BY ETOP EKANEM
Chief (Mrs.) Mercy Orji, the first lady of Abia State in this interview reviews her activities in the last six years and asserts that the inputs she has made to the development of the state will last for a very long time. Excerpts:
How did you conceive the idea of this empowerment and skill acquisition programmes?
The idea was conceived about three years before I assumed office as wife of the Governor of Abia State. Before then, I was already visiting and rendering assistance to the less privileged in the society including orphanages and other charity organizations.I was doing that because of my passion to uplift the lives of such people, considering the difficulties they undergo.
So, when we came on board, I decided to embark on the construction of a skill acquisition centre to enable the youths and women to be trained in various trades that can empower them economically. I sincerely believed that the learning of trade will go a long way in assisting them to cope with the present economic realities in the country. I also hope that by so doing, it will help them to realise their dreams in life.
Who are the beneficiaries of the skill acquisition centre?
The beneficiaries are the youths. The training period is one year but some people are allowed to undergo six months training but it depends on the type of trade they are learning. Apart from giving them equipment after their graduation, we also support them financially to enable them set up the business of their choice.
What exactly can you say that is motivating you in what you are doing?
Honestly, the whole thing was influenced by my personal experience in life. I want to use this opportunity to specially thank my husband for being there for me always.
I was able to realise this dream today through his active support both morally and financially. This skill acquisition centre is offering about 10 trades namely: ICT/Information and Technology, fashion designing and interior decoration, shoe making, electrical, catering and home management, radio repairs, plumbing, wielding, and GSM repairs.
Are there plans to sustain this centre after you leave office?
We have capable hands that can run the centre after I must have left office. For example, the Permanent Secretary in Women Affairs and Social Development which is affiliated to my office, is a no nonsense woman. When I leave office the next person that will come in will not allow the project to collapse because the whole programme is targeted at youths, men and women empowerment.
Most Abians fondly call you Osinulomaranma, how did you come about the name?
Well, the name was given to me by my husband’s people during the time I wanted to build health centre for them. There was no land until I finally saw a piece of land that was not up to one plot. When I approached the owners of the land they said because of me that they would release it to me.
This happened before we came into office. The original plan was to build a bungalow but I ended up building a storey building in my husband’s village. When the women and men saw this they marveled. They were the people that gave me Osinulomaranma which means one that starts her good work right from the home.
How would you want to be remembered after leaving office?
I will like to be remembered for good; for the good work I have done in Abia State . I want to leave a legacy so that I will be remembered just like my husband who is leaving behind very good legacy in the state.