For Mama Chidinma Eluwa, a one hundred and six year old woman, who fries akara at Isigate by Owerri road, Umuahia, July 29th, 2023 would remain evergreen in her fast failing memory.
It was the day her eagerly awaited destiny helper located her.
The day was the last Saturday of the month of July and as usual, Abia State uses it as sanitation day. Mama Eluwa, who is very popular at Owerri road, Umuahia had come out to do her normal akara business which she uses to assist herself as an old woman without a helper. He husband is no more and her only surviving son is not just handicapped but also not very stable as drugs has taken a negative toll on him.
Fortunately for her, Governor Alex Otti in keeping with his declaration of a stat of emergency on environmental cleanliness had directed members of his cabinet and appointees to actively participate in the day’s clean up exercise and the Chief of Staff, Pastor Caleb Ajagba, PhD was the team lead.
He, having gone round to mobilize and inspire Abians on the need to participate in the clean up Abia Initiative, was on his way from Eket street where he had spoken to the Hausa Community when he was attracted to an old woman frying akara. The Chief of Staff to the Governor did not hesitate to make a stop over to ask and was told that mama, who is above one hundred years, has been doing the akara business for as long as the oldest person around could remember.
After a few interaction with her, Pastor Ajagba left to continue with the main assignment of the day, mobilization and sensitization of Ndi Abia on the need to join hands to clean Abia.
However, in line with the vision of Governor Alex Otti to lift Abians out of poverty irrespective of where they are located, the Governor’s Chief of Staff made some recommendations to the office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Vulnerable Groups and Poverty Alleviation, who took over from there and carried out some more investigations on what could make a centenarian to be frying akara on the street of Umuahia.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, 9th August, 2023, Mama Chidinma Eluwa was invited to the office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Vulnerable Groups and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs Ifeoma Thomas who after an interaction with Mama decided to provide some welfare assistance to her to ensure she has a turnaround of a more decent living.
One interesting thing is that Mama refused to stop her akara business, and being a strong woman at the age, who still walked unaided, it was agreed that she would be allowed to continue her lifetime trade of frying akara. But, the good news is that Abia State Government offered to place her on a monthly stipend to improve her living conditions. This will be made easy as arrangements was made with NIN to capture her to make it easier to open an account for her through which her monthly stipend would get to her without any middleman and unnecessary bottlenecks.
According to the Special Assistant to the Governor on Vulnerable Groups and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs Ifeoma Thomas, more money would be made available to her as seed capital for her business while her office would also celebrate Mama’s next birthday at one hundred and seven years to make her have a feel of a sense of belonging.
She expressed the hope that the assistance would be an additional support to enable her have a more comfortable living.
Mrs Thomas while noting that Mama Eluwa falls within the vulnerable group
category, being an indigent widow,
stressed that Governor Alex Otti is passionate about touching the life to evey single Abian in a positive way.
“We’re going to place her on a monthly stipend and also open a bank account for her. But first of all we have gotten the Nigerian Identify Management Agency (NIMC) to have capture her and her son in the NIMC register, afterwards we open an account in her name and his brother will be in custody of the ATM card.
“With that we will pay her stipend into the account at the end of every month. The reason is that if we give her cash, her son will steal it. So she needs her own space. All she needs is that additional support, she’s a very strong woman, very agile. So the little support will make her a bit more comfortable than she has been,” said Mrs Thomas.
While narrating her ordeal exclusively to The Eagle, Madam Chidinma Eluwa said her only one surviving son is both handicapped and gives her a lot of problems.
She confirmed that all her only son does has been to steal her little income, use same to smoke not minding his state of health. She appealed for Government assistance to enable her live a little bit longer as she is almost one hundred and six years old.
The Government has also promised to celebrate her next birthday hoping to use that to make her feel a sense of belonging.
However, for those who think that this gesture of Government will see the centenarian leave her akara business, Mama Eluwa said, she is not leaving the business as she believes it enables her flex her nerves instead of being confined in a cubicle.
The assistance of Government has been commended by well meaning Abians who believe that such gesture will help prolong her life a little bit longer. It is left to be seen how far longer this gesture of Governor Alex Otti Government will bring to Mama Chidinma Eluwa.