Wednesday, 31st May 2023

Alokha: How passion for service pushed Rotary to renovate Festac police station

By Debo Oladimeji
11 June 2022   |   4:04 am
I started as the president of Rotary Club of Festac Town on July 1, 2021. My tenure is due to end on June 30, 2022. The last one year has been really challenging.

Anselm Alokha is the President of Rotary Club of Festac Town 2021-2022. He is a lawyer and former Zonal Business Manager, South South/South East, of Nigerian Breweries Plc. Alokha, who will leave office on June 30, gives account of his stewardship in this interview with DEBO OLADIMEJI

How would you assess your administration as the president of Rotary Club of Festac Town in the last one year?
I started as the president of Rotary Club of Festac Town on July 1, 2021. My tenure is due to end on June 30, 2022.  The last one year has been really challenging. It is not easy. You know Rotary is a humanitarian service organisation; most of our activities and projects revolve around that objective. As the president of the Rotary Club of Festac Town you have to spend most of your time, treasure and talents in ensuring that all those objectives are met.

In Rotary, we have seven main areas of focus; those are the areas that Rotary International challenges us to address throughout our tenure. Those seven areas of focus are Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution, Disease Prevention and Treatment, Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Maternal and Child Health, Basic Education and Literacy and then Economic and Community Development. Every president is assessed based on those areas and we tried to touch them in the course of the year.

So, in he last one year, we ensured that we carried out different projects. We did the environmental tree planting along First Avenue here in Festac Town, which is another key area to ensure the protection of the environment. We did the renovation of the Festac Divisional Police Station at Second Avenue. That is one of the star projects we did at the beginning of my tenure. We rehabilitated a borehole sometimes in early April along Fifth Avenue in Festac.

We did our Rotary Foundation day project where we collaborated with other clubs in our zone here to clean up the environment and donate some dental and cleaning materials to 0Girls’ Secondary School, off Third Avenue. We also visited the Mother and Child Hospital, off First Avenue, to clean it up and donate some sanitary items as well.

On basic education and literacy, we reached out to our Interact Schools. We have secondary schools where we have students that we have developed into Interact Clubs. We reached out to them with basic learning materials, textbooks, customised exercise books and so on.

Of course, one of the major projects we did with non-profit making organisation, the Slum Empowerment Initiative, is called Dreams. The project is in Ajegunle. We visited the pupils; these are children that are picked from the streets of Ajegunle and given formal education free of charge. They get that pro bono from Isaac Omoleye, the organiser of that initiative who relies on support from donors like us.

Also, in collaboration with the District, we got a grant to provide some items for those who have acquired skills but do not have the resources to buy the equipment to practice their skills. We gave out sewing machines, grinding machines, popcorn making machines and so on as part of our economic and community development programmes. So in the seven areas of focus, we are there as Rotary Club of Festac Town.

During my year too, we have been able to collaborate with a foreign Rotary Club. We were able to strike an arrangement with the Rotary Club of Scarsdale in New York to help support the initiative of Dreams by the Slum. Apart from their school initiative, they also have a kind of skill acquisition where they support indigent women, widows and so on to learn a skill and then go out there to be able to fend for their families.

We were able to reach out to the Rotary Club of Scarsdale who has been supporting us financially. Once we get the fund, we use it for the project.  I supervise the project to ensure that the money is judiciously spent. I report back to the club to let them know that the money they sent is well spent. And I know that one day, they may want to come and see exactly how their money is being spent. The relationship is subsisting and I intend to pass it over to the next administration of the club.

And anything we do, we try to reach out to the District for them to know, because most of their recognitions will come at the end of your tenure. They will give you awards for whatever you have achieved. One certificate from District 9110 is on our being 100 per cent polio compliant. There is a certain amount that you have to pay on a yearly basis to support Rotary Foundation in the area of polio eradication. Nigeria has been certified polio free for now.  There are still other parts of the world that they need to reach out to.

For the tree planting along 1st Avenue, we received an award from the District committee at the Planet Earth District Seminar.

In the first quarter of the year, we won the first price for membership growth. We had a nominal growth of 33 when I came in. I have grown the membership into 54. I added 21 members, which was the highest in the entire district 9110. We got some prices for that.

How were you able to attract 21 new members within a year?
In Festac area, we have up to four Festac clubs and all the clubs are jostling for the same people in the same environment. So, if you have that reach and you are able to show to your prospective Rotarians what makes your club better than the rest, they will want to join and then the existing members are properly retained. One thing about Rotary membership is that you need to retain the existing ones. And then attract new members. If the existing members are happy, they will be able to attract new ones to come in. You start getting referrals, and when you commission projects there are people who are watching, who will say, ‘so Rotary can do this, I want to join Rotary’. That is why publicity of our programmes is very important.

Why did the club decide to renovate Festac Police Station?
About 12 years ago, we gave the same Police Station a borehole and a generator. But this time around we renovated the whole block of the anti-robbery squad. For example, we had to change the toilet. The personnel are in a more comfortable environment now. We changed the windows, changed the doors, tiled the floor and repainted everywhere. They had wooden doors before, which we changed to aluminum. The officers are now working in a comfortable environment. This has enhanced the relationship between Rotary and the police in Festac Town. We expect that there would be proper maintenance of the facility.

What motivated these achievements under your watch?
It is just the passion to do these things. In Rotary you don’t work alone. You have a board of directors that you work with and the board is ready to offer support in terms of bringing in ideas and being available when you want to commission projects.

One thing is to build a project another thing is to see members to support in the commissioning of those projects.  But I think I enjoyed a very good year. I enjoyed their support because they knew that their money was in tact; nobody will tamper with their money, instead we were putting in more to ensure that whatever project we want to execute is of high quality not projects that are ephemeral. So, it is that confidence, that trust that really matter. Trust that the leadership has integrity and is transparent. All through my year, almost on a monthly basis we furnish the club with our financial position. Everybody knew that the money we are putting in is yielding results. There was no quarrel; there was absolute cooperation among everyone and we thank God for that.

Do you think that one year is really enough for a president to complete his/her laudable plans for the club?
This is a voluntary humanitarian service organisation. I think one year is very okay. There are many other people. You test them because Rotary Club develops leaders. That is why we have all those different levels of clubs.  Interact, Rotaract and Rotary itself.  You give opportunity to as many people as possible to be president so that they can exhibit their leadership qualities as well.

Don’t you think that your shoe would be too big for the incoming president to wear?
That is what some members say. But until then you never can tell. My successor can do better. He has seen me work. In Rotary, before you become president, you must have known well ahead. For about two years ahead we have president-elect and we have president-nominee. As a nominee, you already know that in the next two years you will become president. So, you start planning your years. The experience he has is enough for him if he really wants to make a difference.