By Josfyn Uba
Dr. Esther Obioha is an entrepreneur and a humanitarian who impacts the lives of vulnerable people in her community, using her resources.
Obioha holds a BA in Computer Information Systems and a master’s in Business Administration. She is also a recipient of an honorary doctorate from CICA University and Seminary for her philanthropic work.
Obioha, a single mother who has raised five graduate children, remains committed to helping the less fortunate. In 2020, she was honored with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Smart Ambassador Award by the Diligent Care for Creative Intelligence Development.
In this interview with Daily Sun, she talks about the need for collaboration and transparency in every enterprise, and other issues.
You are a brand in your community, Arondizuogu; how did you manage this?
Well, I am not a brand yet. But I am content with giving a helping hand. Giving is second nature to me, as I grew up in a huge family of givers. And I had an amazing childhood.
Would you say that your experience from childhood informed this initiative?
First and foremost, I hail from a large polygamous family in Arondizuogu, Imo State. In my family, I was raised and nurtured with so much love and affection. My family was very open-handed and generous, to a fault, and I naturally embraced those values as a child. I was born into a tradition of celebration and giving. We have this yearly festival called Obioha Day and it is celebrated every December. The essence of this tradition is to create and deepen family unity and nurture kindred spirit. On this yearly celebration called Obioha Day, all the wives cook assorted dishes and delicacies, while family friends and strangers troop in to partake, nobody is turned away. It is customary for passersby to simply walk in and partake in the merriment. This noble tradition that started before I was born is still on-going and will never stop. Hence, giving is part of my nature and upbringing.
What are your challenges as an entrepreneur and as a woman?
I would not call it a challenge because it is what l enjoy doing. I love to touch lives; I love helping people, I love impacting lives. There are less fortunate people who are struggling to make it in our society. I have noticed that it is my life passion. I would love to leave this world better than I met it. Although being a woman is a little challenging, because you find yourself in a subservient position in our society. A woman works extra hard to scale the hurdle before achieving economic success. But, more recently, government appears to be doing something to close the economic disparity and wealth gaps by creating opportunities for women to thrive. Women have not always shared equal priority with men in the past but, thank God, it is getting better today. With increased progressive advocacy empowering, women, especially in under-developed nations, will gain more steam.
Do you have plans to extend your developmental venture and entrepreneurial prowess to the whole of Nigeria, knowing that there are a lot of people in dire need here?
Some of us probably have heard the Igbo proverb or adage “aku lue uno okwu ebie,” interpreted as “charity begins at home.” Yes, I have always believed in helping others, regardless of how meagre my resources may be. For over two years now, things have been very difficult, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it worse. Cost of food items has skyrocketed, hence hunger at home is concerning. Any little assistance goes a long way. And because of these and more, we have tried to reach out to people in some orphanages in Lagos. We have given out toys, food items and even cash donations. Similarly, we made cash donations in Abuja and Owerri. Other assistance in my local community includes distribution of bags of rice, cartons of noodles to help relive the COVID-19 hardship. During the pandemic, we purchased sewing machines and made face masks, which we gave freely for charity.
Would you mind a collaboration with well-meaning Nigerians to help out in this initiative?
Collaboration is a great way for NGOs to scale up by partnering with bigger NGOs with name recognition and credibility. Other types of partnership may be through foundations and respected political leaders. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed severally in the past. NGOs must ensure the existence of transparency while doing charitable work. But regardless of my past experience, my zeal to help the poor and needy will never be diminished. Robert Green Ingersoll, a popular American lawyer, writer and orator, was the one who said “We rise by lifting others.”
Similar organizations abound everywhere, even abroad. How have yours and your advocacy stood you out?
Ours stands out because we do not only give out food items. We also support young adults caught in the web of the criminal legal system by mentoring and connecting them with positive role models to build economic security and personal empowerment and much more. Any opportunity we have to touch lives we jump at it, regardless of how limited our resources may be. My passion is to touch lives and to do my best to help the less fortunate.
What have you and your organization done for humanity?
I have been volunteering with my five children during disasters, at soup kitchens, sometimes we help to package relief for shipping to people in third world countries who have been displaced or people suffering from the ravages of war. Other times we save families and their children from malnutrition and starvation. We have assisted indigent students with school fees too. We have sent money assistance to those in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps as well.
What do you want the Nigerian government to do to help entrepreneur grow their businesses?
I want the Nigerian government to help create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive, including providing loans with little or no interest to be paid. Small and medium businesses, being the engine that grow local economies, should be encouraged. Government should invest in agriculture and create sustainable employment for youths and graduates. What is the government doing for youths? Many complain about lack of jobs for youths and graduates. Imagine not being gainfully employed after passing through the university? The frustration can lead some to engage in nefarious activities and crime. I implore our government and even our First Ladies to help create opportunities for our youths. These youths are the leaders of tomorrow. We should address their issues and welfare before it is too late.
What do you wish to be remembered for?
I wish to be remembered for how I made a difference in the lives of the less privileged, people of limited means. I want my legacy to be that I left this world better than I met it.