Peerless Osodieme and CAFE 

By Emeka Ozumba 
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As His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike) clocks seven years in office as governor of Anambra State, an assessment of the humane side of his administration would be adjudged incomplete without a cursory glance at the role of his wife Dr. Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme) who has over time proven to be a formidable pillar of strength to her husband and the State.

Ebelechukwu Obiano is not the first to be to become the First Lady of Anambra State and will certainly not be the last, but she stands out. Her peerless dedication and positive impact on the lives of the less privileged members of the society is unrivaled. Little wonder many acknowledge that in seven years of her husband leadership of the state, Osodieme distinguished herself like no other in the discharge of the office of the First Lady.

With her husband's consent in setting up the office of the First Lady, she has shown tremendous capacity as a supportive wife and confidante whose inputs have impacted positively on ndi Anambra. It also afforded her the chance to formalize her passion for charity by setting up her NGO, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFE). It is important to say that this has contributed so much in pushing up the humanitarian achievement index of the Obiano administration. She has since expanded the scope of her charity programmes through CAFE.

A strong advocate of the wellbeing of the family and sustainable empowerment of rural women, Osodieme never looks back in her quest for a change of mind-set that would ultimately lead to economic empowerment of the rural woman. She is blessed with a dogged determination borne out of her conviction that any initiative that improves the average woman’s economic status and well-being helps tackle economic inequality in general.

Thus she sets out advocating for increased involvement of women in the scheme of things in Anambra, and makes it a priority during her annual tour of 179 communities of the state, and the Mothers’ Summit which heralds the August Meetings to galvanize the womenfolk to the cause of development and entrepreneurship. Often, She frowns at the practice of sit-at home-housewife and encourages active living and collective effort by women at all levels.

She is of the opinion that if men are heads of the family, women are the neck upon which the head revolves, insisting that "one of the ways our men can live long is to reduce their stress level by assisting in family upkeep.”

As a champion of the economic self-reliance of women, Osodieme’s single-minded approach to promoting women empowerment on the platform of CAFE has so far provided over 5,500 women, especially indigent widows and youths with training, new skills, and free start-up capital in the areas of tailoring and fashion design, soap making, bakery and confectionery, hair dressing and beauty therapy; interior decoration, telephone and computer repairs, and community health assistants. She equally ensures that those engaged in cottage agriculture and petty trading are able to access micro credit from the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) to boost their ventures.

Worried by the number of indigent widows with virtually no roof over their head, Osodieme started the CAFÉ Housing for Indigent Widows project and has to date built twenty-Eight bungalows which she donated free to the beneficiaries in communities across the state. It does not stop there she equally tackles open defecation through provision of toilet facilities in the markets.

To date she has constructed twenty-two modern toilets with water borehole in select rural markets. It is heartening that in recognition of this initiative in promoting hygiene and healthy environment, the European Union and UNICEF conferred Osodieme with an award as Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) Ambassador.

It is also a fact that the Obiano administration is adjudged the best friendly governor on physically-challenged persons in Nigeria. And this is largely so because the practice of caring for persons with disabilities runs in the family. To date, over 2,550 persons have received free prosthetic limbs and feet, and 1,800 others received free wheel chairs. This is without forgetting the accomplishments of CAFÉ in the treatment and management of the mentally challenged persons with the support of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs which reverberates beyond the State.

Over 100 persons have been treated and rehabilitated at the 77-bed facility at Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area, Anambra State. Equally noteworthy is the CAFE free Cleft lip and Palate surgeries performed on persons with congenital mouth disorders. Beneficiaries of this uncommon charity are well over a hundred. These people are not only freed of stigmatization, but they have been offered fresh opportunities in life.

Note that she combines all these with her motherly role not just for immediate family, but also the rest of ndi Anambra, especially women who have found in her a soothing voice.

Fortunately, all these efforts have not gone unnoticed. They have brought her recognition from home and abroad. All of these and more attest to the fact that she is the consummate Mama Anambra, a sobriquet that acknowledges her prime role as the Mother-of-the-State.

She has no doubt touched lives and complemented the effort of the government. And she is wont to quip that “Whenever and wherever life is touched, government has succeeded.”

Ozumba is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to the Governor