Fame is nothing but a fancied life in other’s breath. Yet, it is this life that compels most of the rich and powerful to open their wallets and their cellars when a humanitarian crisis arises at home or abroad. Their kindness is deliberate, privately planned and publicly produced, a well-rehearsed play that attains its climax at the exact point when the people’s attention and the journalist’s camera zeroes in on them.
Predictably, the ongoing rush of donations to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria has taken on a my-donation-is-bigger-than-yours aspect. The needy get their masks, their sanitizers, and their food; the donors get their applause, their fifteen minutes of extra fame. In such a time like this where everyone does their utmost to grab the spotlight, it warms the heart to know that people like the esteemed Hajia Bola Shagaya still exist in this world.
The matron of high society does not count compassion in the number of Twitter mentions or Facebook posts. She measures it by the twinkles in the eyes and smiles on the lips of those she impacts through her silent crusade of care. She is that rare specimen in whom an excess of wealth combines with an excess of empathy for the betterment of the citizens in these difficult times.
Not for Bola the debacle of audio donations. Her aim is to get funds and supplies to the downtrodden whose lives are most affected by the recent lockdown in some states including her native Kwara. To this end, she is one of the major backers of the initiative by the Women in Business and Management and Public Service (WIMBIZ) to distribute relief packs to 5000 low-income households in Lagos, the state most affected by the lockdown.
The mother of five is blessed with a heart large enough to regard the poor everywhere as her children. She silently pulls so many philanthropic strings in her native Kwara that she has all but achieved sainthood among the masses. Where the needy are gathered together in the name of donations, she is usually present. Sometimes, she comes physically to spread the message of hope; sometimes she sends her able lieutenants.
For the ageless and peerless Hajia Shagaya, no feeling is more natural than compassion, no duty more sacred than lifting the underprivileged out of penury. In normal times, she routinely rolls out training schemes for the disempowered and distributes materials for the needy. Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, she has redoubled her efforts to ensure that the ordinary citizens do not suffer while the wealthy safely shelter in their expensive mansions.
For Hajia Bola, a happy day’s work consists of making the grass greener for the downtrodden. While others act based on the vain belief that their happiness depends on visibility, Hajia Bola Shagaya cares more for the people’s survival than their acclaim. In spreading love in a time of rampant fear, she has found her elixir of happiness.