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‘You will need to work extra hard because you are a woman’

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Odu-Okpeseyi

Lynda Odu-Okpeseyi has come a long way on the leadership of Lions Club, starting from the group’s junior cadre of Leo. She has been an exceptional individual with a go-getter mentality and lots of achievements to show for it. She founded the Abuja Metropolitan Lions Club and became the first Constitutional Area Speaker for New Voices for English Speaking West Africa. Odu-Okpeseyi is a graduate of Business Education from the University of Calabar. She holds Msc in Human Resources Management from ESUT Business School and PhD (In View) in Human Resources Management at the Atlantic International University, Honolulu Hawaii, USA. Today, she is the Governor-elect for District 404A2, Nigeria. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she speaks on her rise to the top, the project ahead of her in the Lion Year, and other issues.

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What does it mean to be a district governor?
When you are a district governor, it means you are the head servant of the district. You take charge of the district on whatever needs to be done, projects to be carried out, both administrative and project-wise. But you don’t do all these things alone; you have appointees including regional chairpersons, zonal chairpersons and elected club presidents and committee chairpersons to help you sail the ship to the end. Since you are in charge when you perform very well, all of the praises go to you first before the district; and if you perform badly, the praises also go to you first before any other person. As a District Governor, I am in charge of 17 states – all the states in South-South, Southeast and part of the North, including Kogi, FCT, Kaduna, Taraba and Benue.

How strong is Lions Club presence and outreach in the Northern states?
In Abuja, that is the Federal Capital Territory, our presence is strong and well felt. Just recently a club in Abuja built a resource centre for school of the blind. That same club also built a paediatric cancer centre. We have Lions Clubs that have renovated health centres. We have done so much in Abuja and Benue, but we are just trying to access Kaduna amidst all the security challenges. Gradually, we will get there. Kogi just joined our district recently when we helped them during the flooding. Now that they are with us fully, we try to see how we can touch those clubs around the north.

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What policies or projects are you going to actively work on? Where will you intensify these efforts you are talking about?
Lions Club has five major focus areas: diabetes, paediatric cancer, environment, relieving hunger and sight preservation. We are focused on diabetes for now. I am building a diabetes centre in Ogoja, Cross River State and it is going to be an ultra-modern centre, where we can have screening, treatment and advocacy. Thankfully, the international office of Lions Club is providing funds to enable us carry out this screening in all 17 states and build the centre.

Apart from the diabetes centre, what other project are you going to implement?
Once we are done with diabetes, October is dedicated for sight; we intend to have free eye screening and, thereafter, those who have cataract will have surgeries done. We will also give out glasses to adults and children. When children don’t perform very well sometimes in school, it is because they can’t even see the blackboard. We want to focus on children because when you screen the eye at a tender age, corrective measures can be done before the child becomes an adult. We also intend doing cornea transplants. In Nigeria, we have not gotten used to donating our organs especially, the cornea. But we will try to get corneas from India and Kenya and see that we can make a few people who are cornea-blind see again.

November is for diabetes and I have told you extensively what I am going to do with diabetes. In December 2021 and January 2022, we will focus on relieving hunger. We want each club in our district to, at least, feed a minimum of 500 families either by giving them cooked food or raw food.

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The next thing is paediatric cancer. Most people believe that their children will not have cancer, and when they see it manifesting in children, they think it is witchcraft. We are trying to create awareness so that when you see some of those signs of cancer, you just go to the hospital. And those who have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment, we want to see how we can help them. We have a cancer centre already, a playground where the children are receiving treatment. They have TV to watch cartoons, games, and things that will make them happy while they take their treatment. For as many, as we can, we pay for their treatment, even if it is just for a month.

Another is the environment. There is so much to do with the environment. If you cut down one tree, you have to plant three more trees; so tree planting will be encouraged. We are also campaigning against indiscriminate dumping of refuse. We want to ensure that we create awareness in secondary schools so that pupils know that they don’t have to drop things just anywhere, we will give them waste bins. We are going to get children to become ambassadors for the environment. They will talk to their fellow students about the environment, on how they can dispose of refuse. We intend to have essay competitions for schools on a theme about the environment day and top five students will be given scholarships, even if it is just for a session. We also want to focus on parks and gardens, by providing trashcans and do everything possible to improve the ecosystem.

How do you intend to get funds for these projects?
We will get funds from well-meaning Nigerians. We will talk to them to donate. From our members, we also get ourselves to contribute. Nearly every family has someone who is living with diabetes so people will be ready to contribute. I am using this opportunity to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians to please come and join the Lions Club, let’s build this diabetes centre to help. The location is very important because it can serve Benue, Enugu and Ebonyi states, including over seven local governments areas from the central to the northern parts of Cross River State. Ogoja is strategically located to take care of people who are dealing with diabetes.

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Do you intend to seek government’s participation in the activities of the club?
Absolutely. I need the government all the way. We can’t do it all by ourselves. We need government. We complement government’s efforts. So if you want to complement, it means there has to be a partnership. We need government’s support to pull through because when government is in support of a particular project, it works well.

What is your advice to young women struggling to find themselves?
Believe in yourself. You are enough! Prepare for the task ahead, brace up and put your best foot forward. A lot more will be expected from you. You will need to work extra hard because you are a woman. Be strong and forward-looking and be very comfortable in your skin.

What is your final word?
I want to work very hard and perform well. My theme is “Excellence through Service.” I want to achieve excellence in service delivery and in all that I do so that men will give women the opportunity each time they decide to contest because they believe that the last female had performed well.

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