have to take my cloths to the drycleaners on Saturdays. It is so stressful”. But rather I found out that she runs two NGOs, organises a medical outreach, runs her own private eye clinic and works in the government teaching hospital… and this was almost four years ago.

Within the past four years, Chidi has given me some of the most intriguing experience of my life. From working with her to minister to challenged people in her NGOs to consulting for her clinic and career decisions and above all, comforting and encouraging her as she fought her health challenge which she swore will not keep her under.  We came to become friends and partners with awesome achievements behind us and the entire world ahead of us. It will be understating it to say I will miss her as will the myriad of people she served through all her charities.

I may mourn missing Chidi but I would never mourn her life. She taught me that being strong does not mean that you don’t feel pain or face challenges, but rather it is being able to achieve all you set your mind to do in spite of the pain and obstacles you may face.  She challenged all my whining, complaining and excuse giving. Her ‘I can do’ attitude in the midst of her pain always made me question my excuses to successful living.

Chidi died too soon, not because she died too young, but because she would have done ultimately amazing things if she lived longer. She may have lived in pain, but all she offered the world was succour, encouragement and hope. She never expressed the attitude that life was unfair to her, like most people in her shoes do. She always looked for what would make life better and I had the unfortunate assignment of finding out how.  In my ‘Hall of Fame’ chidi has an unchallenged place, and would forever be an inspiration to me. 

Chidi was once a guest writer for Real Life with Kani, and I think you can meet her and have a first-hand feel of who she was in the write up she did for world sickle cell day. Click here to read it.     

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

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