As Mama Anambra Marks Her Birthday
Certainly any assessment of the humane side of the administration of His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike) would be adjudged incomplete without a cursory glance at the role of his wife, Her Excellency, Dr (Mrs) Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme) who has overtime proved to be a formidable pillar of strength to her husband and the state.
It is worth clarifying that the sobriquet: ‘Mama Anambra’ (Mother-of-the-State) is earned not as a result of old age, but occupying the office of the First Lady of the state. Mrs Obiano earns that appellation just like wives of previous governors – the only exception being Her Excellency, Dame Virgy Etiaba, who transited from Deputy Governor to Governor of the State, and for that spell earned the appellation.
However, it is obvious that in the last six years, Mrs Obiano has distinguished herself like no other in living up to the responsibilities of the name. As Mama Anambra, she is widely acknowledged by friends and foes alike to have shown tremendous capacity as a supportive wife and confidante whose inputs have impacted positively on ndi Anambra and helped to shape the humanitarian achievement index of the present administration.
A strong advocate of the wellbeing of the whole family and sustainable empowerment of rural women, immediately Mrs Obiano got the consent of her husband to operate an office that would enable her to expand the scope of her charity programmes, she set up and formalised her charity-based organisation, the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ), on 1st August 2014. Since the CAFÉ platform birthed, she never looked back in her quest for the economic empowerment of the rural woman. Her determination is re-enforced by her conviction that any initiative that improves the average woman’s economic status and well-being ultimately tackles economic inequality in the society generally.
Thus Mrs Obiano set out to advocate for increased involvement of women in the scheme of things in Anambra. She made that a priority during her annual tour of 181 communities of the state, and the Mothers’ Summit, which heralds the August Meetings to galvanise women towards their development and entrepreneurship. She frowns at the practice of a sit-at-home-wife and encourages active living and collective efforts by women at all levels. Above all, she proffers the advice that while men are heads of the family, women are the neck upon which the head revolves. "One of the ways our men can live long is to reduce their stress level by assisting in family upkeep”, Osodieme emphasised.
A champion of the economic self-reliance of women, Mrs Obiano’s single-minded approach to promoting women empowerment on the platform of CAFÉ has so far provided over 5,350 women, especially indigent widows and youths with training, new skills, and free start-up capital in tailoring and fashion design, soap making, bakery and confectionery, hairdressing and beauty therapy. Other aspects include interior decoration, telephone and computer repairs, and community health assistant services. She also ensured that those engaged in cottage agriculture and petty trading were able to access micro-credit from the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) to boost their ventures.
Worried by the number of indigent widows with no roof over their heads, Osodieme started the CAFÉ Housing for Indigent Widows project and has built 27 bungalows which she donated to beneficiaries in communities across the state.
She agonises over why open defecation remains a scourge even in the 21st century. "In our markets, our women’s self-esteem is at risk, not to mention diseases arising from lack of toilet facilities”, she lamented. To deal with that, she has constructed 22 modern toilets with water boreholes in select rural markets.
Also, to alleviate the stress on rural women who trek long distances in search of portable water, Mrs Obiano has so far constructed 47 water boreholes in communities across the state. It is a recognition of her initiatives in promoting hygiene and healthy environment that the European Union and UNICEF recognised her as Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) Ambassador.
While Governor Obiano has been adjudged the ‘Best Friendly Governor to the Physically-Challenged Persons in Nigeria’, this is largely attributable to a family tradition of caring for persons with disabilities. To date, over 2,000 persons have received free prosthetic limbs and feet, while 1,800 others got free wheelchairs.
The accomplishment of CAFÉ in the treatment and management of over 100 mentally challenged persons with the support of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs reverberates beyond Anambra State. Equally noteworthy is the CAFÉ free cleft lip and palate surgeries performed on persons with congenital mouth disorders. This has been extended to over 100 beneficiaries thereby helping them out of stigmatisation and offering them fresh opportunities in life.
A proven political amazon and great mobiliser, Mrs Obiano devotes time to her motherly role not just for immediate family, but to ndi Anambra, especially women who have found in her a broad shoulder to rest on.
As Mrs Obiano marks her birthday to the glory of God, it is worth highlighting the fact that the charitable programmes she undertakes continue to positively touch the lives of ndi Anambra. And with that has come several awards and recognitions from home and abroad. But despite the many accolades which attest to the fact that she is the consummate Mama Anambra, Osodieme insists that what matters is that “whenever and wherever life is touched, the government has succeeded”.
Emeka Ozumba is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Anambra State