Ndi nne ekenem unu!
Today is a special day for our people. It is particularly a very special day for me. On behalf of Umunwanyi Anambra, I consider it a special privilege to welcome Her Excellency, Dame Patience Jonathan, Mama PEACE, the most caring mother of our nation and wife of our beloved President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to Anambra State. Ezigbo nne, Odamiba 1 of Otuoke anyi na asi gi Nno!
Umunwanyi ibem, we are truly blessed today. It is common knowledge that Mama PEACE takes a special blessing to anywhere she visits. Today, she is not only here to demonstrate compassion to widows in the entire South Eastern Nigeria but to also transmit a special blessing to umuada Anambra State and Ndi Igbo nine who have gathered here in large numbers to receive her.
My dear sisters and fellow women, Mama?s presence here today is not a surprise to us at all. We are all familiar with her compassionate nature and her tenderness towards the most vulnerable populations of our country. We must specially thank Mama for her great work in enhancing the values of family and special attention to the needy.
In the past few years, we have all watched with admiration, the activities of her Women for Change Initiative, which has worked assiduously for the emancipation of women from the stranglehold of a society that seems to relegate the right of women to the dust in a fiercely competitive world. Mama has blazed a trail that we must all follow to create a better world for our women and children. Let us all put our hands together for Mama, please!
We must also thank the great son of Anambra State, Chief Engr. Arthur Eze, whose uncommon philanthropy and vision has brought us together here today. Chief Eze has never been anything but extra-ordinary for as long most of us here can remember. His philanthropy is legendary and Umunwanyi ana Igbo are immensely proud of him. Please, let us put our hands together for Prince Eze. Onye nwelu gi nwelu mmadu! Anyi na asi gi dalu rinne!
Ndi nne ibem, the launch of South East Women Empowerment Programme today is yet another effort to restore hope for our sisters, aunties, friends and mothers who have lost their husbands and possible breadwinners. It is a thing of pride that at a time when the rich and mighty among us have continued to live in opulence and offending splendor, Chief Eze has come up with this grand initiative that looks into the plight of widows in the entire South East of Nigeria.
With this initiative, Chief Eze has not only extended a kind gesture to widows and the vulnerable populations of Nigeria but he has also masterfully drawn our attention to what we must all do to make the world a better place for the dispossessed and the afflicted in the society. It is common Knowledge that in most parts of Igboland, when a man dies, his wife is easily regarded as the number one suspect for his passage, even when the cause of death is known to all. Our women face all kinds of stigma when they lose their husbands. It is amazing how a woman suddenly descends from being a loving and supportive wife to a suspected witch and murderer once she loses her husband and instead of attracting sympathy and love from her in-laws, she attracts suspicion and persecution.
Worse still, in some subcultures of Igboland, a woman who loses her husband loses any right of inheritance to whatever the man may have bequeathed her. In some instances she also loses what she had jointly worked for and acquired with her husband while he lived or what she had acquired alone by dint of hard work. In those instances, nobody cares about what becomes of the children some of who grow up as dregs of society ? becoming a menace to the society that denied them love. This scenario easily illustrates the significance of Chief Eze?s initiative to us today.
Ndi nne, it is interesting to know that Chief Eze is not alone in this regard. I am proud to say that Chief Eze?s long years of investment in the lives of the less privileged people was part of what inspired me to set up the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFE), my pet project. Long before I set up CAF?, I have been involved in philanthropy in my private capacity. My husband and I earned our praise names of Akpokuedike and Osodieme from our philanthropy and from being responsive to the needs of our community. So, when I became the First Lady of this great state, I realized that I have a great opportunity to touch more lives than I did as a private citizen. That?s how, my pet project, CAF?, came into existence in July this year. Our objective at CAF? is to build the family and build the nation. We have steadily invested in various family enhancement initiatives especially in key areas like education, primary healthcare, vocational skills acquisition programmes and sustained support to charity homes across Anambra State. Our activities are growing everyday as we continuously identify areas of need in the society.
Ndi b?anyi, we have a long way to go. What Chief Eze has done today is to successfully point us all in the direction we should go. Personally, I think that the time has come for us to interrogate some aspects of our culture that have slowed down the pace of our development as a people by holding the womenfolk down. We must all stand up against any backward cultural practice that seeks to demonize and subjugate our beloved wife, sister and mother at a time when all that she needs is succor and love to overcome a great loss. We can no longer pretend that all is well with a society where the widow is seen as the monster instead of being the object of compassion and love. Our civil society groups, human rights organizations, council of traditional rulers and the town unions all have a role to play in enlightening our people against these noxious practices.
Thankfully Eze n? Ukpo is already leading this charge and we must all support him. I call on all well-meaning and wealthy members of society to rally efforts towards putting smiles on the faces of our neighbours whose pains daily limit our attainment of wholesome joy. I equally call for organized advocacies aimed at lightening the burden that widowhood imposes on women.
In conclusion, I thank all of you who are witnesses to this historical event. I sincerely hope that we will all be moved to respond in our different capacities to make our society a better place to live for widows and the vulnerable populations that live around us.
Again and most importantly, I thank Her Excellency, Mama Peace for the warmth of her presence and for providing the template for this great occasion.
You are welcome Your Excellency. May God continue to give you the wisdom to support the good work that Mr. President is doing in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
Once again, I welcome you to Anambra State?Light of the Nation, Under God!
Umu-ada Ndi Igbo dalunu
Udo dili unu
Chief (Mrs) Ebelechukwu Obiano
First Lady, Anambra State