Understanding Ebelechukwu Obiano’s Crusade For Women & Children

By AUSTEN CHUDI ANYAEJI

Before the advent of the Better Life for Rural Women programme, by the wife of former military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, late Mrs Miriam Babangida, the role of Nigerian First Ladies was contestable.

Emerging at the end of non-dignifying Women's Liberation era of the late 70s, the role of the woman was more in the kitchen than elsewhere. The role of the wives of our Heads of State was nominal, and restricted to ceremonies that gave them the status of a mere appendage than any dignified state sequence. The main argument in support of this situation was its non-constitutionality, stressing that any role or position not founded in the constitution is ultra vires, null and void.

Miriam Babangida changed the grund norm by a convention which subsists to date, leaving initiative with creative First Ladies, to use their propinquity to power, to address societal problems that touch their hearts, and extend succor and gratia to the segment of society not covered by budget or conventional governmental planning.

While budgeting provides more cursory and holistic projections, the First Ladies' pet programmes provide more direct interventions in non-formal ways. For example, Better Life For Rural Women x-rayed the problems and potentialities of rural women as the latent unexploited treasures of our neglected hinterlands. Under this programme, many family empowerment programmes were initiated, for the first time, bringing government close to rural dwellers, mainly women, hitherto under the nattering macho chauvinism of men.

International interest was evoked and innumerable accolades were won from all over the globe, especially donor agencies under the canopy of the donor agencies, genuinely concerned with the recession of the afflictions of under-development. The MDG is a resolution of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) to tackle the unacceptable widening of gap between the haves and have-nots, especially the so-called developed and developing nations. Unfortunately, some governments have only paid lip service to this noble project, while others use it as mere showmanship and grandstanding.

There are reports of some state governments diverting the MDG loans to less noble areas, only performing on the pages of newspapers, radio and television. We have heard of some state governments that claim to have provided computers to schools without electricity to power them, or worse still, obsolete, decrepit computers of no use or relevance.

In Anambra State under the watch of the first Lady, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano(Osodieme), a silent revolution is going on under her pet project, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative(CAFE).

According to Mrs Obiano, CAFE aims at giving meaning to the dispossessed and disadvantaged, particularly, the wretched of the earth. A woman of great cerebral prodigy, the amiable Anambra State First Lady, a six footer, philosophizes (apparently referring to Jeane Jacques Rosseau) that though man was born free, but is everywhere found in chains.

A good Roman Catholic and Christian Mother, Mrs Obiano said that for long, it has been the passion of she and her beloved husband, His Excellency Governor Willie Obiano to reduce the pains of poverty, hunger ignorance, disease and avoidable death.

It was in recognition of this, that the Aguleri Royal cabinet long ago honoured him with the title of Akpokuedike(meaning the clarion call for the hero). Indeed, no title is more apt for a couple who have doled out scholarships to indigent students, food for the hungry, care for the old, motherless, childless, sick and all, pressed by life's vicissitudes.

Without much publicity or noise, within six months, Mrs Obiano has traversed the nooks and crannies of Anambra State, combing and picking the pieces of those shattered by life's inequalities, not for any fault of theirs. Recently, she had devoted her birthday to this class of citizens whom she brought to the governor's lodge and danced with them in turn treating them to the choicest cuisine. By sheer physical intervention, she has reduced the low male enrolment in schools, which malaise had deposited a huge mass fluidity of human anonymity on the State's streets, serving as recruitment grounds for miscreants.

Basden Memorial Secondary School Isulo, Orumba South Local Government Area, is an example of the "magic" of this affable, First Lady, the worthy mother of ndi Anambra. A neglected school for the deaf and dumb, and other physically challenged children, the First Lady, has put smiles on their faces with the provision of potable water via a water borehole, renovated classrooms and dormitories, food and automatic scholarships.

The widows are not left out, by the provision of economic empowerment through the provision of equipment for cottage industries. She has highlighted the cutting-edge of non-formal education as a perfect augmentation for pedagogy with her institution of vocational courses for young girls in the state, to equip them with crucial surviving skills.

Mrs Obiano's onslaught on the yawning wants and needs of her beloved Anambra people is daunting and gargantuan. Never, in recent history, have Anambra people witnessed this kind of compassionate humanism.

As the magic year of 2015 for the realization of the MDG draws near, there is no doubt that the CAFE project would have contributed its noble quota towards its realization in Anambra State.

AUSTEN CHUDI ANYAEJI
writes from OKIJA, IHIALA LGA, ANAMBRA STATE.

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