- Debo Akinbami
Charity, for Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, as Ada Emeabiam II, began at home. It did not begin with Ihiagwa community’s conferment of ‘Nwanyiwuihe’ (Woman is Valued) title for her commitment to maiden home. The title ‘Ada Di Oha Mma’ (Daughter Valued by All), as conferred by Ogbor/Umuachalu Autonomous Community, tells remarkably her passion for developing the maiden community, but it was another rung. When it came, the preeminent Ada Owere title admittedly brought exponential credence, yet the narrative predated the prestige.
At its peak, 43 royal personages of the aboriginal Owerri dialectical bloc hatched the prestigious Ada Owere garland for Betty, having already been inundated with her legendary impacts and accomplishments for Owerri people. The title was delivered as eventual and universal affirmation of a personality whose strides have won loud herald and laudations, and who, per force, must be acknowledged because of the immortality of history in human affairs.
When declared as the official global leader of Owerri daughters by virtue of the top-tier title, she recieved with it authority, legitimacy and a categorical recognition of female leadership. The crown was an unequivocal statement of capacity and competence embedded in an unusual daughter; it was an emphatic admission of the worthiness of Anyanwu-Akeredolu as a leader on the strength of character and her outstanding public service credential, particularly within Owerri zone.
Ada Owere was not something built on nothing. Here is an angelic woman who, in profound ways, has been there for Imo State, committing her time, talents and resources as a freeborn and a bona fide by birth and blood. Demonstrably, the Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) collaborated with Sharing Hope, a team of medics from the University of California, USA, and provided free medical outreach, distributed free drugs and vitamins to constituent, organised accelerated birth registration exercise, and trained traditional birth attendants, communities in Owerri zone.
A public health expert, Ada Owere attracted the Hygiene Wash project as conceived by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to provide support facilities in the areas of water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene. She implemented this very significantly within Owerri zone through the provision of borehole, overhead tank and sumo, for instance, at Imo Art Village and Freedom Square, Owerri Municipal. She also built water sanitation and Hygiene Wash project at the secretariat of International Federation of female lawyers, (FIDA), Imo State Chapter, Egbu Girls Secondary School, Egbu, Owerri North, and the Comprehensive Secondary School, Emeabiam, Owerri West.
In the throes of the global pandemic and Covid 19-induced lockdown, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu launched Widows Care Initiative for the love of the womenfolk. The intervention, meant to cater for the widows, turned out to be one of the post impactful reliefs at the period considered as materially and emotionally difficult. Over 5000 wowen benefited from this incredible initiative in Owerri zone, including Owerri North LGA, Owerri West and Owerri Municipal.
Another of the First Lady’s beautiful initiatives from which no fewer than 200 girls of Imo State origin have benefited is the phenomenal Bemore Empowered Initiative. Twice held in Imo State, Bemore is a yearly summer boot camp which trains secondary school girls mainly in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and solar technology, and also fortifies them with life-enhancing skills, including breast health examination skills, entrepreneural skills and Taekwondo for self defense. Each girl, after camp, goes home with a complete solar box and brand new laptop.
The same illustrious Owerri daughter established the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), an NGO, 25 years ago, as an institution for fighting against breast cancer in Nigeria through public education, patient support, advocacy and research with a vibrant chapter and office at 77 Douglas road, Owerri, where women daily recieve attention on related issues.
For many years, the people of Ihiagwa, Eziobodo and Emeabiam communities (in Owerri zone) endured the hardship of almost impassable roads linking these communities, until Ada Owere, with consistent advocacy and productive lobby, attracted NDDC attention under emergency project intervention, which resulted in the ongoing 10.5 kilometers road linking the three communities at the whooping cost of 1.6 billion naira. Even now, health and skills acquisition centers are springing up within Owerri zone on Ada Owere’s bill.
Beyond the sundry material signatures, Ada Owere is an ideology on the place of women in contemporary history and politics. It is an evolving discourse that has its roots in the snoopy mind of a fragile Betty, who at formative, had queried the sordid shape of things with the femalefolk and strove, through the rungs, to make a difference. As an ideology, Ada Owere has fiercely coursed through difficult times while feeding on sturdy milestones, either as first female graduate from Emeabiam (1977) or the feat of passing with five credits- at first sitting- the senior school certificate examinations, dreaded as it (then) was.
The concept (of Ada Owere) is one beyond the contempt of female segregation and relegation. It is a solid school of thought on effective and effectual leadership, as opposed to successive communal stagnation preserved by mere gender emotions. This is about the triumphant enthronement of leadership that works for the people, in the best interests.
***Debo Akinbami is the Special Assistant to the Governor of Ondo State on New Media & Archives.
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