Read how a vision driven governor’s wife is changing lives, restoring hope to the poor in an oil rich state (Photos)

By Austin Oyibode

“I have always prayed to God to give me the opportunity to help humanity and contribute to bringing a change in creating a better world. The vision of 05 Initiative was born out of this desire and I believe it is the part which God has chosen for me. The burning desire of changing our world, one person at a time, was conceived a long time ago and every effort I have made in life is driven by this desire.

“O5 Initiative is surely built on a solid foundation of God and I know that with the help of God and everyone who also shares the same vision with me, we will create a prosperous Delta state, Nigeria and the world at large. I am not particular about men or women, I am particular about humanity and I’m ready to do things that will make Deltans happy and change the lives of the downtrodden. I will help the helpless, shelter the homeless and feed the hungry,” wife of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Edith, said as her vision statement for the 05 initiative.

For her, “it is a great task but I know that with the help of God and with the support of every Deltan, we will achieve our goal of building a prosperous Delta state. We owe it a responsibility to take care of our families, raise responsible children and show love and respect for one another. As this administration progresses, we stand to gain a lot, therefore I beseech everyone to be part of this laudable objective.”

Armed with this blueprint and mission statement, the Delta first lady marched on and her determination has finally paid off. Many across the 25 local government areas are singing songs of joy and with heavy smiles beaming on their faces. Hopes have risen and dead dreams have been re-invigorated. Sickle cell patients have been given a new phase of life as she has established sickle cell centres across various hospitals in the state where they could be taken care of and their lives prolonged with available medications.

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Within the last three months, not less than 24,500 people in Delta who were having various eye challenges, including blindness, cataract and other diseases received were beaming with smiles and happiness as the 05 team toured the entire local government areas across the state. Available figure reveales that 13,000 glasses have been given out while 2008 surgeries have been carried out.

On Monday, August 13, the team was at the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba at a grand finale of the restore sight medical outreach of the 05 initiative. The event was heavily attended with men, women and youths in dire need of care both for their eyes and other parts of the body. Governor Okowa with other members of the state executive council and members of the legislature were all in attendance.

At the event, Governor Okowa told the crowd that the medical outreach was aimed at helping people in dire need. For him, it is an obligation to the people. He said: “If everyone decides to reach out to a poor person, by the time everyone does this the world would be a better place for all. Imagine that those 2008 people who passed through surgeries must have been partially blind.”

He commended the coordinator of the Restore  Sight Outreach, Dr Ernest Ogbeide, who took it upon himself to sacrifice time amidst all difficulties to take up such a programme. He said: “It is because of your passion that you chose this path as there were many before you who did not do so. Some people cannot afford to go overseas for the cataract surgery, we thank God for the passion you have as the programme has brought a lot of success.”

Governor Okowa said the programme has touched a lot of lives within these few years, noting that it was gladdening to note that more than 2,000 eye surgeries have been successfully done through the free eye care programme while 12 sickle cell centres have been built at different locations in the state.

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The governor commended Zenith Bank and other sponsors, stating that the state government has not spent a kobo on the programme as it has been wholly supported by donors outside the state.

He added: “It is good to note that what they are doing is for the poor in the society bearing in mind that what we do for the poor is what touches the heart of God, if we can find a way to help our neighbours, through our actions, we can change the world.

“I want to appreciate Restore Sight Initiative for their wonderful partnership which has led to a lot of people regaining their sights in the last three months. I have heard stories about the volunteering efforts of Dr. Onoriode Umolu in the activities of the 05 Initiative despite the fact that she is not employed, her dedication to serving humanity has shown that she will do a lot as civil servant and as such, from today, I give her automatic employment in Delta state.”

Wife of the governor who has been pioneering the programme, Mrs Dame Okowa, was no less joyful as the programme has recorded huge success with no glitches across the state. Beaming with smiles, she stated that the Asaba outreach which is the 24th is a thanksgiving for the success of the previous programmes.

She said “Four months ago, we began this journey in Ika-North, Umunede precisely then we moved to Ika-South. We have been doing this in every local government, we have all reasons to celebrate. We will be going to the last community in November as they told us not to come because of the rain.”

She thanked the ministry of Health and corporate bodies involved in propagating the success of the medical outreach. She also thanked the people of the several local government for their cooperating which made the overall event a huge success.

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Dr Ernest Ogbeide of Restore Sight Initiatives commended Dame Okowa for providing the platform to reach out to those with eye challenges in the society, noting that within the period, more than 23,000 persons with eye challenges have been treated, with over 2000 surgeries successfully carried out.

He also stated that more than 13,000 eye glasses and more than 8,000 eye drops were freely given out to those treated.

Chairman of Oshimili South local government area, Uche Osadebe, said: “Official health statistics in Nigeria indicates that malaria account for more than 70 per cent of out-patients population in hospitals across the country while sight challenges are now known to be prevalent in the country and as a result of which many of our people suffer either severe sight impairment or even outright blindness most often due to ignorance, poverty and lack of access to affordable and reliable health facilities.”`

It was happiness coupled with tears of joy on Tuesday morning at the stadium when many of those who passed through cataract surgery came out to testify that their eyes have opened and could see after years of suffering cataract that rendered them almost completely blind.

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