WHO IS ADA OWERE?
The title Ada Owere is in comparison with other chieftaincy and honorary titles of the people of Owerri, is a new, unique, and an entire shift in the conversation that people are meant to play in the community. Ada, in the Igbo language, refers to a family’s first daughter. Hence, bestowing the title of Ada Owere, the first of its kind, in a culture that places special cultural focus on a male child, implies both the importance of the recipient and the necessity of the title towards changing the narrative.
Hence, this begs the question of why the first recipient of this title is important to the soico-economic and overall development of the Owerri Zone. The title Ada Owere I was given to Her Excellency, Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu by the federal council of Ndi Eze Owerri zone. It is now the highest title that can be given to a woman from Owerri, hence the significance of it and the purpose around the creation of it. Our very Own Ada Owere hails from Emeabiam in Owerri West Local Government of Imo state where she was born and raised. She is married to His Excellency, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, from Owo in Ondo State. Their marriage is blessed with four children and five grandchildren.
The need to bestow the title on Mrs. Betty was premised on her fondness for her roots – she still sees herself as part of Ndi Owerri even though she is now married to Ondo State in her capacity as the first lady of the state. She was given the title of Ada Owere for her achievements, pedigree and good representation of Owerri. Mrs. Betty has done a lot for the people of Emeabiam and she relentlessly ready to do even more.
In all of her work, one key area that Mrs. Betty recognizes as vital to societal growth is Human Development. Hence, she has carried out various projects in areas of health, education, empowerment, and innovation, as well as employment, in order to improve the lives of Nigerian citizens, and equip them to contribute their own quota to national development.
As First Lady of Ondo state, Mrs. Betty has been able to identify and provide for the major needs and concerns of the most marginalized demography, women. Thus, through her foundation, the Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF), she organizes empowerment programmes and initiatives such as the ‘Be More Empowered Initiative’ to train young girls especially, in ICT and solar technology, providing them with skills and resources for employability and job creation. She also empowers women from the different local government areas of the state through the Foundation of Wives of Ondo State Officials (FOWOSO), recognizing their role in society, and giving them the opportunity to function in due capacity.
As First Lady, she also makes recommendations on political appointments in state offices and parastatals, although she is known to only make these recommendations based on educational and professional premises – that is, she only appoints or recommends people who have received an education and are duly trained to work in the government parastatals that are relevant to the professional field that they are appropriately skilled for. Hence, suffice me to say that Mrs. Betty is one of many in this country that understand the importance of education, but also one of the few that recognize the significance of appointing and employing technocrats to relative job areas.
Also, in women’s health, through the ‘Solayo Programme’, she distributes pregnancy kits to pregnant women in the 17 Local Government Areas of Ondo State, as a measure of providing maternal care to women who cannot afford it. She also has a foundation that cares for women with breast cancer as a member of the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), thereby contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Whist she carries out her duties effectively in Ondo state, she also contributes her own quota to helping her brothers and sisters from Owerri. The Ada Owere I has been able to serve as a bridge between the two different cultures of Owerri and Ondo. People of Ndi Owerri are now even keener on visiting Ondo state and even finding employment in the state because she creates room for empowerment without cultural bias. Also, through her foundation BAAF, many Owerri people have been provided with opportunities for gainful employment. Some of them also function in government offices such as the Ondo State Primary Health Care, Ondo State Internal Revenue Service, Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), and many more other places in Ondo state.
Also, most corps members from Imo state that serve in Ondo State are most times posted to the office of the Ada Owere I, where they are placed in offices or even transferred to organizations where they are trained to contribute to the socio-economic development of Ondo state. At the end of their service year, they are either retained or pushed out to other state offices and organizations.
More so, in Owerri, she has trained over 250 young secondary school girls in ICT, Solar technology, and Entrepreneurship schemes, such that at the end of the two-week intensive training, the girls go home with Brand New Laptops and Brand new solar home systems, that ordinarily would have been too expensive for them to afford to kick-start their businesses. Currently, she is spearheading the construction of a 10km road worth 1.6billion naira.
It is without further saying that she contributes to the socio-economic development of both Ondo and Owerri. If the Ada Owere I can reduce unemployment from an office that has zero allocation from the federal government, and an office that is also not constitutionally recognized, what do you think she would do when she becomes a senator? These are just a mere quarter of what she has achieved despite the constitutional constraints of her office. She has broken the boundaries and the barriers placed upon the office of the First Lady. She has demonstrated that there is much work to be done, and much of it can be achieved through the office of the First Lady. She has also demonstrated the need for inclusivity, as well as ethnic integration without bias.
It is high time the people of Owerri take a stand and vote for who is right. It is time to vote for personality and not parties or political affiliations. It is time to empower the youth, and I do not mean giving them motorcycles because we have grown past that era; it is high time we have good roads in Owerri, and a clean environment. It is time that our women are given a place to participate and contribute to the growth and development of our society. It is time we begin to elect those who represent the new society we are trying to build, those who will break biases and give room for others to make a change.
I must tell you, when Covid hit Finland, Germany, and Croatia, despite the alarming spread in Europe, these countries experienced low levels of the Covid outbreak because their governments were headed by people who made logical and swift decisions to protect their citizens – these leaders were all women. Like these women, Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the Ada Owere I, has demonstrated that government is more than traditional gender roles, and that women also have a place in society and are even more willing and capable to make the much needed change. It is time to choose those who choose us, those who represent the transformation that we need – indeed, it is women o’clock.
By Enwerenem Uchechukwu .C.