“If your actions create a legacy that inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dolly Parton
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa (Philanthropist/Charity Worker).
By Ezra Odogu
She has been variously described as “a humanist par excellence”, a “silent achiever” and in fact, a solid and dependable “pillar in the storm”. And considering the great strides she has taken thus far, over the leadership landscape, Dr. (Mrs.) Claudiana Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, who happens to be the first medical practitioner to become the First Lady of Lagos State, is certainly deserving and worthy of both commendation and emulation.
Whoever says “nay” to this assertion should ask the vulnerable members of the Lagos society including the elderly, the widows, orphans, the homeless and the hapless. Or more so, check out her fascinating feats that span the spectrum of education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, skills acquisition and environmental protection.
Given the dark backdrop of the Nigerian society that is quick to castigate and condemn the ills of pervasive mis-governance in the land, the best way forward is to identify those making the desired difference; the few silver linings in our dark political horizon and showcase their achievements for others to learn from.
Eleanor Roosevelt, who was an American political diplomat and later served as the First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945, rightly highlighted that: “A woman is like a tea bag –you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
If Nigeria’s version of politics and politicking is not hot water, what else could be?
It is interesting to note for instance, that right from the electioneering campaigns that took place in 2014/2015 which eventually brought her politically-savvy husband, Mr. Sanwo-Olu into power she has exhibited the traits of a supportive care-giver who certainly knows her onions.
For instance, she was actively engaged in the Free Health Mission of the then Sanwo-Olu campaign train that provided pediatric eye surgery, dental surgery, orthopedic surgery, and adult eye surgery free-of-charge.! They were carried out at General Hospitals in Badagry, Onikan, Randle, Gbagada, Orile Agege, Ikorodu, Epe and Massey Children’s Hospital, with health screening done at Primary Healthcare Centers across the state. It was so successful that over 21,000 people received free health treatments of various kinds. In fact, 3,157 surgeries were carried out for the residents then.
That proved a pointer of the healthcare goodies she had in store as she hit the ground running, soon after her husband was sworn in as the 15th governor of the Centre of Excellence with the Lagos state Healthy Bee Project. As a free health initiative it comes in partnership with the Babajide Sanwo-Olu/Kadri Obafemi Hamzat (BOSKOH) Health Care Mission International. But there was more to come.
Upon assumption of duty as the Chairman of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO), a veritable platform “to promote child healthcare, empower women to discover their hidden treasures and protect the environment”, Dr. Ibijoke introduced the laudable initiative that appreciates the contributions of elders through a programme tagged ‘Senior Citizens’ Visit’. Through such visits members of COWLSO try to identify and seek solutions to the health and socio-economic challenges the elders might be going through. And in appreciation they too offer pieces of invaluable advice to the members.
Also, through the COWLSO Conference there is an Endowment Fund to defray the cost of pediatric surgeries for needy babies at Ayinke House of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja. And in partnership with Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation free surgeries have been offered to 150 residents suffering from lipomas, breast lumps, hernia and fibroid. There is an additional free dental check at the General Hospital, Ijede. These laudable initiatives marked the 100 days in office of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in 2019.
Ever since, it has been one success story after another. On environmental protection she has been urging women to embrace the Blue Box Programme of the Lagos State government. The robust aim “is to engender clean, healthier, livable and sustainable environment” as being implemented by the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). It is specifically “designed to encourage waste sorting, especially from the source of generation”.
Her patriotic advocacy on health and environment are in sync with the T.H.E.M.E.S an acronym which embodies the vision of Lagos State for Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy; Entertainment and Tourism; as well as Security and Governance.
On the critical issue of sound education delivery, Dr. Ibijoke has come up withthe ‘Adopt a Student Project in UNILAG’. The noble objective is to provide both medical and financial assistance to needy students.The beneficiaries are selected through an independent and transparent process by the management of UNILAG. In addition, the First Lady is assisting several students to pay for the last West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in the state.Profound, is this not?
Of course, it is. Dr. Ibijoke knows, as Hilary Clinton (First Lady of The US, 1993 – 2001) reiterated that: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” Through her vision, her office has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to train women and youths in the value chains of aquaculture, poultry production and rice farming, with take-off grants by the First Lady to start their businesses.
In a similar vein, there is another pragmatic partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation(WAPA)for training of several women and youths in vocational skills on diverse fields such as catering and beverages production,soap making, hairdressing, tie and dye, makeup, gele tying and perfume production . Imbuing the culture of self-reliance in our able-bodied women and youths is highly commendable.
In tandem with Section 14, Sub-section 2(b) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), to protect the lives of the citizens, Dr. Ibijoke has become the voice of the voiceless against all manners of domestic violence, including wife-battering, sexual abuse, rape, incest and human trafficking.
As an outstanding care-giver, the First Lady provided a strong shoulder for the weak and vulnerable members of the society to lean on during the excruciating lockdown brought upon the citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief items provided as palliatives included bags of rice, beans, garri, noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, semovita as well as sanitisers and toiletries.
Apart from NGOs, orphanages, special schools and homes, three Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Kirikiri, Badagry and Ikoyi benefited from her milk of human kindness. So did the Police Widows Association, Lagos State Chapter which received the items at Police College, Ikeja. That was in 2020.
With all the listed humanitarian measures she has put in place to alleviate the sufferings of fellow citizens, there is no gainsaying the fact that Dr. San Nyeni, W.H.O Coordinator in Lagos State, was right to say this about her: “She is one person I have monitored closely as World Health Organisation (W.H.O) personnel in Lagos State and from all indications we can say that health is on the body of her heart”. Well stated!
Now also it is patently obvious, going by her administrative feats that: “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” as Michelle Obama rightly emphasised.
Big kudos to Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the First Lady of Lagos State, making the needed difference!