What are the major challenges facing the organisation in the country?
The biggest challenge that we are having now is getting more people to join the club. This is why we are creating awareness at present. We have decided to use the whole of the current month to create awareness for the club through a lot of activities. For example, on Tuesday, we held a bulletin exhibition and a quiz competition. On Thursday, we shall be holding an awareness trek in different parts of the district.
We want people to see the Rotary Club as a service organisation, not a cult. Many people still have the erroneous impression that unless you attain a certain level in the society, you cannot become a member of the organisation. The only thing that Rotary Club requires of you is to be service-minded. Also, you need to have a means of livelihood; you should be able to create time for service and you should have a talent to offer.
What constraints is the Rotary Club having in northern Nigeria?
Illiteracy is a basic challenge that the Rotary Club is having in the North. Education and enlightenment are two factors that are very important to the club. We expect that people should be able to read and write because we organise a lot training, apart from donating stuff to members of the public, which requires minimum education. Unless somebody is able to read and write and he has a certain level of education, he may not be able to join the Rotary Club.
I know this is going to be a major challenge to Rotarians operating in the North, considering the educational disadvantage of that region. The situation is further complicated by Boko Haram’s insistence on forbidding all forms of western education in the North. Of course, this attitude is an impediment to the spread of our programmes.
So, how do you intend to reach out to the youths in the troubled North?
The relative advantage that we have down South is education and enlightenment. There are Rotary clubs that are operating up north. In fact, we have three districts in Nigeria. Our district covers Lagos and Ogun states. We have District 9125 that covers Ibadan up to the north. Then there is District 9140 that covers Benin City to the South-South and the Eastern states. We have Rotary clubs working on the youths in the north. The effects of their activities may not be noticeable because of the relative educational disadvantage of the north. If the state governments in that part of the country can cooperate with the club, we can achieve a lot.
What other problem areas are you looking at?
We are actually focusing on peace this year. Our theme is ‘Peace through service’. We found out that in this part of the country, we are enjoying relative peace, unlike the North where militant groups like the Boko Haram are active. We discovered that there is peace in the South because the youths are more enlightened and more engaged. So, they are not always available to be used as pawns by unscrupulous individuals in the society.
Early this year, we organised a youth football competition that registered 32 youth clubs in Lagos State. We discovered that the youths can be better engaged in a lot of activities, such as sport.
What other projects are you planning to execute?
For this Rotary year, we have started on a number of projects. The important thing at present is to address the problem of unemployment among the youths. That is why we are renovating a vocational training centre somewhere in Surulere.
We found out that the rate of unemployment in Nigeria today is disturbing. We have a lot of university graduates that are unemployed and all of them are running after very few jobs. We have already conducted a seminar on entrepreneurship.
Right now, we have started work on the vocational training centre where people can actually learn to create jobs for themselves and even for others. The training centre is somewhere in Surulere. It was run down and abandoned. We had to seek the approval of Lagos State Government to get the place renovated. It is going to cost us about N3.5m. We believe that before the end of March, we should be through with that.