A heart of gold and a sense of value and passion to help provide succour to the needy in society as exemplified in the wife of the Governor of Delta State, Dame (Mrs.) Edith Okowa are attributes of Delta’s First Lady that were visible to the audience today, Saturday 1/6/2019 at the commissioning of the Delta State Sickle Cell Referral Centre, at the Asaba Specialist Hospital, which her 05 Initiative donated to the state government.
Guests at the ceremony eulogized her for having the vision to provide help, support, comfort and mitigate the pain in the less privileged using her pet project the O5 Initiative.
At the ceremony which had Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state, her husband in attendance, the wife of Edo State Governor Mrs. Betty Obaseki and the Akwa Ibom State governor’s wife Mrs. Udom in attendance, among other dignitaries that included the occasion’s Chairman, Prof Epiphany Azinge (SAN) and his wife, the Chief Judge of Delta state and judges as well as top medical practitioners and specialists in sickle cell anemia among others.
Director General of O5 Initiative, Mrs. Kevwe Agas told the story behind the initiative which is a vision of how Mrs. Okowa would impact the life of Deltans, and taken from Matthew 25: 35-36 “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
According to the Director-General, Mrs. Okowa has been running with this vision of the Lord since 2015 and has visited prison inmates across the state proving medication and other needs to them.
So far a total of 12 sickle cell centres across Delta state. “Today’s event is a dream come through. We take the message of knowing our genotype to our families and get our children also know their own,” Mrs Agas said.
She explained that sickle cell disorder comes about when men and women fall in love and get married without doing the important thing of getting to establish their genotypes, that when known from inception before getting married would help them to take appropriate decisions and caution that will prevent bringing to life children with sickle cell disorder.
Overwhelmed by the commissioning ceremony, which he said will address the plight of those living, Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Azinge said the scorecard of the O5 Initiative is impressive, one of which is to do something to mitigate the plight of those with sickle cell disorder. To the applause of his listeners, Azinge said: “Okowa de work, we de see am; Dame Edith Okowa de work we de enjoy.
He declared that the Referral Centre is exceptional and Mrs Okowa must be commended, and he called on Deltans to continue to support the O5 Initiative.
The partners, Zenith Bank Plc expressed delight with the work of the O5 Initiative, which a representative of the bank said was tallied with the bank’s objective of adding value to life.
For Asaba, Delta State born Dr. (Mrs) Akinsete, a specialist in Sickle cell disorder commended Mrs. Okowa for her large-heartedness by doing what no one has done. “Dr. State and indeed Nigeria will forever remain grateful to Mrs. Okowa for this initiative. 150,000 babies are born annually in Nigeria with sickle cell disorder, and not up to 100,000 survive. Overcoming this challenge is what this O5 Initiative of Mrs. Okowa will help to take care of,” she declared.
Pointing out that the Centre will provide a range of services, and therefore help prevent stroke in children, she called on everyone to help support the programme.
Prof. Iwegbu, a specialist who announced to the delight of all that sickle cell disorder is now curable commended Mrs.Okowa for showing remarkable commitment as the O5 Initiative has sponsored many persons with bone problems, including one Blessing Onojovwo, who has received a total hip bone replacement that has brought her happiness. “Sickle cell disease can now be cured,” he disclosed, adding that because bone transplant operation can now be done, there is hope for many.
Mrs. Betty Obaseki, the wife of Edo State Governor commended Mrs Okowa for taking the initiative to first seek God’s face and then for hearing right. She strongly admonished that Mrs. Okowa and her husband should ensure that the Centre becomes a solid structure that will not only outlive this administration, but that will survive others and continue to exist by outliving other administrations as well.
“After your administration has finished, I am going to come here after to see that this project outlives you,” she said and called on Governor Okowa to put in place a policy to ensure that subsequent governments don’t kill the Centre.
“Let this vision be enlarged to become a South-South project that other governors from the South-South region will buy into and support because people from these states will come to attend this centre being the second of its kind in Nigeria,” the Edo state first lady said.
Mrs. Bridget Ochuko Augustus, born with sickle cell told the audience a chilling story of her experience as a person living with the sickle cell disorder. Now a mother of five children, she encouraged others with the problem not to see it as a death sentence, adding that it can be managed and the person would live a normal and fulfilled life.
Justice Excel Timi, a judge in the High court of Justice of Delta state, she urged those living with the disorder that there is always the God factor in the handling of the problem, even as Mrs. Nero Atagone, a 65 years old mother and grandmother commended Mrs. Okowa, saying “You don’t know what nyou have done for people.”
For Mrs.Okowa, the commissioning of the Referral centre is the fulfilment of the promise she made in 2015 to build a sickle cell referral centre. She singled out outstanding partners to include, Mr. Jim Ovia who she said is always there for the O5 Initiative; Dr. (Mrs) Akinsete for her passion, and the late Mrs. Lizzy Umukoro, who spurred her on. “We named the genetic and counselling sections of the Centre after her.
Urging people to look around and tap into opportunities to help the needy, Mrs. Okowa said living is not about how many houses one has built or the number of cars in one’s garage, but about how many lives one has touched. “The change we talk about is touching the lives of others,” she said, explaining further that most people think that they don’t have bank accounts and so cannot help the needy; ‘No, she said, pointing out that it is not in the fatness of your bank account. “You can start with the little that you have,” Mrs. Okowa said.
She announced that with the addition of this centre, it brings to 13 the total number of Sickle Cell Clinics established by the 05 Initiative in its relatively short history; the other twelve clinics are located at Ughelli, Sapele, Oleh, Kwale, Eku, Patani, Koko, Otu-Jeremi, Agbor, Orerokpe, Issele-Uku and Umunede.
“Every one of these clinics is fitted with modern equipment, quality furniture, and manned by skilled and knowledgeable personnel because, as some of us here may be aware, sickle cell patients face peculiar health challenges including episodes of pain, frequent infections, delayed growth, and vision problem not to mention the social stigma associated with the disorder in our environment,” she stated, adding, “I am not expecting you to change the world; all I ask is that you change the world of one person; do that and you would have accomplished a world of good,” she said.
Meanwhile, Governor Okowa has called on Nigerians to always impact positively on the life of one person as such will engender the spirit of brotherliness among the people.
In his speech which he described as a vote of thanks, he said that the facility which is well equipped is donated to the state by the 05 Initiative, a non-governmental organisation founded by the wife of the Governor of Delta State, Dame Edith Okowa.
“I am glad that the 05 Initiative was founded and committed to helping one individual at a time. As Nigerians, if we impact on the life of one person positively, that person will go ahead to impact on the life of another person and within a short period, we will have a country where the people will be willing at all times to help one another.
“This commissioning exercise is coinciding with the birthday celebration of my wife, while I say, happy birthday to her, I am glad that every year she celebrates her birthday touching the lives of other people,” the governor said.
He hinted that at his 60th birthday which comes up in, July, 2019 (next month), he will be celebrating with the less privileged.
While thanking his wife for having the vision to assist people with sickle cell disorder and assist those without hope in the society, Governor Okowa thanked donors to 05 Initiative, stating that the NGO was strictly driven by donations from individuals and agencies. “All the money to build the Centre came from the generous support of many people, especially Mr. Jim Ovia.O5 Initiative is working without support from the state government. They work by raising funds to realize the projects,” he disclosed.
A highlight of the ceremony was the cutting of a beautiful cake by Mrs Okowa assisted by her husband and to mark her birthday. The cake was made by Blueberry Confectionaries Limited, Asaba.