MRS Ebelechukwu Obiano’s (Osodieme) six years of emergence as the First Lady of Anambra State accentuates her as a woman who bestrides the state with a calculated tempo of unleashing an unimaginable touch on the downtrodden and less privileged in the society.
She took it upon herself as her only major passion. Posterity will number her in history as one vital woman who purposefully circles the state disadvantaged populace as her constitutional portfolio and thus has written her name in marbles in the sands of time.
In his perspective on her projects and programmes for the state, the Commissioner for information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, noted that “Mrs Obiano’s six years in office has been deep rooted in her concern for the needy; her solidarity with human family. Many of us feel that we practice the social teaching of the church when we sit in the comforts of our blackened SUVs and once in a while throw a few naira notes to street beggars to scramble for, or when we manage to pay the school fees of a relative or two. We need to be challenged by the example of the First Lady of Anambra State and her spouse, Governor Willie Obiano. This couple does not just give to the needy; they work for them with passion. They are immersed in doing good. They are at home with lepers, orphans, the physically challenged, people with mental problems – in fact, the rejected and dejected in the society. This defines her six years in office as the First Lady of Anambra State”.
CAFÉ legacies of osodieme
In a personal working relationship with the First Lady, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on special duties, Mrs Amaka Ezike offered that, “her first six years in office has been awesome. She is one of the foremost first ladies in the whole of the federation that have not only work but also extra work. If you go through the dossier of all the governor’s wives in the 36 states of the federation, one tends to ask the question, ‘What do they do to reach out to make the country a better society’? Her Excellency has gone a longer way than anybody at all; I bet you on that. She is someone that has reached out socially, psychologically, economically and medically to the nooks and crannies of the state trying to support her dearest husband in making the state a better society.
Her six years in office is something that is so much that if you start compiling them, you will really have a lot to say thank you, Your Excellency”.
On expectations from the First Lady in her remaining tenure in office, she enthused, “if I should be honest with you, she has achieved more than enough; even in her next two years, history will always tell you that this is the governor’s wife that actually came on board and started work from the first day. She didn’t even say let me rest. Let me share with you an experience I had with her that made people not only refer to her as a woman with a heart of gold but also make me look at her as somebody that has good intent of the state at heart. Immediately they did her swearing in, the first week of her coming in on board, she got information about a school called BASDEN, a special education school in Isulo, Orumba South Local Government Area. In fact, the Sunday after the thanksgiving, the following day, she exclaimed on sighting the terrible condition in which the children study. Early in the morning the following day, she moved off to the location. I was deeply touched. I resolved that wherever she goes or whatever she does, I will stand with her. By the time we got to BASDEN, people were just shedding tears because they couldn’t believe what they saw. I tell you that place was in a dilapidated shape before the attention of the First Lady but go there now; it is one of the greatest legacies that she dropped. BASDEN that was long forgotten, dilapidated, not only that it has a new facelift; they upgraded it from primary school to secondary school. The children that were there only attended primary school. In fact, among the pupils are two girls who repeated primary six over and over again because there was no secondary school. But they can proceed to the secondary school as Her Excellency went there and put her midas touch. As at now, the school is a pride to not just the state but also the country. I saw it with my own eyes. I wish people will juxtapose the picture of the old BASDEN and the picture of the new BASDEN, one will then understand what I am talking about.
“She is a woman that has a caring heart; she is someone that when she is touched, especially the downtrodden, she cannot stand their plights. She is moved to ensure that their conditions are upgraded.
I happen to share her vision about life. What is that vision? My vision is what can I do to make people have a better life? How do I reduce sufferings in my own little way?
For instance, I am handling a case of a baby with cleft palate bid for surgery. A sweet girl called Chioma. She was born with the congenital disorder and then her parents are so poor. She is 12 years old girl and had never been to school. She is always isolated; she is always stigmatized and doesn’t play with other children. Her Excellency, through CAFÉ, in partnership with American based network organization called SMILETRAIN, came into the state and carried them into the lengths and breaths of the state; into communities that have not heard of the disorder. When we discover such like Chioma, we take them to the hospital where they are being given free treatment.
“What is my work in this? I get as many children as possible; we go into the hinterlands to source for those who are not aware of the free treatment. We sensitise them that the disorder is curable.
“Although it can be tasking to convince one or two affected families like in the case of a child called Chimeremma Eze in the far hintherland of Ayamelum, in which we tried to assist but his father claims that that is how the boy was created and should be left alone even when we pleaded that the treatment is free, he still declined the offer saying that we are going to bring the anger of the gods on him. Eventually, with the help of the Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly, we were able to convince the father to allow the child receive treatment. And now the child is so happy. If you see him now, he is no longer the deformed boy he used to be. Now he goes to school, playing around and smiling because that is the essence of their work to put a smile on the faces of people. So CAFÉ has partnered with SMILETRAIN organization in conjunction with Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi, to put smiles on the faces of over 33 children that is the number of children that has been operated upon. There is a SMILETRAIN jingle running on ABS which I produced.
“Another good thing is that after the operation, when these children have been reintegrated back into the society, we still do a gradual check on them to know how they are faring.
“Another programme of CAFÉ is that it is training indigent women and youths. We train them both male and female; we give them new skill acquisition training. After that, they are empowered. They are given seed money to actually set up. We have empowered over 5000 indigenes.
“CAFÉ is partnering with an organization that actually comes in to fit in prosthetic limbs to aid in mobility and then those that cannot be fitted are given wheelchairs and crutches depending on the severity of the disability in order to encourage them not only the indigent ones but the disable are being taken care of.
“Again as you know, the First Lady abhors open defecation. During her campaign tours in the market places, she observed that our beautiful mothers had no facilities for convenience. This spurred her to build toilet facilities in all the local government areas in the state. Now we have over 15 new functional toilet facilities in our markets cutting across the state and more are still in the pipeline.
“The epic of all her works is the building of houses for indigenes in the state. After building the house, she furnishes them. Apart from that, she goes all out to erect boreholes for them with the intention that they don’t just own a house but have water to make it easier for the family. Apart from that, her office is always a port of call for those seeking assistance in one way or the other. Even though her office is not allotted any budget, she still dips her hand inside her pocket to render help to those seeking to offset their medical bills.
There is an artist that has been discharged from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka. He was so poor and he fell sick. Her Excellency just heard that a once boisterous chap is now begging for alms and she actually took responsibility of the medical bills.
“In fact, I always summarise the First Lady as a mother that passes by, sees something that she doesn’t like and changes it. This is her; she changes things in her environment, changes people for the better. I knew her before she became the First Lady. This has always been her passion. She has been into charity way long before now. When she sees something or someone in a bad condition, she must do something to put that thing or that person right.
“Even as a team working with her, she does tell us let’s make this thing better or let’s make this person a better one. She must ensure we always do it right for our own good. Her passion is about giving out to the poor and the needy in the society.
“In Nteje community, there is this home for mentally challenged persons and one of the inmates happened to be a 65- year old woman whom she aided to recover after 35 years of being mentally ill”.
On March 8, Mrs Obiano celebrated the International Women’s Day with the women of the state, against this backdrop, her primary focus for the women according to Mrs Ezike, is summed up as, “ Her Excellency focuses on indigent women of the state. She gives them something to do, something they can be doing to support their husbands. She understands that for you to train a woman, you are actually building a nation.
“To this end, her idea of the Women’s Day is to see a woman that is up and doing, a woman that is empowered, a woman that is actually equipped to stand beside her husband and then a helper to your husband instead of being a burden to him; a woman can also have her own business to support the family”.
Osodieme is an UN Peace Ambassador, UNICEF and EU WASH Ambassador and a winner of the Irish Red Cross Award for Service to humanity. The Nigerian Women Association of Atlanta also conferred her with an award for excellence. She ranks as the only Nigerian conferred with the Honorary Citizen of the state of Georgia, USA.
She is a recipient of the prestigious ZIK Prize for Leadership in Humanitarian Services today, among others.