rotary club

By Itoro Bassey

AKWA IBOM- Rotary International districts 9110, 9125, 9141 and 9142 in Nigeria have held the All Nigeria Rotary Conference 2019, in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, with the theme, “Renew Friendships: Connect and Grow Rotary”.

The event was attended by Rotary International Vice President, Rotarian Yinka Babalola; the four District Governors in Nigeria, Past District Governors, Rotarians, Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Mr Emmanuel Ekuwem; friends and guests who trooped into the E-3 Events Centre along Uyo Village Road to grace the occasion, the warm weather notwithstanding across the city.

The 3-day conference which started on Friday, December 6, was designed for club members so that they could learn about what was happening in Rotary in all the four districts in Nigeria and to meet and reconnect with other Rotarians in the districts, as well as make new friends.

In their presentations, the four district governors: DG Olajide Akeredolu of District 9110, DG Victor Onukwugha (9125), DG Nze Anizor (9141), and DG Sam Uko of District 9142 gave their district updates, including their successes and challenges which many participants said inspired and motivated them to a large extent.

DG Olajide Akeredolu, while delivering his report for the 2019/2020 Rotary year, said that District 9110 introduced crowd funding by going after small donors as a new way of raising funds for its projects.

He said, among other things, that the district embarked on the prevention of cervical cancer by immunizing girls at the appropriate age to prevent them from contracting Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes cervical cancer.

“We plan to immunize 10,000 girls against cervical cancer this Rotary year. The vaccines are very expensive. A dose of the vaccine costs N11,000 and each girl will require two doses at the minimum. That makes it N22,000 per girl”, said DG Akeredolu.

On membership, he said the District 9110 covering all Rotary clubs in Lagos and Ogun states of Nigeria may be the next in line to be split into two because of its current strength of 3,190 Rotarians.

In his report, DG Victor Onukwugha of District 9125, the Rotary International district covering Abuja federal capital territory and 23, out of the 36 Nigerian states said his district developed a sub-theme “Back to the Basics”, out of the “Rotary Connects the World’ theme for the 2019/2020 Rotary year, so as to return the dignity of Rotary in the district.

DG Onukwugha highlighted the challenges of the district ranging from membership to discipline, including about seven states in northern Nigeria where he said that no Rotary club exist due to factors such as religion and insurgency.

He said, “we have on record two clubs – Wuse Central and Rotary Club of Abuja – as clubs that have become mega clubs. So, we have grown in membership, and it has helped us because we had put a deadline that on November 30, any club that was less that 21 would merge”.

Onukwugha said his leadership has started a Rotary Centre project as anchor point for the district, and also addressed issues that eroded the friendships and camaraderie of Rotarians in the district level which he said comprised 139 clubs with a total of 2,200 members.

For District 9141 which covers clubs in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, and Edo states, DG Nze Anizor said that the district, in the area of Rotary foundation, looked at rewarding donors while raising funds, in addition to donating desks and chairs to primary school pupils in select schools within the district.

“We said we will give out a (Toyota) Corolla through a raffle. It’s going to be for those who have been giving to the foundation, and those who will give. Our projection is that we are not likely to have more 300 persons.

“So, the chances of them going home with that Corolla is one out of 300. In the first week of the announcement, we got $41,000. Rotarians are buying into it. As of today in Africa, our district is the second highest in total contributions to the Rotary foundation”, DG Anizor said.

Following issues of the non payment of dues and complacency, among others, DG Anizor underscored the need for Rotarians to carefully look at the processes of selecting the leadership at the club levels as activities progress in the district.

On his part, Sam Uko, the District Governor of District 9142 covering Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River states, said he recently rounded up the first phase of his club visits, adding that the meetings have resulted in virtually all the clubs changing their strategic plans for membership growth in the current Rotary year.

According to DG Uko, “We may be low now, but there has been a significant rise in our membership; and what we are trying to guide against is a situation where at the beginning of the Rotary year, you have the members growing maybe 400 or 500 but towards the end of the Rotary year, the number goes down.

“I don’t think that will happen because the clubs have been able to realize where they should put emphasis on retention, and trying to know the calibre of people they get into the clubs’.

“One of the key things we have been able to do has been to encourage the friendship exchange programmes. We have been able to have two inbound and three outbound Rotary youths exchange programmes this Rotary year. We have also had the case where our foundation giving has increased”.

Responding, the convener of the conference and Rotary International Vice President, Yinka Babalola, congratulated District 9142 for its “very successful” youth and new generation exchange programmes, describing it as the first class in the country.

He appealed to other district governors to liaise with District 9142 in order to get acquainted with the issues surrounding the success of the programmes.

Some other important district matters discussed at the meeting included the sketch history of Rotary Nigeria Partnership to Eradicate Polio: The Next Milestone, Rotary support to maternal health, vision for Rotary in Nigeria, and breakout sessions where there was group interactions on financial transparency and accountability, and travel visa related issues.

Also speaking, Mr. Gabriel Ukpe, the Chairman of Foreign Direct Investment in the State gave a rundown of business and investment opportunities in Akwa Ibom State, highlighting the state’s oil and gas reserves for investors interested in refinery, petrochemical plants, and gas processing; the long shoreline for investors in akwaculture and those interested in fish processing, Ibom deep seaport, the Ibom Industrial city, among others juicy areas.

Earlier in his keynote address, Governor Udom Emmanuel welcomed the Rotary International Vice President, Rotarian Yinka Babalola, and other Rotarians who converged for the conference.

Mr Emmanuel said both the motto, “service above self”, and mission statement: “to provide service to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through fellowship in business, professional and community leadership” of Rotary International reflected the new service paradigm which his administration had instituted in the state since coming on board on May 29th, 2015.

Mr Emmanuel, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Moses Ekpo, said: “The result of this new attitudinal mind-set has been the progress and developments we have made in the past four and half years; which, without
sounding boastful, have been lauded and celebrated across the nation”.

He expressed gratitude to Rotary International for the good work it is doing in the area polio eradication in the country, even as he urge participants to examine where they would wish to collaborate with the state for the purpose of providing services to the people.