Feelings at 50
MAY praise and glory be to my awesome God for this privilege. He has made this possible, and I thank Him for His faithfulness and love.
Principles that had shaped your life and achievements
Simple! First, I love God without reservation. My late dad influenced this and the belief that I have no limitations in achieving professional and career goals. In his words, which I still remember, “You can be whatever you want to be.” I have had my personal encounters with God also, so I have absolute confidence that with God I can do all things. I also believe He has showed me so much mercy and that I should do the same for humanity and obey His commandment to love God with my whole heart and my neighbour as myself. I believe in fairness and justice; thus my choice of my first profession Law, and the need to make the world a better place in my own little way. This informs my passion for the less privileged because I’m of the view that they should have equal right and access to life and actualising their life purpose, notwithstanding their circumstances. I believe in working hard and smart, doing what is right, doing on to others what I will like done to me and living a decent life in order to leave a good legacy for those coming behind. These and so many other principles, I hold very close to my heart.
I have had quite some memorable moments. Some of these moments would be when I was called to the Nigerian Bar, which signified that I was eligible to practice law, concluded my master’s degree in Law, and when I became an Advert practitioner. My marriage of course, was quite memorable, then the arrival of our first child, and most recently when this first child was called to the Nigerian Bar. Again countless moments when I see tears of joys in the eyes of those whose lives have been touched or receive prayers from them.
Aspiration at 50
My aspiration is to be able to continue to make my humble contribution both in the legal profession and in the larger society through my charity effort. I pray to have a closer relationship with God through my Christian Catholic faith. Of course as a mother, I wish to see my children grow to become responsible men and women in the society and also contribute their own quota to building the world where everyone has a sense of belonging and are able to explore their potential to the fullest. I wish to be in good health and age gracefully with my dear husband.
Combining home and career
I have always believed that true success requires a good balance of the spiritual, home and work fronts. Any gap in any of these ultimately breeds vacuum and unfulfilled life. Aside my personal effort at planning, of course, I also have the support of my husband, family, good friends particularly the Catholic women in the Lekki Deanery and colleagues at work to achieve the right balance.
Am I actually in a position to answer this? With every sense of humility, I thank God for what I am today; I am most grateful. I really do not think I have done much. I would feel more fulfilled when the Homeless Shelter and Skill Acquisition and the Punuka Child Care Centre mainly for challenged children for their training and needed interventions are fully operational. The shelter will be the first in the Lekki region and we hope to take a lot of young women off the streets and give them a skill to live a decent life; to provide succour to families that find themselves homeless due to act of God or hardships, and to serve as a place where abused women and their children can have shelter. Many thanks to his Excellency, former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola; Her Excellency former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire for supporting our cause; the Chairperson of the Foundation for the shelter, Mrs. Patricia Arawore, who is also an older friend and mentor; and my dear husband, Anthony Idigbe (SAN) who encourages and supports me and my work of charity.
The Foundation, challenges and achievements
The foundation started in 2004, and was formally launched on November 20, 2004, the same date my husband was conferred a chieftaincy title as the Akulueuno of Asaba by the Asagba of Asaba. We were being honoured for the contribution to the community and we felt we could help those who could not have access to information on how to take care of their children or even identify the challenge or afford the cost of management. We saw the gap having gone through this challenge ourselves with one of our children. We then started the foundation and started working with organisations to bring in trainers, speech therapists, occupational therapists etc to train the teachers on how to identify and teach these children. We went around to different states and worked with their school boards to organise the trainings. These trainings were academic and practical. We started sponsoring awareness programmes like the autism walk with the Autism Association, sponsoring early intervention programmes for selected children and also corrective surgeries for those that their parents could not afford to pay through these organisations. We also advocated a lot on inclusive education.
Aside these, we also sponsored other needs of people, not just challenged children. We encourage sporting events in some of the schools for special children and often donate to these schools, items needed to help work with the children.
Expectations of Punuka Child Care Centre
The childcare centre we want to build is to have a place where these children can be well taken care of so as to relieve parents of the stress of taking care of them every day, particularly during the week. There are parents, who cannot afford to send their children abroad and some regular schools that have inclusive education have asked these children to be withdrawn on the basis that they had become too old to be in the school. The childcare centre will help these parents. In 10 years time, I want to see the childcare centre fully completed and operating in full capacity in line with the vision. I want to see some form of collaboration between the centre and specialist centres abroad that allows for exchange of specialist assistance whenever needed.
Government roles in such institutions
I think the government can do so much better, including creating awareness on various forms of developmental conditions and management processes especially for caregivers at the grassroots, through training. A lot of these children are still branded as “evil” and left to die mostly in villages due to lack of adequate information. Government can assist in this regard through various channels of disseminating information to those at the grassroots.
Simple things like designing public places to make it easy for disabled people to move around should also be implemented by government. There is also the need for better funding for the various homes to keep these places neat and habitable and also training for the teachers and caregivers so they know how to take care of these children and even identify them. They can also assist with intervention programmes at various levels as well as provide grants and financial support to the schools and homes so organisations like mine can support the government efforts in this regard in our own small way.
Advice to privileged Nigerians
People should have the right disposition to assisting those with various needs, and challenges. They should be ready and willing to support in whatever way possible. It doesn’t always have to be financial support; it could be provision of the right information, jobs and modern management techniques, where possible. I believe that if God has blessed you, you should find satisfaction and fulfilment in blessing others. The government cannot do this alone. The amount you have in your bank account cannot speak for you after you are gone; the beneficiaries may or may not utilise this properly. The lives you have touched really would speak volumes. Leave a good legacy, change families positively and, on a selfish note, it can help you to make it to heaven.
Advice for younger generation
They should be focused on acquiring good education and skills. They should never forget the ‘God factor” in their life. There is so much distraction in the world today, particularly with the social media and peer group pressure. Thus young people should make out time for God. A lot of our youths are so distracted and always want to do things their own way but sometimes, they end up with grave mistakes that could change their destiny for life. It is important for them to calm down and weigh the implication of every decision they intend to make. Understand that their parents have been there before and can guide them not to make costly mistakes. It’s also not bad to seek counsel from those with more experience whenever the need arises.