In Africa, poverty and its associated problems are by far the greatest challenge against which the people contend. So, as many across the continent become conscious of their environment, they usually do not need anyone to introduce them to the common enemy.
With poverty identified as a fierce foe, many seem to have their life pursuit well defined and when asked what they think their mission on earth is, no matter their response, look deeply and you will find that it can be summarised in a simple phrase which is “to conquer poverty”.
So you find many people especially in this part of the world living simply to make money and redeem themselves from poverty and lack. But does life not deserve a deeper pursuit than the sometimes savage quest for wealth and fame? This question, Mr. Dele Oye and Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim seem to have successfully answered early in life, which they say makes life much more meaningful.
On May 23, the two legal practitioners – Ibrahim and Oye, along with five other distinguished alumni of the Obafemi Awolowo University, would be adorned with the highest possible honour given by the Great Ife Alumni Association, at its twenty-first Biennial Convention. The laudable achievement of the awardees clearly indicates that their recognition were more deserving because of their impact on the lives of the people around them
Ibrahim, Oye and the five other eminent persons, have been selected for the association’s highest honour of “Grand Commander of Great Ife” (GCGI), an honour not given to former students simply because of their wealth or social accomplishment but for their tangible contribution to the improvement of the lot of human kind, national development and the advancement of the alma mater.
Although Ibrahim and Oye are clearly excellent at their chosen field of legal practice and businesses, the alumni honour, which would be conferred on them on May 23, 2014 as well as numerous other awards with which they have been decorated, must have been thrust on them for more ethereal qualities than professional excellence and business success.
For Oye who is presently the Vice-President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), those who know him say his special interest in the improvement of the lot of the people around him is deserving of commendation. “What do you say of a man (Oye) who adopts an entire village full of poor and needy people who have no ethic, political or economic relevance to him,” Reverend Father Francis Kale of the Catholic Arch Diocese of Abuja once remarked.
Kale still wonders how the former President of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mines and Agricultre (ABUCCIMA) came to the decision to mobilise support for some rural communities around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); particularly a village called Ketti, about 50 kilometres away from the glamour of the Abuja city centre.
But commenting on how he decided to adopt the village as his own, Oye said: “I was shocked beyond words to see a village so close to the seat of power in the country languishing in such harrowing poverty. When I followed Father Kale to the village, it was impossible to drive our vehicle to the community. We had to park our cars and walk a distance of about 1.5 kilometres to get into the village. The condition was deplorable.
“When we got there, the condition under which people lived was so harsh. There was no water, no healthcare facilities, no schools, and no sense of belonging. This was when I decided to adopt the community as my own and to mobilise help towards improving the lives of these people,” he explained.
According to Oye who is currently a Council Member, Council of Legal Education/Nigerian Law School, apart from the various amenities, which were conspicuously lacking in these rural communities, there was a sense of neglect so palpable in these places, making it look like they live in a different country.
He said having considered the enormity of the challenge that these rural people faced as a community, it was obvious that a one-off borehole or classroom block project may not be a sustainable way to support the community.
So, the legal practitioner decided on his own to adopt the community as his own, with a pledge to use his own financial resources as well as his goodwill to meet some of the pressing social needs in the community.
These efforts have led to the provision of pipe-borne water in the community and a programme under which some members of the community have received employments in the FCT while some of the students have received academic scholarships.
“Because I have adopted the community as my own, I see them as a part of my responsibility. I may not have enough to give to them as an individual but I have friends, associates and relatives who I can easily pool together in response to essential needs that need to be met in this place,” he said.
Perhaps it was the same motivation from Ketti community that guided Oye’s tenure as the president of the University of Ife Alumni Council, about which time the then-Vice Chancellor, Prof. Roger Makanjuola, wrote in Chapter 19, pages 242 and 243 of his book titled: “Water Must Flow Uphill.”
In the detailed publication, Makanjuola wrote: “A major breakthrough came with the election of Dele Oye as the President of the Alumni Association in 2000. I had looked at him with suspicion when he was initially elected. He had mobilised a large number of previously inactive alumni to attend the national convention to vote him in, and he spent a huge sum on their accommodation and transportation.
“My sentiments had been in support of the candidate of a more socialism-oriented group from Lagos, among who was Mr. Olumide-Fusika whom I had come to admire during his representation of the students at the judicial commission.
“Dele Oye proved to be the best alumni president the University has ever had and it will be difficult for any future alumni leader to surpass his achievement. So committed was he that he spent his personal money on projects and also spent generous amounts to support alumni who were in difficulty.
“Under his presidency, the two-storey Alumni Hall, a 56-bed female hostel, was constructed. This building was particularly remarkable in the university because since the 1980s; financial considerations had made bungalow structures the order of the day. Half of the cost of that building came from Dele Oye’s personal pocket.”
So as Great Ife Alumni Association honours Oye, Ibrahim, Professor Idowu Bamitale Omole, Yusuf Olaolu Ali, Mrs Ibukun Odusote and Hon. Najeem Salaam, the overarching lesson is that it may be important to conquer poverty and achieve success in ones chosen discipline but it is never actually a worthy success until one is able to extend dignity and a better life to others around him.