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Lagos hosts continent as Rotary International Institute opens

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Nigeria for the first time is hosting this year’s Rotary International Institute, Zone 20A, comprising countries in Africa with Rotary International Director, Yinka Babalola, as the Convener. The chairman of the event, Past District Governor, Asiwaju Michael Olawale Cole, spoke with ISAAC TAIWO on the uniqueness of the event.
What is Rotary International Institute Zone 20A about?
Rotary International Zone 20A comprises Rotary Clubs in about 40 countries in Africa. The institute is a meeting of several leaders in the zone. Rotary is organized on zonal basis. We in Africa belong to Zone 20A. Almost every country in Africa is involved. They would all be coming here. It is a meeting of leaders made up of current, in-coming and past leaders in the zone. At times, the convener can make it open to non-leaders of Rotary without necessarily being an officer in Rotary.

What is the theme of event?
The theme for the event starting in September is lead, act and inspire. We are leading people to a good destination. We also act and as we are doing this, we get inspired. Many Nigerians need to be inspired to be better Nigerians, to move the nation to where it should be considering our potentials, gifts of nature and resources. We need people who will lead us, take action and inspire us to get to our destination. We want Nigerians to live above poverty level. Rotary is concerned about a better world for everyone with less people living under the poverty level. Rotary wants many people up. We can get a world where there is peace, tranquility, dignity and where people will love each other. As a nation, poverty should be very low but sadly, the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

The truth is that the few who are up do not have pity for those who are down. It is necessary for people to have food on their table, and all necessities of life so that they would not be forced to go into crime for survival. This Institute would be addressing these and a lot of other issues. The date for the event, which would hold at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos is September 10 to 15. While September 10 is the arrival date, 11 and 12 are for training of in-coming officers all over Africa while 13 to 15 are meant for the real institute itself. The opening ceremony is September 13, which will have in attendance the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

What is the significance of the event to Nigeria?
A big thing is coming to Nigeria for the first time. Since Rotary was established in 1905 this type of event has not taken place in the country. This is to let everyone get to know the latest development and happenings in Rotary. It is also a big thing for the country hosting it because we are expecting between 800 and 1,000 people from across Africa into Nigeria. This is good for our business, the economy of Nigeria and Lagos State in particular.

These visitors are going to stay in hotels, buy things, do their shopping, visit places of interest in both Lagos and Ogun states and other parts of Nigeria. They would even be looking for opportunities for investment in Nigeria. Many of them are Rotarians and business people who are also professionals. So, they are coming with an open eyes for business opportunities in Nigeria, being the largest economy in Africa. They are looking for collaboration with business partners. That is the reason we are going to facilitate their visit to different places of interest. They would like to visit some people and companies.

What does the institute mean to Rotarians in Nigeria?
This event is the biggest thing that would happen to Rotarians in Nigeria. Many other countries, including Ghana have had the opportunity of hosting the Institute. Nigeria has been making efforts for the past decades to hold the Institute here. Luckily, we have the convener, a Nigerian this time around, Rotary International Director, Rotn. Yinka Babalola, in whose purview lies the power to make the decision as to where the Institute would hold in Africa and it is good he brought it to Nigeria.

We want to give the Rotary world a good impression of ourselves, to know that Nigeria is a good place to come as against what they have been hearing about Nigeria. When they come here and discover all the negative reports they have been hearing about Nigeria are fake news, they would definitely have a positive impression about the country.

Some people think Nigerians are poor, perpetually living in abject poverty coupled with fear and anxiety. We know of course that we have challenges, but challenges are not peculiar to Nigeria alone. Each nation has its own challenges. I am, however, confident, that by the way we are going, if our leaders would begin to have the right focus, we would get out of the quagmire pretty soon. So, we want our visitors to go back with good impression about Nigeria and we will do our possible best to make it so.

What brought about the choice of Lagos as venue?
The reason the convener chose Lagos State was because of his notion that Lagos has the peculiar environment that would project the good image of Nigeria. This is not to say that there are no other good places that can project the good image of the country. However, by the grace of God, the issue of fear and anxiety would be considered minimal in Lagos.

We also have Rotary International President for 2019/2020 coming to Nigeria. He is the one leading the delegation from Rotary headquarters. We also have delegation from Switzerland where we have Rotary administration office in charge of Africa and Europe. Others are coming from Africa and Europe. It can best be described as a continental event.

One can imagine the kind of positive impact this would have on our economy. As it has been happening in the past at such events, many of them would like to come back again for business or as visitors to make a follow up to what impressed them while they were here. Some may even be desirous of re-visiting places of interest they went when they were here, which is the reason we are calling on both the federal and state governments to develop our various tourist centres in the nation which have the potentials of generating huge revenue for the country.

We are taking this event as a national project. We know that if we do this well, we would have the opportunity of asking for a greater event such as Rotary National Convention that would invariably draw more than 50,000 Rotarians to Nigeria. I mean people of high repute in their various chosen fields like heads of companies and industries, big business men among others.

Who are the speakers lined up for the event?
Speakers will include the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who will also declare the event open, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Rotary International President, 2019-2020, President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Channels Communication Chairman, John Momoh, among others.

Polio eradication
Nigeria is spending about US $400 million for the eradication of polio alone, excluding other areas, which if we would sum it up, would amount to more than US $100,000,000. Gladly, Nigeria is on the way out of polio.

What is Rotary about?
Rotary is an association of business and professional people who come together to make the world a better place. This is all we do as Rotarians. Better place in many areas including education, security, safety, water supply, world peace, harmony, medical and other areas. All we do worldwide is to support the government.

Rotary has spent billions of dollars to minimize the sufferings of people. Most of the money raised in places like America is to help the poor in other countries because they realize that the more we have poor people in some countries, the more the lives of those who appear to be comfortable are endangered. That is why they labour to make everybody comfortable. This is the reason many countries provide every convenience for their people in rural areas so that they do not need to migrate to urban city centres. This is the work of good leaders in developed nations.

Unfortunately, we are in a nation where people are selfish and self-centred. People are thinking only of themselves and do not care to know that they would give account of their stewardship to God when they die, which is sure.Until we restructure everything, we may not get there. Public office should be made unattractive. Nigeria’s public offices are too juicy. Only few are enjoying while the masses are living in abject poverty.


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