When the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike), was declared winner of the Zik Prize for Leadership in 2016, it was widely acknowledged as well deserved.
The award was in recognition of his exemplary leadership in expanding the frontiers of excellence across various sectors of the Anambra economy, which includes security, agriculture, education etc. Indeed the tributes, which trailed Obianos receipt of the prestigious Prize reverberated across the Nigerian political landscape. Other laurels followed in its wake.
Fast forward to February 9, 2018, in a rare case of Zik Prize double for a couple; a letter addressed to the wife of the Governor, Her Excellency, Chief (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme) signed by Chairman Selection Committee of Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC), Professor Pat Utomi stated: “We are pleased to inform you that after an exhaustive appraisal of nominees, the Advisory Board of Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC) has named you the winner of the Year 2017 Zik Prize in Humanitarian Leadership.” According to the board, the Zik Prize Humanitarian award is in recognition of Osodieme’s “visionary establishment of CAFÉ and its record of achievements.”
Thus the Obianos are the first couple to win the prestigious Zik Prize. Whereas Governor Obiano received the award for excellent leadership in public office, his wife Ebelechukwu, is recognized in the humanitarian category, the first of its kind since the institution of the Zik Prize in 1994. It surely is an acknowledgement of Osodieme’s life-long passion and humanitarian services to the less privileged though her NGO, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ).
There is no doubt that Osodieme’s love for charity is unparalleled. Long before her husband became a Governor, she had always undertaken charitable programmes helping the less privileged. She worked as a marriage counselor and undertook other church welfare projects like feeding the homeless and supporting the aged and other indigent groups with a bequeathal of 10% of her salary.
Therefore, Osodieme’s seamless transition into an exemplary ‘First Lady of Charity’ in Anambra State was no surprise to those who knew her. On 1st August 2014 she set up the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) in furtherance of her life-long passion of providing succour to the needy. In just four years, Osodieme made CAFÉ, a platform for touching lives positively. The NGO has since inception lived up to its aims & objectives as a beacon of sustainable empowerment for indigent women and the less privileged within Anambra state and beyond.
Osodieme’s commitment to charitable causes never wavers. Through CAFÉ, she has set a new paradigm for helping the needy through the various projects and programmes she has accomplished. These include: CAFE Housing for Indigent Widows which has seen ten 2-Bedroom bungalows built free and handed over to beneficiaries across the three Senatorial Districts of Anambra State. In the same vein, she has constructed eleven CAFÉ Market Toilets in major rural markets to promote hygiene in rural communities. She has also sunk twenty-one water boreholes across the twenty one local governments of Anambra state.
CAFE has trained and empowered over three thousand, six hundred indigent widows, women and youths in various skills under CAFÉ Skills Acquisition Training Programme. These include: Hair Dressing and Beauty Therapy, Fashion Design, Soap Making, Cake Baking and Confectionery, Telephone Repairs, and Community Health Services. The beneficiaries were supported with equipment and start-up fund.
Chief (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano has equally made possible free prosthetic limbs to over a thousand and three hundred physically challenged persons; she has also donated free wheel chairs to many more. Her Excellency equally facilitated free surgeries for 45 children with congenital abnormality of Cleft lips and Cleft palates and sponsored the care, treatment and discharge of sixty-two mentally challenged persons at the Mentally Challenged Home in Nteje amongst other interventions.
Osodieme is a recipient of several awards both local and international in recognition of her commitment to charity and the welfare of the less privileged. Some of the awards include: Smile Train Ambassador Award 2017, Irish Red Cross Award for Services to Humanity; Onye Anambra of the Year 2017, by Anambra Irish Professionals Association (AIPA); Anambra State Association (ASA) Women, Ireland Award for Services to Humanity 2017. Others are, Primetime Reporters First Lady of the Year Award 2016, Most Valuable Governors’ Wife Award 2016/2017; Excellence Award 2016 by Nigerian Women of Atlanta Georgia, United States of America; EU/UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Ambassador, and Eminent Peace Ambassador of United Nations 2014 to mention a few.
It is noteworthy that religious bodies and organizations from various denominations also recognize the Obianos as kindhearted couple. Consequently the Governor and the wife were honoured as Grand Patron & Patroness of Boys’ & Girls’ Brigade Nigeria on May 7, 2016. The Laity Council of Onitsha Archdiocese decorated them as Duke and Duchess of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. Like a prophet known and honoured home, the Ogbunike Progressive Union conferred Osodieme with Merit Award in 2015. Also recorded is the Community Service Award by ROTARACT Club of Awka, GRA; Community Base, Grand Patroness Award of St. Jude Society, Awka Catholic Diocese. Osodieme also holds the Distinguished Merit Award by the Catholic Alter Servers Association of Nigeria, St. Thomas Acquinas Parish Awka amongst several others.
As Osodieme receives the Zik Prize, let us draw from the wealth of wisdom expressed by the American, Leo Buscaglia as we join many who have encountered her beautiful soul to felicitate with her. Let us celebrate this amazon who never underestimates the power of an honest compliment and the potential of the smallest act of care to turn a life around. Let us applaud her industry, the courage of her conviction that drives her daily to selflessly do good to others. Let us congratulate Osodieme on her well-deserved Zik Prize for Leadership Humanitarian Award 2017.