My mission is to add value to lives of women, children and youths
Her Excellency, Evangelist Dame Edith Okowa was born on June 1, 1961 to the respectable family of Mr. and Mrs. Erasmus Mekwuye. She attended St John’s Anglican Primary School Agbor and Baptist Girls High School Agbor. She did her HSC at the Advanced College in Igueben and later gained admission into the University of Ibadan where she read History and graduated in 1985.Edith Okowa started her working career as a classroom teacher on August 8, 1988 at Igbanke Mixed Secondary School, Igbanke. With the deep involvement of her husband in politics, she relocated to Agbor and continued her teaching job at Mary Mount College for five years and then to her alma mater Baptist Girls High School Agbor. Her commitment to duty gave her a boost.
Upon relocation to Asaba, she was promoted to the rank of Vice Principal at the Anglican Girls Grammar School (AGGS), St Patrick’s College as Vice Principal (Administration) and then to West End Mixed Secondary School as vice principal (Academics). After serving in the capacity of a teacher, she was appointed as a Permanent Secretary in the Delta state civil service and assigned to the Post Primary Education Board (PPEB) in charge of the Delta North Zonal office Asaba.
As a devout Christian and a committed Anglican, Dame Okowa derives joy in preaching the gospel of Christ and reaching out to the downtrodden.
She has a mission to add value to the lives of women, children, the youth and humanity in general. Evangelist Edith Okowa loves to see people around her because of her upbringing.
Since her assumption as the First Lady of Delta State, she has given her time to the care of the prisoners and assistance of the poor in the state through her foundation the O5 Initiative, a non-profit/non-profit organization, which has five branches: To feed the hungry and thirsty; provide for the homeless; clothe the naked; help the sick and visit prisoners.
The mission of the O5 Initiative is summed up in one word “LOVE” which is set to promote the well being of Deltans. This has introduced an atmosphere of care to members of the society. Dame Okowa is a firm believer of the prosperity agenda, which has informed her interest, to care for the less privileged. She is happily married to a medical doctor, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa. She is a mother of four lovely children and a dutiful grandmother.
This is her life’s philosophy: “Doing good pays, the good you do might not yield results today, there is no good that is wasted, it might take time, but someday it will speak. Every good we do on planet earth must yield res ult”.
How was your growing up?
I grew up in so much love, my parents showed us so much love and in my own home there was never a time it was just us, I mean myself and my siblings. My mother was the mother head, there was never a time in my home where we cooked with a small pot , we had so many people in our house when I was growing up , cousins , nephews, nieces, even people that were not related to us in any form lived with us. I have always been in an environment where we had so many people. Beginning from when I became an adult, we were seven of us though death had a great toil on my mother’s sons, out of four of them only one is living, three of them went, that notwithstanding, we had a very large family even when my mother’s children were very few, I mean five of us are living now.
Interesting moments when growing up?
I had so many interesting moments because my parents themselves were love. I was taken over by my grandmother when I was a year and six month because my direct siblings after me were twins and my mother had them premature and my mother was in hospital with them for three months to care for them because they were in the incubator and I was left with no body other than my grandmother who took me over and I grew under her. I saw love with my grandmother and my mother that was how I disengaged from my own parents to stay with my maternal grandmother. I went to, Baptist Primary School, Delta girls School Agbor, after that I went for my HSG before I went to the University, to tell you how much my father loved me through the years I was in school, I never went to school on public transport, in fact my roommates used to ask if I was the only child and I said No! As a University student my father always take me to school and come back to pick me after lectures. I went to University of Ibadan; I finished in 1985 from Faculty of Arts. After graduation I began to teach because of the environment I found myself. I got married and I went with my husband to the village where he was posted to work as a medical doctor in Edo state. A community that shares common boundary with Agbor, what else would you find there, it was only school so I went into school and started teaching, as I began to teach I found out that I was in a familiar environment because you don’t labour or stressed to do that which is your calling. When I was teaching any student can stop me on the way and say ‘aunty that thing you taught me I don’t understand’ I will begin all over again. I started having love for teaching and because my first degree was in Art I had to go for Post Graduate Diploma in Education to be a proper teacher. I really enjoyed teaching because it was an avenue not to teach just the subject that I was meant to teach but also to teach the word of God, any child that passes through me as a student knows that as I entered the class we start the class with Jesus and finish with Jesus Christ.
Growing up was interesting, I had love ,we had people all around us, we had no stress at all of any kind, no financial stress because my father was a policeman and retired at the pinnacle of his profession. My mother was a trader and we did not have any lack. One thing I learnt from my parent is humility; they’ll tell you to work for yourself and don’t look at their wealth and in any case the house my father built while he was alive is now like a hut compared to what this generation are building that is why I don’t believe in acquiring because whatever you acquire now by the time your children are grown up, it becomes old school. The best thing that my parents gave all of us is that we are all well-educated. Our parents gave us love, education and they settled us. We went church, in fact I don’t know how to go to native doctors to consult here and there, every Sunday we go to church and come back but knowledge of God is what I got on my own, I gave my life to Jesus Christ in 1992 when my third daughter became sick and it’s like what was wrong with her nobody seems to know, we took her from one hospital to another and it was like something that could not be explained. This problem drew me to my maker Almighty God through Jesus Christ. You know when you have a problem what makes you is who you relate with, if you relate with an unbeliever you will go deep into occultism but I thank God I related with believers Christians and this drew me to Christ Jesus.
Can one say kindness, touching the less privileged, especially orphans as well as associating with them has been part of you?
Yes showing kindness is part of me; I have compassion in my blood for others. I learnt kindness from my mother as a child. My mum was a woman that had so much love for her siblings and in fact the generality of the public. I saw her do what I’m doing; she will always tell you if you cook a cup of rice for two persons even if a third person enters it will still be enough. You can never get to my mother’s house and not get food to eat. She was a woman that’s always cooking for the public.
Why are you passionate about orphans?
I had parents that loved me so much and because I grew up with people who rarely were not my own siblings and I saw my mother showered them with the same love she showered on her own biological children. I didn’t see any difference taking care of people and again what of the word of God I know what it means to take care of an orphan. It’s a command , pure religion, James 1v27 and if you go through the scriptures, you’ll realized that this world is not just our home , we are going to leave here one day, one by one just like we came, whatever you have is for you to help the humanity . Two things count, your relationship with God, you can’t say you love God and don’t love your fellow human being. Taking care of people has always being my passion and part of me, even when I got married, starting from the day I got married, there was never a time it was just me and my husband. I have brought up so many children under my roof even as a young wife. The culture of good deeds is a way of life to me, I have a compassionate hearth and I hate to see a face without a smile. I believed doing good pays, the good you do might not yield results today, there is no good that is wasted, it might take time, but someday it will speak. Every good we do on planet earth must yield result. When I came on board, God gave me this scripture Matthew 25 v35-36,that is, taking care of orphans, giving food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, visiting those in the prisons, visiting the sick, clothing the naked and home to the homeless.
How are you coping as a wife, mother, grandmother, an evangelist, and a governor’s wife?
I don’t stress over anything .I don’t know how to do things all alone, in my O’5,my pet project I have a lot of people that work with me as a team. How to cope in life is that train people to do what you want them do, if you are jack of all trade ‘load go kill you’ allow people bring out the best in them, let them make mistakes and they will succeed one day. I don’t stress over things, I take one day at a time by God’s grace.
In what striking ways have you been supporting your husband’s vision as the state governor?
You know my husband said God used him to use that word ”Prosperity for all Deltans” on my own part my O’5 Pet Project is what I am using to complement his vision because he cannot reach out to everybody, the few I can reach through visiting the sick , going to prisons, taking care of the orphans and then giving him peace at home because a man that does not have peace at home it will reflect even from outside, when there is love and peace in the house the man can put in his best
What is O’5 initiative, your Pet Project all about?
You asked me how O5 came about and you will also wonder what the ‘5’ is and what the ‘O’ stands for. A man was elected and sworn in as Governor of Delta State on May 29, 2015 and that man has a wife and she is Edith Okowa. This same man has responsibilities of which the Lord chose him to do and being the wife, I want to believe that no woman will just sit at home and be very happy just to be called First Lady. So I sat down and called on God and asked Him: what will you have me do as the wife of the Governor? And the Lord led me to the Gospel of Matthew 25:35-36; and in that scripture, I discovered that we have six commands by the Lord: feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, visit the sick, visit the prisoners, give hope to the hopeless, six in all, and with my knowledge of the arithmetic of Jesus I know that the number six is the number of sin and I know that there is something attached to the number, five. I felt that water and food should go together which brings the figure to about five. That is: clothe the naked, visit the sick, feed the hungry, house the homeless and visit the prisoners. That is how we came about O5 Initiative. I have told you I’m a product of grace, starting from when I was born. We were so many in my family but God kept me alive. So we chose this number of grace because grace has propelled us thus far. That is how O5 began and so far the Lord has helped us because His Grace is sufficient for us. You will wonder how. This office is not gazetted, we do not have any budget, and how are we going about doing all these? It is the grace of God. There is no person I have visited to talk about this project that sent me away, they gave me something.
Even those that did not have money to give gave me a smile. Some advised me, some encouraged me and we have been going about doing this. We started with an orphanage that is called the City of David. During our campaign, as we traversed the whole of Delta State, we had the opportunity to visit an orphanage and when we got there, every one of us that went there wept because of the number of children that were sharing a sitting room and a bedroom. And I told God; take me to a place where I will be of help. The first thing I did when I came on board was to relocate these children. Right now they have a place that is befitting for my own children because I call them my children.
05 initiative, is neither a political concept nor a subtle social strategy to ‘belong’. It is not a veiled attempt to impress anyone, it is rather a divine mandate that is rooted in the scriptures and epitomizes godly love and care. In driving this vision transparency and accountability are imperatives. Hence we had to set up a Board of Trustees to superintend the operations of the non-governmental organization. Again we have been careful not to neglect or negate ant aspect of the fivefold mandate. In other words, we have been guided and will continue to ensure that all our activities are geared towards either feeding or quenching the thirst of the hungry, ministering to the sick, accommodating the homeless, visiting the prisoners or clothing the naked. This vision came with a corresponding passion to drive it. My passion and the compassion for the less privileged kept tugging at my consciousness and compelling me to do something to cushion the pain of this class of people.
Thus the focus of the programme is to extend hand of fellowship to those in prison by giving them drugs, providing borehole for them and constant visit and spreading the gospel to the inmates and the need to be of good behavior. In the area of health care, the pet project saw to the equipping of sickle clinics at the hospitals in Agbor, Sapele and Ughelli. There is also the visit to orphanage homes across the state and providing them with food, clothes and medicine. I am amazed at the number of projects the O5 initiative has carried out. These projects in different parts of the state have brought joy to the lives of many. As a matter of fact, I have chosen to always celebrate with the less privileged, those at the lowest rung of the ladder of life and society. That was how I ended up celebrating the 2015 edition of my birthday, which coincide with my first day in office as first Lady of Delta state in the company of the inmates of the Ogwashi-Uku and Sapele prions. O5 initiative had also secured the release of some inmates at both Ogwashi-Uku and Sapele prisons by paying option of fine for them, equipping and supplying drugs to their clinics. We reach out to indigent women, apart from widows because we have those who are not widows but are poor. God willing, we shall certainly do more. In many parts of the state prisoners now enjoy the borehole and medicine provided by O5 initiatives, the sick especially those challenged with sickle cell anemia now has hope to live as somebody is around to remove tears from their faces including orphans. Archbishop Nicholas Okoh , the primate , Church of Nigeria(Anglican Communion) lauds the programme describing is as practical evangelism . He said’ if you have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, there is need to reach out to the less privileged. You can be the angel that will bring succor to the needy. I thank God for the wife of the Delta State Governor and Founder of the O5 initiative , Her Excellency, Dame Edith Okowa who has made it her life-long mission to lend a helping hand to the poor and needy. It is a conscious effort to preach the gospel in words and deeds. It is not enough to hear the word but to be doer of the word”
What do you wear?
Am not particular about colours, I wear anything that is good on me and that will glorify Jesus Christ in me.
Advice for women folk?
Every woman whether in politics or not should live her life for Christ. Women should know that they are going to give account of the children whom the Lord has given unto them; we are going to be answerable to all of them. Train up your children in the way of the Lord. Also, every woman should strive to have wisdom, the fear of God, spirit of discernment and all the seven fold spirit of the Lord in that way it will help. A woman should be calm, the nature of a woman is not the same as a man even those in politics you don’t need to be an ‘agbero’ to win an election.
How can a girl child be properly annexed so that she won’t fall prey of adventurous men out there?
The conclusion of the matter is to know God .A girl child that is properly brought up, even if she strays, she will not stray too far. Train up a child in the way he/she should go and when she grows, she will not depart from it. Parents/Guardians should let the fear of God, which is the basis be in their children/ wards even when they are not with you the fear of the Lord will keep them from doing wrong. It doesn’t matter the amount of money you give to them or how much sex education, the main thing is to instill the fear of God in our children.
Idea of beauty?
Beauty is from the inside, it is not pancake. Your beauty steers from the inside and how you respect people. A beautiful person gives everybody respect even his/her driver or gateman.
Have you ever had any regret in life?
Never! I have not had regret in anything. Growing up, I had no regret. I will say yes because I didn’t know God early enough, though I go to church but I gave my life to Jesus Christ in 1992. There are so many things that wouldn’t have happened at any given time that sometimes happen to you, that is the time the Lord wants it. Everything in this world has time and season. I wouldn’t say I had any regret, every hurdle , everything I saw as a stumbling block or hurdle was like a stepping stone for me, that’s my believe about challenges. There is no life without challenges, every challenge I see, what I asked God is what do you want me to learn from this challenges. God never allow a challenge in the life of his/her child without bringing the best from him or her. Everything, worketh well for the children of God.
I have plenty happiest days. Giving my life to Jesus gives me peace and Joy. Also, the day I saw my first and second daughter married I was so glad and then the day I carried my grandson. Then, people around me gives me joy, my husband, children, grandchildren, relations and friends. I won’t say happiest day because it has been joy all the way because happiness is something that can come and go but Joy comes from Lord.
What can other women learn from you?
I’m not a perfect person, they should learn from Jesus. The evil of having somebody as your role model is that since that person is not perfect you could see something such a person is doing and because he/she is your role model you’ll begin to do it.
Who is your role model?
Jesus Christ, like Paul said ‘that I may know him’. I am pressing on to be like Jesus. I want to always bear the fruits of the Spirit according to Galatians 5 v22-23. I like to read about Jesus see what he did, see how he reacted and respond to situations, I want to be like Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer.
How has it been like working with Delta women?
I am a woman and so we have partnered very well; we have not had any issue. I am a very open person, I don’t give in to gossip; so if you don’t want the second person to hear what you want to tell me, don’t even come because before you go I will call the other person. The only thing that could cause stress in a relationship is hearsay and I don’t give in to it. I started by telling them that I am not perfect, anywhere you see I err, tell me. I have a teachable character. Apostle Paul says, I press on towards the mark, I am not there yet; we are in a process of pressing on to the mark. So in this press, I am ready to accept corrections and that is why we have been working together, we have not had any issue; I wouldn’t even know because whatever you say at my back does not concern me, it is what you say before me that counts.
How long have you been involved in charity work?
In the last administration I was Director General to my friend and sister, Mrs. Roli Uduaghan. Since I became an adult, my second name has been charity. I have been visiting the prisons even when my husband was just a medical doctor in Agbor. I have been reaching out; it is my ministry. I believed doing good pays, the good you do might not yield results today, there is no good that is wasted, it might take time, but someday it will speak. Every good we do on planet earth must yield result. The culture of good deeds is my way of life. I have a compassionate heart and I hate to see a face without a smile. I want to live and be a blessing to this generation.
How will you describe your husband?
He is my best friend that I can tell anything and he tells me anything, am not scared to relate with him, you know what your friend is, you can tap and laugh with your friend anytime. My husband is a very humble man, I can’t equate his humility, and people do not know how close he is to God. He is a compassionate man that has the interest of the people at heart especially the downtrodden and less privileged.
What are your likes?
I like people telling me the truth, I like bold and truthful people around me, if I come in even if it’s my television that you have broken tell me you broke it.
The thing I don’t like at all is lies and deceit .I can’t stand it because somehow God has given me the gift of discernment, so you can’t lie too much to me, even if you are lying to me it won’t take me time to know who you are. I like people be themselves. That am a governor’s wife today it’s not forever, why would I now begin to pride myself after now ‘nko’. Those things I used to do I want to be seeing doing them. If I get to the airport I go through the normal check point, I lift up my hands , I put my box in the checks , that is me . I want everybody to be themselves that is the only thing that can endear me to the people. I hate people that fake themselves and you know faking doesn’t last because before you know the true colour will show.
How do you relax?
I am not very good at having ciester , I can relax among friends because I have friends a lot. Then, I read a lot and do exercises which make me relax a lot, the exercise I do is to take a walk.
What interest you most in life?
Being in God’s presence gives me joy because in God’s presence there is liberty. Worshiping God is very interesting to me, also I love going to fellowship where the true word of God is being taught. I love to reach out, the Bible says what you know that is good to do and you don’t do it is a sin. If I have the opportunity to give I give.