Shimite Bello, spirit behind Delta’s entrepreneurship drive, now Akpeli Ugo Fufu 1 of Ebu
* First woman to sit with elders’ council as the ‘Akpeli’
(First used in BDay Sunday: By Ignatius Chukwu & Mercy Enoch)
On Monday, April 22, 2019, Mrs Shimite Bello walked into a room at the palace of Onu of Ebu Kingdom and stepped out as ‘Akpeli Ugo Fufu 1’. Applause would definitely follow her emergence as the most celebrated Ebu woman on that day.
Mrs Bello is the woman that heads Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s entrepreneurial drive in the micro, small, and medium levels in Delta State. The crowning would crown a career in public service and care giving especially in mobilizing entrepreneurs in the oil-rich state in the journey to life beyond oil.
Mrs Shimite Bello is the Executive Secretary of the Delta State Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Dev Agency (DEMSMA) who has galvanized the state bottom-of-the-pyramid layers of the state and is widely said to have won hearts for Gov Okowa. Prior to this, she served as CEO and president of several companies in the media, travel and agricultural segments in the country. Bello infuses her leadership with a thorough understanding of the African rural community, rural financing strategies and the African marketplace. She has strength in Strategic Planning, Public speaking, Micro Credit, Cottage Industry Development, SME Development and financial literacy training.
Mrs Bello has carried all of this knowledge and strength to Delta State and to her Ebu Kingdom, mobilizing businesses and funds to meet each other. Thus, she has always said her dream is for Delta State to be number in one in the economy, social and political realm. “I do not want to see Delta taking second place in anything. We want our GDP up, we want Deltans happy, we are going with the Delta State Executive Governor saying prosperity for all Deltans”.
Her dream has taken round the crannies of the state many times over, encouraging the economically active poor, seeking funds for business owners, training them, defending them. Through DEMSMA, she has created about 10 products namely YAGEP Smart Credit which is loan for YAGEPreneurs; STEP Smart Credit which is loan for STEPreneurs; GEEP Smart Credit for those that do the graduate employment and empowerment programme; the technical and vocational credit; the cottage industry development credit with Ministry of Commerce and Industry; the micro retailers credit for market women (with men and all other traders); and the Cold-chain Credit. In ll of these billions of naira have been given out and thousands of entrepreneurs have been boosted.
In all this, no single case of extortion or bribery has been reported; there has been no scandal, as if its not in Nigeria again. There are business support plans that can give between N500,000 and N50m credit. That is Shimite Bellow for you.
BD Sunday gathered the reasons the good people of Ebu bestowed this title on her is because she identifies greatly with them and it is obvious to her Kingdom that she is proud to come from Ebu. She explained further; “Over the time I have been in Delta State I engage with the youths, women, elders and the palace in Ebu. I keep them abreast of what government is doing and the offers within the SMART Agenda and ensure they participated each time, weather they are short-listed or not. I also played an active role in the voters’ registration exercise and I am active in the political space of my ward and my cell.”
This seems to be the kind of representation that the grassroots people crave for. “The market women and men in Ebu are very important to me and we work closely in building our community. They also conferred a title on me, which means a lot to me. Not necessarily the title, but the honour and acceptability there in. “Eboh Oja” is the honour given me, which means “The shelter to all of our kingdom and beyond”.
“They believe that market men and women everywhere in Delta State have cause to rejoice because my principal and boss, His Excellency the Governor, Sen. Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has ensured that from 2015 – 2019 traders have been major beneficiaries of his interventions.
“They are receiving their bank alerts and they have not heard anyone accused of taking any form of gratuity, kickbacks or bribes from any beneficiaries. They are proud of what they hear about me and my people have the utmost love for the Governor of Delta State who made this possible.
“I was also given a small chieftaincy status of “Agbojor”. This was the first one. My councilor, the honourbale, Kema Egenu, and a few others ensured this was done as an appreciation of our close working relationship and the peace we are enjoying in Ebu among the political class, as well as the closing of bridge between the “elites” and our hardworking and dexterous people at the bottom of the pyramid. Friends and family have used me as a conduit to get empowerment to our people, especially those in Diaspora, outside the awesome job the Delta State Government and Federal Government are doing.
Edu roots and the rare title
Mrs Bello went on: “Later on the Ebu people gave me the title of “Akpeli” which is the highest chieftaincy honour in our land. Our people are Igala-speaking and originally migrated from Idah and settled near the banks of the River Niger where they found conducive land to fish, farm and rare their livestock. This land is now located in the Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State. But for the title of “Akpeli” our original traditional headquarters must be informed and other Akpelis from there attend. We also have brothers in Ukwani LGA of Delta State and in Edo state, they all attend this particular ceremony. There I get my own Ivory Tusk (animal lovers please don’t be upset), my horse tail and my red cap. This makes me a bona fide red cap chief. Anyway, we have no women in this select group. I am the first female to sit among these groups of elders and I hope to continue to build my kingdom which I love from the bottom of my heart.”
The title that she would receive tomorrow is from the king, His Royal Majesty, Onu Paul Odilile Okpili, the Onu of Ebu Kingdom. The title is called Ugo Fufu 1 of Ebu Kingdom which means the White Eagle of Ebu Kingdom.
The White Eagle is said to be a symbol of the ‘Great White Spirit’ whose wisdom and knowledge transcends over the ages. The White Eagle is a spiritual teacher that conveys the powers and messages of the spirit; it is seen as man’s connection to the divine because it flies higher than any other bird. If the eagle has appeared, it bestows freedom and courage to look ahead, the myth says. “The eagle is symbolic of the importance of honesty and truthful principles. The Eagle symbolises – Pure Spirit.”
The Executive Secretary of DEMSMA went on: “Everything done in my father’s kingdom in Ebu ward is well communicated in my mother’s homestead of Illah. Therefore my mother’s homestead need not repeat this if they ever felt the need to. I feel really fortunate to come from both Ebu and Illah, from Oshimili North and I am surely proudly Anioma. If you did not know, know now, Delta is the best state to come from on this side of Heaven. We are blessed and we know it.”
In touch with Ebu
Ebu Kingdom is located in Oshimili North LGA in Delta State and is made up of eight villages Okwuru, Uchebe, Ekpechor, Aganike, Iyagoshimi, Ugbolo, Ogor and Amamaugelo. “I am from OKwuru village. We migrated from Idah in today’s Kogi State to our current settlement now in Delta State. Over the time I have been in Delta State I engage with the youths, women, elders and the palace in Ebu. I keep them abreast of what government is doing and the offers within the SMART Agenda and ensure they participate each time, weather they are short-listed or not. I also played an active in the voters’ registration and I am active in the political space of my ward and my cell.”
Shimite Bello is at home with multiple awards in the areas of community development, micro finance, youth and women development, media and agricultural development.
Ebu is bordered by Illah, Ezi and being a border town Edo State. “Our traditional attire is Ofefele also known as Akwa-ocha and our traditional delicacy is pounded yam and obobo (corn) soup. “The people of Ebu are very much in harmony with their culture and traditions as exhibited in their dance, masquerade display (Ebu wonder), their greeting, and their way of life. The people of Ebu are hardworking, united, innovative and peace loving.
On the 6th of April 2018, the Delta State Governor represented by his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro, presented the Staff of Office to the Onu, HRM Paul Odilie, Onu Umukojodu, The Onu Ebu in Oshimili North Local Government Area.
Similar Igala speaking communities can be found in Ukwani LGA of Delta State and the Illushi people found among the Esan people in Edo State, Nigeria. Ebu’s position as an Igala-speaking enclave within the majority Igbo- Benin speaking region is unique. As a result of Ebu’s proximity to Benin and Igbo areas, several authors have assumed that it is part of either Benin Kingdom or Igboland.
Ebu is a largely an agrarian community growing yam, cassava, corn, vegetables, livestock amongst others. They also engage in petty trading and wholesale trading of key agricultural produce such as yam and rice.
Ebu, through their daughter, Mrs Bello, has gained more national limelight and may soon become a key spot on the national map.