By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The famed Benin widow, Mrs. Joy Ifijeh whose life and circumstances were changed by her encounter with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was brought to serious moral agony last Tuesday.
Following the turnaround in her life caused by Comrade Oshiomhole’s gift of N2 million and her appointment as a Senior Special Assistant, the one time near destitute was faced with the moral dilemma of what to do with the N250,000 endowment promised her by the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The state chairman of the PDP in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih who led the crusade to redress the woman’s plight, and who apparently also saw it as a way to score political points against the governor, had last Friday made a public announcement asking the then unidentified widow to come and receive the sum of N250,000
The amount, Orbih had disclosed, was part of the party’s effort at redressing what he called the plight of widows under the Oshiomhole administration.
“The PDP, Edo State will not let any Edo person ‘to go and die’ if it can help it, especially not hardworking people like that widow who are engaged in lawful enterprises that are, in themselves, not easy to carry on,” Orbih had said.
“To this end, our party has instituted an endowment fund for all widows and oppressed people in the state and by this release, we invite the widow captured in the video of the encounter with Governor Oshiomhole to come to the PDP Secretariat on No. 70, Sapele Road, at 11am on Tuesday December 3, 2013 to receive a first-installment sum of N250,000.00 to cushion the pain, trauma and loss occasioned by her mistreatment and the seizure of the items she sells.”
That Friday once the news went out and as associates and friends of the comrade governor brought to his notice that he had apparently played into the hands of his political enemies, the governor’s camp went into an overdrive.
Government officials went out on a desperate drive to search out the woman whom they eventually located and presented to the governor for a breakfast meeting where the governor made an unprecedented personal apology.
“When I said go and die, that one was said in a fit of anger. And I am really sorry”, the governor had said.
The apology was followed with the presentation of the sum of N2 million and an automatic appointment as a Senior Special Assistant.
Remarkably, the poor state of the woman when she again met Oshiomhole last Monday for breakfast was reflected in the fact that she still wore the same clothes that she wore in the video, reflecting the poor state of her wardrobe.
The restitution has helped to cleanse the image of the governor which had been seriously sullied by the video which had shown him to be temperamental, inconsiderate and maybe inhuman.
The apology and the endowment last Monday inevitably transferred the moral agony from Oshiomhole to Mrs. Ifijeh. What was she to do with the PDP’s offer of N250,000 from the PDP chairman, who in the first place, was the one who first brought her situation to the public domain and forced the governor into making restitution?
PDP officials say that the woman was not given the opportunity to make a decision. Some of them claimed that the widow was “kidnapped” by the Edo State government in order to frustrate her coming out to receive the handout from the PDP.
Whatever it is, the woman was absent on Tuesday when the PDP launched an endowment fund for widows.
No word was heard from her until the following day, Wednesday when she came to receive her appointment letter as an SSA to the Governor. In a statement conveyed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Peter Okhira, the widow, Mrs. Ifijeh was quoted as telling the PDP to give the N250,000 earmarked for her to other widows.
“For the money promised me by PDP let them give it to other widows. I do not need the money,” the woman was quoted as saying by Mr. Okhiria.
Given the turnaround in her life situation the sacrifice she has made in donating the N250,000 to other widows could draw a parallel with the sacrifice of the Jerusalem widow portrayed by Jesus, The Christ in the bible.
Whether Mrs. Ifijeh, whose monthly salary is now in six figures and her bank account raised to the millions was essentially apolitical in her gesture is debatable. But politics is what has transformed her. She is now a politician,