By Debo Ikuesewo-Akinbami

“The first lady that you have today is blessed with intellect. Ondo State electorate voted for one but got two”

  • Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN.

The prolusion belongs to her husband of nearly forty years and governor of Ondo State who was queried on the standing of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, his near polemical wife and firebrand female figure. But before the question, Betty has been an issue on the state’s political scene and has been defined differently by many, so, the question posed to Mr. Akeredolu was founded.

Ordinarily, a tangential portrait of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu would be that of a controversialist and a virtual virago. At face value, many would cursorily give her out as one disputatious personality with a massive ego and persistent penchant for polemics, hence the deliberate query. And having travelled this far with her, it was taken for granted that governor Akeredolu holds her proven definitions.

In categorical terms, he described his wife. What the governor did not say, however, is that he and Betty share certain identical traits, especially vocality. If Betty has a vitrolic voice, her husband’s is virulent. She takes no shit around her own, the way her husband would shoot straight not minding whose ox is gored. Betty’s unostentatious handling of issues puts her at the center of salvos, particularly in the political front.

Here is a veteran advocate and rights activist who would not mince her words no matter what it costs. She sure has come of age in struggle and not one to be distracted by the angst of cub critics. From confronting and defeating the scourge of cancer, to breaking new grounds in the fight against it in favour of the womenfolk. Betty also continues to fight on the side of women against the domineering tendencies of the malefolk and untold sacrifices in the circumstances. She carries with her the courage of her convictions.

Governor Akeredolu gave a modest assessment of his wife, expectedly. However, while it is true that Betty personifies consummate intellection, it is truer that she has affected humanity in measures rarely witnessed around here. She is a first rate iconoclast, yet a fine progressive who worths the word; one of those few extraordinary women in this clime who dared to bring gender equality and women emancipation to the forefront.

Betty, defying daunting odds, has wrought proven and plethora achievements in favour of women in Nigeria. The Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), her brainchild, is both a loud and lasting testimony of her guts. One must familiarize himself with the standing of this consequential organization established in 1997 to appreciate her as a long distance racer. How true the assertion that Betty’s strides did not begin with being a First Lady!

The fast growing BRECAN continues to engage Civil Societies and Non Governmental organizations in the country to form coalitions against cancer, a pursuit which Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu holds dear believing that the war against cancer should not be fought in isolation. She forges ahead to form a united front to tackle this monster head on, in line with global calls for building strong advocacy synergy towards cancer eradication.

Being the governor’s wife, Betty has successfully placed matters of womenfolk on new rungs. She built BEMORE, a database initiative for girls’ training and empowerment in Ondo State. This endeavor constituents say has translated to dumbfounding successes in the state. She continues to address matters bedeviling girlhood and womanhood, regardless of age, faith, social or political inclinations.

The narrative around widowhood in Ondo state is now a darling difference with WidowCare, another profound intervention of Betty through which the government of Ondo state now cares for over twenty-five thousand widows. Jog for Life, also Betty’s recondite initiative is fast succeeding in breaking down the barriers of secrecy and stigmatisation around cancerous ailments.
By her efforts, the hitherto prevalent incessant rape cases have taken a low turn.

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu has given to much to the cause of women that her strides reminiscise the personality and contributions of the “Lioness of Lisabi”, Mrs. Funmilayo Ramsome-Kuti, Nigerian feminist and political leader who was the leading advocate of women’s rights in her country during the first half of the 20th century. Funmilayo, In 1932, when her husband became principal of the Abeokuta school, organized the Abeokuta Ladies Club (ALC), initially a civic and charitable group of mostly Western-educated Christian women.

History has it that the organization gradually became more political and feminist in its orientation, so that in 1944, it formally admitted market women (women vendors in Abeokuta’s open-air markets), who were generally impoverished, illiterate, and exploited by colonial authorities. In 1946 the ALC changed its name to the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) and opened its membership to all women in Abeokuta. It later became a national organization, renaming itself the Nigerian Women’s Union (NWU) in 1949 and the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies (FNWS) in 1953.

The organization campaigned against price controls, which drastically limited the incomes of market women, and for fair treatment of market women by the government. It also protested a special tax on women imposed by the local ruler, Sir Ladapo Ademola II. It led large demonstrations against Ademola’s government, which led to his temporary abdication in 1949.

There is no limit to the successes the efforts of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu can breed when the right encouragement is given. The same woman, against all odds, has fought increased number of elected and appointed female players in the government of Arakunrin Akeredolu, making a graphic statement that she is a woman who cares about the betterment of women.

Like Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu has since identified the daring deposits in Betty and he has demostranted huge support for its expressions. But there is more to do for the convictions of this illustrious Nigerian to reach higher tribunes. Doing this may necessitate having Mrs. Akeredolu to get involved in the Nation’s parliamentary politics where she is sure to promote these noble values. That way, a new vista would be opened in the struggle for women emancipation.