Person of the Year: The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation



Globally, a number of corporate organisations, governmental or non-governmental bodies, apolitical groups, religious bodies to mention a few bestow awards at the end of the year on deserving individuals, personalities or icons who have in no small measure impacted positively their immediate community, society or the world at large. The impacts these personalities exude, either in terms of promoting moral principles, innovative tendencies, pursuing social and human justice among others, makes them not only an epitome of pride but also persons worthy of emulation among a section of the populace. It is therefore, not surprising that President Barack Obama, both in 2008 and 2012, was selected Time Magazine’s Person of the Year (known previously as Man of the Year until 1999). Another award three years back would also make him the “Most Admired Man in the World” for six consecutive years (2008-2013).

What do we understand by the term Man/Person of the Year? According to Time magazine, it is a yearly award that highlights and profiles a person, group, idea or object who has positively or otherwise acted in many ways to influence the course of the year’s event. It is simply regarded, or spoken of, as a form of honour, award or prize bestowed on “subjects” or “objects” admired by people for their impacts. While Time’s conception is not to be endorsed wholly, after all, the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year bestows award to members of the Hasting Pudding Theatricals society who have made “lasting and impressive contribution” to the entertainment world and the Silverbird Man of the Year awards “a Nigerian…perceived to have positively affected the lives of Nigerians the most,” both, if not all, pursues almost a similar objective or aim—to honour someone or something that has impacted humanity throughout a year.

This therefore, takes us to my own Man/Person of the Year. The year 2014 for many Nigerians rounded off with lots of mixed feelings. Apart from those known challenges, it was a year that was perceived with mixed feelings. Despite the challenges 2014 brought, this writer make bold to say that we have every reason as a people to be appreciative. Not many countries in this part of the world would have faced half of what Nigeria faces on a daily basis and live to tell the tale. When we look at Somalia and its failure to form a stable government since the 90s or Southern Sudan, Libya and a host of others whom continually face civil strife and internal divisions, Nigerian would better appreciate their current challenges which this writer believes is surmountable.

When we talk of challenges, this writer sees it in terms of everyday human challenges. It is one of the fundamental problems Third World countries face daily. Poverty, unemployment, civil strife among others remains some of the challenges these countries continue to grapple with. In Nigeria for example, we are faced with insecurity, unemployment, lack of human empowerment etc. It seems that the Nigerian state has neglected its vey constituency, the people, and so not many think the impact of the government has been felt on them. This is where non-governmental agencies (NGOs) come in. A fact remains that government cannot do it all, and so these (NGOs) come to play a complementary role to assist government in its human development objectives. This is where the Sir Emek Offor Foundation (SEOF) comes in. Formed in the early 1990s by its highly ebullient and charismatic founder Sir Emeka Offor, the Foundation in the last two decades has been in the forefront of championing human capacity development, provision of skills acquisition, youth empowerment, widows cooperative, health services, educational grants and infrastructural development programmes. Through the Foundation’s support for small and medium enterprises, a significant number of lives have been touched positively.

The SEOF is not only one of the most outstanding Foundations in Nigeria in terms of how much it places value on human development, it is well respected for its important partnerships with international organisations and institutions whose core objectives are in tandem with SEOF’s own core values — empowerment and human sustainable development.

In the last couple of years, SEOF has taken its international partnership to a remarkable whole new level which for many marked a turning point in the history of human philanthropy and social responsibility in contemporary Nigeria. First, the founder Sir Offor felt the need to throw his weight behind the fight against polio, a disease which until now placed Nigeria as one of the three polio endemic countries in the world, the other two being Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio as we all know cripples the legs and places a heavy socio-economic burden not only on the individual and family but also the state. Its effect is better imagined than felt. Nigeria’s polio endemic status was so alarming that it had to take the intervention of stakeholders to begin a process that will reduce the country’s endemicity. Starting from 2013, the SEOF went into a bold multi-year partnership with Rotary International. That year in Lisbon, Portugal, a grand donation of $1.3 million was made by the SEOF as part of its commitment to the END POLIO NOW. This donation was made after an earlier donation of $250,000 which Rotary had applied immediately to the on-going efforts in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.   

This commitment did not however stop there; the Foundation also presented another donation of $1 million last year to Rotary International PolioPlus campaign to provide resources that support polio immunization efforts both in Nigeria and globally. This totalled $3.1 million, marching the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2 for 1, bringing the total to $9.3 million. The SEOF and Nigeria’s strong will and determination to end Polio will see it declared Polio free by the United Nations later this year.

For reasons that may or may not be identifiable, education on the continent has been poorly funded, utterly disregarded and in the process has adversely affected literacy levels among students. The situation is so grim that most schools in Africa do not have libraries and even when they do, are not adequately equipped. Understanding the value of education and borrowing from Peter Drucker’s statement that “Knowledge is the only meaningful resource today,” the SEOF as part of its core objectives champions the cause of education in Africa through its partnership with Books for Africa (BFA). Based in the USA, the partnership between the BFA and SEOF has seen shipments of books, desk and laptops and other educational materials to rural kindergarten, primary and secondary schools and local public libraries, including reference books like encyclopaedias across Africa. University libraries too receive books from the liberal arts, sciences, jurisprudential book volumes for law libraries and other specialised books which cover all areas of business administration. Interestingly, these books are not only new but also current while others are minimally used.

Since the initiation of the partnership in 2010, the SEOF has funded the shipment of over 73 containers of books to some of the most educationally disadvantaged countries in Africa, including Chad, South Sudan, Niger, The Gambia, Somalia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Liberia to mention a few. Nigeria alone has received sixteen containers of books delivered to libraries across the regions, making it the largest recipient country. Between 2010 and now, the SEOF have successfully provided the delivery of about 1.7 million books and computers worth more than $18 million to 19 African countries. The “one book, one child at a time” strategy has been a highly successful one and a testament of SEOF’s resolve to pursue an aggressive literacy and education campaign for the current generation. SEOF today remains the single largest independent donor to the BFA since its inception.

Understanding that youths are leaders of the future, the SEOF has placed much priority on the youth through its Youth Empowerment schemes. The Foundation empowers youths through provision of loans and micro-finance grants to low income earners and highly industrious persons. All these are basically done to engage youths in more productive ventures and help them to be independent. The motorcycle transit venture is one of the many programmes aimed at helping the youths to plan and manage their businesses. Remarkably, a high number of youths have been able to expand through this, venturing into commercial bus enterprise. This has not only brought additional employment to others, over 500 young minds have been touched and have success stories to tell of how a single, yet simple gift can grow ideas.

Aside the above, the SEOF supports people with disabilities through sponsorships to local and international sporting events. The 2014 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Junior Games held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire England was one of those where Nigerian Paralympian Emmanuel Godwin who participated in the weightlifting category won Gold at the event, doing both the country and the SEOF proud.

One could go on and on but significantly, it must be noted that the local and international partnerships and collaborations SEOF engages with a number of reputable local and international organisations are very key to its philanthropic core objective which is humanity first. This is done basically to help build bridges, cement hopes and transform lives at all times. Our world today must revolve around removing people from poverty and helping to sustain their human needs. We need to understand that human development policies or strategies are the first and last steps to providing human needs without which crisis may set in. For the SEOF, its capacity to fulfil a significant number of our human challenges over the years represents a right step in the right direction of a purposeful human development strategy. It is only when people feel disconnected from their society and immediate environment that they begin to show deviance, a sign that crisis is about to happen. Nations must begin to invest heavily on people rather than on weapons and other less important issues.  

From the above, one would agree with this writer that the SEOF deserves a stellar award for championing the cause of humanity in so many ways. Not many philanthropic organisations today in Nigeria have done so much in terms of how deeply and positively they affect human lives. The SEOF continues to be a pointer to how private philanthropic organisations can effect dramatic changes in highly disadvantaged societies. No doubt, when the history of polio eradication, literacy and education advancement, youth and widows empowerment among other human development programmes are mentioned in Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor Foundation will really be part of that history. It is therefore, why this writer bestows the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation with the Person of the Year award. It is already etched in stone and its imprints are now felt on the sands of time.


Raheem Oluwafunminiyi wrote via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.