*Describes former Rivers First Lady As God’s Exceptional Gift To Humanity
By Chukwuemeka Eze
Consequent upon the special significance of 24 December, to womanhood and all of humanity, chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP), Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has expressed agreement with the opinion canvassed by James Allen -‘no duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks, in commemoration of the birth of a woman with a heart of gold, Dame Judith Amaechi.
In a message of felicitation made available to media houses in Port Harcourt, the party chief said the need to join friends and family to return thanks to God for the life of Mrs. Amaechi whom he described as a special breed, as she marks another birth anniversary, is urgent.
“It is with great honour and joy that I join family, friends and millions of associates and admirers all over the world to celebrate a quintessential extract of God’s uniqueness and awesome nature, Her Excellency, Dame Judith Amaechi, former Rivers First Lady and wife of Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, as she marks her birth 24th December.”
Citing Chapter 24 (twenty-four) of his new book titled Amaechi: His Feats, Inspirational and Revolutionary Leadership Style, which has a special focus on Judith Amaechi, Chief Eze described Mrs. Amaechi as naturally empathetic and values relationships. Eze said she appreciates people and their viewpoints and demonstrates passion and rare enthusiasm to serve humanity. These special traits and more lend credence to her competence in leadership.
During the tenure of her husband as Rivers Governor, Judith was indisputably instrumental to the giant strides he made especially, in the areas of education, health, and human capacity development with a special focus on gender equality.
Born on 24 December 1970 in Enugwu Ukwu, Anambra State, Judith attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Abuloma, Port Harcourt, for her secondary education and thereafter, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, (now Rivers State University), where she graduated in Urban and Regional Planning.
Further excerpts from the book highlight some remarkable feats of this godly Lady whose impact on the lives of those that cross her path need not be overemphasized
Her pet project: Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI)
Amaechi launched the Empowerment Support Initiative, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), on 16 October 2008. The NGO provides practical support and advice for women and children, particularly the less privileged. As a non-profit, non-governmental organization, it gave and still gives special attention to early child development, poverty alleviation, and self-reliance for young girls and women.
During the International Widows’ Day in 2019, Dame Judith Amaechi emphasized the need for a review of some of the dehumanizing native laws and customary practices that cause distress and agony to widows, sometimes trampling on their human rights and throwing them into poverty.
Former First Lady and wife of late Nigerian President, Alhaja Turai Yar’Adua, while launching ESI, said that Mrs. Amaechi has written her name in gold and that history would be kind to her.
In 2009, Mrs. Amaechi sponsored a free mass de-worming program for Rivers State children. She was a strong supporter of the Child Rights Act passed in Rivers state in 2010, aimed at preventing abuse of children.
In March 2010 she visited Israel with the State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Manuela George-Izunwa, to inspect farms and discuss training in, and development of agriculture among women in Rivers State in a bid to boost their livelihoods.
In August 2010 she opened a four-week Information and Communication Technology Farm, which was to provide free computer training during the holidays to junior and senior secondary school students.
Aside from providing hundreds of women with taxis, ESI also built model nursery schools in different parts of Rivers State.
The organization also trained women and young persons in different life-transforming vocations such as Computer and ICT, Carpentry and Joinery, Bricklaying and Masonry, Painting and Decoration, etc.
Insight into ESI: Judith Amaechi speaks
“ESI is one of the most successful NGOs in the country, a place where you can join other passionate individuals, corporate bodies, institutions, government, non-governmental organizations, and international bodies in reaching out, empowering, and impacting the lives of families and children in need in Africa, giving them hope and a future through your contributions, gifts, and donations.
“Since 2008, ESI has charted a new course for the helpless, less privileged, the abandoned, supporting women, youth and children and providing intervention in various areas of need which include amongst others:
“Early childhood care development and education programme with over 3,500 beneficiaries in Rivers State and its surroundings.
“ESI has successfully provided entrepreneurial developments to hundreds of women in sustainable public transportation through the Lady Cabbies Programme.
“ESI has also provided various training programmes in vocational skills and entrepreneurial development including capacity building to over 3000 beneficiaries, helping to equip them with skills, knowledge, and competencies they need to succeed in their chosen fields and support small and medium-sized employers to boost the economy and create a qualified workforce to fill the skill gaps.
“Other areas are the provision of adults mass education and literacy programmes and the Establishment of 85 schools’ tuition-free in the Local Government Areas through ESI Model Nursery Schools.
“ESI has also made significant success on our Maternal Health Programme in addition to other advocacy programmes in collaboration with UNICEF and other national and international bodies.
ESI’s primary goal is to impact lives through various programmes that deal specifically with women, children, and youths. It embarks on programs that add value to members of society and cause positive changes in their lives.
Soliciting the support of people of goodwill, Mrs. Amaechi said “by supporting us today, you will be proud to see your donations channelled towards transforming and empowering lives, giving hope and a future to that child in need.
“We hope you find the area of engagement and support you are looking for.
There is a lot of work ahead and we are determined to continue, by God’s grace, but we look forward to your supporting us every step of the way.
Her partnership towards improved education for children through ESI
In May 2012, Dame Judith Amaechi made a special appeal to the State House of Assembly to support and partner with the Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI), to improve the educational foundation of Rivers’ children.
She had embarked on an advocacy visit to the Assembly to intimate (the state) legislators on the need to buy into ESI programmes, especially, to help infants in rural areas, and add legitimacy to their activities.
According to her, ESI had established a good number of nursery schools in various parts of the state and had launched the “Adopt a Child Scheme”, to ensure that the cost of running the programme was made manageable.
Over 1000 children were adopted through the scheme. Mrs. Amaechi noted that the best thing to give to any child was education, and urged the House to make meaningful contributions towards the success of the ESI.
She explained that the program recruited teachers from the local communities where the schools were located.
On her part, Mrs. Joeba West, then Commissioner for Women Affairs, urged the lawmakers to see the good intentions of Mrs. Amaechi in establishing the Empowerment Support Initiative, to fill the existing gap in early childhood education, especially for the children of the poor.
Then Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Amaechree assured that the Assembly would partner with the NGO, to enable the organization to achieve its set objects.
Hon. Amachree said Rivers lawmakers would adopt 32 children from the schools and would assist in other aspects to ensure that their constituents benefited from the scheme.
Aside from her drive for better girl-child education, Mrs. Amaehi also craved better health for women. Part of that was her donation of a mammogram cancer screening machine for women at the Churchill Health Centre in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi supports ESI
As governor, Amaechi stated that the laudable programme of the Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI), informed his support for the body.
Amaechi made the declaration when he officially launched the special taxis for women. The scheme tagged, Lady Cabbies, was one of ESI’s great initiatives.
Although Amaechi does not support using government money to fund NGOs, a careful examination of the ESI activities and objectives convinced him that the NGO was out to reduce poverty, illiteracy, crime, while empowering Rivers people, a consideration which informed his support for the NGO to achieve its objectives.
Amaechi donated additional 147 brand new cars for the scheme and expressed the hope that it would help to solve the transport challenges facing residents of the state.
Earlier, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the NGO, Dakuku Peterside, said the Empowerment Support Initiative was founded in 2008 with the vision of empowering Rivers people.
Peterside, who was then Commissioner for Works, highlighted the major programmes of the NGO to include the Nursery School, the Livelihood Enhancement Programmes, maternal health programes as well as the Ethics, Values and Community Rebuilding Programme.
Peterside appealed for support to enable the NGO to achieve its objectives and assured that the various programmes would be sustainable.
Ibiye Ekong, the Executive Director of Skye Bank Plc, financiers of the scheme, said the bank was already in partnership with the state government in the area of transportation, noting that the ESI Lady Cabbies scheme was part of the partnership. She, therefore, tasked beneficiaries not to disappoint and advised others to register for the scheme.
Ekong pointed out that in addition to meeting up with the weekly repayments, it would also help the women to develop a savings culture. “We are looking forward to them owning fleets of cars in the future,” she pointed out.
The beneficiaries are expected to pay N14,500, only, weekly to Skye Bank Plc.
What the Holy Bible says about Dame Judith Amaechi
Dame Judith Amaechi is the epitome of womanhood and an exceptional wife, mother, and leader who got married to her husband when he could not be said to be a very successful man, and has maintained her disposition and character as a true wife to date.
The writer of the inspired Book of Proverbs 31:10-31, as contained in the Holy Bible, must have had Dame Judith Amaechi in mind with the following verses:
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her so that he shall have no need of spoil.
“She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
“She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
“She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands, she planteth a vineyard.
“She girdeth her loins with strength and strengtheneth her arms.
“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
“She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
“Her husband is known in the gates when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
“She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
“Strength and honour are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. King James Version (KJV).
Those of us who have been privileged to sit and dine with this woman of honour can easily testify that all the verses as contained above have one thing or the other in tandem with the character of Dame Judith Amaechi.
By the grace of God, through this great woman, the family of Rt. Hon. Dr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is blessed with three very brilliant, successful and wonderful children, Chikamkpa, Obinna and Lemchi.
Honour at home for her contributions to the girl-child
Dame Judith Amaechi was on 21st May 2021, conferred with the Fellowship Award of the Federal College of Education,(Technical) Omoku, during the institute’s 9th to 18th combined convocations. It was in honour of her contributions to human development.
The provost of the college, Dr. Emmanuel Ihenyiri, in a letter dated April 12th, 2021, to Mrs. Amaechi, stated that she was considered for the award for her role in the girl-child education through the instrumentality of the Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI) Dr. Ihenyiri added that the award was the highest honour bestowed on eminent Nigerians who had distinguished themselves in their area of influence.
Dame Amaechi’s ESI had provided a tuition-free education in its early childhood development and education in the state with 10,000 pupils graduating from the programme. Early childhood education also provided a meal per day to enhance nutritional and dietary requirements to enhance the intelligence quotient of the children.
Other comments on Mrs. Amaechi
Prince Tonye Princewill, a scion of the Kalabari Kingdom, who is well conversant with the deeds and philanthropic activities of this great Amazon and Mother General of the politics of Rivers State, explained her thus, “Dame Judith Amaechi is the backbone of our leader and a mother to all of us; a grassroots pastor and the real secret of his grace.
“She has a direct line to God and her primary constituency is the people without a voice. She is beautiful inside and out. But her biggest asset is her humility. No ego. Just like her husband.
To Hon. Onari Brown, another great son of Rivers State, and the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Dame Judith Amaechi is “a pillar to the family, whose food is praise and worship; a woman whose joy is helping the needy/less privileged.”
Hon. Napoleon Ukalikpe, a former Deputy Secretary of APC in Rivers State, and also former Council Chairman of Ahoada East, in his thoughts about Mrs. Amaechi, said, “There are no adjectives suitable enough to qualify this Jewel in a savannah. She is a pearl that can’t be found on seas but deep in the ocean. There is a saying that men are a reflection of their homes.
“The best way to describe her is to take a tour of the study of the life of the man Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi from 1992. Her entrance to the life of this today enigma of a man changed the history of so many persons in the world especially my humble self, Napoleon Ukalikpe, who is a testimonial of the invaluable support of this great woman.
“Dame Judith Amaechi is the custodian of all that is found in the man Amaechi. CRA only radiates what Judith deposits in him. Otherwise, she can be described as a no-nonsense person, a visionary, a caregiver, a committed woman, and above all, a woman ahead of her time.
“Let it be known that the reason CRA is not corrupt is fundamental because there is no home to accommodate any “excess luggage”.
“Her dressing can even describe how contented she is otherwise she does not lay her hope on materialism but on what the future will bring up.
Her vision and policy
During her investiture with the Fellowship Award of the Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku, Amaechi, in her speech titled, “Let’s Save The Future Of Out Of School Children”, appealed to Nigerians to invest in the education of out-of-school children in the country in order to save their future.
She noted that statistics of out-of-school children in the country were alarming and worrisome and that only a collaborative effort would deflate this curve. “Statistics available still show that over 11 million children are out of school. We must put ourselves together to invest and save the future of these children”, she appealed.
Mrs. Amaechi, noted for her humility and concern for the down-trodden, decried a situation where some states had yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act even as she added that quality education was the inalienable right of the child.
She recalled ESI was founded in 2008 with the aim to run a tuition-free early child development and education through collaborative partnerships “In ESI, we believe in a collaborative partnership between the town and the gown in our quest to give our children a pride of place in accordance with the 17 sustainable development goals and the child-right act domesticated in Rivers state during the Governorship of Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi which guaranteed tuition-free quality education that won for the state the World Book Capital.”
Mrs. Amaechi explained that kindergarten education remained a neglected but significant aspect of the education sector and added catching the children early in life would guard against all forms of criminal tendencies that had permeated the society.
She disclosed that ESI provided platforms for healthy rivalry for academic excellence among pupils and guide them to discover their God-given talents as well as assisted them in building their intelligence quotient through adequate nutrition and dietary provision in the one meal per day programme.
She added that kindergarten education would give the children a sense of belonging and love for their fatherland. “Let’s join hands to build future leaders and inculcate in them a sense of belonging, unity, patriotism, oneness, and love for their fatherland.” She advised the graduating students of the College to deploy their knowledge and skills acquired during their studies into positive use.
Dr. Omenazu Jackson one of the brilliant sons from Rivers State has this to say about the celebrant, “Mrs. Judith Amaechi remains one of the finest characters in first lady position in Rivers State. She is an eloquent custodian of moral rectitude. Her heart depicts a full warehouse of love to humanity.
A leading light for womanhood. I wish her a happy birthday.
May the Lord of Host of heaven continue to guild and protect her.”
Finally, I pray God to grant you mum more fruitful years and cause our common dream for Nigeria to be actualized.