The Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) was founded by the late Mrs. Olufunmilayo Johnson, wife of the first Military Administrator of Lagos State, General Mobolaji Johnson. The objective was to bring wives of Lagos State Government officials such as governor, deputy governor, national and state assembly members, commissioners, special advisers, permanent secretaries, heads of MDAs, local government administrators, etc., together under one umbrella to discuss issues of mutual interests.
Having been on the wane for some time, the body was rejuvenated by Senator Oluremi Tinubu while she was the First Lady of Lagos State. Imbued with a good knowledge of the vision and mission of the organization, Senator Tinubu put in place various strategies that led to the resurgence of the body in Year 2000. Under her distinguished leadership, all wives of the state officials were mobilized to complement efforts of the state government in the provision of essential infrastructure for Lagos residents. Focus was mainly set on construction of recreation centres and gardens across the state to promote the culture of good family life among family through embracing a culture of relaxation in serene centres.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s passion for the aged, especially retirees who have spent their productive years serving the country, greatly influenced her vision of setting up a Retirement Villa in the state. When one considers the gross neglect that retirees usually suffer in Africa, the ideal behind the senator’s vision will be better appreciated. Though the vision of constructing the Retirement Villa was fully realized during the tenure of Senator’s Tinubu’s predecessor, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, it is to the credit of the leadership and members of COWSLO that the committee has taught our political leaders an invaluable lesson about what continuity in governance is all about.
Under the leadership of Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, the focus of the body shifted to include regular sponsorship of free medical screening and treatment for cervical and breast cancer. This was done across the state, thereby giving vulnerable members of the society access to quality health care. Consequently, many residents of the state were saved the stress and burden usually associated with certain sicknesses and diseases. It could, thus, be rightly affirmed that COWLSO’s medical intervention in this direction was a life-saving enterprise.
Presently, COWLSO has initiated a number of carefully selected health projects to complement the state government’s efforts at reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality. The body is concerned about the good health and wellbeing of mothers and children, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals on the health of citizens. A few of the projects that have been launched include upgraded Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, Lagos; and neo-natal hearing screening equipment. The hearing project focused mainly on the distribution of hearing aids to children and adults with hearing impairment as well as provision of free surgical intervention for patients with enlarged thyroid.
The necessity to source for funds to implement its projects devoid of public funds brought about the introduction of the annual National Women’s Conference (NWC) which was an initiative of Senator Oluremi Tinubu. Money received as conference registration fees for participants including money from sponsors formed the totality of funds used for COWLSO projects. The first edition of the COWLSO NWC was held in 2001 with the theme: The Virtuous Woman.
Ever since, the conference has grown in leaps and bounds. In 2015, COWLSO chose “Relevance in Economic Turbulence” as the theme of that year’s NWC. In 2016, COWLSO held its 16th Conference, which ran from October 24 to October 26, under the theme: “Strong Family, Strong Nation”. The 17th edition of the conference with the theme: ‘She Creates, She Transforms’, was a befitting celebration of the perseverance, deftness and resourcefulness of women and their outstanding contributions towards nation building.
The 18th edition of the conference which was held 23- 25 October, at the Eko Hotel and Suites under the theme: “Strengthening our Collective Impact” had in attendance over 3000 participants from across the world. The focus of the theme is an examination of the collective impact of women coming together to act as one. In other words, it focused on the advantage that is derivable in numbers.
At the event, seasoned resource persons engaged participants on various issues as they affect the wellbeing of women, their career and their families. Some of the topics treated at the conference include ‘Living a Life of Purpose’, ‘Purpose of Marriage’, ‘Planning for Retirement’ and ‘Parenting Digital Children’. The topics were tailored towards the advantages derivable when women act together, as against when they act individually.
One of the major highlights of the three-day conference was the Inspirational Woman of The Year Award, often given to a woman of impact, generally acknowledged in the society, and certificates of appreciation would also be given to individuals and organisations for their long-standing partnership and support for COWLSO. The conference, which was declared closed by Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, is, no doubt, another significant moment in the annals of the organization.
It is important to commend efforts of successive leadership of COWLSO towards ensuring that they are well guided by the ideals and objectives behind the establishment of the organization. It is particularly momentous to laud COWLSO’s founders for envisaging such a robust vehicle for human capital development. It is to their credit that, till date, the body remains focused on its major goals and objectives.
It is hoped that the COWLSO’s example will significantly instruct Nigerians on the need to focus more on building enduring institutions. If we are to achieve the Nigeria of our collective dream, we need to lay greater emphasis on institution building. It is the institutions that we build that will eventually define the quality of our lives. This is where COWSLO has gotten it right over the years.
––Tayo Ogunbiyi, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.