Her Excellency Nkechi Rochas Okorocha: The Essence of Humanity

In a candid conversation with a woman of remarkable impact, we delve into the philanthropic journey of an enigmatic figure deeply committed to defending the defenseless.

With a heart devoted to humanity, she shares insights into the inception of the Women of Divine Destiny Initiative (WODDI) and its focus on empowering women. Against the backdrop of gender inequality, she emphasizes the importance of wisdom and approach in addressing disparities.

The interview also unveils collaborations with organizations like UNFPA and UNICEF, shedding light on WODDI’s multifaceted efforts. Join us in this illuminating dialogue with a passionate advocate for positive change and unity in Nigeria.

You are an enigmatic woman with a big heart for philanthropy. Your love for humanity knows no bounds and tirelessly you have defended the defenseless with the work you do. Kindly tell us more about your philanthropic journey?

It’s an honor to have you in my office today. Talking about my philanthropic life, it started back in Jos and as you are aware, we already have a family foundation called Rochas Foundation where we focus on less privileged children, those who ordinarily their parents cannot take them to school and all that. So as a family we have that foundation but because of my passion for the family and of course, womanhood at some point I needed to have my own foundation called WODDI which means Women of Divine Destiny Initiative and as you asked, we started way back in Jos, so WODDI should be almost eighteen to twenty years now.

It is your kind heart towards humanity that inspired you to establish the Women of Divine Destiny Initiative (WODDI), can you share the story behind its inception? 

Like I said, as a family, we have Rochas Foundation and at some point, I needed to have my own foundation because of my passion for the women. Like I always tell people if reincarnation is anything to go by, I want to come back been a woman because I believe that a woman is very key.

And then I believe once the woman gets it right, the family, the community and the world at large will get it right. So, by the special grace of God, I’ve been blessed to have a beautiful home, and a beautiful marriage between my husband and myself. And because of the work I do with women, I understand that in most homes, women are going through a lot of challenges.

As a result of that, I now thought I needed to have an NGO that will be women based, focusing more on women and the youths, adolescents and teenagers. So basically, that’s what drove me because most of the problems that these women are having in their homes, are something that ordinarily should not happen.

So, the need to begin to enlighten women as much as I can, just to ensure that what I’m experiencing and enjoying in my home, such women that are going through these challenges have this powerful information that will enable them to discover who they are and know how a home is run as a woman and the scope of who the they really are. So that was one of the major reason why WODDI came to existence.

Gender inequality is a significant issue worldwide. How does WODDI address this issue, and what strategies have you found to be effective in promoting gender equality?

I’m happy that your last question talked about the important to promote it. When you talk about gender equality and all that. I’m the kind of person that you know, this is one area that I’m very, very sensitive and careful to talk about. Because before you know it, people will be talking about women right. Yes, it is important that everybody should have his or her own right, whether you are woman or man.

When you talked about inequality, this is what we hear. But I’m from that school of thought that believes that when a woman understands who she is, the issue of inequality is neither here nor there, because you can still have your own rights do what you want to do if you apply the right approach or method.

Oftentimes, when you talk about inequality, you look as if somebody is fighting somebody. So for me, it’s all about wisdom, is all about approach, its about discovering yourself, and how to go about some of these things.

So when you know how to approach things, the issue of inequality is either here or there, that is not to say that it does not exist, but a woman as a woman should be able to know how to approach some of these things so that the issue of inequality or whatever should not even come-in in the first place.

Collaboration is often key to achieving impactful change. Could you tell us about some of the partnerships or collaborations WODDI has formed to further its mission?

Okay, before I talk about collaboration, I think it’s important to talk about what we do here. Like I said, I’m passionate about woman, am also passionate about mental health of the woman, the total well-being of women is my heartbeat and that is one of the reason why at some point, we have a project that we call “SNAP”.

Having come from Imo state, am sure you are aware that by the special grace of God, WODDI, especially when I was in government, we were able to put two hundred and five (205) bungalows, fully furnished, given to indigents we know as orphans, that we were able to do in Imo state and beyond.

We also Have a programme called ‘WODDI Woman Talk Show’ and it’s a platform that enables us to talk on very sensitive issues that will help reorient the woman and make the woman to realize who she is and understand the power that has been endowed to her by God Almighty.

We also have what we call the ‘Harmony Hub’. Harmony Hub specifically is a program for couples. Like I said, a lot of things happen in today’s marriages.

So we use that platform or talk show to educate women, couples on how to have a better relationship because a couple that is having issues with their marriage will definitely not be able to produce the kind of citizens or children that expect to get the society better So, we also have another programme called ‘Talk That Talk’. ‘Talk That Talk’ is for the youths and of course having that kind of program is a program that enable us to talk to the youths.

It’s a youth programme where we give them an opportunity to amplify their voice and to see what’s going on in their mind and at some point, I think WODDI will be the immediate project coordinator of that particular program. And we also have YES Programme. Its usually for secondary schools, or teenagers and adolescents.

You will agree with me that in those days, I don’t know how old you are, but in those days, they use to be guidance and counseling as a subject but these days, in our educational sector, there’s nothing like guidance and counseling and of course while parents are struggling to put food on the table, that is to care about their children, nobody is paying attention to these children and for me, this is a lot of concern, because these are the future, or will be future leaders and all that.

So, we have that programme where we invite schools, in fact yesterday, we had a section with about five(5) different schools, talking on very sensitive issues that borders on their mental health, challenges they face as adolescent and many others.

We also have our monthly prayer meetings, I belief in God, I don’t joke with that, so, for the past 18, 19 years or so, we have a monthly prayer where we come to ensure that our spiritual well being is intact because that is the only way we can engage it right in this journey of life. So, there are a lot of things we are doing.

And talking about collaboration, I know that by the special grace of God we have been able to collaborate with UNFPA on some areas that has to do with female genital mutilation, we have also been able to partner with UNICEF, WASH, and of course Rochas Foundation even though I’m still part of it.

WODDI has been able to partner with them. So, a lot of other foundations and NGOs that we have been able to collaborating with, even also, I want to say at this point, having been the chairperson of the Southern Governor’s Forum, WODDI has also been able to partner with the wives of governors especially from the southern part of this country. So I believe that the only way to get it right, especially at this season and this period is to point to partnerships and collaborations, and that’s the way to go so that we can achieve better results.

Empowering women to take on leadership roles is essential. How does WODDI encourage and support women in developing their leadership skills and becoming community leaders?

Through our programmes like I said, like the Harmony Hub programme, WODDI Women Talk Show, through our publications, we been able to come up with some books like, ‘woman the home builder’, ‘hunger to succeed. We have put out a lot of publications out there just to make sure because it’s only just a little people that we will probably be able to reach, But we believe that by our publications, we can reach a larger audience and then people will be better informed.

Like I said, new orientation of the woman is very very key. Through our empowerment programme, our skill acquisitions, through our putting roof over the head programme especially those needy ones, this has helped us to make women to take that leadership role that is expected of them.

There is a lot of unrest in the country at the moment. What do you think would be the best approach to resolving them?

You may want to ask me, what song, ‘a song of peace.’ You can never go wrong with peace. In those days living in Jos, I grew up in Jos, I went to primary school, secondary school and my university in Jos. Anytime its period of Sallah or even Christmas, nobody knows who is who.

You see people sharing their love through what they have. People cook and everybody’s eating, you can even open your door and go anywhere, you can leave your children, and tell your neighbor ‘please I’m going somewhere’ and you might as well go and come back and there is no problem. So, what happened? What went wrong? Let us embrace one another.

We don’t have any other country other than this country So, I think we all have to go back to God and this is not the time to push blame. In getting it right let everybody go back to the drawing board and start with themselves rather than apportioning blames. Let me start from myself while you start from yourself, I look inward, you look inward before you know it, we begin to get it right.

Let us sing a song of unity, if there is any need to correct in love, we should be able to correct in love. We have totally as a nation and as a country lost the spirit of gratitude. Let us be able to even appreciate.

Am happy you are an Igbo person, there is an adage in my place that says “Eto dike na nke omere, ome kwa ozo,” translating in English, it means “When you praise a warrior for what he has done, he will do more.” Let us even begin to appreciate. oh! Chibuike, that was nice, you did so well. It will give you that urge, that energy to do more. So, there are a lot of things that we need to do as a people, as Nigerians, embrace love, embrace forgiveness, embrace peace, and let it go, let it go. A lot of things have gone wrong but I still have hope, because I also believe that the world is waiting for Nigeria. Nigeria is a great country.

Nigeria is a beautiful country. We have what is take, we are not called Big Brother Africa for nothing, you know, they say Nigeria is a big brother to other African countries, its not for nothing.

It was something, but a lot of things have gone wrong, I have hope that we as a people, as a nation and as a country have been structured in such a way that we’ll get it right. All we need and all it takes is God. All it takes is love, all it takes is forgiveness, all it takes is unity of purpose.

Talking about love, do you think doing away with State of Origin can help in any way? Like filling admission forms or going to the hospital they start asking your tribe religion and state of origin. Do you think doing away with those things will help restore peace because a lot of people say that Nigeria should do away with tribe, and state of origin, rather they should embrace asking people state of residence.

You know when we question a lot of things, we must be very-very careful because it can go on either side so for me, asking somebody to change your state of origin you know, there’s what we call history and If you lose history, you have lost yourself.

So, let it not be that you are trying to shallow-minded talk on certain issue, meanwhile, you begin to lose that which makes you. So, your origin is not something you have to throw away, you should be proud of it.

What we are saying is, whatever that is making people feel that putting down your state of origin and things like that, should not be done rather than saying we should throw it away,

we should be able to figure out how to address that problem. So i wouldn’t want to use the word “I don’t think it’s necessary” because in trying to do that, we may lose the essence of who we are, we will lose originality.

You have succeeded as a wife, as a mother, and as a grandmother. and you still look very elegant and beautiful. What advice would give to your younger self?

Be intentional. Nothing is worth taking your joy, be contented, live a people-centred kind of life, in living for others, you will be living for yourself.

Don’t bother about starting big, start small. Again, there is an adage in Igbo that says “When you are cultivating in others farmland, God is cultivating in yours.” And I’m an ardent believer of that, because by

the grace of God, I know what God has given us the privilege to do in the life of thousands of children both within Nigeria and outside Nigeria and I’m seeing the benefits of that in the lives of my children and when I talk about my children, I mean all of them, not just few, I mean six of them and that simply means that wholeheartedly, with all our heart, we are investing in the lives of people who we don’t know, God is busy taking care of our children and everyday, I look at them and I’m grateful to God. People wold ask how did you do it? i did nothing, its just living a life for others and then, God will take care of you.

You know, I was actually having a conversation with someone, sorry, i have to say this, the person said that he feels Nigeria would be better if your husband becomes a president and you become the first lady, that leadership is good in the hands of people who have compassion. What do you have to say about that? 

One thing I know is that the will of God will always happen, and we live our lives for God. We trust God that we are not in this life for ourselves, we trust God that we are leading a divine journey. So the makeup of what that journey is and in the fullness of time God will bring it to fulfilment.

Talking about compassion, compassion is everything, empathy is everything and I want to believe that most people also have this compassion and empathy but Its something that you must nurture to grow, its something that you must protect because if you don’t protect it, you also discover that people around you, as you relate with them, they might make it slip through your fingers.

There’s a particular scripture that I love so much, the scripture says “Guide your heart jealously” we should be able to guide some of these attributes that we need to still remain saved as a people or as a person.

During the last primaries, the APC primaries. A lot of things played out, leading to the arrest of His Excellency your Husband, do you think that was a conspiracy to stop him from contesting or to make sure he did not make it to the primaries?

Live is defined by conspiracy. In fact, you can’t live life without conspiracy. conspiracies are bound to be there. They say it’s a game right? What happened, whether its conspiracy or not a conspiracy, but what is most important is that, its part of the package, its part of the journey of life.

We embrace it, we accept it and we thank God for it. So once you understand that you are in God’s agenda, It doesn’t matter what comes with it. Remember, the Bible says “In all things, give thanks” it says “In all” it didn’t say excluding conspiracy. So, we are good for whatever role that was played whether by conspiracy or whatever, for God to have allowed it, its all good.

So what would you like to point out to complete this interview?

Well, I want to start by saying on behalf of WODDI and on behalf of my humble self, thank you for taking out time to reach out to me for this interview. I don’t think we have met before but this is what it should be. You sitting down and being able to say okay, let me reach out because communication is very key and we are where we are as Nigerians, as a nation because we are not talking and when we talk, we are not talking about what we are supposed to talk about. So, I want to say that I am honoured and very grateful that you made out time to visit me in my office for this interview.

I’m also hoping that this will lead to many other opportunities that will enable us to see how we can also contribute to our own quarter in having Nigeria of our collective human aspiration. Like I said, Nigeria is our country, we have no other country but this country. We must preach love, we must preach forgiveness, we must let it go, we must enjoy this life. and enjoying life is not in the cars you drive or the food you eat, I think most importantly in embracing love and embracing peace.

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