Monday, March 25, 2019 3:22 pm
By Emeka Ozumba
As Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike) clocks five 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. Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme), who has, over time, proved to be a formidable pillar of strength to her husband and the State.
It is worth clarifying that the sobriquet: ‘Mama Anambra’ is earned not as a result of old age, but by virtue of the office of the First Lady of the state. 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 Dr. Mrs Obiano has in the last five years distinguished herself like no other in living up to the responsibilities of the name. As Mama Anambra, she is widely acknowledged to have shown tremendous capacity as a supportive wife and confidant whose inputs have impacted positively on Ndi Anambra and helped shape the humanitarian achievement index of the administration.
A strong advocate of the wellbeing of the whole family and sustainable empowerment of rural women, immediately Dr. Mrs Obiano got the consent of her husband to operate an Office that would enable her expand the scope of her charity programmes, she set up an NGO, the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ), on August 1, 2014.
Since the CAFE platform started operations, she never looked back in her quest for a change of mind-set that would ultimately lead to economic empowerment of the rural woman. A position re-enforced by her conviction that any initiative that improves the average woman’s economic status and well-being, helps tackle economic inequality in general.
Thus Dr Mrs Obiano set out advocating for increased involvement of women in the scheme of things in Anambra, and made it a priority during her annual tour of the 179 communities in the state, and the Mothers’ Summit which heralds the August Meetings to galvanize the women to the course of development and entrepreneurship.
Osodieme often frowns at the practice of sit-at home-housewife; encourages active living and collective effort 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.
A champion of the economic self-reliance of women, Mrs Obiano’s single-minded approach to promoting women empowerment on the platform of CAFE has so far provided over 4,400 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 assistant services. She also ensured that those engaged in cottage agriculture and petty trading accessed micro credit from the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) to boost their ventures.
Worried by the number of indigent widow’s with virtually no roof over their heads, Dr Mrs Obiano started the CAFÉ Housing for Indigent Widows project and has so far built twenty-two 2-Bedroom bungalows which she donated free to beneficiaries in communities across the state. She equally wonders why we cannot eradicate open defecation, even in 21st century.
She opined that in our markets, the self-esteem of our women was at risk, not to mention diseases arising from lack of toilet facilities. To deal with this, she constructed fifteen modern toilets with water borehole in select rural markets. In recognition of this initiative in promoting hygiene and healthy environment, the European Union and UNICEF made Osodieme Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) Ambassador.
That the Obiano administration is adjudged the best friendly governor towards physically-challenged persons in Nigeria is largely due to family practice of caring for persons with disabilities. To date, over 1,400 persons have received free prosthetic limbs and feet, and 1,800 others received free wheel chairs. Also the accomplishment of CAFÉ in the treatment and management of the mentally challenged with the support of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs reverberates beyond the State.
Equally noteworthy is the CAFE free Cleft lip and Palate surgeries performed on persons with congenital mouth disorders. This has been extended to over 100 beneficiaries.
With all the programmes which she touches the lives of Ndi Anambra positively have come several awards and recognitions for her from home and abroad. The most recent of her many honours is the 2019 Woman of Excellence Award conferred by AgroBiz at the UN Commission on Status of Women adjacent event in New York United States.
But in spite of the accolades which attest to the fact that she is the consummate Mama Anambra, Dr. Mrs. Obiano often says that what matters is that “Whenever and wherever life is touched, government has succeeded.”