It is a known fact that Katherine had eight girls while Ifeoma had two boys and two girls. Even though he later took a third wife, she was domiciled in Onitsha while Ifeoma lived with him in Lagos.
However, this is not the gist for today. The real gist is a highly documented exposé on how this stunning beauty who wedded the late mogul in the early ’70s has become the most cash-loaded society matriarch today.
The late Ekene dili Chukwu was the pioneer transporter in the entire transport industry even before the civil war he had become the richest Igbo man living. His transport business grew in leaps and bounds that he was very recognized both at home and abroad, but he was not a man to show off his wealth
However, his wife Ifeoma was the direct opposite, gorgeous, stylish, and very delectable. She launched herself into the mainstream of the Nigerian elite and became an instant hit with other matriarchs like Abba Folawiyo, Ita Giwa, Erelu Ojuolape Ojora, the late Maryam Babangida and too many others to mention. She knew that building her profile and contact base outside a very hostile polygamous setting was going to come in handy someday. In 1980 she was honoured with the prestigious chieftaincy title of Obidie (the heart of her husband) from the Obi of Nnewi while Ekene dili Chukwu was also conferred with the Eze Onwa Netiliora Nnewi (the moon that shines for all).
He travelled with her all over the world and took her to almost all his business trips abroad. More than anybody else, she knew where everything was kept in terms of money, bonds and equity. When he died, while other family members were running helter-shelter to ensure they had it secured, she gladly walked in through her Ekene Jnr to take over the reins of power in the Ilodibe household.
This journey did not start today, while he was alive Ifeoma ensured she had unlimited access to funds to play with and it reflected in her jewelry collection. For the benefit of those who do not know, Ifeoma Ilodibe is the grand dame of the jewelry world. Unlike most society ladies who grant interviews and talk about their collection Ifeoma does not do style magazines, red carpet or grant interviews to talk about her style but those who really matter in the scheme of things will tell you that she is a known name amongst the top jewelers in Rome, Milan and the prestigious Hatton Garden in London which is the diamond capital of Europe. She acquired them with reckless abandon and has since upped her game after the death of her husband. From Topaz to Citrine to Amethyst, to Lapis Lazuli she has them in unquantifiable measures.
At the recent wedding of Maiden Ibru’s daughter, most society ladies marveled at the peacock-like confederated huge diamonds she was wearing; also at Folorunsho Alakija’s wedding party for her son weeks back she wore ornamented bangles the size of a moving trailer and at Teju Phillip’s wedding party on the Island months back she teamed the red and gold lace with the most intricately formulated gold piece. She was a spectacle to behold. It was the talk of the day and in recent times she hasn’t missed any party; from Ebenezer Obey’s 70th birthday party to Stella Okoli’s award ceremony at the Golden Gate, she is always there looking five million dollars solid and hand in hand with her best friend Atinuke Abioro, wife of late multi billionaire Chief Bolarinwa Abioro.
Since the death of her husband she has been entangled in a legal war with her step children and the third wife who happens to be a lawyer, but for Ifeoma, being lawyer matters not because she is connected to high heavens. Augustine Ilodibe used to be about the biggest shareholder in Coca-cola Nigeria and his daughter Njideka Ilodibe represented him on the board but she has since been sacked and Ifeoma has taken over but the main gist is that the super jewelry icon has sold and is still selling off most of the shares that gave them a seat on the board.
She has also sold off most of the trucks used in the transport business but insiders claim the reason is because while they slug it out in court, Ifeoma is the one in possessions and powerful she has become that after the will was read and Ekene included his brothers as trustees of his estate, they all ran away and never took that position, as the fear of Obidie is the beginning of wisdom.
The third wife who is a lawyer tried everything she could to make their husband write a fair will, but he refused, insisting that Ekene Jnr would take care of everyone in his absence, making her to allegedly push him down on the floor during the early days of his sickness. Ifeoma who is believed to have just bought a luxury property in the super posh West London is an undisputably dignified high flyer. There is a quiet saying amongst most society women that there is no woman of Ibo extraction who can stand beside her in the bling department. For almost 40 years she has collected timeless and exotic trinkets from the best craftsmen around the globe. She even has a folklore song to her name: OBIDIE BI ILODIBE, ONYE SOLU GI BE EWEN, O KU JI OKPA NA NI. Meaning the heart and soul of Chief Ilodibe, if any woman tries to take your elephant steps, she will just break her legs.
All these prepared her for her present role but today most elders of Nnewi believe she has gone beyond limit. The family compound in Nnewi is a huge collection of properties with a house built for every member of the family but her son Ekene Jnr is the head and has the final say. She has through the powers of her son locked out every member of the family from their inheritance, meaning if you want to travel home for anything you will sleep in the hotel on your own expenses. Everyone agrees this is the height of malice and wickedness, she hardly goes home and even when she does she has her own house within that premises but she is obviously power drunk and does not care.
The marriage to Ogbuefi Nnayelugo Augustine Ilodibe has had its own storms but Ifeoma always comes out on tops. In 1987, against all odds the late multi-billionaire took a third wife in the person of Ngozi Pauline Ilodibe and they proceeded on honeymoon to Europe.
On their return to the country, Ifeoma refused to let them into their Allen Avenue mansion claiming it was her matrimonial home and no intruder would be tolerated. Chief immediately drove down to Dodan Barracks and within hours returned to the mansion with military men who threw her out of the house. She was not going to go down without a fight so she engaged him in a bitter press war that he considered irrelevant, until she began to expose some of their most treasured secrets to the press.
The Umunnas (council of elders in the village) now got involved and at that peace meeting, Ekene dili Chukwu made it clear to the Ibeto (Ifeoma’s) family that he had more than enough wealth to cater for 20 wives and that only his first wife Catherine Uduoyibo had the moral right to stop him from picking a new wife because she alone suffered with him, he said Obidie had come after the money had arrived.
When she returned after that incident she changed gear and realized that she had to up her game thus she remained in Lagos with him and Ngozi remained in Onitsha. While the late Chief was alive he always told his son Ekene that he should ensure that everyone was taken care of after his death as he had more than enough to go around the entire family. That explains why most of his estate was left to Ekene jnr.
On two occasions, Ekene jnr. had called a secret family meeting to try to resolve the inheritance fight and this meeting excluded his mum. He felt there was no need for this acrimony and by the third meeting the powerful mum had gotten wind of the secret and the entire process was terminated.
To show that other children especially the first wife are not tired of battling her to claim what rightly belong to them, on Sunday, July 1st, 2012, the children of the first wife put up a paid advert in a national newspaper remembering their late parents but the content of their message has even come to overshadow the remembrance: “Orphans We Are Now, We Remain Strong And Resolute, Relying Mainly On The Virtues You Bequeathed On Us To Survive All The Challenges That Life Brings.” Everyone knows who they are referring to.
Their protracted legal war with their step mum over their inheritance
They are the children of Catherine Ilodibe who truly wedded Ekene in the Catholic Church, as his first love; they more than deserve their share of the huge estate. Two of the step daughters are lawyers, their husbands are lawyers, the third wife a lawyer too but one needs more than a dozen SANs to crack the woman called Obidie, said one of the family members and to show that she is also battle-ready, she has since signed on fiery lawyer Festus Feyamo to be the sole administrator of the estate.
Most friends of the late chief have been tempted to ask rhetorically: “How many diamonds can one wear? how many Chopard and Rolex can one acquire? how many gold and freshwater pearls can you adorn? how many luxury Mercedes Benz can u ride in? But to Ifeoma those opinion are inconsequential. She has the heir and he owns all. Period.
She controls her son Ekene jnr. 150 per cent and he takes no decision without her knowledge, a smart power player she disengaged almost all the Nnewi staff in the family business while her husband was alive and employed people from far region, of course this was in line with her game plan of tolerating no sabotage.
This extremely fashion conscious woman can be said to have done her assignment very early in the marriage. She has come out today as the true person she is; she never partied before while he was alive and not at this rate, the only reason why she is not known to the ordinary Lagos woman is because she is convinced that those who really have shouldn’t talk about it.
By the time the court case will be over nothing might be in the coffers again and unlike in the Western countries where judgments are made retroactive, it is not a common thing here.
One might not miss if she is called the new dragon lady but her albatross as her enemies allege is that her son Ekene has been married for a long time now with no child, confirming the word that all is vanity.
Who are you the securing all these billions for? That is the question all the Nnewi people are asking The Ilodibe household is one to watch with keen interest as more dramas unfold.