Ita-Giwa flanked by celebrities during the children of Bakassi Red Ball in Lagos ......... Recently
The loss of a rich heritage and the continued struggle for survival in Bakassi communities of Cross River State perpetually expose children to circumstances that threaten the foundation of the future they are struggling for. But a charity organisation takes up the challenge of giving Bakassi children a future. Ebere Nwiro writes
Bakassi is popular, but not for its children. It is for the lost land. The lost land will come back may be, but to lose its children, Florence Ita-Giwa says “will be shattering and dearly painful, for it will be irreparable”.
In Bakassi, Children not only struggle to put food in their mouths, there is an extension of their struggle; it is a struggle to go school.
In each of the villages that make up the Bakassi, children are struggling for survival. They walk miles daily to farm to support the family. Eight years ago The Children of Bakassi Foundation was formed with a vision to radically improve the sense of self-worth of the children of Bakassi through exposure to qualitative education, improved living condition and enhanced social interactions. To wit, the person behind it is Senator Florence Ita-Giwa.
She grew up in Bakaasi and she knows the future of the children is threatened, “I am preparing them for the world so that at the end of the day, they have the opportunity to rise to any level in this country,” she said.
Annually, the Red Ball has been the principal fund-raising vehicle for the Children of Bakassi Foundation, which provides for hundreds of displaced Bakassi children. Since the ceding of parts of Bakassi to Cameroun, the plight of the children has further worsened. This year, the event was tagged “Middle East African Fusion” to draw more light on the needs of these Children.
Senator Ita-Giwa, Chairperson Bakassi Trust Fund and founder of Children of Bakassi Foundation and Women in Action, at the recently held annual Red Ball in Lagos declared the purpose of the Ball, “It is to harness and utilise all resources towards ensuring the foundations’ clear goals and objectives are met without compromising on professionalism.”
“Our aim is to give back to the community a group of academically sound and proud professionals capable of transforming the profile of Bakassi for the actualization of Bakassi’s and indeed Nigeria’s socio economic and political emancipation”, she said.
The Red Ball is noteworthy for its social goals to provide succour for the children of Bakassi through renovation and construction of schools and clinics as well as provision of drugs for the children who suffered deprivation and neglect by successive government.
Ita-Giwa helps brings to the city the plight of the forgotten, that is, the people of Bakassi who are more or less refugees in their own land. The Foundation, Ita Giwa says embarked on distribution of relief materials to indigenes in the various places they were forced by circumstances to be squatters following the ceding of their land to neigbouring Cameroun.
Recently, Ita-Giwa popularly known and called mama Bakassi disclosed that she adopted three children who are not indigenes of Bakassi, but all hail from Cross River State. “The adopted children have all blossomed quite nicely and have been exposed to the very best in life. Each holiday period, they go for summer camps in one foreign country or the other. Apart from that the children always holidayed in Benin Republic where they undertake French language,” she stated.
Ita-Giwa said that in addition to going to Benin Republic for French language special lessons, the children also visited Dubai. “For all of them it was their first trip outside the African continent; the trip exposed them to a new country and no doubt left an indelible mark in their lives. It is the intention of the Foundation for the children to make summer visits to other of such destinations on a yearly basis.” She said.
She revealed that the Foundation is determined to nurture a new breed of Bakassi children equipped to take their place among their peers anywhere in the world. “Two of the older children who recently passed out of Access College, Calabar and are preparing to be admitted to the University have gone to South Africa on a technical exchange programme.
They were there with other young persons from different parts of the world learning about appropriate application of contemporary technology. If God has been good to you I think there’s the need to share it with others, which is what I have done with the Foundation of Children of Bakassi,” she said.
Explaining why she had to take the children who were destitute owing to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun, Ita-Giwa said one of the reasons is that by the time the children are between the ages of 12-14 years old some fishermen might impregnate the female children amongst them, while the male kids only qualify to go to the high sea for fishing because that is their occupation. “I want them to grow up and also marry the elite,” she declares.
Dr. Okoya-Thomas, in his keynote address, described Ita-Giwa as a worthy Nigerian and likens her to Princess Diana “of our time”.
“That is why you are still getting support from people. The bulk of the money spent on these children comes from your pocket. You came from a family of kings, you are learned; went into politics and you became an outstanding lady in politics among men; your background has helped you to think on what you are doing, nobody gave you the idea, the idea is yours and yours alone,” He said.
Performances at the Red ball included music, comedy, fashion show, and other side attractions. Among the music stars that performed included, Tiwa Savage, who rendered a special song Greatest Love for the Children of Bakassi. “I believe the children are our future, we need to really invest in our children,” she advised.
Multiple award winner, Tuface Idibia performed his award winning songs, the winner of 2007 West African Idol Timi Dakolo also thrilled audience with his magnum opus of a song. Mr. Dakolo a renowned vocalist in his class flushed out the soul in every song he sang. Also winner of the maiden edition of MTN Project Fame West Africa, Mr. Iyanya Mbuk performed his popular Hit song to the admiration of all.
With the duo of Ireti Doyle and Olisa Adibuwa anchoring the event, the Red Ball concert had lots of dignitaries that include representative of South Africa High Commissioner, representative of United States Embassy, captain of industries, among them were Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, Chief Opral Benson, Director, Centre for Black African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), Prof. Tunde Babawale, Dr. (Mrs.) Doyin Abiola, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), and former president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) Chief Tony Okoroji, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Bright Opocha, a.k.a Basket Mouth, actors Victor Asiegbu, Emeka Enyiocha, Segun Arinze, Keppy Epeyoung Bassey and many others.