WESE OBIABAKA: ON HER PASSION AND MISSION FOR HUMANITY

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She is a humanitarian par excellence whose milk of kindness flows ceaselessly. But before her new discovery for humanity, she had traversed the Nigerian banking sector for nearly two decades. Of course, she thinks that is where her passion lies. Passionate, kind-hearted, humane, and generous, Wese Obiabaka, a native of Benue State and CEO of World Reliance Charity Foundation recently teamed up with people of like minds to give a new lease of life to children of Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State. Obiabaka believes that there is humanity in everyone, writes Funke Olaode

They all converged in large numbers under a tattered and roofless town hall as they watched helplessly as World Reliance Charity Foundation’s vehicles loaded with relief materials drove into Konshisha in Benue State. They were children aged one to 10. Malnourished and dejected, poverty has become part of their daily life and until humanitarian gesture comes their way, they have all resigned to fate.

Worried by the plight of the young people in her community, Wese Obiabaka, an ex-banker-turned-humanitarian has developed a passion for the less privileged. Together with people of like minds such as Kingsley Aigbokhaevbo, Adekunle Arisilejoye, Bernard Adeomi, Benson Ogundeji, Nnamdi Ogwude, Uloma Ajugwo-Uche, Tony Ankeli, Alex Onyia, Adewale Ajisafe, Lillian Alet-Imhoede, Kayode Agbalaja, Olanike Kolawole, and Ibijoke Elesheku, she decided to give a new lease of life.
“It is disheartening to observe that a seven-year-old hasn’t seen a can of milk in his or her life,” said Obiabaka in an emotional voice.

“This is not peculiar to me. I think it’s human nature to come up with various expressions of yourself, only it takes time to take stock and to think deeply. Like I said, When I got to the point in my life, it knocked me almost upside my head, it was time to project myself to move outside of my comfort zone. And that doesn’t come without serious thinking and contemplations. In all these contemplations I realized that my skills are transferable from the commercial sector to humanitarian services.

“Poverty in Nigeria is not far from anyone. You know once upon a time they say if you stretch your hand you will touch poverty. Right now, it is shoulder to shoulder and where I am from, it is so palpable the poverty levels. I said it’s not rocket science really; one just needs to focus on something. The way to bridge the gap that is necessary or build the bridges that are necessary would occur to you.”
Having conceived the idea and got support from both corporate organisations and individuals, Obiabaka hit the ground running.

“We have all been through a tough time, with the pandemic, extend yourself to people. I couldn’t do that all by myself, so I reached out to a couple of friends and colleagues, shared the idea with them. I urge them to be generous in their financial participation. A lot of them came through with funds. We raised quite considerable funds and a particular company gave us some give us some food items. For instance, TGI, a sales and distribution company gave us 198 bags, 20 cartons of cooking oil, 20 cartons of seasoning cubes.

“The entire project couldn’t have been successful without the participation or response of certain people that I reached out to. Thirteen people mentioned earlier gave the kind of responses that were required, by making donations. We were able to raise cheques. We happen to raise over half a million naira. Which was 100 percent used for purchasing shoes, backpacks, books, pencils, sharpeners, erasers. We got donations from a clothing company with over 1,000 pieces of clothing, brand new clothing for children, and we were able to also source funds for logistics, moving all the things from Lagos to the Middle Belt, which was the place for the outreach or the place where we are going to see the people.

“It just occurred to me that when you can’t do something all by yourself, and you have the desire and the will, you can leverage on your social network and sell the idea to people and you’re not the only person who’s got a heart for people. There are so many people with a heart for people but someone may just have to be to whisper it and people responded. I was surprised that within 20 minutes, I got the first N200,000 the next thing I knew money started coming and it was fantastic. After the encounter, after the trip, I realized that there’s a lot more to be done.

“We bought milk products for children, mainly because it’s such a luxury: some of them had never tasted it. We ran into a child, an eight-year-old, who had never had a glass of milk. We poured milk into a glass, of course, she couldn’t speak English, someone was interpreting. She thought it was a glass of wine, because palm wine is white, that’s what she knows. That day she had her first glass of milk. I was moved that a lot more can be done. There are people with hearts of gold and pockets full of money that can share the little that they have with people who are vulnerable. This is just the beginning as I will pursue this on a bigger scale.”

Last December, the children couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas and New Year. Their expression was overwhelming.
“It was so touching because every child will come with their mother. We reached out to 320 children from ages one to 10. The mothers were overwhelmed with joy as their children were coming out to receive educational materials, shoes, bags, milk, and so on. You can imagine what milk, dairy product, and yoghurt can do just for nutrition. But how much can a carton of milk last for a child, just a month, just a month of life? And that is why we will keep this gesture going.”

What factors are in place to ensure the sustainability of this project?
“The dream has gone beyond a one-time visit. Currently, it is now something that I want to pursue. I won’t say full time because I’m still a career-minded person. But I am willing by incorporating non-profit, I am willing to channel my skills, especially project management and fundraising to this sector so that we have a system where funds are available to grease this will. I could take a backseat and a manager handles it. What I am focused on is that there are skills that I have that it can be used to generate funds, raise funds to finance projects like this to make sure that children can at least have a decent meal a day and go to good schools.

“Where we went to, the children walk four kilometres every day to school, four kilometres back. We went to the schools that they attended, there are no tables and chairs. Some of the roofs are off. Why can’t a bus bring them closer home? These are things that we can do. I mean, getting teachers is not farfetched. There is the NYSC programme. When you pay youth corps members well, they can be deployed to those schools and help develop these students because of their university education.”
Continuing, she stated, “What I have learned is that help is not too far away. Help is really close by and I think it’s nature’s way of solving problems and making sure that the solution is not too far away. What makes it look like it’s too far away is because we’re not looking in the right direction for the requisite help. We can help ourselves. We can all help ourselves. I mean, we didn’t import any items to do what we did. Everything was sourced locally; the funds were generated locally. We can help ourselves really if we just focus and reallocate resources differently.”

For Wese Obiabaka being passionate about humanity isn’t based on personal experiences or due to lack as a child. Her life has always been on a roller coaster having been raised by comfortable parents which placed her feet on pedestal of education early. Hail from Konshisha Local Government of Benue State, Tiv speaking area, after her primary education, she proceeded to Federal Government Girls; College Owerri after which she studied agricultural economics from Enugu State University. She did an MBA at University of Calabar and currently running another Masters degree (online) in International Business and Law at the University of Salford, United Kingdom.

She started out her career in Zenith Bank and after a few years in Zenith, she moved over to Diamond Bank where she spent five years. Moving forward in her career, she moved to Eco Bank where she was exposed to corporate banking, power and energy. “I focused a lot on the specialized sector in Eco Bank. And my last place of work was UBA, where I worked for commercial banking where I was exposed to embassies, multinationals and developmental organisations. So, we were offering banking services to these specialized units. UBA is the first mover in that sector, having a team across Africa focusing on that particular sector. So I opted out to the financial industry, for other concerns, to focus on other things. One of the things that I did was to re-engineering myself, knowing that there is a need to do more. There is a need to progress to other geography, other industries, just experience different things, expressing your skill in other sectors of life.

One of such things is applying the experience and the skills that I gathered in the financial sector in a different way. So with my work experience, I majored in business development, financial project management, and deposit mobilization of fundraising and in a very competitive environment, like the Nigerian banking sector. Over the years, you learn a few things, one of which is learning how to be instant in season, being able to identify opportunities, you develop the boldness to not only come up with business ideas, what’s the opportunity and see it to from ideation to completion.
“So, I can say that the exposure has made me quite a confident person. And there are so many gaps in the environment where is home for me, in this case, Nigeria, so many gaps. So much social and human development gaps and there’s a niche for my kind of skills, not for commercial purposes but for humanitarian purposes.™