By Monica C. Ada Eze,
March 23, 1972 will forever remain evergreen in the lives of Ebonyi State people, particularly to the family of Mr and Mrs Chukwu and Eunice Akpa of Umuobuna, Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, as that was the day, God in his infinite mercy and wisdom blessed the state with the birth of a golden daughter, Chief (Mrs) Rachael Umahi, who has guided her family to become the first family in Ebonyi State at a time like this. This great lady of the moment, who celebrates her 45 years on earth this 23rd day of March 2017 attended Umuobuna/Uhuaba Community Primary School, Uburu between 1979 and 1985 from where she got her First School Leaving Certificate. She obtained her West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1999, from Immaculate Girls Secondary School, Aba, Abia State. She obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in 2007, from Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Port Harcourt, in 2002. She is credited with several post-graduation experiences in human and resource management in the private sector, before she became the wife of the executive governor of Ebonyi State.
Why this treatise?
The main aim of this treatise is to examine and present this exponent of God’s love to humanity and to congratulate her as she turns 45 years.
Thomas Woodrow Wilson, an American politician and academic who served as the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921, with Rachael Umahi in mind once stated: “There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” After a critical observation of the above quote, Mrs Umahi, wife of the Ebonyi State Governor and founder of the Family Succour & Upliftment Foundation Programme, who has through her pet project redefined philanthropy, charity and selfless service to humanity rightly came to my mind.
Thomas S. Monson, in his own reaction after studying Mrs Umahi’s works to humanity, have reason to state: “When faith replaces doubt, when selfless service eliminates selfish striving, the power of God brings to pass His purposes.” Rachael Umahi has through her pet project not only brought succour to the people of Ebonyi State but, most importantly, brought the purpose of God to the people of the state. A critical study of Umahi’s activities in Ebonyi State brought to the fore what the Holy Spirit tried to state in James 1:27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (KJV)
Kilroy J Oldster once stated: “Our most intense joy comes not from personal feats, but from helping other persons achieve their goals. We become suppler human beings when we find true joy in witnessing other people’s successes and unabashedly share in their joyful accomplishments.”
My auntie, Mrs Umahi, derives joy in helping the needy and to prepare formally her humanitarian services to humanity. She launched her pet project code-named Succour and Upliftment programme, aimed at uplifting the downtrodden in the state. The pet project has four thematic areas bordering on health, education, economic empowerment for women and youths, as well as women liberation.
Mrs Umahi unveiled the pet project at the Akanu Ibiam International Conference Centre, Abakaliki. And, according to her, the programme was aimed at achieving an effective and efficient primary healthcare delivery, adding that the programme would achieve 100 per cent education in the state. She said that the pet project would sustain economic empowerment and job creation for women and youths, through entrepreneurship and agriculture, to put food on the tables of their families, as well as address the problem of poverty.
“In the area of women liberation, the family succour and uplift programme intends to liberate Ebonyi women from all vices against the female folk and ensure the upliftment and enhancement of their general living status. Economic empowerment is a solution to poverty, and this informed my determination to improve upon the family income of our people through entrepreneurship and job creation for our women and youths,” she said.
Mrs Umahi said that the pet project was designed as a business outfit managed profitably to yield revenue to the state government through skills in palm oil processing and palm kernel oil extraction; shoe-making, hair-dressing, fabric weaving/weaving of cardigans, fish farm, soap-making, IT-software development and system maintenance for youth empowerment and entrepreneurship development training.
According to this God’s gift to Ebonyi State, “In the course of my commencing the establishment of the family succour and upliftment programme, and to drive home my resolve to improve upon the socio-economic status of Ebonyi women and youths, I embarked upon advocacy visits to several agencies and organisations, including the UN Economic group led by UN women and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and the Society for Family Health, for their support and partnership for the successful actualisation of my programmes on effective development of Ebonyi women, youths and children.
“I, therefore, call on well-meaning individuals, corporate organisations and other agencies for their logistics and other forms of support for the centre, to enable it realise its objectives of enhancing the socio-economic status of our women, children and youths.”
With what the statistics have shown: most of the social malaises prevalent in the society were because of poor or inadequate health-care, school drop-out syndrome, delinquency among youths, waywardness among the girl child, such as prostitution and other anti-social behaviour.
“The economic empowerment is a solution to poverty, and this informed my determination to improve upon the family income of our people through entrepreneurship and job creation for our women and youths. The major activities of the centre include training, retraining and capacity building as well as micro-credit programme of the state government, it will provide graduates of the centre with micro-credit to establish their own enterprises. Plans are underway to link the centre with other micro-credit programmes outside the ones provided by the state government, such as the Central Bank.”
She appreciated all those who contributed in various ways towards the successful actualisation of the family succour and upliftment programme, friends of Ebonyi State and all who have identified with this programme for their kind support, and assured: “We in the family succour and upliftment programme will strive to ensure that the programme achieves the desired result for the overall development of Ebonyi women, youths and children.”
Skills available through the Family Succour And Family Upliftment Programme are:
1. Tailoring (male and female) knitting make-up
2. Head-tie/hair dressing, perfume production
3. Bleach production, liquid detergent and soap, balm
4. Hair cream and powder production
5. Computer and graphics (simple artwork)
7. Confectioneries and juice production.
Reactions to the pet project
In his speech at the event, Governor Dave Umahi said that his wife knew how to give to the less-privilege, and promised to support her pet project in order to empower women and children of the state.
“I want to pledge my commitment and support to the project. My administration will not neglect the women and children’s welfare, and health-care. We will give you support, my administration will give you every support,” he promised.
The representatives of International Fund for Development (IFAD) and UNIDO, Atsuko Toda; UNICEF, Dr Nzuki; Society for Family Health, Sir Bright Ekweremadu; UN and ECOWAS, Dr Desmond Osemahia, pledged their supports for the programme.
They were optimistic that the first lady’s pet project would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of women and children, promising to partner with the wife of the governor for the period.
The international agencies, however, called on the legislature and other stakeholders to support Mrs Umahi to actualise her aim of uplifting the women and children of the state.
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) women leader, Hon Mrs Amaka Igboke, stated that the women were overwhelmed at the interventions of, Deaconess Rachel Umahi, which have given many Ebonyi women positions in this administration. Mrs Igboke said the women have never had it so good. She assured of total support to the administration of Governor Umahi. The PDP women leader said they came to thank Mrs Umahi and her husband for involving them in the scheme of things. The women handed over some gift items to the governor’s wife during the event.
Through this platform, Her Excellency facilitates numerous social development programmes for Ebonyi women and children, particularly as it relates to primary health-care and welfare programmes. To further drive home her determination to improving upon the socio-economic status of Ebonyi women and children, barely two weeks upon the swearing-in of her husband as the governor, she embarked upon advocacy visits to several agencies and organisations, such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation UN Women, WHO, Society for Family Health, and other agencies and organisations, to garner support and partnership for the successful actualisation of her programmes on effective development of Ebonyi women and children.
She donated agricultural support materials, such as fertilisers and herbicides and other farming input to widows and youths of the state, through the support of IFAD project on the day of the launching of her pet project.
She has used her pet project to positively affect and influence lives in the state, through the paying of medical bills of indigent patients, mobilsiation of women towards better family, as well as partnering with USAID/PMI and the Ministry of Health, in sustaining support towards the elimination of malaria and assisting those suffering from VVF in the state.
This United States government crowned net ambassador has continued with advocacy and mobilisation of people towards the fight against malaria. She expressed delight that many people now sleep inside the insecticidal treated bed nets.
Besides, that 18 agro-based cooperative societies were empowered with N1 million each, to enable them enhance agricultural activities through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The 18 cooperative societies were drawn from six local government areas, namely: Abakaliki, Izzi, Ikwo, Ezza South, Afikpo South and Ishielu.
Speaking while handing over cheques to beneficiaries, Mrs Umahi commended the idea of empowering the people, particularly women through the agro grant. Mrs Umahi charged the benefitting cooperative societies to make judicious use of the funds.
The governor’s wife, who was the chief guest of honour, promised to use her office and her pet project – the Family Succour and Upliftment Foundation – to better the lots of humanity. Chairman of the event and senator representing Ebonyi North, Dr Sam Egwu, commended the wife of Ebonyi State Governor, Mrs Umahi, the Family Succour and Upliftment Foundation and SDG for working together to empower Ebonyi people.
In a welcome address, the focal person, SDG Dr Ngozi Obichukwu, highlighted reasons for the grant and told the cooperative societies that they will be closely monitored. She thanked Mrs Umahi and Egwu for their support.
Her Excellency, Chief Rachel Umahi, in another development at Mile Four Hospital, Abakaliki, put smiles on some faces, as she off-set the hospital bills of indigent mothers who delivered at the hospital but could not pay their bills. Deaconess Umahi who went straight from a church service, said the “Holy Spirit led in her heart to visit Mile Four Hospital and free those mothers.” It was a big relief to these families as some shade tears of joy.
Building 172 houses for widows
Under this strategy, at least 172 widows and non-indigenes in Ebonyi State are to receive two-bedroom bungalow each, as succour to alleviate their sufferings. Mrs Umahi who disclosed this during the foundation- laying of two of the buildings at Uburu in Ohaozara and Amike-Aba councils noted that the beneficiaries were carefully selected from each of the state’s 171 wards, adding that the project is part of the programmes of her pet project, Family Succour and Upliftment Programme. She stated that apart from the fight against female genital mutilation, her office had to embark on the provision of accommodation for the indigent widows, because they were often victims of harmful traditional practices.
She promised to fight until all harmful practices against women were stopped and urged women to stand against such practices that are inimical to their welfare, and participate in politics to lend constructive voices in the issues of governance and welfare of the families.
She explained that society would be better for all if the women are encouraged and consulted in the evolution of policies that concern them and their children. Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr Samuel Okoronkwo who led the state executive council members, said the government was interested in the projects because of their impact on the lives of those who could ordinarily be forgotten, noting that the major essence of a woman is to be a helper, even in schemes of governance.
The International Committee and Advisory Board of McKing’s Media Productions (Publisher of TREK Magazine) officially announced in her 2016 Edition of the Annual Prestigious ‘Trek Africa Awards’ (TAWA) on Sunday September 18, 2016 recognised and appreciated Mrs Umahi, wife of the governor of Ebonyi State, for her humanitarian services in Ebonyi State.
TREK Africa Awards is a continental showpiece geared at acknowledging and celebrating personalities who have excelled in different spheres and made their lifestyles exemplary for the younger generation to emulate. It’s maiden edition in 2014 assembled creme de la crèmes of Nigeria and Ghana with over 600 high profile male and female personalities which cut across various spheres, including politics, banking, industries, judiciary, media, entertainment, pageantry, to name a few.
According to the Publisher of TREK Magazine, Mr Oki Samson Olatunji, the initiative of TAWA is to acknowledge and celebrate Africa’s exemplary personalities with great impact and resilient spirit, who have reached into the slums and hinterlands to break the stronghold of ignorance within the vast populace and empowered their society with opportunities.
Mrs Umahi’s exceptional performance among the 36 states’ first ladies in the country in the last one year in office earned her this award and accolade as the ‘Most Performing First Lady Of The Year’, In The Trek Africa Award TAWA2016.
The award organisers noted: “The tall fair-skinned and beautiful wife of Ebonyi State Governor, Mrs Umahi, was voted as the ‘Most Performing First Lady’ having painstakingly reviewed her distinguished office performance and humanitarian services among the other first ladies in the last one year of office. She has advanced and promoted advocacy on issues affecting the well-being of women, children/youths, coupled with her exemplary leadership style, demonstration of excellence and empowerment initiatives that has improved the standard of living of the good people of Ebonyi State, by extension, Nigeria through her foundation – ‘Family Succour And Upliftment Foundation Programme’ – in consonance with government policy and complementing the very good works of His Excellency, Engr Dave Umahi.”
It is our utmost expectation that, after this highly ranked award, they will continue to be exemplary personality for the younger generation to emulate.
The First Lady Reacts
In one of her numerous outings, she charged Ebonyi women to be good wives and responsible mothers. She gave the charge while receiving a delegation of PDP women at the Governor’s Lodge, Abakaliki.
She stressed that women should always use their numerical strength to enthrone leaders of their choice. She said women have good number to be game-changers. The governor’s wife urged the PDP women to be good examples through positive conduct in their communities. She assured them that she will always carry the women along and charged that they should always give their best to justify their rightful place in government.
Mrs Umahi has not only distinguished herself through hard work and commitment to excellence in all endeavours, she is also a devout Christian, a caring mother in a million. Her marriage is blessed with seven children. She enjoys reading and travelling.
Tony Robbins, with my auntie in mind, stated: “Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.”