Mrs. Obioma Imoke
Pet projects are common to wives of state governors and First Lady of the country. But the projects often become history once their husbands exit power. However wife of Cross River State Governor Mrs. Obioma Imoke is eager to break the jinx, writes JUDE OKWE
The world’s first ladies have distinctly different styles, but the way they roll out their programmes is the same. Regardless of target the poor, youth, women destitute, economic empowerment or vocational training-serious minded wives of state governors or presidents try to evolve programmes that would impact on the lives of the target group and thus make their tenure memorable.
Secondly, the aim is to bequeath to posterity a legacy that would become a reference point. Thus, once their husbands take oath of office, First Ladies come out with ambitious projects that they consider unique to them and why. The essence is to carve a niche for themselves and leave behind something seminal. But often the projects suffer discontinuity once the husband leaves office.
But one First Lady is out to have her pet projects outlive her. She is Mrs. Obioma Imoke, wife of Cross River State Governor. Since 2007 that her husband became governor, she has rolled quite a number of programmes and projects to make a difference in the lives of street and abandoned children, teenage mothers, widows and rural women amongst others.
She founded the Destiny Child Centre [DCC] to rehabilitate street children in Calabar and make them become useful members of the society, initiated the Mothers Against Child Abandonment [MACA] to help teenage girls put in the family but pushed out by their parents or rejected by the man responsible for the pregnancy give birth and bring up the baby. The teenage mother is tutored, mentored, taught a trade or encouraged to go back to school upon delivery, while the baby is looked after by the centre and re-united with the mother later.
In the same vein Mrs. Imoke founded the Partnership Opportunities for Women Economic Realisation (POWER). This is one programme initiated to change the economic status of women, especially those at the grassroots level through business incubation centres, micro credit schemes channeled through cooperatives societies; encouragement to farm and where to get markets for their produce and vocational training.
She also came out with A State Fit for A Child [ASFAC]. This project encourages the youth to realise their potentials through creative activities besides learning the virtues of patriotism, good citizenship, education and how to prepare for adult life and make the best use of it. Another programme is Giving Life Opportunities to Widows (GLOW). Through this, widows in the state are identified, their challenges ascertained and addressed through financial and moral assistance. They are also schooled on vocational trade to become self reliant.
Another programme from the kitty of Mrs. Imoke is Breath of Life. This seeks to promote community directed approach to preventing and controlling pneumonia in Cross River State. The target group here is children who are vulnerable to this disease, which has killed many kids including adults in the state. This programme carry out sensitisation campaign on pneumonia in urban and rural areas besides giving out drugs free of charge to those diagnosed to have been infected.
Good as these programmes are, the worry is what becomes of them after 2015, the exit date of the administration of her husband. This is because so many such lofty programmes have been seen before and died with the administration. What machinery is Mrs. Imoke putting in place to ensure that these projects continue beyond 2015? How would they be funded after 2015? Can her successor sustain them? Won’t the person want to make her own name by initiating her own projects/programmes? These are questions agitating the minds of informed and concerned citizens of the state.
Mrs. Imoke is not a kid. She is well educated, exposed and connected to know what to do after the glamour of public office. For one, all these projects are dear to her. Secondly she has the will and determination to keep them on outside the corridors of power. Accordingly, she is thinking and planning ahead of 2015. Given that all these projects/programmes are not funded by the Cross River State Government, the initiator is convinced that she would leverage on partners to sustain them.
At the recent visit of the Secretary of State of the State of Maryland in the United States of America (USA), Mr. John McDonald to Calabar, Mrs. Imoke said she was sourcing for partners for all her pet projects considering the positive impact they were making in the state. She explained that these projects were founded out of sheer humanitarian gesture hence public spirited individuals and Organisations should identify with them.
Director of DCC, Mr. Gerald Umezie, described the centre as “a home for resettlement, rehabilitation and re-integration of children who were living on the streets of Calabar. Street kids as we all know are vulnerable and face many problems. On October 10, 2009, Mrs. Imoke went to the streets of Calabar to pick these children. Today, this centre has 96 children. It takes care of their feeding, health and school needs”.
“Mrs. Imoke in her remarks said “a few years from today my husband would leave his job but I have the responsibility of taking care of these children after the expiration of his tenure. We are ready to partner with individuals, corporate bodies, organisations, government and groups to keep these children and give them a future. Such a partnership, I believed, would help to provide for the basic needs of these children. I’m appealing to all to help us continue with our programmes after 2015.
“It is believe that once members of the public forge a partnership with us, non of these programmes would be discontinued. Already we are working on modalities on how to sustain these programmes. We are talking to so many well to do people, companies, organisations to support us as we don’t want these kids to return to the streets. With such a partnership, I’m convinced my programmes would outlive the gubernatorial tenure of my husband”, the state First Lady said on the occasion.
Without the envisaged partnership, these programmes would die a natural death. Herein lies the reason for government, the wealthy in the society, corporate bodies, churches and others to lend a helping hand. It is feared that those currently supporting her may get tired and want to withdraw. Should this happen, the initiator would find herself in a quandary. The streets of Calabar are no more littered with children who move about in rags and sleep in the open at night. They have been taken off for reformation for a better life. Isn’t this a good initiative worth supporting?
The visiting Secretary of State who led a delegation of team of professionals and business executives on a visit to Cross River to concretise a Sister-State relationship undertook a tour of DCC where the team expressed delight over the humanitarian activities of Mrs. Imoke. McDonald and his team were convinced that this gesture has helped to give hope to the children and freeing the streets tomorrow of criminals.
At the centre where she received the team, Mrs. Imoke said the visit brought excitement stressing that the centre has special children who have had a rough life on the streets before their resettlement. She promised to continue to run the DCC project and care for them even beyond her tenure of office. Forging a partnership with government, the corporate world, individuals and groups would keep the centre on beyond 2015, she added.
She revealed that the children were in different schools in the state while a few of them are undergoing training in skills acquisition and commended all who have donated for the upkeep of the children since the inception of the centre even as she solicited for more help from public-spirited individuals and corporate bodies to enable the Centre continue to provide their necessary needs.
Mr. McDonald said he was happy about what he saw at the centre. He commended Mrs. Imoke for providing succor for the deprived, vulnerable and homeless children in the society. According to him, their visit to cross River State was to develop a mutual relationship that would profit the two States. He promised that they will collectively render assistance to the DCC project as it was worth every support considering that it was helping to develop the less privileged.
Director of ASFAC, Mr. Gerald Umeze, gave an overview of the centre, which was established a few years ago by Mrs. Liyel-Imoke to make Cross River a Society Fit for every child. He said Mrs. Imoke through the promotion of education has helped about 80 out of 96 children of the centre enrolled in different schools in the state while the remaining housemates are undergoing skills acquisition training. He enumerated some of the challenges facing the centre to include lack of technical support and educational materials and called for assistance from cooperate bodies and other individuals.
At the recent World Pneumonia Day celebration, her husband, Mr. Liyel Imoke revealed that in 2011 about 1.3million children died of pneumonia in the developing countries of which Nigeria is one. He said there was every need for all to support his wife for leading the fight against pneumonia in the state through the Breath of Life programme. He reiterated the state government’s determination to meet up with the Millennium Development Goals number 4 in order to reduce child mortality.
Even though the investment to the fight against pneumonia has achieved tremendous result he however promised to scale up the activities by raising family awareness of the danger of the disease. He reminded all that simple practices such as washing of hands, exclusive breast feeding, and cooking with stove to reduce pollution can help prevent the disease. He was optimistic that with best practices, over 1.5m children would be saved from pneumonia related death.
Mrs. Imoke’s message on the occasion was instructive: “we are here because of the lives of our children and we don’t want them to die. My husband has said the state must be a State Fit for a Child, so when they said pneumonia is the greatest killer of children we must stand and say no to death. The disease is annoying because it is preventable and treatable yet kills children more. The solution is simple. It is what you and I can do together. If you follow the prevention measures that were highlighted by Dr Emmanuel Adams this disease can be preventable. Government has agreed to put in more funds into immunization, prevention and treatment. But before that is done, we must do the needful. The lives of our children are important because you don’t know what they will become in future.”
For Mrs. Imoke’s pet projects to outlive her, partnership is needed. As non-profit and non-governmental organisations, only alliance with corporate bodies, government at all levels, individuals and organisations can sustain them. It is left for the management of these projects to reach out to the public so that they do not go the way of those of her predecessors.