By Vera Wisdom-Bassey
Chief (Mrs) Kate Onyechere, Senior Special Adviser to Abia State Governor, is a woman of many parts. She is the Founder and President of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) “Nigerian Women for Truth”. She is also the Personal Assistance (PA) to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife Dame Patience Jonathan, as well as South-West Zonal Coordinator of a non-governmental organization (NGO) Women for Change Initiative founded by Dame Jonathan. Her NGO empowers women across the 36 states. Aside given 34 scholarships to children, she also gives soft loan to women in her constituency both in Lagos and in the South East and other states where she coordinates.
She spoke to Sunday Sun in an interview recently..
You just added a year to your age, how do you feel?
We have every reason to be happy, and give God all the glory.
So what are the lessons life has taught you?
Life has been up and down. The good side and the low side but it has not been easy. Life is filled with challenges, trying to struggle, making sure that one survives and also carry the less privilege, and students along. My area of commitment is women, especially in the South West , where I coordinate. Presently, I am the woman leader for Ogun State Ohaneze Ndi-igbo. Formerly, I was the woman leader for Ndi-igbo in Lagos State. There are so many challenges that one could tell and many that one could not remember.
You are a woman of many parts yet not retired, when was Nigerian women for change founded?
It was founded in the year 2016.
How many people have you given scholarship so far?
We have given scholarship on merit to local government in Abia State and other states. I was born in Abia State but got married to a man from Imo State. Before picking candidates from Abia State, we get the list of those qualified, but firstly we inform the traditional ruler who will help us get the quality of people we want and also seek his permission to give out these scholarships. The way the scholarship is done is that we pick people from each community in any of the State.
Are there people on your list now?
Yes, we have 34 people on scholarship, while we make provision for widows by giving them soft loan to go into business. Some of them pay and some don’t pay back, but still we continue to carry them along.
Those that don’t pay back, is there any disciplinary action for them?
It depends on what they say. Some may say they went to hospital with part of the money and the soft loan is N50,000 that was given out and the hospital took N25,000 so that person we don’t give her loan again, because after we set up a committee to look into the matter we realised that at the end of the day the woman cannot pay back. So instead of continuing giving them loan that they cannot pay back we give them some palliative such as rice, beans, other food stuff instead of money, except you are dashing that person money. At times we group them and give them N10,000 each, it all depends on the cash we have at hand at that time and the number of people we have that are in need.
How would you rate women participation in this regime , as regards carrying them along?
You know this administration is not carrying women along, so there is nothing to talk much about there. They are not doing well, not to talk of carrying women along. It is only Dame Patience Jonathan that carried women along during her husband tenure, and the women know that they can come up and talk and also know their right, it was okay then and we were everywhere.
As a politician do you see a woman becoming the president of this nation Nigeria?
Why not if not. Coming 2023 election , even the Northerners wants someone from the East to become the President of this nation. because it is really our turn to get a president.
As a Special Adviser to Abia there were a lot of complaints of the moving away of the Umuahia market to another location, the people did not take it well with them, what is your view?
I know in Abia we met as a committee, and most of the things they are claming we touched. and what we saw on ground is not what we were accepting, but I think he is working hard now despite the break down which affected the governors health as a result of coronavirus pandemic. Everybody is fighting for the survival of their people. but still he has started things there and he has set up committees to improve on most of the projects.
But then, how could the Aba City be transformed to become a small London that we desire, knowing that we had a lot of talented people there?
That is one of the things we discussed, because we want to bring in foreigners that will transform the place. The way Aba stands now there are good plans for the place that from now to three years, it will become a small London more than most places we visit like Dubia, because the meeting we held last time shows that something better will happen there soon.
How was your growing up like?
My father was a civil servant. He worked with P & T as a coast master while my mother was a trader. Being a civil servant, we had this kind of family, that when you pay monthly salary my father at the end of the day give my mother part of it and my mother will manage it and add her own to it. My mother like buying things in bulk and my father too will like to buingy things in bulk at Kingsway, Challaram stores. That was when the place was still booming and we buy thongs like : sugar, margarine peopled looked at us as big because we lived at Enugu State and we tried to live up to a civil servants expectation.
My father trained the six of us, because we were six in number five girls and a boy, but I married earlier. Then, i never had the opportunity to attend university education. I was making children and training them, I have 13 grand children here in Nigeria and abroad, with six children, five girls and a boy just like my mother and all of them are doing well. I said that my children must attend university because I did not attend. I promised myself that I will go out of my way to make sure they attend the best school. My last daughter just finished from law school and she is called to bar , she is waiting for her NYSC service.
How do you relax?
I relax in my home. I don’t have anything bothering me. The only problem I have is my women. They come up with things like: my landlord drove me out of the house because of house rent, my children are sick. I don’t have money to feed them and all that. By the time you hear their problems you go inside your house and think of how you will solve their problems. If it is a problem of N10,000 we can easily solve them so that is the only problem bothering me now.
People have been helping us in the NGO, individuals, State governments, all states, in all the South West, they have been of help to us.
Where is your favourites travel destination?
I go to London for summer holidays because my children are there. I go to America too. I like travelling but the problem of my women will not allow me to do that because I have to stay back to make sure all their problems are solved.
It was only my sight that gave me problem which made me travel abroad for treatment.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies is to stay with good people that makes me laugh, I also love good music. I don’t smoke, nor drink, but a little of champagne will do. I like partying too.
Advice to women?
Generally every women should know that God has given her a gift of husband and children. They should stand to know their right. Don’t go and stand out begging. There is nothing wrong in re-marrying if your husband is dead and that man you want to remarry is not up to your late husband’s standard. Maybe your husband left some good money for you and one reckless man wants to come and be your husband. Don’t take that, try and use whatever your husband left for you to train your children and stand by them. Train your children make sure you stand for them, Everywoman should ensure they have something doing. They should make sure their children don’t become a disappointment to them and to the world. “as you train your children that is how they will grow”.