How Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu became Ada Owere

RECENTLY, news on the installation of the wife of Ondo State Governor, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, as Ada Owere I, flooded the media space. The conferment of the novel chieftaincy punctuated both the new and conventional genres of the mass media. Anyanwu-Akeredolu is the first recipient of the prestigious title that was jointly given by all the monarchs in Owerri Federal Constituency of Imo State. It had pulsating effects beyond the geography of its scene. The coronation was the maiden edition. The title, never conferred on anyone before Mrs Anyanwu-Akeredolu, ought to have been formally given earlier than the time it came. The installation, in the first instance, was slated for Saturday, 10th April, 2021. It tarried to August 14, 2021, as a result of the raging security storm in the country, particularly within the south-east region which comprises Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo which has Owerri as its capital city. Eventually, it was held with resplendent glamour.

Ada, in Igbo parlance, represents the first daughter of a family; the leader, life and light of the family. “The title ‘Ada Owere’ was a creativity”, said Chris Ajoku, 82 year old veteran journalist and former teacher who had taught Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu in 1960 as a standard II pupil at Emeabiam Central School, testified to her formative finesse and was at the forefront of the vanguard for the making of ‘Ada Owere’ chieftaincy. According to Ajoku, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu holds the title Ada Emeabiam II, a title that places her above all Emeabiam women but whose purview is limited to Emeabiam, her country home. In Chris Ajoku’s words, “the reach of Betty’s humanitarian offerings and impactful contributions has already stretched beyond her immediate community. You may have been hearing of Ada this or that before now, but Ada Owere has never been conferred on anybody before now. It may also interest you to know that more than seven persons completed for the very consequential chieftaincy. Eventually, it was given to the most deserving among them. Betty touched lives in the entire Owerri zone, affecting our communities, our youth and women in ways unusual. So we decided that since she has done so great for the people of Owerri, it would not be out of place to make her a leader over all the women of Owerri, hence the creation of the title Ada Owere.”

The process of appointing Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu as the first Ada Owere of Owerri federal constituency was really a rigorous one. It commenced with a proposal from the constituents and monarch of Emeabiam who deemed her qualified and deserving for the exalted position. The plan was later received and reviewed by monarchs within her Owerri West Local Government Area (LGA). Owerri West comprises 21 autonomous communities. Other communities in the local government area include Umuguma, Avu, Okuku, Oforola, Obinze, Nekede, Ihiagwa and Eziobodo. After a diligent review, the Ezes of Owerri West pushed the theme to Owerri Federal Constituency for a more critical review. The Owerri Federal Constituency is made up of three local government areas – Owerri North, Owerri Municipal and Owerri West; and has over 50 incumbent monarchs. After a strict scrutiny of the proposal and the pedigree of the candidate for the unprecedented title, the Ndi-Eze Owerri Federal Constituency reached a consensus on the suitability of Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu and agreed unanimously to confer the title on her. Answering questions on the candidate’s qualification for the novel and foremost title, the Chairman of Imo Traditional Institutions, Owerri Zone, HRM Eze David Akujobi Osuagwu, said: “It was not a cheap process. The selection was thorough right from the conception to the final state of ratification. We considered her suitability on the basis of personality, pedigree and achievements, before it was eventually approved by over fifty monarchs. She’s a great woman who has represented us very well. It is not a mistake that we are honouring her with the title.”

The host monarch, HRH, Eze Eunan Eke O. Eke, Okpo I of Umuokpo Emeabiam, justified Anyanwu-Akeredolu’s suitability, saying: “Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu has been working for the development of the community for a very long time. She deserves it and the entire Ezes in the Owerri West Federal Constituency have affirmed this. This is not a title anyone could have bought. It was given in recognition of her sterling qualities.” HRM, Eze Austin Possible, Ihemefula I of Umuonyeche, Chairman, Owerri Municipal, said, “What actually qualified Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu for the Ada Owere title is beyond Owerri and Imo State. We have watched her strides overtime within Owerri and Imo State at large; We have also seen the great works she is doing in Ondo State as the First Lady, and in the country. She has been a worthy ambassador of Owerri people and she deserves the honour.” Prince Eze Madumere (MFR), former Deputy Governor of Imo State, declared: “Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu represents a personality that a people rarely have. She has used her time, resources and office to champion the cause of women. We have seen her achieve a whole lot, wielding a lot of influence, impacting lives in Ondo and Imo states and other parts of the country. For us in Owerri, we see her as a great daughter and a worthy Owerri ambassador of Igbo land.”

Prof.(Mrs.) Njoku Celestina Ugochi, the first female rector of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, put it differently: “Ada Owere is unique and not an all comers’ label; it is meant for one who is unique and of rare acts. The making of the consequential title underwent a rigorous process, and of course, it had to, because by implication, the holder of Ada Owere title is the first daughter of the entire Owerri landscape. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu is a peculiar human being who I believe deserves the peculiar title. As Ada Owere, she is the leader of the entire women of Owerri province.”

It is true that Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu facilitated the construction of 18KM Eziobodo-Emeabiam road by the NDDC, from which three major communities – Eziobodo, Emeabiam and Okolochi, of Owerri West Local Government are benefiting.

Pst. Iyke Onuoha, a Public Affairs Analyst, captures the consequence of the road project. “The Eziobodo-Emeabiam road has remained unaccessible from time immemorial. It is so deplorable that it presents sufficient conditions for nightmarish experience during rain season; vehicles are usually trapped the in mud and flood water whenever it rains. It took the

enormous goodwill and exceptional courage of aworthy daughter of Imo State,

Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, First Lady of Ondo State, to attract the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to intervene in the construction of the road.”

Being part of her achievements, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu is highly rated for founding the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), a leading Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that galvanizes actions against breast cancer through public education, patients support, advocacy and Research, for which she was nominated in 2014 as a scholar of the American Cancer Society, alongside award of recognition in 2018 by Harvard University,USA and a recognition in 2019 by the University of Heildelberg, Germany.

Part of her strides include the deployment of the instrumentality of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) as a platform established to advance family values, societal and educational development by promotion of literacy in children through programmes such as ‘Reading is Fun’, Essay and Spelling Bee Competitions; and constructive engagements with government with the goal of ensuring the people of Owerri Zone are not marginalized.

Bemore Empowered Initiative, one of the First Lady’s illustrious initiatives, which is currently holding in Owerri, Imo State Capital, lends enduring credence to the fact that Chief Anyanwu-Akeredolu also replicates in Imo State the fine projects she does in Ondo State. She takes good care of Widows through her WidowCare project in Imo State as she does to Ondo widows.

Other things that qualified Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu for the exalted position must also include using her office to secure employments and political appointments for Nigerians of Imo State origin in Ondo and other states in the country.

The Conferment of Ada Owere Chieftaincy Title:

The climate of the place of crowning was as untypical as the title for which the world had literarily converged. It was as though Graceland Event Arena, Irete, Off Owerri- Onitsha Road, Owerri, Imo State, the magnificent venue of the of the event became a sort of galaxy. It attracted stars to itself and commanded a crowd of nobles. The country’s best, from all walks, had assembled to witness and honour the woman whose luster has loomed beyond boundaries.

An army of women of Owerri province converged to honour the woman of difference in Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu. The roll call stretched from the political gladiators to business magnates and industry captains. Crowns of monarchs from all forks were a peculiar beauty. Ada Owere’s hubby and Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, led other respectable figures to the occasion.

On the galaxy are Deputy Governor Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa and his queenly wife, Esther Oluwaseun Aiyedatiwa;  Chief of Staff to Governor Akeredolu, Mr Olugbenga Ale; Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, CFR; Chief Olusola Oke, SAN. Others include Prince Eze Madumere, Former Deputy Governor of Imo State; HRM, Eze David Akujobi Osuagwu, Chairman, Imo Traditional Institutions of Owerri Zone; and Rt. Rev’d Chukwuma C. Oparah, Anglican Bishop of Owerri Diocese. Ondo State’s Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Ade Adetimehin, and Mr Jimmy Odimayo among other dignitaries made noted impressions.

Ondo State women, who are witnesses to Betty’s incredible achievements beyond the gates of Imo witnessed the crowing. From the charming Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Catherine Oladunni Odu, to the queenly crew with the tag Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Official and Female Political Appointees (FOWOSO) who showed up in their glow to celebrate the lustrous First Lady. Ondo lawmakers, led by Hon. Gbenga Omole, made conspicuous presence.

The Implications of Ada Owere Chieftaincy Title:

“Owerri people’s experience with the impacts Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu is already altering the spurious, age-long impression that a male child is superior to female. Infact, in my own immediate family, I am beginning to agree to take seriously the maxim that ‘what a man can do, a woman can also do.”, said Mr Chris Ajoku.

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, who has been a rallying point for Owerri people, through her achievements at the home front, is fast falsifying the spurious impression of male child superiority over the female, particularly in a clime that lays special cultural emphasis on a male child. Beyond Owerri, and the entire eastern region, however, Betty is leaving a lesson so profound, that a female child can be as much as a male child can be to a family, community or country, and even more.

*Debo Akinbami, Special Assistant on New Media & Archives to the Governor of Ondo State, writes from the Office of Wife of Governor.

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