19th August, 2011
When Mrs. Elizabeth Owotile lost her husband in 1988, her world seemed to have come to an end. She was then aged 34. At a young age, she was left alone to fend for her children. To make ends meet, she resorted to petty trading to send her children to school and feed them.
Twenty-three years have gone and she is now 57 years, still struggling to make ends meet as a widow. A little respite, however, came her way recently as she was one of the 200 widows in Oshodi who benefited from the Hon. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai, MAF, Widows/Widowers Empowerment Programme for widows.
MAF is a House of Representatives member, representing Oshodi-Isolo I Constituency, Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. He is currently serving his second term in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
â€œI am a trader; my husband died in 1988, I sell food to send my children to school. I was in Kaduna State but when the crisis started, I had to relocate to Lagos. MAF has given each of the 200 widows that benefited from this empowerment programme N10,000 each to start a trade. I will use the money to start a food business,â€ said Mrs. Owotile.
Also, Mrs. Joke Ajisegiri, 50, who has been a widow for 12 years, has been struggling since her husband died. She had to sell soft drinks and kerosene to take care of her three children. With a little respite coming her way, she was glad to have the N10,000 to beef up her her petty business.
The MAF Widows/Widowers empowerment programme began last year with 200 widows benefiting from the programme with N10, 000 each to start up small-scale businesses in order to make ends meet.
Last week, 200 widows gathered at the OshodI-Isolo Local Government secretariat for the second edition of the MAF empowerment programme. At the event were ACN chieftains in the council; Chairman, Oshodi-Isolo council, Hon. Ipesa Balogun; Elewu of Ewu Land, Oba Shakirudeen Kuti; Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Oshodi chapter, Rev. Olusoji; Chief Iman, Ansarudeen Central Mosque, Oshodi branch; Iya Oloja General of Oshodi-Isolo Local Government, Mrs. Taiwo Arowojobe, among others.
According to Akinderu-Fatai, â€œwe recognised the need to offer a helping hand to those in need, we acknowledge your concerns and we have identified the need to assist the widows among us, especially those in critical poor condition.
â€œTherefore, it is with great delight that I am here today to render help in kind and cash to our mothers and sisters who have lost their beloved ones. The widows are part of us; although their percentage in Nigeria is not clear, statistics shows they are many.
â€œIn general, their conditions are nothing to write home about; they really need help and we must come to their aid by giving them a new life. Many of them are not educated or they lacked the skills to sustain themselves, thereby undergoing inhuman living conditions, squalid life and very vulnerable,â€ he added.
The lawmaker lamented that apart from their dead ones and the agony of where the next meal would come from, the widows were exposed to many sordid things that further aggravated their plight. â€œThey face untold hardship from their extended families in some cases,â€ he said.
â€œThey are denied the inheritance that should naturally go to them and their children. Thus, they do find themselves in a battle too big and ferocious to win. Their major headache at times is their children who must eat and go to school. Many widows die in frustration having been left in the lurch in the hour of great needs.
â€œOn my part as a legislator, I will continue to ensure that their plight is taken for consideration at the national level. While pursuing that, I have to see to the immediate needs by making available for them this token which they can use to start small businesses; this will keep them up and doing,â€ he stated.
Akinderu-Fatai said he was hopeful that the proceeds from their trades would help to feed them and their children, adding that â€œas we celebrate the Worldâ€™s Widowsâ€™ Day on 23 June every year, I feel their plight and this prompted me on a yearly basis to making provision to help them out of their critical conditions.
â€œI do hope that the widowâ€™s mite we are giving today will be used judiciously by the beneficiaries and please, start something lucrative with it. Through this gesture, we hope you will be able to meet your immediate needs. I implore you to make good use of the opportunity.
The widows were very happy to have partaken in MAFâ€™s gesture and pledge to use the resources to start up small-scale businesses to be able to eke out a living for their families. One of such is Mrs. Oluwatoyin Adegbenro who was extremely happy that she was one of the numerous beneficiaries of the widowsâ€™ empowerment programme.
Apart from empowering widows, Akinderu-Fatai, between 2010 and 2011 alone, had impacted the lives of over 1,000 residents in Oshodi, Isolo, Ejigbo and Mushin in the area of free eye treatment.
The lawmaker had also initiated various skills acquisition programme in the area of computer training which included computer appreciation course, web design and management, peachtree accounting, computer engineering, quranic computer, fashion design, hairdressing and photography.
Mr. Israel Orija, the chairman of the Oshodi-Isolo Community Development Committee said, â€œAkinderu-Fatai has set a high standard by which others coming behind would be judged. It is our hope that the party that produced him will endeavour to field, for all the elective offices in the whole state, candidates of his kind in 2011, so that the much talked about dividends of democracy can come everybodyâ€™s way.â€
Former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, also commended the lawmaker for the gesture.
Bamidele, who is now a lawmaker in the House of Representatives, added that â€œAkinderu-Fatai is outstanding in his passion for youth development and this, of course, manifest in the myriads of lofty youth-driven programmes that he has carried out through his office since assumption of his present position.â€