Ifeyinwa Rita Ejezie, fondly called Ify, is the District Governor of Rotary International District 9110, covering all the Rotary Clubs in Lagos and Ogun States. Ify, who is also the National Vice Chairman of the Association of Securities Dealing House of Nigeria (ASHON), is a Stockbroker and Commodity dealer. In this interview with THISDAY, Ejezie speaks about the role and impact of Rotary in Nigerian communities and around the world, and also outlined the main plans of her one-year tenure
You are taking over as the District Governor of Rotary International District 9110, how does that make you feel?
I am looking forward to this assignment, I am looking forward to doing more good in communities in Lagos and Ogun States which our District covers. I feel blessed by God for giving me the opportunity to lead a group of passionate Rotarians, almost 5,000 people, it is an enormous responsibility that I do not take for granted.
In Rotary, we are given at least three years preparation time because you begin as District Governor Nominee Designate (DGND), you then become a District Governor Nominee (DGN), a District Governor-elect (DGE) and finally you take up your responsibility. I believe this Rotary structure gives enough time for reflection, for learning and planning. It is the execution part that happens when you eventually become District Governor.
Tell us about Rotary, your District and its major impact on communities and in the world?
Rotary is the largest NGO in the world, comprising of group of business and professional persons who came together for the purpose of doing good in the world. My District 9110, like I said is made up of Rotary Clubs in Lagos and Ogun States. We have been had in the forefront of fighting Polio and eradicating it in Nigeria. In addition, we also embark on various projects in what we refer as our seven areas of focus. These are Peace building and Conflict prevention, Disease prevention & treatment, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, Basic Education & Literacy, Community, Economic Development, Maternal & Child health and protecting our environment.
Knowing that the governments are not able to do all that is needed for people to be able to live quality lives, Rotary has always filled in the gaps. For the People of Lagos and Ogun States, I can only reassure them that during my tenure as the District Governor there will be a continuation of our delivering on humanitarian services. Our over 140 clubs across the two states would be encouraged and supported as applicable to either individually or jointly deliver impactful projects across the states.
What inspired you to join the organisation called Rotary?
My contact with the Rotary family actually started far back in my university days. I was a Rotaract. In Rotary we have Interact for secondary school pupils and Rotaract for University and young adults, so I joined a Rotaract Club.
There, I learnt the beauty of caring and reaching out to your community through a platform and touching people’s lives. Joining that organisation taught me that there was more to life than looking after yourself alone. And when one saw how people’s faces light up when you touch their lives with a positive project, it was just something that then became a part of me.
Tell us a bit about your self
I can proudly refer to myself as a pan Nigerian. I was born to a well-lettered father and an educationist mother from Ihiala Anambra State, Chief and Mrs Michael Ejezie in Kaduna State. I have Diploma from the Ahmadu Bello University, HND in Business Administration from Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, MBA from ESUT Business School and MSC in Corporate Governance & Finance from Liverpool John Moore University, UK.
I have more than three decades of professional and distinguished career in Nigerian financial system cutting across banking, financial management, stock-dealing, capital market and business management advisory services. Currently, I am Fellow, Chartered Insitute of Stcokbrokers. Fellow, Pensions Institute of Nigeria, Fellow, Certified Institute of Public Administrators, Ghana, Associate Member, Nigeria Institute of Management, Associate, Chartered Institute of Bankers, Associate Member, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria and Authrorised Commodity Trader with the Lagos Commodity and Futures Exchange to mention but a few
I am an active member of the Association of Securities Dealing Houses of Nigeria (ASHON), where I held the position of Public Relations Officer from 2017-2021 and currently serving on the Executive Governing Council as National Vice Chairman of the association.
In Rotary, I was Club President of Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro in 2011-2012 and made history. As President, I led my club to emerge the Overall Best Club in District 9110. The Club also emerged the Overall Best Donor/Contributor to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International that same year.
I have marshalled for The Rotary Foundation over the years and contributed over $23,000 to the Foundation and hopes to be a second level Major Donor by Rotary year 2022-23 while aspiring to be an AKS Member (commit to donating $250,000) by 2023-24 as District Governor.
Interesting, so as a Chartered Stockbroker, Commodity Trader who works in the financial services industry, how will these impact on your role as District Governor?
I actually started my career as a banker before becoming a stockbroker and commodity trader. The different things I have done professionally have required different skill sets though they are related. I must confess that I was truly inspired by the trajectory of our Past Rotary International Vice President (PRIVP_ Yinka Babalola, a sterling Rotarian who became District Governor when he was still a full-time staff at Shell Nigeria.
I approached him at the time on how he intended to manage, but he told me it was all about setting your priorities right and staying focused. You will not believe it that year, he emerged as the Best District Governor in Nigeria and was also honoured at our Rotary International Convention. That to me was something remarkable that I could emulate as a thoroughbred professional in Rotary.
Therefore, my experiences as a banker, which include being an early riser, teambuilding and financial discipline, as a Stockbroker which involves having excellent analytical skill and the ability to distill complex information and Commodity Trader, which involves having discipline and integrity will all combine to make me a better District Governor.
So, you are invariably saying you are prepared for your new role?
Yes, I will say you cannot be 100 per cent prepared because in life you learn every day and you discover new things. But I must say that my passion for service, the encouragement of District leaders who believe in my abilities over the years and the various trainings both locally and across borders by Rotary International have prepared me for this position. I will also add that my passion for philanthropy, my professional and social contacts all gave me the confidence to aspire for this position and so we are ready to do good more in the world.
In Rotary, you cannot do it alone. You do everything in collaboration with those who are going to work with you. Presidents of clubs, Chairmen and members of district committee and other past leaders are going to give you all the support. Once you’re given all the needed support and you have a plan, everything will work out well.
What are your major plans and activities for your one year in office?
Rotary’s founder, Paul Harris, almost a century ago, stressed that Rotary would need to change with a changing world. “The story of Rotary will have to be written again and again”. So, it’s a good time to reflect and see what, if any, change we should make to make the organisation grow.
I’d like to explore new fundraising opportunities, grow our membership and promote the great work of our club. Growing membership is critical too, for the future of the club. We seek a younger, more diverse demographic who are committed to Service Above Self. Finally, our clubs do tremendous work but we don’t shine the light enough on our achievements. The plan will be to increase our social media presence and promote ourselves more! We do so much but are not telling our stories, so we will increase our media engagement. This has the potential to attract new members as well as garnering support (financial and otherwise) for our organisation.
We want to put Rotary in the hearts and minds of people. Rotary is much more that the four-way test that so many people know We will also be driving home our avenues of service, which talks of service, integrity, leadership, fellowship and diversity.
Talking of diversity, you know Rotary is one of the few organisations that takes diversity seriously. We have a whole Diversity, Equity and Inclusion handbook that guides our operations. I tell you, if you are not a Rotarian, you are missing a lot.
How would you assess the performance of your predecessor?
She has done her best. She broke the glass ceiling as the first female District Governor in the 42-year-old history of our district and I feel very honoured to be the second. She achieved many feats and has definitely taken the district to a higher level. Rotary is a continuum, it is not a matter of saying, she ran her race, I will run mine, there is a link between past, present and future. So, it is my turn now to continue from where she has stopped, it is only one year and we have to give it our all.
How do you intend to surpass her record?
Yes, we’re here to surpass her record why last year was for Rotarians to Imagine Rotary, this year we are all working together as Rotarians to bring hope to the world. We want to bring hope to the world in all ramifications with impactful and sustainable projects.
As a woman who has risen through the ranks, what advise do you have for other women seeking to rise up the ladder?
My advice to the women is they should be steadfast and passionate with service, be good in whatever they know how to do and have confidence in their abilities to deliver. They must never compromise their principles and never give up in the face of intimidation.
No doubt, you can be described as a successful woman, kindly share your success secrets?
The secret of my success if we can call it that, are hard work, exuding happiness always and my abiding faith in God to see me through any circumstances no matter the level.
You are obviously a very busy career woman. Tell us how you have been able to maintain a work-home/family balance?
I was able to maintain balance by allocating time in order of priorities and having the ability to delegate authority where necessary. I am a team player and believe in democratic style of leadership. I am not authoritarian by nature.