Betty: A woman of steel – Part 2
Her first job after her graduation and National Youth Service was at the Federal Ministry of Fisheries. But she was exposed to the real world when she went for a course in Philippines.
It was there that she learnt about segregation and racism. It was a different world for her.
She found out students could relate to their lecturers, freely, and eat with them on same table, argue on issues with them and, have easy access to them.
These were unlike what obtained at Nsukka. There, at the time, lecturers were like thin gods.
She also found out that, yes, blacks could perform better, academically, than Oyinbo, given the same environment and opportunities. And, she came back from Philippines a changed woman – more sure footed, lots of self-esteem, an all-round woman.
Her experience helped her to be the woman she is today, especially on two fronts.
When at the age of 44 she was diagonised of breast cancer, she was, naturally, initially traumatised. But she fought back because she wanted to live for her husband, children and family.
Because of her education, exposure and enlightenment, she rejected the usual primitive belief that the disease was a curse from an enemy, or an arrow, or an attack targeted at her by women who wanted to take her place in her matrimonial home.
So, she rejected the pressure of going to spiritualists, prophets, native doctors, any prayer house.
Before she became a victim of cancer, she had read it up. That helped. So, she focused on a hospital – University College Ibadan.
There, she met many women suffering from the same ailment, but who wouldn’t discuss it thereafter, at times, out of fear that nobody would marry their daughters. But more annoying to her is the role some churches are playing.
She is angry with those churches and clerics, by whichever name, who deceive women, giving them the impression that cancer is curable with the use of olive oil, white handkerchiefs or praying while laying a hand on the breast of the victim.
She says they are sending many women to their early graves and urges the government to do something about such deceits.
“This can’t be happening in the 21st century. Go to the hospital as soon as it is detected. Get treatment and follow-up with prayers. Nobody is after you. Cancer is not programmed. It is not an attack,” she admonishes.
Her cancer experience led her to establish a Cancer Foundation – BRECAN – long before she became the First Lady of Ondo State.
With BRECAN, she has saved the lives of many women. Becoming the First Lady offered her a larger platform than she had.
Now, she is partnering with many national and international organisations and institutions to fight cancer.
She is sad that most times, there is no workable cancer equipment in Nigeria, even for Radiotherapy. But very soon, a workable cancer centre will be established in Ondo.
She is excited about this and says: “Even if that is the only thing we’ll accomplish, it is enough for me. We need to enlighten our people. Some educated ones are not even enlightened. They believe all kinds of things about cancer.”
And, she has accomplished quite a lot within the short period of her First Ladyship in Ondo State.
She founded the Forum of Wives of Ondo State Officials, FOWOSO, a platform she has used to empower women and the girl-child and, yes, boys.
Every year, since she founded FOWOSO, she, along with her team, heads to every local council in the state for talks, enlightenment programmes and more importantly, empowerment programmes.
The women are empowered with sewing machines, grinding machines, farm implements and much more. They are taught how to make washing and bathing soaps, disinfectants, body cream, hair weaving, and wigs.
Many young women are taught the art of make-up and the tying of Gele. They have become self-employed. They are also taught how to take care of their children.
At every LGA, health officials, including Doctors and Nurses, are present to de-worm children, give them Vitamin A, check people’s blood pressure, and give medication. They also check on, and look after pregnant women there. And there are follow-ups – all for free.
More important, using FOWOSO, she has taught both women and men to be aware of their bodies, especially, to check their breasts. And, she has simplified it by introducing a dance step, SAKEM.
While one dances to the infectious rhythm of SAKEM, one checks one’s breast.
It is a sight to behold watching both the young and the old, men and women, dancing to SAKEM and, checking their breasts in the process.
But by far, her most important achievement is in the area of ICT/Solar. She, in 2017, established the BEMORE Empowerment Foundation.
From all nooks and crannies of Ondo State, the First Lady brings scores of teenagers together, keeps them in a camp, feeds them, clothes them, and they learn the use of computer and other aspects of technology.
At the end, each of them goes home with one Laptop and a certificate.
Till date, 700 of them have benefited. And to show her community, Emeabiam, Owerri West, Imo state, that it is not a waste to put the girl-child through school; that when she marries, she does not forget her roots, Mrs. Anyanwu-Akeredolu has also trained 50 of them and given them 50 Laptops.
Meaning: 750 teenagers – boys and girls – have been empowered with one Laptop each. That automatically changes their lives. And, they are excited.
Anyanwu-Akeredolu sees her role and those of other women as that of the “softer side of government.” She is right. She is deeply appreciative of her husband for giving her the space to contribute her quota.
She appreciates Ondo women and their husbands, and the youths, and especially, the girl child who see her as a role model.
She tells the girls: “If I can do it, you can.” And, Ondo women couldn’t be happier than they are.
In appreciation, they fondly have pet names for her. Arabinrin. Mama Aketi. Mama Digital World wide. World Class First Lady. And more.
The pet names don’t make her swollen-headed. They don’t make her grow wings. She already has them. She takes accolades in her stride.
She just smiles. She is focused on the demystification of Cancer. She is focused on its defeat. She empahsises that it starts from being aware of one’s body.
It starts from early detection. She is focused on the girl-child education. She is focused on the aggressive empowerment of women. She is focused on making Ondo youths digital youths.
She is focused on her contribution to her husband’s regime as the softer side of government.
And, Ondo Women couldn’t ask for more. They proudly say so themselves.
Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source Magazine.