@70: Celebrating Ada Owere 1, a quintessential, passionate living legend First Lady of Ondo State

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives and the passion that she shows, “says Audrey Hepburn. This assertion is suitable to describe the incumbent First Lady of Ondo State and Ada Owere 1, Ada Emeabiam II, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu.

Even the Holy Book affirms that men judge from appearance, but God deals with the heart of men.

Looking for a woman who is bold, fearless, and courageous like a lion in the face of intimidation just to ensure that the right thing is done, I give you Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu You need a woman who is passionate about the growth and comfortability of fellow women and girl-child development, a woman who embraces all, regardless of tribal or religion affiliations, call on Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu; a woman who recognises and appreciates intelligence and diligence, give it to her.

You can only judge a book by its cover and have not up to 30% of its real intended message until you read through. Same with human beings. The passion for the well-being of people, a quality being exhibited by Anyanwu-Akeredolu, is unquantifiable.

A woman who attained the position of a First Lady at over 60 years old would have come across different people and decided to work with her old allies. But the distinctive mentality that distinguishes her from every average Nigerian women and norms, make her utilise the First Lady’s office to elevate the status of individuals who come across her within the short period of coming into contact with her having discovered that they possess hidden potentials.

As humans, we have the intuitive capability to speculate and some will present their speculations about a situation or a person as if they have facts, especially if the subject of the matter is not in their book of favour. To some individuals, Betty’s initiatives or pet projects are self-centred, only x-raying them from the monetary point of view simply because the initiatives didn’t toe the usual parts of previous First Ladies’ projects, forgetting that individuals weren’t created with the same psychological behaviours and responses, not even twins.

Briefly on the Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials and Female Political Appointees, FOWOSO, which she founded as a platform to reach out to women, especially the vulnerable ones. Contrary to beliefs by those outside the fold that she uses FOWOSO to siphon public funds, the foundation serves as a gathering where women rub minds , share experiences together, and feel relieved from personal emotional stress. Anyanwu-Akeredolu uses the platform to develop confidence in some women; some women who have profitable ideas to share but usually feel timid due to fear of public speaking were trained to summon courage, and many testified to this.

When did Wives of Wards’ councillors ever have direct access to a First Lady to relate personally on phone? We are all witnesses to how some close allies of previous First Ladies shielded them and block access to them, thereby denying so many individuals opportunity to be helped.

Through FOWOSO , Anyanwu-Akeredolu is reachable to every woman, regardless of your status, because she doesn’t discriminate. Only the rumour- mongers keep adjugding FOWOSO as a platform to embezzle public fund or where women were taught to rub shoulders with their husbands. FOWOSO teaches women saving culture and enlightens them on the need to be supportive rather than being a liability for their husbands in this current dispensation. FOWOSO women support one another in trying times and celebrate one another, willingly. If other women organisations can be assisting members and other women like FOWOSO, many women will survive depression.

A girl from Akoko, who eventually emerged the 2022 Bemore valedictorian, shared how fulfilled she was for the privilege to see the First Lady of her dear state mingling with hundreds of girls across the state through the two weeks summer bootcamp, what she described as a long-term dream to have one on one encounter with First Lady; likewise thousands of Ondo girls have this feeling. Anyanwu-Akeredolu founded the Bemore Summer Bootcamp for girls to promote technology and skills acquisition among girls. The destructive critics focus on the money attached to the programme without considering the joy, exposure, and educational and other benefits it gives the beneficiaries and their immediate families. Prior to Bemore initiative, how many households in our rural communities can purchase N35,000 worth of solar home power system? Or how many of our politicians and other well-to-do individuals thought of distributing solar home systems and laptops as empowerment? But, they embrace this initiative by sponsoring girls from their constituencies and, by extension, empowering their constituents through Bemore initiative. Some have money and at the same time possess good heart to help but lack ideas and wherewithal of how to reach the grassroots. Bemore came in with an idea and they embraced it.

Anyanwu-Akeredolu makes transparency her watchword in Bemore, as every dime contributed by individuals and organisations was published in a banner during the programme.

It was said that every woman has the power to seduce the world with her uniqueness, passion and creativity; this is not far from who Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu is, as testified by her immediate younger sister, that she had started exhibiting certain leadership traits right from childhood which her father really admired and encouraged.

As far as you are still living and you want every dick and Harry to keep praising you without finding a fault, then be ready not to make headway in the pursuit of your goals and visions. It is said that empty barrels make the loudest noise. The envious critics of her initiatives have no record of good deeds. Investigate them.

At 70, Anyanwu-Akeredolu is a fulfilled woman considering the lives she has touched through her initiatives, even before her emergence as a governor’s wife. She survived the deadly breast cancer as far back as 1997 and started a mission to galvanise actions against it through advocacy and awareness creation in order to prevent the death of women due to late detection. It takes a woman with a good heart to think of preventing fellow women from tasting the bitter pill she tasted. Hence, she founded the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria over 25 years ago, through which many lives have been saved.

It’s irrefutable that when you are a rare specie and strong voice in a society where majority who know what is good remain silent, you’ll be continually intimidated by those who have nothing to loose but just to keep beating the drum of discouragement. Notwithstanding, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu has become a global identity known for good activism with legacy that future generations would appreciate.

Seven good decades of sojourning in this part of the world is not a mere feat. To clock 70 calls for celebration, especially for an individual who’s living an impactful life. Happy Platinum birthday to a fearless woman of strong faith.

By Mary Agidi, full-fledged Ose Local Government daughter cum Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, (Office of the First Lady)

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