As part of its commitment to continue to address the plight of the less-privileged in the society, the Lagos Doyen Lion Club recently installed a new president and new club officers. Ugo Aliogo who attended the event, reports

It was a cool evening baked in the solemnity of happiness and love for members of the Lagos Doyen Lions Club District 404 A1 Nigeria. The day was carved out to celebrate the investiture ceremony of Lion Dr. Abiola Oyeleye, who takes over the reins of power as the new President of the club and also the installation of club officers. The evening also hosted the fund raising event for 1,000 charity cataract surgeries project for the club. The ambiance and electricity of the event spoke volume emphasising on the need to support the less-privileged in the society. Undoubtedly, the event remains a significant milestone in the annals of the club.

When it was time for the newly installed President of the club, to give his acceptance speech, he was filled with great delight to the amazement of the members and invited guests. His joy knew no bound not because he had taken the mantle of leadership, but for him it was a convenient photo opportunity to illustrate service and charity, activities which mean so much for the Lagos-based Ophthalmologist. Oyeleye is an easy going fellow. He is a man with a large heart. He has deep understanding of charity and love because of the exemplary precepts laid down by his late father who was a member of the club.

This has helped to form his beliefs and shaped his thoughts on the need to give and change lives within the limits of an individual’s resources and power. Oyeleye is soft spoken. His personality depicts a man cut out from the hustle and bustle of daily life, maybe because of his professional training as a medical doctor. In the figment of the imagination of the members of the club, he clearly understood what the position of such required. There was something about his demeanour that was very comforting, especially the way he conducted things and ensured that things were properly done irrespective of the seeming challenges.

“Lagos Doyen Lions Club has already carried out other projects in this Lionistic year in conjunction with other Lions Clubs (including the Lekki Admiralty Lions Club, Lions Club District 404 A1), Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria (OSN) Lagos State Chapter and Lagos Island Local Council Development Area. My team from the Eye Doctors’ have been drafted to carrying out Lions projects this year and are available to support projects,” he noted.

He also noted that they were hopeful of raising funds towards 1,000 charity cataract surgical operations for the under privileged at N15, 000 per surgery, adding that in partnership with the President of OSN, Dr. Bade Ogundipe, they have already mobilised ophthalmologists who have agreed to carry out the surgeries for N15,000 per surgery.

Oyeleye added that the beneficiaries of the projects would not be only in Lagos, but other parts of the country.

He said in 1990, the club launched the ‘Sight First’ programme, adding that through the initiative, the club is restoring sight and preventing blindness on a global scale, “Lions have raised more than $346 million for this initiative. Sight First targets the major causes of blindness: cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.”

Oyeleye said: “In every society, there is a lot of need, and I will not be able to achieve all. It is a continuation, so we look around every society. My own special area is eye surgery. Lionism does a lot in other aspects of need. We are hoping to raise 15,000,000 for the 1,000 surgeries. Today, we have a lot of persons who have signified their intentions to donate.

“Today is not the only day we receive funds. We raise funds throughout the year and carry out the surgeries. The surgeries will not be done only in Lagos, it is going to be wide spread or in any other clubs that call on us we will plan towards helping them. I have colleagues who are willing to share my dreams with me.

“The club has been in Nigeria since 1963. The first club started in 1964 which is Doyen Lion Club. The first Nigerian who was the Treasurer of the club was Doyen Akintola Williams. Over the last 50 years, the club has done a lot in Nigeria in changing lives and making meaningful impacts. We have some buildings that have been donated by Lions Club, we have some motherless babies homes in Lekki, an Eye Hospital in Isolo. We engage in regular contributions for disabled children which we support strongly. In Ajah, there is a building which we built for them which is being used as a health facility.

“The challenge for the club over the years is getting more people aware of what the club is doing. I am using this medium to request the support of everyone towards this course. Private organisations have supported in the past especially if members know the organisations who want to take our initiative as their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A lot of organisations have contributed as CSR in the past. We should not singled out any organisation because we have at least a 100 of them. We have reached out to a lot of private partners and we have gotten support from a number of medical colleagues and those in the financial sector. We are still reaching out to others.

“Regarding the issue of supporting the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), I am not sure that the club has done so much in that regard. However, we support where there is a need in the IDP camps. We are not limited to any geo-zone. The cataracts surgeries will cover from Lagos down to Asaba. Those are where 1,000 cataract cases are and where our district clubs are based.

“Beyond cataracts another eye defect that faces the average Nigeria is Glaucoma. It is a blinding disease and it has no symptoms until it is gone very advanced. There is not enough attention given to health delivery in the country. We are supposed to put 15 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) into the health sector, but we are not doing it. Even if we are doing that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“The main problem in health sector is healthcare financing. Healthcare financing requires having some insurance schemes to be put in place in order to address the needs of the disadvantage. “Nothing will stop medical tourism for now because people will still feel they need to get a second opinion. What we have currently in the area of ophthalmology will take care of 90 needs of our society.”

In his remarks, the President of OSN, Dr. Bade Ogundipe, stressed the need for individuals to give towards the common good of the society, adding that Nigerians should not focus on just meeting their own, but should also consider other members of the society.

He noted that over the years, the club has been focused on assisting the needy in the society, while calling on spirited individuals to take a cue from their efforts and extend a helping hand to the less-privileged in the society.

Ogundipe added: “It is interesting to know that sometimes it seems that the more you give to the needy, the more your wealth grows. We are sometimes bugged by the fear of our children not sliding down into poverty, we want to feed them with silver spoon and unfortunately, some of them get choked with the silver spoon.

“Cataract happens to be a major cause of blindness globally. It may reduce the self-esteem of the individuals; they become non-productive, become dependent on other people. The picture looks gloomy, but there is indeed hope. Cataract is treatable and the outcome is very good. It has been established from studies that the amount of money spent on cataract surgeries is quadrupled in economic returns. For every $100 invested into cataract blindness, $400 is made as returns on investment, and two people are free to become productive, the blind patient and the care giver. The quality of life after cataract surgery improves so also is the self-esteem. The life expectancy is also elongated.

“Distinguished guests by being part of the fundraising for 1,000 charity cataract surgeries, you are indirectly saving 2,000 people from the claws of cataracts, 1,000 patients and 1,000 care givers, you have helped boost the economic activities of the community. Also, boost the social capital of the larger community.”