The First Lady of Kwara state, Her Excellency, Mrs Omolewa Ahmed is the Founder and initiator of the LEAH Foundation, is in garb and mien; she is one beautiful and culture African woman who is marked by a touch of the divine anointing to be caring and to show concern about the welfare of others. She played host to journalists in government house last week and there was no air around her and the aides’ interaction with her shows they are at ease with the First Lady and having her around doesn’t translate into getting cowed or intimidated. Indeed, there was nothing in her demeanour that suggested being nervous. Excerpt:
What was the foundation, LEAH is really all about?
The most important thing about us is that we ensure one thing which is about not leaving you the way we met you. We want to be able to do something to impact your life, we want to be able to make impact that when we come in contact with you as a foundation, it will give you and the people around you a lasting impression, a positive one. The foundation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission we had been doing it at unofficial level before my husband became the governor, like I said forming the foundation for me, is a calling, it is a ministry. So basically, I can say I have been running the foundation, even though, informally before my husband became the governor. But when the issue of coming into office came into place I saw that there was a way for me to have a formal platform to register properly and that was when we registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and our main vision just like I said is just to touch the lives of the people positively and we look at event around us and we came up with a concept called the ‘she concept’.
What is the 'She Concept?
It is just about affecting the life of women and children in the area of social welfare, doing things to affect life positively in the health sector and also to see how we could impact positively on the lives of women and children in Kwara State. When we came into office, from the experience we have many people walking up to us presenting different manner of cases and when we started operations it was general, we didn’t really have a focus we were just helping people but as time goes on we began to gain experiences we began to look at the basic things and areas in terms of priorities. I looked at the things that I was really passionate about, I’m just so particular about them because I noticed that the government have laws, policies and also doing things tactically to favour every sector of the society but I have never heard that, but in summary this is a programme being put together for the widows so we began to look into that direction.
How did she actually come about the name LEAH and what informed the decision?
The name LEAH Foundation was resultant from the inspiration I got while studying the scripture. LEAH happened to be a woman that was despised and hated for no reason, so I realized that being a widow is not what anyone prays for. I don’t think there is any woman who would pray that she loses her husband. Even before I came into office I have had interaction and relationship with people that are widows when I was in Kano. Indeed, our Head, Social Welfare is actually a widow.
We want them, the widows to know that the predicament doesn’t mean that it is the end of life. We also extend our hands to the single parents. I believe so much in empowerment, I believe in being hardworking. Even as a governor’s wife, my shop is still running, I still do my business. So I believe so much in a woman having something to do. When you come to us at the LEAH Foundation, irrespective of what you come for the first thing I ask is ‘ what do you do for a living? How can I enhance what you do? People come in respect of health related issues and other kinds of issues. But no matter where you come from or what you come for. If you come for educational needs what we will ask is what does the person do for a living? We have various programmes we do, we have the infant support formula which is meant for indigents and 173 families have benefited from it, some her motherless babies and they have nobody to take care of them.
With LEAH, why did you devoted so much energy and time in creating awareness about cancer programme?
Hmh…about the cancer project thing, initially when the Lord asked me to work in that area I was scared because of what it entails until I lost two people that are very dear and very close to me. If God is asking you to do something what you need to do is to take a step. We are not asked to build an hospital but just to begin to create awareness. It is the 5th year that we started the programme so we started the awareness campaign for the breast and cervical cancer which is the commonest that kills the women in our society. We started with advocacy, we started in conjunction with the Nigeria Medical Association, the Female Medical Association, Kwara State chapter. They actually approached me, they came for a courtesy visit and they told me about VIA screening for cervical cancer and that it is affordable and it is cheap, they just wanted my face to be the advocacy for them.
They made the work God sent me so easy, I told them I am ready to go on the journey that is how we started. I am sure initially they thought it was just a first lady project but when they saw my commitment they saw that it was something that I have been asked to do but they came and they gave me a platform that made it look so simple and that was how we started.
When we started the work, we noticed a lot of things and we do referral to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital and I must say they have been cooperative. The doctors are always on point, once they see a referral from LEAH they are there. We have a technical team put together by top consultant from the university of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, they have given us 100% support to encourage us on this work. As we continue with the work, we saw the need to have a center where we could do in-depth examination and by the grace of God we are able to set up the LEAH Cancer Center as far as testing for cervical and breast cancer is concerned the center is on top of it. We have all basic new technology to test for it.
What would the First Lady want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as a woman who has an opportunity and didn’t misuse it’ she quipped.
What level of support has you enjoyed from the state courtesy of your husband?
There is no constitutional backing the office of the wife of the governor and the LEAH foundation even if I am not a wife of the governor i will still have done LEAH but I make use of the privilege of using the platform, like I said, even before my husband became the governor I have been doing it. Being the governor only broadened the scope of what I was doing and I can’t speak on the state government’s behalf, but as long as they see that this programme is going to benefit the people they stand by it.