Edith Okowa and the 05 Initiative
Since the days of late Maryam Babangida and her epochal pet project of `better life for rural women`, Nigeria`s First Lady at the national or state level has taken upon themselves to float one pet programme or the other for the advancement of humanity. This is perhaps in line with the biblical injunction that the spouse should be the help mate of the husband. In other words, instead of idling away, most first ladies engage themselves to uplift the living standard of the people and put smiles on the less privileged members of the society. Here in Delta state, the wife of the state governor, Mrs Edith Okowa, about two years ago floated the 05 Initiative as a way of reaching to the orphans, those in prison and some medically challenged persons.
Mrs Okowa explains the vision and mission of the 05 Initiative: ` So my project, 05 Initiative, is neither a political concept nor a subtle social strategy to ``belong``. It is not a veiled attempt to impress anyone, it is rather a divine mandate that is rooted in the scriptures and epitomizes godly love and care. In driving this vision, transparency and accountability are imperatives. Hence we had to set up a Board of Trustees to superintend the operations of the non-governmental organization. Again we have been careful not to neglect or negate any aspect of the five fold mandate. In other words, we have been guided and will continue to ensure that all our activities are geared towards either feeding or quenching the thirst of the hungry, ministering to the sick, accommodating the homeless, visiting the prisoner or clothing the naked. This vision came with a corresponding passion to drive it. Though current economic indices make every form of charity and philanthropy challenging, yet passion and compassion for the less privileged kept tugging at my consciousness and compelling me to do something to cushion the pains of this class of people`.
Thus the focus of the programme is to extend hand of fellowship to those in prison by giving them drugs, providing borehole for them and constant visits and spreading the gospel to the inmates and the need to be of good behaviour. In the area of health care, the pet project saw the equipping of sickle clinics at the hospitals in Agbor, Sapele and Ughelli. There is also the visit to orphanage homes across the state and providing them with food, clothes and medicine.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) lauds the programme describing it as practical evangelism. Listen to him: ‘If you have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, there is need to reach out to the less privileged. You can be the angel that will bring succour to the needy. I thank God for the wife of the Delta State Governor and Founder of the 05 Initiative. Her Excellency, Dame Edith Okowa who has made it her life-long mission to lend a helping hand to the poor and needy. It is a conscious effort to preach the gospel in words and deeds. It is not enough to hear the word but to be doers of the word. Now is the time to ``walk the talk``. I am amazed at the number of projects the 05 Initiative has carried out in just one year of existence. These projects in different parts of the state have brought joy to the lives of many`.
The sentiments of the man of God found practical ventilation in many parts of the state with prisoners enjoying the borehole and medicine provided by the spouse of the governor, many orphans being told that they are not neglected by the society and the sick especially those challenged with sickle cell anaemia that there is hope to live as somebody is around to remove tears from their faces.
Mrs Okowa revealed her passion for visiting the prisons: ` As a matter of philosophy I have chosen to always celebrate with the less privileged, those at the lowest rung of the ladder of life and society. That was how I ended up celebrating the 2015 edition of my birthday, which coincided with my first day in office as First Lady of Delta state in the company of the inmates of the Ogwashi-Uku prisons.... Lest I forget 05 Initiative had also secured the release of some inmates at both Ogwashi-Uku and Sapele prisons by paying option of fine for them, equipping and supplying drugs to their clinics. God willing, we shall certainly do more`.
The director-general of the 05 Initiative is Mrs Oghenekwve Agas, the wife of the secretary to the state government, Honourable Ovie Agas. She is in fact the engine room of the programme and the administrative hub. In one of the programmes outreach, Mrs Agas said that the project was desirous of sustaining its sensitization and advocacy programme on sickle cell to help in enlightening the people especially the carriers. She further revealed that the scheme was established to ensure that the survival rate of people with sickle cell disorder was higher, adding that the essence of the equipment in the clinics at Sapele, Agbor and Ughelli was to eradicate encumbrances faced by `Survival and Success` clients in accessing health facilities.
Ogochuckwu Okonta Nwachukwu, a sickle cell patient and a beneficiary of 05 Initiative`s intervention shares his experience: `Since my parents died, life, understandably became tough for my siblings and I – we are five and I am the eldest. All we had to fall back on was the garri business my mum left behind. Because the business was a low scale one, the proceeds could hardly feed us, let alone paying rent and school fees. That was how I dropped out of school to face the business so I could feed my younger ones. The hand-to-mouth existence continued until someone introduced us to 05 Initiative. Gladly our situation has improved tremendously. Feeding is no longer a challenge for us; my siblings and I are back to school, we now have a roof over our heads and so much more, all courtesy of the 05 Initiative. On behalf of my siblings, I wish to express our gratitude to the Founder of 05 Initiative and her team for allowing God to use them to help us.`
Another beneficiary, Mrs Hephzibah Oluwadare was full of gratitude to the spouse of the Delta State Governor. She poured out her heart of gratitude: `In the last 11 years, I have been confined to a wheel chair because my hip bones were affected. Worse still, I had to drop out of school. But the good news is that my life has made tremendous progress since last year when I was introduced to 05 Initiative. All my hospital bills, including my ante and neo-natal treatments had been defrayed by the NGO. What is more, all my baby`s things were provided by the NGO upon delivery`.
Throughout the length and breadth of the state, hope has been planted in the lives of hopeless people, food given to the hungry, medicine to the sick and home for the homeless. The echoes of Dame Edith Okowa message continue to vibrate: `If God has blessed you in anyway. Be a blessing to others. It is by the grace of God that we are living. Think of how to help others and if you do not have the means, show love, it will go a long way`. Nothing could be more apt than that.