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Rotarian Akinsiku: At Ikeja Rotary Club, We’re Our Brother’s Keeper

Rotarian Akinsiku: At Ikeja Rotary Club, We’re Our Brother’s Keeper

The President, Rotary Club of Ikeja, Rotarian Sola Akinsiku tells journalists that the Club supports various communities in education, infrastructure, health, poverty alleviation, among others, but that they employ needs-based assessment in these interventions. During a special session with journalists, the president also explained how the Club funds its projects. Bennett Oghifo reports

How does Rotary Club Ikeja identify communities to assist? 

We intervene in areas of focus that must be in our own immediate community. Every week, we have something to do. Like today (the press conference), what we just did is in line with the expectation of Rotary International. From time to time, we speak with the media so that we can use the platform to enlighten the public about Rotary. As I said, the very first meeting that we had, the first Monday of July 2022 we held the first poverty alleviation and economic development programme. 

Do you have to be invited to carry out the needs assessment?

Now, there are two major platforms. Number 1, we have communities such as the Ipodo community, Ikeja community, Opebi community, and so some of these needs are the needs that we see. This month is a month of environment, water, sanitation and this time next week, we will be donating some items to Ipodo market – sanitation materials. You can take that one for granted that they would need them. We also receive a number of invitations for interventions regularly from communities, colleges, hospitals even individuals. We may not be able to meet all the requirements, but as far as we can go, the best we can do, we do. We receive a number of invitations for intervention regularly. They come to us and say they need a toilet, but sometimes we go to them and say we’re Rotary, three years ago we gave you a borehole, so this year, how may we be of help?

We made a donation of almost a million Naira worth of items to the Nigeria Airforce Officers Wives Association (NAFOWA), which has an institute for vocational studies where we train people in all kinds of trades. We donated some sewing machines, we donated some hair dryers, even cake making products. They came here and we donated these items to them. When the graduates were rounding off, we were there to present the items to them. We are also regularly interested in education. We have two schools that we have adopted, the Ikeja Junior High School and Opebi Primary School for primary education. At the Opebi Primary School, we made donations of books and writing materials, dictionaries and the text they used for nutrition. This year we donated some to them.

We produced some notebooks, some exercise books. Opebi Junior Secondary School happens to be the one that kind of enjoyed the intervention of the Rotary Club of Ikeja most. As I said earlier, we donated a multipurpose sports facility for badminton, squash, volleyball, and basketball, in excess of N10 million. This is the first among secondary schools in Lagos. We have also carried out a number of projects in that school. This year’s tree planting exercise took place there. We were at Igando, the internal displaced people’s (IDPs) location, one of such locations in Lagos, where we made donations of items frequently used. As a matter of fact, when we did the need assessment, they said sorry no food but bring bathroom slippers, so we took about 300 pairs of bathroom slippers, bath towels, toothpaste, body creams, because these are what people use frequently, some other organisations give them food.

We also intervened in Modupe Cole, a school for people who need special attention. When we first went there, we took some bags of rice, bags of garri, indomine and all those things there. They said please give us more food and we went back with some bag of rice. But the one we have done consistently in more than 40 years is Christmas day with the then General Hospital, now Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). Every year, we donate medical equipment on Christmas day, we donate medical equipment and we also celebrate Christmas with the patients. During COVID-19, we weren’t able to do any celebration but we still visited and gave them medical equipment, we also helped to boost the morale of their staff and we gave prizes to best performing staff, doctors in all areas. For most of the families here, Christmas day is LASUTH day. I can’t remember the last time I was at church on Christmas day. As from 7 A.M we are there. We don’t pray to meet the same people every year, but the hospital management will be expecting it because that’s the only form of entertainment that they have, and I can say that it costs so much money. The SOS Children’s Village at Isolo, last year, we built an e-library for them, this year we added some computer sets, we also gave them a 16- inch television. 

It depends on their needs for training purposes. 

Does Ikeja Rotary Club intervene in the health sector?

Yes, we participated in the polio eradication programme. We took the programme to Isolo centre. We have a centre at Isolo that the Rotary Club of Ikeja built. It’s like a community centre, we built it for them some 20, 30 years ago even before I joined. That’s where we had the polio vaccination programme. Mothers in the neighbourhood brought their children, all of these are paid for, classrooms here, borehole there and the one we are planning now, the next big one is the sinking of a borehole at Mapoly. We got a request from that school for a borehole and we are working on that for commissioning before the end of this Rotary year but it is going to be in collaboration. We have four Rotary Clubs in Abeokuta that are partnering with us. As a matter of fact, they reached out to us to say Rotary Club of Ikeja come and help us, but expectedly so, a current member, a past District Governor, of course a past President, Oba Adedapo Tejuosho is a member of this club and there’s a Rotary Club in his domain that is also part of the project. So, it’s the next big one, unfortunately I can’t envisage how much, but it’s huge. You saw how we raised money now at this meeting, N300,000. Sometimes, we raise more than that. So when we have a project that is N100,000, N200,000, we don’t really have to scratch our heads on where to get it from, it’s from the generosity, you know, the largeness of heart of members that have made it possible to fund most of our projects.

Is it also possible for you to give us how much you spent in delivering all these projects in the last one year?

It’s possible, we have a treasurer. I really don’t want to give an idea, where I’ll say it’s about so, but our documents are public documents. We have a treasurer, we have a system of audit, the man I took over from is a Chartered Accountant, the one that is there is a Chartered Accountant, the one that will take over from me is a Chartered Accountant, he is taking over from the man that will take over from me, so the issue of integrity is settled.

What’s the key message you want to pass across on this platform?

Well, I will say one of the things to tell the public is that Rotary is about being your brother’s keeper, it does not belong to a particular religion or profession. You can see we have females around us and it’s not for the very rich, it’s all about the largeness of your heart, the size of your heart and not the size of your pocket, and of course, you can attest to it now that it is not a cult. I remember 2, 3 years ago, we were having this same programme here, somebody said that all along he has been thinking to be a member, you must be a CEO, which is okay, you must have money, which is okay, because out of the little you have the moment you have to give. It’s all about giving, all religions, all scriptures emphasise on giving, the Bible tells us there will always be poor around us. In fact, I have given you that which I have given you because I know there are people you will give to. The key message is that Rotary is for service, people out there join rotary for service, rotary is all about integrity, even integrity in leadership, a Rotarian in Nigeria is a Rotarian in Ghana, a Rotarian in Nigeria is a Rotarian in Kigali, a Rotarian is a Rotarian in anywhere in the world.

We went to Ghana in September because every five years we do what we call strategic retreat. We want to see what to do in the next five years, how did we get to where we are and what do we want to be in the next five years, where do we want to be in the next five years, what we have done in the last five years, how well have we done, in what ways can we improve further? And we have a 5-year strategy. So we were in Ghana and the Rotary Club of Airport Accra were waiting for us for a joint project. We made contributions for the joint project. We visited some communities and they were happy, they are also planning on coming to Nigeria. Their coming is for a programme that involves, I think, about three countries. It’s an international programme, you know there is poverty in Africa. People can have meetings anywhere but it’s Africans that know how to solve the problems of Africa. So they will come here from here. We go to another country to attend to a need that Rotarians and Rotary can intervene in community development.

What advice does Rotary have for the incoming administration

The 4 Way Test, and now daddy added, there’s a 5th one: you know it must be the truth, it must be fair to all concerned and all that and all that and you must enjoy doing anything you’re doing, and if you don’t enjoy doing it, I think you’re being coerced, but in Rotary you voluntarily enlist to be part of a group of people who willingly have decided to invest within the limit of what is available to them in making our society a better one for all. You have two tubers of Yam and there’s a family that has not eaten in three days, you cut one tuber in two, that’s rotary. You really don’t have to have N2 million before you give, even with the N1000/N2000 you have you can give N20, N200 to help.

Is your organisation guided by ethics?

Yes. Every society, every community, every vocal human entity will have procedures for discipline, and oh, Rotary International has a constitution and every club is allowed to have a set of By-laws to guide the conduct of everyone and you see the job is made simple. Rotary is not a club you apply to. Before I invited someone, I must have done my due diligence and everyone in Rotary was invited by somebody. I remember a past president of blessed memory, a friend of 30 years has been asking me to come to Rotary, come and fellowship with us, I was very busy then. One day, there was a function at Sheraton Hotel- his investiture as president for the Rotary year -and my wife was there with me. 

My wife said to me the array of people I’m seeing here- is that not Chief Michael Ade-ojo? Again people will bring their likes, if for some reason there is integrity in you, a discipline in you, there’s a procedure, there’s a constitution, there’s also a set of By-laws that every Rotarian must respect. But, I think more importantly individuals don’t come in today and the next day they induct you as a member, you come and watch what they do and as you come they are also watching the kind of person you are.

It’s not rocket science to be able to predict. Once in a while there are issues like you have said there’s a procedure as allowed by the constitution that’s also allowed by the By-laws. One thing about the Rotary Club of Ikeja is that we have our own approach to the tradition of Rotary. We are mindful I remember a past District Governor came, even before his induction, and said Rotary Club of Ikeja, you should be a mega club, you should have more than, we are 58 now, clubs of your size should be like 200, like 300 and one of the elders said sorry we are mindful of the need to grow with caution. We have the membership director who’s also working, we have some of them in the Rotaract clubs we are also putting together one true Rotary community club. We are trying to develop two now, one in Lekki Foreshore, and another one in Epe.

How do you pick your presidents?

We do elections in November and it is not only the incoming president who is elected and the one to assist him has already been elected. We know when this president leaves office, of course, for you to get to that level 90% of the time we know you’re the new president. So, it’s an election where all the offices are elected.

What’s the difference between a Rotary District and a Club?

It’s like you’re asking what’s the difference between a state and a local government. Yes, a club like Rotary club of Ikeja, and the district, you have a number of clubs that make up a district. I think in Nigeria we have about four Districts, the District which we belong to is District 9110 and that is Lagos and Ogun, and now Lagos and Ogun are even being broken into two Districts – District 9111 and District 9112. A number of clubs make up a District.

What will you do after leaving the office?

I think I would only say it this way, that the initial motivation can only get higher and the initial motivation is to serve humanity. If in the course of doing that you’re invited, you don’t contest for positions in Rotary, you don’t say I want to go to the District even now that I am serving as president here. I’m also serving on a committee of the district. And someone said you’re the first president I will see that is serving here and also serving at the District. Serving is not something you contest for in Rotary, you don’t have to buy forms, you don’t have to lobby, you don’t have to use BVAS. So, let’s say tomorrow the District says come and do this, if for whatever reason, you are unable to, I’m sorry I can’t right now, it’s not something you aspire to. My only expectation is that I should be able to do more than I am doing now. If at today’s meeting I have contributed N2,000, at the next meeting I want to contribute N2,500. If today three people are sponsoring the university education of an individual, tomorrow I want to be on that list. That’s my aspiration and if at any time I’m called to serve as the P.A to my friend, why not, if I have the time and the resources I would gladly take it.

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