We contribute to nation-building through our four-way test, says Adeyeri
Rotary Club of Lagos was established 60 years ago on May 1, 1961, the same year Rotary International came to Nigeria. President of the club (2020-2021), who is also the Captain of over 116 Presidents in District 9110, comprising Lagos and Ogun states, Rotarian Dare Adeyeri spoke to ISAAC TAIWO on his tenure, the celebration, the club’s activities over the years and impact of Rotary on governance and nation building.
Congratulations on the 60th anniversary of Rotary Club of Lagos. What’s the plan for celebration? Is it going to be virtual considering we are still in a pandemic?
The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has told us that we can now dance, however, he warns us to be careful and limit our gathering to 500 people. This is the oldest Rotary Club in the District; we have eminent people and achievers in their businesses or professions who have passed through the Club, including the late Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, Adeyemo Alakija, Joseph P. Palmer and a lot of prominent women too, about 26 of them. Our Doyen is Dr Bolaji Ajenifuja, a past president of the club and distinguished pediatrician.
However, it is not just about the calibre of people that passed through the club or who are currently members, but the quality of service they rendered, in terms of projects that cut across seven different areas of focus, including support for education.
Though the hall we are using can take about 500 people, we are not going to accommodate up to that number, even though we have friends and partners around the world that would have liked to witness the anniversary ceremony.
Of course, the celebration is not just for the Rotary Club of Lagos; it is for all Rotary Clubs in Nigeria. The Rotary Club of Kano was founded two months before our club, but it is no longer active. Our 60th anniversary will be a big celebration for Rotary in Nigeria. For that reason, many clubs around the world would like to join us online.
Rotary International President, Holger Knaack, has sent us a congratulatory message and I am sure he will be willing to witness the anniversary gala. We have partner clubs in the United Kingdom (UK) and all over the world that would not be able to travel down to Lagos because of distance. It is for this reason that we would also have the virtual aspect of it, which will be an extension of our celebration. So, it will be both physical and virtual and will hold on Sunday, May 30, 2021starting at 5.00 p.m. at Oriental Hotel, Lagos.
Aside from your members, who are the dignitaries you are expecting to grace the event?
Governor Sanwo-Olu is the Chief Host. The Chairman of the occasion is a senior colleague in the industry, a respected professional, a chartered accountant and a former Group Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Dr. Bisi Onasanya.
Our Guest Speaker is the Chairman, Polio Plus Committee in Nigeria and Past District Governor, Dr. Tunji Funsho, who was recently named by Times magazine as one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
How many Rotary Clubs are joining you in this celebration?
We are not inviting too many guests because of COVID-19 restrictions but we invited Rotarians from different clubs. However, we don’t want to go beyond the figure the governor has approved, which is 500. We would not even like to get up to half of that number.
We are inviting all past District Governors, the current District Governor, Rotarian Bola Oyebade, and his team and some of my colleagues that served this year, as well as traditional rulers and dignitaries in our communities.
Will there be a public lecture to mark the anniversary?
There will be a talk by our Guest Speaker on 60 Years of the Rotary Club of Lagos, among others.
What are the projects you have executed during your tenure?
My tenure is just one year and come June ending, I will quit and another president, Babawale Agbeyangi, will take over. The joy of it all is that at the end of my tenure, we would have completed 38 projects in my Rotary year. I make bold to say that in the history of Rotary Club of Lagos, no president has surpassed that record.
We are the Rotary Club of Lagos and there are Rotary Clubs too in different communities. We are expected to focus on communities in Lagos Island, but we crossed borders and went to Coker, Adegbite and Olowo in Owu Kingdom, Ogun State and touched about eight or nine communities over there with our projects.
We also visited communities in the Lekki area of Lagos, where we gave water, streetlights, as well as interest-free credits worth millions of naira to traders, in partnership with First City Merchant Bank (FCMB), which they normally pay back in six months.
We donated health kits to health centres and books to schools, such as Junior High School, Kuramo and Igbobi College and others. Many areas have benefitted from our projects. We focus around Lagos and are committed to developing the community.
Last year, we went to Ghana, where in partnership with Rotary Club of Accra Ring Road in Accra, Ghana, donated books to motherless babies home and also gave them money to support them. We also partnered with the Rotary Club of Kigali Virunda in Rwanda to do a few things, as well as a Rotary Club in Germany on water projects and other clubs around the world.
What is the contribution of Rotary Club of Lagos to The Rotary Foundation, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) and the campaign to end polio?
I do not have the figure, but we are among the highest contributors. This Rotary year alone, we were named the second best in the District with $37,000. We produced one major donor this year, among others, and boasts of almost 100 of Paul Haris Fellows.
Rotary Club of Lagos also contributes to District 9110’s Endowment and Welfare Educational Fund Scholarship (DEWEF). For many years, our respected past Assistant Governor, Adeoye Tugbobo, was an icon of DEWEF. This year, we donated N350,000 to DEWEF. Usually, the minimum used to be N10,000, but this year, the District Governor mandated us to contribute N35,000, so we contributed about five times the required amount.
We also contributed to Polio Plus, cataract surgery and cancer treatment in the District last year. We have been doing quite a lot to support the District. We sponsored 20 students for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), an achievement we are proud of. RYLA started in the District at the time of Pa Ajayi, who was a member of Rotary Club of Lagos about 45 years ago; we always support RYLA.
We also donated a limb aid to a RYLA ambassador, which is the highest contribution. Next year, a member of Rotary Club of Lagos is going to be the RYLA chairman,
Ending polio has been very dear to our heart. Members of our club were part of a team that went to the North to fight and end polio. This Rotary year, we all went round with buses on Lagos Island, vaccinating children. We also mounted a billboard to congratulate Nigeria for the victory over polio. We have always been at the forefront of eradication of polio.
After Polio, what’s next for Rotary in Nigeria?
We will not say that polio has ended; we will continue the vaccination project every year. We want it to remain at zero; children are still being born. What we are doing now is prevention, so that we can go to other areas, like the cervical cancer project.
We have a plan to immunise 69 young girls against cervical cancer. Next year, we will have a surgery project. Implementation of service projects will never end in Rotary; it is a life long engagement to serve humanity.
How is Rotary contributing to nation building?
All we do revolves around Rotary 4-Way Test. It must be truth, fair, build goodwill and better friendship. We must engage in an atmosphere of trust and peace; it must be beneficial to all.
What we teach first in Rotary is leadership with the Four-Way test; it teaches people to have conscience. Rotary also teaches how to manage resources, how to bring men and women together to achieve more. Public officers can learn from us. Rotary teaches love.
Though we do not use the word ‘love,’ everything we are doing revolves around love. We do not want to know the beneficiary; we embark on selfless service, we do it without money. Selfless service and love is what you have in Rotary. We teach prudent management of resources and practice service above self.
How do you see Nigeria without Rotary?
There will not be peace; people are afraid to die when they have luxury and a place to live. People with no much luxury are not afraid to die. One thing that is most important is food. However, the first duty of Rotary is that of promoting peace.
Nigeria was declared polio free last year and is now polio free. If there was no Rotary, polio would still be in Nigeria today. Rotary has provided water all over. It would be more difficult without Rotary, because the government alone cannot do everything; we need an organised public sector and civil society to complement the government’s effort.
Rotary is the largest humanitarian organisation in the world, the only non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has a permanent seat at the United Nations (UN). If there is no Rotary in the world, there will be a big gap.
What is your message to other Rotarians and your successor?
My first message to fellow Rotarians is to thank them for their support. It has been very tasking and Rotarians were hit hard by the pandemic. Despite that, we had to continue. If you are a trained soldier, you will not be afraid of war. Rotarians are trained to face challenging situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which was why we did not complain.
To my successor, I have no doubt in my mind that he will do better than me in the coming Rotary year starting July 1, 2021. I even believe he will do more, though I know it won’t be easy. He would be having his own baptism of fire, but he will enjoy it. He is a disciplined fellow and should just anchor on God to see him through, and there would be no shaking.
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