Anambra's First Lady Makes a Difference

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Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano, wife of the Anambra State governor, has been using her pet project, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative, to touch the lives of indigent women in Anambra in diverse ways, writes David-Chyddy Eleke

In Anambra State, Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano has become synonymous with philanthropy. Using her pet project, Caring Family Enhancement (CAFE), the governor’s wife has touched lives of indigent people in the state. From providing walking aids to crippled persons, to hearing aids for the deaf, donating food items to motherless babies’ homes, she has moved into bigger projects like organising skills acquisition for women and youths without sources of livelihood, and also providing stipends for them to set up something to practice what they learnt.

Not done, the governor’s wife has also been organising healthcare screening and treatments, talking to rural women on health issues and encouraging immunisation for children, among others. Some of CAFE’s achievements include; skills and empowerment training for over 2,000 women, prosthetic limbs and wheel chairs for 800 persons; free cleft lip/cleft palate surgeries, the rescue and care for mentally challenged and the building of toilets in rural markets amongst other programmes.

Recently, the governor’s wife achieved a new feat when 27 inmates who had been undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at the Home for Mentally Challenged at Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State were certified fit and discharged to reunite with their families, with all bills settled by her.

What is new is that the governor’s wife who has come to be known as the new ‘Mother Teresa’ in the state has made good her resolve to build as many houses as the donations to her NGO can carry to ensure that indigent people have roofs over their heads. Her targets here are widows, whose husbands left them behind with children, but no houses for them to live in. So far, 10 of such houses, all two bedroom apartments have been handed over to beneficiaries.

CAFE housing for indigent widows, the governor’s wife said was a programme conceived to assist indigent widows and the projects are strategically spread across the three senatorial zones of the state with beneficiaries selected on the basis of those adjudged to be most in need in their communities.

Some of the beneficiaries who have been handed the keys of their houses include; late Mrs. Chidili Igboamalu at Isioye Village Umunya, Oyi Local Government Area, Mrs. Nneuwa Nwajideofor at Enugwu Otu Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area as well as Mrs. Maureen Ekesiobi in Ogbunike, Oyi Local Government Area. Other beneficiaries were Mrs. Chinyeaka Okeke in Amichi, Nnewi South, and Mrs. Margaret Anoyou of Amorka, Ihiala Local Government Area among others.

THISDAY recently went in search some of the beneficiaries, to feel their pulse. At Nri, Anaocha Local Government Area, the very beautiful two bedroom bungalow built for Mrs. Catherine Ibekwe, a poor widow, whose husband left her homeless years back. Once inside the compound which was fenced, this reporter was greeted with an unusual quietness, which suggested that there was no one at home. Just when the reporter was about to beat a retreat after calling out to the occupant of the building, the gate opened and a lady walked in.

On enquiry, she introduced herself as Cordelia, a sister to Mrs. Ibekwe’s late husband, who came to check on her. When it became obvious that Mrs. Ibekwe was not at home, Cordelia offered to take this reporter to Uruofor Village, where Mrs. Ibekwe works as a domestic staff of a certain family, Nnalue Family. The visibly elated widow told THISDAY that, “It is true, the governor’s wife, Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano built a house for me. Everyday I sleep and wake up in that house, it still seems to me like a dream. She did it and handed to me, without asking that I pay her back, or any other condition. I pray everyday that God will bless her and her family.” She said she resides in the house with her only daughter, and that before the house was built for her, she was living in a dilapidated mud house with leaking thatch roof.

In Amatutu Village in Agulu, same Anaocha Local Government, another beneficiary, Mrs. Felicia Okafor, a frail looking widow said, “I was very critically ill when they were building this house, I was away for treatment, but when I returned, I was shown this beautiful house and told that this is where I will be living. I enquired how it happened and I was told that the governor’s wife built it for me. It still does not look like truth to me, and I have been living in this house since that time.”

She showed THISDAY the makeshift house she was living in before she was built the house. According to her, before then, she had sent two of her older children to her sister in another village to be staying, as the makeshift house was too small to contain them. On why she has not demolished the makeshift house since after the new one was built, Mrs. Okafor laughed and said she does not want to. “Since this house was built for me, people have been coming here to find out if it is true that the governor’s wife built a house for me. I tell them it is true, and I also show them the house I was living before. That is why I left this one. I use it to remember my condition then. Today, I live like a queen. You can come into the house and see how beautiful it is. I have said when I have money, I will buy something, even if it is a small goat and take it to Awka and give to the governor’s wife to thank her.”

When THISDAY enquired to know how the governor’s wife came to the place, which was not motorable, and was tucked right inside the bush, she said she was sure the governor’s wife trekked the long distance to her house as she was sure she could not have come in her car. The visibly over excited widow who mistook this reporter as coming from the governor’s wife pleaded for time to rush to her backyard to get some vegetable to be sent to her.

When THISDAY visited another beneficiary, Mrs. Chidili Igboamalu at Isioye Village Umunya, Oyi Local Government Area, it was learnt that the First Lady had promised to build her a two bedroom bungalow in October 2015, after she was told of her condition, but Igboamalu later died before the completion of the house, but the governor’s wife resolved to finish and hand the keys of the house to her daughter, Miss blessing Igboamalu as a fulfillment of her promise. Miss Igboamalu, who THISDAY learnt is still a student was not available for interview when the reporter visited.

What is even more unique about the houses built by the First Lady was that they all had boreholes drilled and attached to them. Explaining the unique idea of building a house and a borehole, the governor’s wife had during the presentation said that whereas the beneficiary widow takes possession of the house, she is able to access water from the borehole but the water source is extended to serve members of the community. According to the governor’s wife, a woman leader is charged with the task of managing and maintaining each borehole for a period of two months after which the management is transferred to another woman thus serving as a source of empowerment.

Speaking on how she sources funds to carry out all the projects, the First Lady told THISDAY through Hon. Emeka Ozumba, a Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Communications that, “Caring Family Enhancement (CAFE) initiative, was founded by the wife of the governor, Chief (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano and managed with the husband’s salary, self and donors’ support. The clarification becomes necessary to douse insinuations and suggestions in certain quarters.”

Ozumba said, “Ndi Anambra and discerning members of the public deserve to be adequately informed on the sources of funding for the laudable programmes of the charity. Most of you know that the governor started supporting CAFE with his salary long before other public spirited donors added their contributions. Anambra does not have a First Lady and there is no statutory budget or allocation for such an office by the legislature. Thus being conscious of the provisions of the law and the need to ensure that his wife continues with charitable works she is known for all her life, the governor staked his monthly salary which hitherto had gone to churches as contributions.

“The governor and the wife had clear understanding of the importance of ensuring that the welfare of the average Anambra woman is not neglected, and that the governor’s wife is playing her role in the effective mobilisation of the women folk for participation in governance. Thus as a well-honed technocrat and auditor of repute Obiano set the parametres for private funding of CAFE before the formal launch in 2014.

Ozumba listed Chief Engr. Arthur Eze, a billionaire philanthropist and chairman of Oranto Oil, Ernest Azudialu (Obijackson), another wealthy son of the state and many corporate firms and groups as some of those who have been supporting Mrs. Obiano with her charity works in the state to women. He said, normally names of such donors are clearly engraved on the plaques of CAFE projects such as toilets built in some rural market toilet across.

It is for works like these that the governor’s wife strides have not gone unnoticed. Recently Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, (WASH) supported by the European Union (EU) and the (UNICEF) had named her a WASH ambassador. A joint delegation from the EU and the UNICEF announced this when they visited Governor Obiano at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia. The award was later conferred on her in a more elaborate function that saw her shinning like a million stars.

A visibly elated governor’s wife told the crowd after receiving her award that she was only into philanthropy to help the needy, and touch lives positively and never intended to do so for recognition. She said she has been into it, long before her husband became governor, and that her husband’s position only gave her the leverage to do more than she had done as an individual. THISDAY also gathered that another round of two bedroom bungalow are currently under construction in several communities across Anambra, which will be donated to widows who have been certified not to have decent places to live in by community leaders.