She is one of a kind. She is one of those women whose story will inspire you and further drive you to achieve the impossible in life. Mrs. Betty Anyawun-Akeredolu is the wife of the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu. She is a Cancer survivor. A fighter. A go-getter. Not many women have had life threatening battles with the deadly Cancer and live to tell the tale. But she has. This beautiful woman has had an excellent time so far as the First Lady of Ondo state. She is loved by all as she has set up various foundations that seek to empower and elevate the Ondo woman. But what brings her joy the most is her marriage, it has been nothing short of blissful. According to her, her husband, governor Akeredolu, has been a wonderful man and her fulcrum of support. Being married to him has been an amazing experience. The marriage has produced four lovely children. Even though she is of the Igbo extraction, the tribal difference in her marriage has not in any way hampered its smooth sail. How did she meet her husband? What was the attraction the first time they met? What problem did their tribal differences pose at the time they were set to marry each other? These are some of the questions people are often eager to ask her whenever they get the opportunity to speak with her.
Speaking lately to journalists, with delight in her eyes, Betty Akeredolu tells how she met and fell in love with her husband. “We met during the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, at a friend’s house in Enugu. Aketi accompanied his friend who was visiting his girlfriend. I think it was love at first sight. Before we met, I had told my friends that whenever I see the person who would be my husband, my legs would begin to wobble. And it happened that way. So I said if I could feel that way, then I would spend the rest of my life with this person and that was what happened. It was a mutual feeling and we knocked it off from there,” she says passionately.
“I fell in love with his broad shoulders. Then he was really looking very cute. I can still remember what he was wearing that day. I won’t forget – a red shirt, long sleeves, and jean trousers.
“He was really looking great and then we were very young and restless. That was like 37 years ago. He couldn’t even take me out because he didn’t have money as a youth corper. It was quite magnetic and that was it. And besides, I have always said that whoever that was going to marry me must be able to sweep me off my feet completely and that was exactly what happened.
“There is a three-year age difference between us. I am older than him anyway. I was like 25 then while he was 22. It was love that really endured. I had graduated and in my place when a girl graduates from the university, suitors come from left, right and centre. And your parents would expect you to go for a self-made man with everything.
“But I have always known that there was no way I could have married a self-made man. I will rather build a home from scratch with you because I want to have a say in my home.
“My parents were educated and so they didn’t see a reason to obstruct us. My father understood what modernity is all about when it comes to relationship and also understood the fact that when a young girl falls in love, it is always difficult to talk her out of it. And knowing that I was strong opinionated right from time, he knew that this one that I have brought was the right man,” she said.
Narrating her experience in an inter-tribal marriage, Akeredolu says it has been a wonderful relationship and her marriage to a Yoruba man has been quite splendid. “Like I mentioned earlier, my husband is a wonderful man and I love him dearly. So far, our marriage has been successful and to the glory of God, our four children are all doing well in their various fields of endeavour and we’ve also been blessed with three grandchildren,’’ she says.
Akeredolu reiterates that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going into inter-tribal marriages and what should be of paramount importance is the level of understanding of the couples concerned. She adds that if they are able to make God a top priority in their relationship and play the game of marriage according to the rules, there is no way they won’t have a successful marriage. “ If I had hiccups in my marriage to a Yoruba man, I wouldn’t be here today. We have made our relationship work and it is possible to be in an inter-tribal marriage and have a success story like ours,” she states without any iota of doubt in her voice.
For those who are going into inter-tribal marriages, she advises them that marriage is not a bed of roses because roses also have thorns and it is therefore imperative that couples remain very open to each other. She says, “The good thing is that we have made our marriage work over the years by being open to each other. Communication is the key and once you are able to hold on to that, you will be fine in your marriage.’’
An avid sports lover, Akeredolu, who doesn’t joke with her leisure activities finds time to jog, play tennis and also do yoga exercises. She also likes to read, lecture and tend to her garden. With the hectic demands of the Office of the First Lady, she says that she would have to find a way to incorporate these activities into her new routine, “Everything has its time and season and in order to achieve all round success,one has to plan one’s time very well so that one assignment will not affect the other,’’she concludes.
Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu First Lady of Ondo State. Born on 20th of July, 1953 in Emeabiam, Owerri West Lga Imo State South Eastern Nigeria, is the founder of the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) and BEMORE empowered foundation.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1977. She also holds a Masters degree in Fisheries (Aquaculture) from the University of the Philippines, Iloilo. Mrs. Anyanwu-Akeredolu is a firm believer in continuing education regardless of age, and she is demonstrating this by enrolling at the University of Ibadan in 2016 to obtain her Masters of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion & Education (graduation in view).
Anyanwu-Akeredolu has won numerous awards both nationally and internationally, in recognition of her continuous efforts, in raising awareness about breast cancer, renewable energy and the role of the girl child, bridging the gender gap in solar technology, waste recycling, sanitation and hygiene all around Nigeria.
Through her foundations, the Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu foundation (BAAF) and the BEMORE empowered foundation, she has introduced many laudable initiatives that are positively touching lives, she single-handedly has championed greater participation of girls in renewable energy as well as promoted gender equity in governance through her numerous interventions.
Through programs such as, Solar-4-Girls-Naija summer camp launched in 2017, ICT for girls, modelling emerging green and digital hubs in schools, Ondo school water, sanitation and hygiene programme (OSWASH), Accelerated Birth Registration (ABR), BEMORE boot camp, promoting solid waste recycling amongst others she has earned her place in history as one who kept the flag of gender equality flying.
Anyanwu-Akeredolu is a commercial fish farmer who also provides consultancy services under the business name, Aquatek Farms Ventures (Nig.) Ltd. She nurtured her career as a fisheries expert while working with the Federal Department of Fisheries, and retired voluntarily in 2005 after 28 years of diligent service.