The Expo Convention Centre of Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria was a beehive in the night of Saturday, October 16, 2021 when the cream de la cream converged at the highbrow hospitality haven to witness the garlanding and recognition of some members of the upper crust of the society. It was indeed a night of glitz and glamour.
The occasion was the annual awards ceremony of The Sun Publishing Company Limited. The exquisite ambience of the venue depicted the ceremony as one of high octane nature. From all walks of life, they came in droves each preening in tantalizing sartorial elegance.
The kaleidoscope of bright lights on the stage illuminated and defined the occasion. It was an occasion where the sun shone on the award recipients to further showcase their great exploits and achievements with a view to spurring them to do more and others to aim at attaining same heights or even surpassing them.
Standing tall among the 24 award recipients was Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of Ondo State governor, Arakurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN. Certainly, there are men and women who are brimming with uncommon passion to enhance the wellbeing of mankind and the Ondo State first lady is one of them.
Arabinrin Anyanwu-Akeredolu has proven to be one of these rare breed of human beings flowing with milk of human kindness. Her passion for the uplift and empowerment of the girl-child and women has found expressions in diverse ways.
Through her pet project, Bemore Empowered Initiative, she has raised and still is, raising a generation of female technology leaders. She trains the young girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Solar Renewal Energy Technology and other life-changing skills during the periodic summer boot camps which Bemore Empowered Initiative holds in Ondo and Imo States.
As at the last count, the Bemore Boot camps have churned out about 2,000 of such female technologists who were equipped with tools upon graduation to ply their trades. The first lady is also involved in accelerated birth registration project through Solayo Births Kits and Vanguards that has ensured that Ondo State at present captures new births even in far rural communities of the state.
She is also neck-deep in the fight against rape and other gender-based violence as well as promotion of adolescent health and reproduction. Arabinrin Anyanwu-Akeredolu is also the founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN). Through BRECAN, she has been helping the citizens successfully prevent or overcome breast cancer being a survivor herself.
At the height of COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, the first lady introduced Ondo State Widows Care, a platform through which she reached out to and gave succour to widows. She was the only first lady in the country to do so.
Arabinrin Anyanwu-Akeredolu equally founded Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials and female Politicians (FOWOSO) in 2017 which is a major force in women mobilization and empowerment in the administration of her husband.
The first lady’s mobilization skill is second to none. Her husband, Gov Akeredolu attested to this recently when he said she is a force to reckon with in the mobilization of the citizens of the state.
Obviously, she has been a pillar of support for the governor. Little wonder guests gave her resounding rounds of applause as she stepped into the Expo Convention Centre with her aides and well-wishers to be honoured as the Most Supportive First Lady of the Year 2020 by The Sun Publishing Company Limited. It is heartwarming to note that she emerged tops among the 36 other state first ladies in the country.
Responding shortly after the award plaque was handed over to her by Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, wife of the late warlord, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, she acknowledged the honour done her and urged the public to strive to contribute their own quotas to improve the lots of humanity.
She promised not to relent in contributing towards societal development. Arabinirn Anyanwu-Akeredolu expressed her gratitude to her number fan and husband, Gov. Akeredolu for his encouragement which is responsible for the difference she is making.
She equally lauded her parents, late Chief Benson and Mrs. Dora Anyanwu for laying the foundation of who she has become as well as the personnel attached to her office for their resourcefulness.
An elated Gov. Akeredolu lauded his wife for her uncommon passion and love for the girl-child and women. He also commended the first lady for her immense contributions and supportive role towards the development of the state.
Others who also poured encomiums on the first lady included Dr. Francis Adegoke Akanbiemu of the Ondo State Primary HealthCare Development Agency (OSPHA); Bassey Obeten, Technical Coordinator, Bemore Empowered Initiative; Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission and Temitope Daniyan, Secretary, Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials (FOWOSO).
Akanbiemu stated that the recognition is an indicator that her various programmes and initiatives were impactful even as he predicted that the first lady’s initiatives would outlive her stay in office.
Obeten, who described her as a role model, mentor and leader, added that the award is in recognition of her years of selfless service and dedication towards the empowerment of African women and girls.
On his own part, Tunji-Ojo noted that the first lady earned the award by standing by ‘Our confident, courageous and bold Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN”. Tunji-Ojo, who represents Akoko North East/Akoko North West Federal Constituency, added that the first lady has exhibited dedication, enthusiasm and insight which is inspiring.
In felicitating with the first lady, Temitope Daniyan, Secretary, FOWOSO said the foundation was proud of her accomplishments and prayed God to continue to strengthen the first lady in order for her to do more exploits for humanity.
In his remarks, the Publisher of The Sun Newspapers, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who spoke through her daughter, Neya Uzor Kalu charged the award recipients to remain committed to societal development.
Neya said; “To whom much is given much is expected. Our children are watching; your children are watching. Therefore, you must remain consistent characters. In a country where justice and peace reign, progress is achieved. We must therefore join hands together to work for peace.”
Other award recipients at the occasion were Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor; Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano State governor; Yahya Bello, Kogi State governor; Mai Mala Buni, governor of Yobe State; Philip Shuaibu, Deputy governor of Edo State; Moses Ekpo, deputy governor, Akwa Ibom State; Babagana Kingibe; Kanayo O Kanayo; Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation; Allen Onyema, Chairman, Air Peace; and Mohammed Buba Marwa.
Others are Nnamdi Ezeigbo, Chairman, Slot Systems Limited; ABC Ojiako, Chairman, Seplat Petroleum; Frank Okafor, Chairman, Marco Polo Properties; Obinna Iyiegbu; Mustapha Ado, Chairman, Ammasco International; Ebuka Onunkwo, Chairman, Seahorse Lubricant Industries; Chris Igwe, Chairman, Mainland Oil Limited; Prof. George Obiozor, President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Olabode George, politician.
It was a celebration of excellence and achievements of Nigerians who in spite of the odds stacked against them distinguished themselves. In the face of hopelessness, they brought hope. Kudos to the awardees, particularly to Arabinrin Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the Ada Owere 1.