Rotarian Wale Ogunbadejo is the 2017/2018 District Governor, for District 9110. A medical doctor by profession, he hails from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, but was born in Lagos on September 14, 1959.
Married to Olufunmilayo and blessed with four adorable children, he joined Rotary Club of Gbagada South in 2002/2003, as a charter member, rising through the ranks and serving in various capacities, where he distinguished himself.
Also the front man of Aniyun Hospitals Limited, the amiable and result-oriented gentleman shared his plans for his new office with Rotarians AZUH ARINZE and MICHAEL EFFIONG, both of Rotary Club of Ikeja South, on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. This was inside his office at the Rotary Centre, in Ikeja GRA, Lagos. Excerpts…
First, what got you interested in Rotary?
What got me interested in Rotary? That’s a wonderful question. As a young child growing up in Lagos, I was nearly washed away by flood one day. We were going to school and it was very rainy. I had my raincoat around me and we were going to jump a drainage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t jump well enough and I fell inside the gutter. And I was being swept away. Truly, I could see my mates running after me; they were just crying, but there was nothing they could do and one Hausa man, I still remember, was passing by. The raincoat made me to float because of the air in it. And the Hausa man dropped the basket on his head, and grabbed me. And that’s how I was saved. And since that time, the urge in me has been to help whoever is in need. I was just about 6/7 years old when this happened. So, I could have been swept away by the rain that day. The urge to help whoever is in need, from that moment, became so strong in me and when I was growing up, I never knew I was going to be a doctor. But you know as you are growing, people will just see something in you that this one is going to be a doctor. It was never my own thought really. But once I got to school, I could do well in sciences, I could do well in commerce, I could do well in arts, but because of what people had been saying, at the back of my mind, I just said I would do Medicine. But I was good enough in sciences, arts and commerce. In fact, I was the best student in History, form four to form five. But I had to drop when I got to form five because it clashed with my science subjects, so that was when the urge came. And when the possibility of joining Rotary came, I didn’t know it would take me this far. It was my uncle who made me to join Rotary.
Which of your uncles?
Alhaji Dr. Sulaimon Adegunwa. I was always going to him for one favour or another. So, when I told him, he said you people have come again; you always go into one funny thing or the other. He just looked at me as a very naughty young man. But I said you know you are a very rich man. I mean, he is a multimillionaire, and I said if you want to give someone ten million naira, you can give, but me, if hundreds of us come together with our ten, ten thousand, it’s about one million naira. And that’s my reason for going into Rotary. I want to help people, but I could not do so much on my own. But joining others of like minds, we can do so much together and that’s why I joined Rotary Club.
So, what has kept you going since 2002, afterall some people also joined and left?
What has kept me going is that I have the opportunity of being involved in projects; projects that you will never know the impact, even though you have done your assessment and you discovered that this community needs this particular project. But on the day of commissioning, when you see the joy in the eyes of the people… I remember; let me give you an example. There was this computer project we did in a school; the school is in Gbagada. From Oworosoki to Gbagada then, there was no computer learning centre. Before we did the project, you would see students being brought from schools from about two or three kilometres to come and know what computer is. And for me who came from such a background, because I went to public schools too, the impact of that project on those children made us to replicate it. We now went to do another one in Oworosoki, so they don’t need to come from Gbagada anymore. We now have one in Gbagada and one in Oworosoki. And also the many water projects we have done. I also have another instance. In Ghana, we have this joint project with a Rotary club in Ghana. This community has been in existence, from what they said, for about 200 years or so; outskirts of Accra and they never had access to portable water. The stream they were drinking from in those days had now become contaminated by some industries around them. But they still had to drink the water. So, we went to Accra and did the project. The day we went to commission this project, it was not a sophisticated/automatic borehole. It was a manual borehole. If you see the way these people were crying about having portable water for the first time in their lives in that community. Their senators, house of representatives members came to witness the commissioning of the project. I have so many events like that.
What would you say has been the greatest lesson that being a Rotarian has taught you?
Life is only worth living when you dedicate your life to helping others. That’s the only reason for being alive because we are here to serve the will of our Creator. But how do we serve His will? It’s not by going to your ministries, churches or mosques; it is by helping others. Extend that little you have to others, advancing their own future, career and limit. You know something, even though we say we do without expecting returns, what were you told by Christ? Whatever you sow, you will reap. I tell you, I have experienced it; my life would not have been this way, my business would not have gone this far but for that.
What do you like most about being a Rotarian?
If you have never been to a convention, you are not a Rotarian. If you have not been to a convention, you really cannot see the global picture, with variety of people, population and different races. At the last international assembly in San Diego, there was this monk who came. So, how do you imagine monks in such places? But the moment he sees that pin on you, you are a brother. You are accepted into the fold, there is no discrimination again and that makes the whole world to become a small world.
When you go to Rotary conventions, then you will know that it is truly a small world when you see how people relate to each other spontaneously; even at the airport, the moment you see that he is a Rotarian, you start exchanging cards. And just like that, you move on together. That’s the beauty of it.
What don’t you like about being a Rotarian?
What don’t I like? Wherever you have human beings, you have some peculiar experiences you go through. But once you go through those experiences, if you remember that we are all human beings who are imperfect, you will just move on. Those experiences that you go through that may be negative, that, I may say, I find discomforting. But the moment you realise you are not perfect either, you will let it go because the greater goal is what you should look at and forget the occasional discomfort.
What are your major plans or projects as the 2017/2018 District Governor?
(Laughs) That is the question that has been bothering me. You know you can’t do everything; you have to have goals that are achievable. I started by putting together my plans before the strategic committee. We’ve worked for four months. We have the area of focus, the service and the strategic goal of the District too. I realised that human beings need us most now, especially in Nigeria, with the level of poverty, intolerance, and hardship. The needs are huge, but we can only do a little within one year. You know I am a doctor, so my first priority will be health sector. If you look at the health system in Nigeria, it’s like a tripod: the primary health centre, which is the first point of contact for all the average persons to meet the doctors or see medical practitioners. We have the secondary, which is the general hospital. But for the average person, the primary health centre is what they need most, where most of their needs can be met. Because that is near them. Lagos State is the best state in Nigeria; maybe Anambra comes next, from what I am hearing. But even in Lagos State, when you look at the primary health centres, they are in a very poor state. A lot of people cannot access them and they go to quacks and a lot die; some go to chemists, they just give them first aid and by the time they get to hospitals, they are almost gone. If primary health centre is working and they have access to someone who knows what he is doing, if he can’t treat them, he would refer them to a general hospital, which is secondary health centre. I have spoken with my in-coming presidents that we should look for ten primary health centres that we can fund/equip. At least, if we can do ten, those ten communities can have serviceable primary health centres that will cater for their needs. And they have gone round to look for them. I have also found out that Rotarians are becoming fatigued (laughs), so I have gone outside to ask my friends to help me raise funds outside Rotary. If we can’t do ten and we do five, that will be good. Another thing I want to do is vocational centres. We have a lot of youths who are unemployed; we will have vocational centres where they can acquire skills and add micro credit scheme to it. We are going to give them grants and not a ‘dash’ and we are going to add a token interest on it. We hope, at least, if we can have that, a lot of rascally ones among them who have been driven into criminality due to unemployment can at least learn one thing or the other. We also have those who have learnt a particular trade, but have no funds to start up, either a barbing salon or hair dressing salon; we are also looking at that. There are so many other things that will come up.
As the District Governor, what is going to change about you?
I am going to be your servant now (laughs). I am going to be a servant to all of you and that’s why I have dedicated the last year and the next one year to implementing my plans. So, I have dedicated my life to be your servant and I am ready to serve you. All what I am praying for is good health and to be a good servant. So that at the end of my tenure I will not just pass through, but I would have truly had some impact and made a difference in my community and even in my own life too. Rotarians are meant to make a difference and that’s why we are Rotarians. And when we truly live as Rotarians, it also makes a difference in our own lives. It makes us to become better human beings, makes us see life the way it should be. I am here to serve, to give and not to take. I took a vow to serve and as long as I am alive, I will live up to that vow. I took a vow to be ethical in everything I do and when I leave this office, I want to leave with that vow. I grew up in Lagos and when we were growing up, we never knew who was Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. I remember one of our tenants in Somolu. This man married late and then the war started. My father told him not to travel that he would take him to his village and his people convinced him to travel and he died in the war. It was painful to us. In those days you can eat with your tenant. It was after the war that we now knew some were Igbos, Hausas and Yorubas.
Your tenure begins on July 1st, what would you like the people that will take over from you at the expiration of your tenure to say about you?
The king that reigns when it was great for the town will never be forgotten; the one that reigns and scatters the town will never be forgotten as well. My prayer is that at the end of my tenure, I would have left a District that is more united, that is less fragmented. Honestly speaking, we have a problem and I hope the earlier we relate to each other the way we used to do, the better for us. We don’t say this one belongs to this camp, the other person belongs to another camp anymore. I would have done so much that will make us proud of ourselves and that this year we can really say that we made a difference. Also, when I hand over the baton, I’m handing over the baton without grudges and I will wish those taking over well and then move on.
Tell us your life’s principles.
When you look at life, you know we don’t want to talk about religion, but we are not here by accident. We are not here for fun, we are not here to come and have children, work and go. We are here for a purpose and each person must find his/her purpose in life. You must find your purpose and your purpose is your strength. You must know your strength as a person. My strength is that I feel for people, so it means I must strive in everything I do to help people. Even with my last breath, I want to help people. I am not afraid of death because it is inevitable.
What are your hobbies?
I like dancing (laughs). I love music, I love playing chess, I love being with my friends, I love being with my family.
Could you tell us about your family now that they have crept into the picture; also how you met your wife?
Okay, I don’t say how I met my wife in the presence of my children because they are always laughing at us. I met my wife when we were both in secondary school. Her name is Olufunmilayo. It was just like little children’s love story, but it got to a point that I said this is the one for me. She is the one that can cope with my ‘madness’. You know all men have madness? They (our wives) only tolerate us (laughs). After I had done my naughty things then, she will still accept me. But others will say to hell with you. And then I realised also that she is best person for me; she is the only one that could tolerate me. We courted for like 12 years and have been married for 32 years. The marriage has been blessed with wonderful children. The last of them will graduate from Babcock University by June. The first girl is Tope, then the next one is Toyosi, the next one is Tobiloba and the fourth one is Tolulope.
No doubt, God has been so nice to you, what more do you want from Him?
What I ask Him for now is just to grant me as much as I can to help others and I don’t want any chronic illness. If I want to go also, He should just let me go ‘jeje’.