Her club, Lagos Rotary Club, was established in 1961 by the likes of late Justice Ademola and late Mobolaji Bank-Anthony. This means Gladys Modupe Sasore, lawyer, arbitrator, former presidential adviser and current Rotary president, carries with her a burden of history. Sasore lives, breathes and sleeps ‘Rotariainsm’. Six months to the end of her tenure, Sasore tells Samuel Ajayi how the journey has been, the projects her Club is undertaking, why Rotary is all about service and how, despite her busy schedule as a lawyer and Rotarian, she still finds time to be with her eight grandchildren
Rotary is Her Life
Mrs. Gladys Modupe Sasore, the president of the Lagos Rotary Club, the nation’s number one rotary club is a grandmother. Is that news? Probably not. She also loves her grandchildren. Which grandmother won’t love her grandchildren. But Sasore has a passion: serving humanity. She likes giving to those who do not have; providing for the needy and helping those who are less privileged. She says one cannot be a Rotarian if he or she is not ready to serve humanity and also be ready to give his her time.
“Rotary International surely understands what this entails,” Sasore declares as this reporter engages her at the Lagos Motor Boat Club, Ikoyi, Lagos, venue of her club’s weekly meeting. It is a serene environment as the Lagos lagoon looms just few meters where she is sitting. The holing sound of the water as well as the oscillating boats dancing to the water waves add to the beauty of nature as provided by the venue. And the cooling breeze compliments an obviously exhilarating afternoon. To cap it all, Mrs. Sasore herself is in her best elements as she responds to salutations from her club members as they arrive for the meeting.
Rotary is about Giving
She does admit that what has kept her going is the fact that she has very committed Rotarians around her who are ready to sacrifice so much for the success of the club. And this manifested in a recent trip the club embarked upon to a village called Ita Marun which is almost a two and half hour drive from Victoria Island. The journey to that village, Sasore admits, was a sacrifice on its own since it took the whole day. The question is this: how did the Lagos Rotary Club locate that village in the first place?
“Ita Marun is a community which someone talked to us about among our fellow Rotarians. We were made to understand that it is a community requires support for the people and when we got there, and since we serve humanity and we have what is called economic and community development, we decided to go there,” Sasore explains.
Giving an insight into what her Club has been able to achieve in the community, Sasore says the village falls on the axis of the Lagos Free Trade Zone and the village actually overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. However, the village lacks the basic things of life: no water, no electricity and the personal hygiene of the people of the village is nothing to write home about.
“We first went there in year 2014. We first went there to change their orientation by teaching them basic hygiene and we even joined them in sweeping their environment and even built an incinerator for them to burn their refuse.”
Sasore says the club also noticed that women of the village were using their bare hands to extract palm fruits from their kernel. The Club then decided to install a palm kernel extracting machine for them. It was after this, according to Sasore that the Club started the water project which is almost ready for commissioning.
Six Months to Go, Much to be Done…
Sasore has been office for six months. And she will be there for another six months as the Rotary Year usually starts in July. While she admits that it has been an exciting six months, the beat just has to go on for the next six months. According to her, she is neither relenting nor counting the days to when she will leave office.
“We are not even through with Ita Marun,” she enthuses. “We want to give the women there micro-credit which will be interest-free. We have talked to the women and this is what we have done for other women in other areas. What we only told them is that they should endeavour to pay when due but it will be interest free. We are also looking into solar-powered light for them. The village has been without light for eight years. So we are talking to those who are into solar energy to partner with us and work has started on this. Before the end of my tenure, we will put light in that village.”
Funding these projects could be a challenge. But Sasore does not see that way. To her, Rotary is a service organisation and she explains that these projects are funded by what members are able to put together and what those she calls ‘friends of Rotary’ are able to put together for them to fund their projects so they could be able to touch lives.
Rotary Not the Rich Alone
One thing Lagos Rotary Club under Sasore has been able to achieve this Rotary Year was bringing students from diverse economic backgrounds together during the annual Basic Education and Literacy Month last September. Students whose parents were not economically endowed were taken down to Dowen College, Lekki, where they interacted with students with privileged parental backgrounds. Sasore says that remains one event that gave her a lot of internal joy and satisfaction.
“In observing that month in our rotary calendar, we just felt we should bring pupils from less privileged schools to privileged one, which was Dowen College. We also got a First Class graduate to come and talk to them. I was personally happy because the students were able to mingle freely.”
A Lawyer’s Job and her Passion…
Sasore remains a lawyer. In fact, she is into arbitration and resolutions. But she feels what Rotary demands-time, talent and treasure-must be given if one really wants to be a Rotarian in body and spirit. Sasore says the Club has a number of seasoned professionals who are always supportive of anyone who is president at any time. Hence, while she runs the Club as president, her profession is always there.
“Yes, I am a lawyer by profession,” Sasore says. “I am also an arbitrator and so my concentration is arbitration and mediation. I have so far been able to cope and manage but Rotary works no doubt affects my law practice. You need to create time, work late, sleep late and wake up early. For the one year that you are president, you have to breathe Rotary day and night. I believe that that is what Rotary International considered before limiting the term to just one year. Even the international presidency of Rotary is also one year and another person comes in.”
‘For Public Service, Let’s Adopt Rotary’s Four-way Test’
Sasore is not new to public service. She was at a time presidential adviser during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. A chat like this cannot be said to be complete without asking this woman her impression about the quality of public service as someone who has been there before.
“We are supposed to serve alone and serve it well. But this depends on individuals to serve your nation and truthfully serve it. The kind of things we read about are mind-bugling. I think we should adopt the four-way test of Rotary which should guide us when serving our nation. In whatever we do, we should ask: is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it serve the nation right? In Rotary, this is vocational service month when we talk about skills and ethical standards which the basis of Rotary.”
To Sasore, there is a meeting point between the core philosophy of Rotary and what should be the guiding principles of public service anywhere in the world. She says Rotary belongs to all races, religions and tribes. That is why it does not discriminate.
The Swimming Granny…
Sasore, despite being so committed to Rotary, has her private life. While she still looks agile, especially in her trousers and sneakers, (just the way she decked when going to Ita Marun late last year), many might not know that she is not just a mother, but grandmother to eight beautiful youngsters. And she does not joke with them. No matter how much time Rotary takes from her, she still creates time for them.
“I spare some time to be with them. Some are in Nigeria, while some are outside the country,” the Rotary leader explains.
And one thing she likes doing is that she must always swim at least once in a week. It is her own way of keeping fit and strong.
“I make sure I swim every week. It is my own way of keeping fit and healthy. Nothing can prevent me from doing that.”
Rotary is Service…My Kids Should Join!
She says she will always encourage her children and even grandchildren to join Rotary because it is about giving service to humanity. To her, it gives the opportunity to help the less privileged members of the society to have sense of belonging.
“See, we empower people and they are happy. We give them loans that are interest-free and they use them to build their economic lives. Last week, we did screening for diabetes and hypertension and we were able to detect those who needed urgent medical attention. In fact, we delayed two of them and we sent them to hospital because we felt they needed to be attended to quickly; even unknown to they themselves. We also have a programme called READ. We are doing that in collaboration with Kuramo Publishing.”
“If you are able to read, you are not an illiterate and that is what we want to plant in everybody’s mind.”
To Sasore, it is part of Rotary’s service and even if her love for her grandkids remains strong as anything, that of Rotary remains evergreen. Even after her tenure in office would have lapsed by the end of June this year.