Stooping To Conquer: Sir Emeka Offor

 

 

 

 

Africans in their unique cultural tradition are endowed with abundant social capital. Therefore, the welfare of each child in any community is inherently the responsibility of all, which gives credence to the proverb "it takes a village to raise a child."  In the world of business, that same spirit of communal support extends into our new appreciation of corporate social responsibility, more aptly identified as social sustainability and philanthropy.

Philanthropy whether internally generated or from external sources is not a novel concept within the domain of the rich and wealthy. It is a principle that has addressed the fundamental challenges of our societies beyond the capabilities of the public sector. What is phenomenal, however, is the pace and scope of giving among Africans who have risen to play on the grander stage usually occupied by western foreign governments, international NGOs, prominent and super-wealthy individuals, and multi-national corporations. These emerging and highly successful African entrepreneurs are global Pan-Africanists who take great pride in the “African Renaissance” and have solidly embraced the traditions of their forefathers to be their brothers’ keeper. 

While we value and continue to welcome the commitment and support of UNICEF, WHO, CDC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other international donor organizations, we are proudly cognizant of our homegrown philanthropists and economic game-changers of our new Africa.   A 2014 publication from IRIN, the humanitarian news, and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs highlighted a few African philanthropists who are having a significant impact on the continent. Top on their list is the following Nigerian Philanthropists: Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Arthur Eze, and Theophilus Danjuma.  Several others from South Africa and Zimbabwe were also mentioned. The list is not entirely comprehensive, but it shows that Africans are not idly watching from behind the fence waiting for others to address our problems and challenges. In fact, IRIN News reports that African philanthropists contribute an estimated $7 billion annually to an array of worthy causes.

Let us now turn the spotlight on health, and specifically, the Global Polio Eradication Initiatives (GPEI).   Before the discovery of the Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) vaccine by Jonas Salk, polio ravaged the global community almost unimpeded.  This devastating disease led to paralysis and often the death of an estimated half million people annually.  Confronting the polio health crisis became a challenging burden of leading nations and global health agencies. The polio vaccine discovery paved the way for an expedient relief, cutting the cases of polio in the U.S. from 20,000 per year in the 1950’s to 1000 per year in the 1960's. In 1988, through Rotary International support, the World Health Assembly articulated a global response to polio eradication. From 350,000 documented cases of polio in 1988 to a remarkable low in 2014, Rotary International, seeing the possibility of global eradication, is not letting up. 

One cannot speak of polio eradication efforts in Africa without mentioning the determined and passionate commitment of Rotary International’s Polio Ambassador to Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor.  Sir Emeka, who is the founder of the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) and one of Nigeria’s most versatile and successful businessmen, is not just the leading African donor to Rotary International’s polio efforts, he is also the Continent’s most active and vocal advocate for the eradication of polio; a tireless health crusader, and an impassionate voice for the preservation of health for all.  Many traditional observers of Sir Emeka's anti-polio efforts have said in many incontrovertible terms, that he has "stooped to conquer" polio in Africa.

Known as a modest and self-effacing businessman, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Chrome Group and the Chairman of Kaztec Engineering Limited has quietly steamed past his compatriots with an accumulated total donation of $3.1 million.  Matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates 2 for one program, a new aggregate total of $9.3 million is accredited to Sir Emeka Offor.

It is important to underscore that while we have seen a 99% global reduction in the number of polio cases, there are still roadblocks to achieving the end game in Nigeria. Access to some interior communities in the heavily volatile areas of the Northeast has proven problematic in the heat of insurgent activities of the Islamic group Boko Haram. The Federal Government, however, is actively addressing these challenges. One approach that ought to be applauded is the defiance and bold strategy of “quick entry and exit” coordinated by polio workers at the grassroots in concert with community dwellers when the perceived threats of insurgent activities are low. In other words, when information filters through from locals that the insurgent activities have tapered, then polio workers make a quick entry into the area and immunize children and then vacate the community. Such social innovations and the commitment of health professionals have provided sufficient buffer in the containment of polio and without equivocation formed the basis for the success Nigeria recorded in contending with Ebola.  

Sir Emeka's financial commitments and his widely recognized altruism have enabled Rotary to complement Government’s efforts and reduce the number of polio cases significantly to 6 in 2014, an 85% reduction compared to previous years.  In fact, an article by mega-philanthropist Ted Turner, the former owner of Time-Warner, titled "No Letting up Fight to end Polio," substantiates that over 75% of all children in eight Northern Nigerian States have been successfully immunized against polio in spite of a deadly insurgency and unprecedented insecurity in Northeastern Nigeria.  With these collective efforts against the deadly virus, Nigeria enjoyed relative peace from the disease since July 2015 and was well on its way to being certified free from polio by July 2017, by the World Health Organization. That journey was sadly cut short due to a newly identified case of polio in Borno State. The time clock will now be reset and here explains the need for continued philanthropy, intense polio immunization exercise, and public sector engagement. Afghanistan and Pakistan remain endemic for polio.  

Nigeria has the resolve, the human capacity, and a renewed political will to bring an end to polio. Private sector support without equivocation is paramount to achieving the desired goal. Sir Emeka and other like-minded Nigerian philanthropists believe that the end game is closer than ever before.   In his official capacity as Rotary International’s Polio Ambassador to Nigeria, Sir Emeka has said he "will not rest until every child is immunized and Nigeria is polio-free." This “privatization” of polio eradication efforts, I believe, represents a real turning point in Nigeria’s long fight against this crippling disease. 

It has taken leaders of uncommon vision, unbridled action, and deep compassion and commitment to get us to where we are today.  In the unfriendly arena of life's battles, the wise, the humble at heart, and the selfless, often "stoop to conquer."

When the real story of polio eradication in Nigeria is finally written, Sir Emeka Offor will feature prominently in the pantheon of the Philanthro-Capitalists who made it happen.

 

Written by: Dr. Edwin Ndukwe

International Development Consultant

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Sir Emeka Offor signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Katsina State Government

 

ABUJA, NIGERIA, April 26, 2016— Sir Emeka Offor, an Abuja-based businessman and Philanthropist and His Excellency, Aminu Bello Masari, the Executive Governor of Katsina State have on this day, the 26th day of April 2016, signed into effect a Memorandum of Understanding between The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) and the Katsina State Government where the Foundation has committed to providing books and computers to higher institutions in the state.

The initiative is part of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation’s continuing effort to promote literacy in the country and the continent of Africa. The Foundation’s active partnership with an Atlanta based non-governmental organization, “Books For Africa”, have successfully facilitated the supply of books, reading materials and computers worth more than $22 million to schools in over 18 countries in the continent including Nigeria since its inception.

“Today marks a beginning of the good things that will happen between the foundation and the Katsina State government. We've come to support the government, having seen the good works, and having evaluated the quality of the person of the governor of Katsina State, the way the affairs of the state is being run, said Sir Emeka.

“ We are going to support him in a lot of areas, starting with educational institutions, from secondary to tertiary institutions. We are going to be flooding this state with a large consignment of books; that will start coming within the next fortnight, and that will be followed by desktops and laptops. I`m happy that the Chief of Staff and other members of your team were in our headquarters in Anambra State yesterday, to see for themselves, and I think they were very happy with what they saw on the ground. And that's why we want to support the Katsina State government to see that it is done, he further stated.


In his remarks at the signing ceremony, His Excellency, Governor Masari said, “Today, we mark the beginning of a very fruitful journey for Katsina and Sir Emeka Offor Foundation. You know, in Katsina we believe the issue of education is our number one priority, so what Sir Emeka has done, or is doing to Katsina in the area as towards our educational status is more than words can express. ... is what you can call an endless journey because it is knowledge that will be acquired and passed through generations.”

The Governor acknowledged that such philanthropy would assist in human capacity development in the state and that by “developing individuals, institutions naturally will be developed”. He commended Sir Emeka for his care towards humanity saying that this act shows that Sir Emeka has “a social conscience.”

Stating the government commitment to abide by the tenets of the MOU in ensuring that books reach the end users as quickly as delivered, Governor Masari assured Sir Emeka that “Katsina will not fail you, will not disappoint you.”
“And so accept on behalf of the people of Katsina State our sincere thanks and appreciations, and also in the name of humanity, for what you are doing, you are doing it (for) humanity.

SEOF plans to commence delivery of books to Katsina State within two weeks from the date of signing the MOU.


About the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation

The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation is a philanthropic organization based in Oraifite, Anambra State, Nigeria. The Foundation seeks to alleviate the sufferings of the less privileged through philanthropy, and focuses primarily on giving support and hope to those in need irrespective of tribe, creed, religion and nation. The Foundation has affected the lives of many Nigerians through its domestic programs and projects, which include youth empowerment, Widows Cooperative, education, and health services and infrastructural development. For more information, visit http://sireofforfoundation.org or like us at https://www.facebook.com/siremekaofforfoundation.

Rotary International honors Sir Emeka Offor, admits Dr Ifeanyi Ubah as AKS member.

 

 

Abuja-On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, Sir Emeka Offor, the founder of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, a non-governmental, not for profit organization was honored by the Rotary International with an award as the 2015/16 International Service Award for a Polio-Free World in recognition of his non-financial contribution to Polio eradication throughout the region.

 

The current Rotary International President, K.R. Ravindran was present in Abuja with his wife Vanathy, to personally hand over the award to Sir Emeka Offor at a lunch held in the latter’s honor.  The International Service Award for a Polio-Free World, according to a top Rotarian is the first of its kind for a recipient from the African country. 

 

President Ravindran commended Sir Emeka for his tireless commitment both in financial and non-financial terms to see an end to polio in Nigeria and the world. “Sir Emeka, you are a Gift to the world,” he said to him during his brief remarks. 

 

He praised Nigerian Rotarians for their service to humanity. He acknowledged that the collective efforts of Rotarians, the health workers, the federal government of Nigeria and major donors, both locally and internationally, have helped to rid the country of this dreaded disease, having been removed from the list of polio-endemic countries since August 2015.

 

He, however, cautioned that while the country waits for a polio-free certification from the World Health Organization in 2017, that ‘we should not relent in continuing advocacy, immunization drives, and scaling up surveillance measures to ensure that resurgence does not occur.’

 

While accepting the award, Sir Emeka Offor, who is also the Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria, thanked Rotarians and President Ravindran for selecting him as the recipient. “I am humbled by this award, and I pledge to do everything in my power to protect every child in our society from contracting polio.” “Polio is a deadly disease, and it must be stopped wherever it exists,” he stated.

 

Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, the Managing Director of Capital Oil, who was among the personal guests of Sir Emeka Offor, thanked Rotarians for the care they give to the world. He appreciated Sir Emeka for all his contributions to Rotary and applauded him for having a “big heart” and that he is determined to emulate Sir Emeka’s exemplary philanthropy. To support the effort of Sir Emeka Offor and Rotary, Dr. Ubah asked to be admitted into the Rotary Club as a member of the Arch Klump Society (AKS), to which he committed with a contribution of $250,000. 

 

The wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, who was a distinguished guest of Sir Emeka Offor at the lunch, commended him for receiving the International Service Award. She encouraged Rotarians to not only support the core objectives of the organization but to consider also rising to support her efforts in combating the challenges of midwifery in the country, which she said was ‘in a deplorable state.’ 

 

The former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Howard F. Jeter (Ret.) was present at the lunch. In his brief comment, he gave a broader insight in Sir Emeka other humanitarian projects. Speaking as a board member of SEOF, he highlighted the foundation’s partnership with Books For Africa (BFA), a U.S. based organization. Ambassador Jeter disclosed that SEOF’s partnership with BFA had facilitated the delivery of over “2 million books and reading materials” to over 18 African countries including Nigeria. He also spoke of an ongoing collaboration with The Carter Center, another U.S. based organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter. The partnership according to Amb. Jeter is targeted at ridding the five states of the southeast (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo) and two states of the south-south (Delta and Edo) of River Blindness.

 

Written by Dr. Edwin Ndukwe

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Sir Emeka Offor and The Carter Center calls on the Hon Minister of Health

 

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Sir Emeka Offor, the founder of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), made a courtesy call to the office of the Honorable Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Folorunsho Adewole to commend him for his efforts in motion to stem the spread of Lassa Fever in the country.

In his introduction, Sir Emeka said, “we are profoundly appreciative of your timeous response to the health crisis that beset our nation and we are confident that your oversight will properly guide us through this period, and Lassa fever will be wiped out just as we defeated Ebola.”

Sir Emeka was accompanied by the former Minister of State for Health, Dr. Idi Hong, Country Representative for The Carter Center, Dr. Emmanuel Miri, Alhaji Kaula Aliu, Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Howard Jeter (Rtd), Head Communications for Chrome Group, Dr. Edwin Ndukwe.

The founder of SEOF, who is also the Rotary International Polio Ambassador, used the opportunity to intimate the Hon Minister of his continuing role on the road to a polio-free Nigeria and his commitment to the ongoing partnership with The Carter Center for the elimination of River Blindness by the year 2020.

Nigeria, as you may recall, has been delisted from the pack of polio-endemic nations since August of 2015, and now, awaits World Health Organization’s Certification, as being polio-free, which is anticipated by 2017.

The road to success recorded in the END POLIO campaign over the years was not an easy one, but nevertheless remarkable considering the episodal challenges of both culture and religion in creating access to immunization. By far, a cohesive Public-Private Partnership and the generous contributions from patriotic Nigerians like Sir Emeka Offor was in part contributory to the appreciated outcome.

On the fight against River Blindness (RB), Dr. Emmanuel Miri explained the scope of the ongoing partnership between The Carter Center and SEOF. In his presentation, Dr. Miri expressed optimism in Sir Emeka's financial commitment of ($10 million over a seven-year span) towards a complete elimination of the disease. He acknowledged that this was unprecedented and by far the largest grant from a single African donor in Carter Center’s history and that the funding would go towards Carter Center interventions against RB in the designated seven states within the South-East and South-South of the country. He prayed the Hon Minister to fast-track the adoption of a two-dose per year model for RB elimination instead of the current one dose per year. Implementing the two dose per year would shorten the treatment duration from 15 years to 7 years, according to Dr. Miri.

The Carter Center has been at the forefront of efforts, in collaboration with the Nigerian government, to rid our society of RB and other Neglected Tropical Diseases since 1988. The Center had a similar focus that led to the elimination of Guinea Worm from Nigeria. The impetus for guinea worm defeat inspired the campaign to see that the burden of RB (40% global disease burden) is erased from the country.

Prof Adewole while receiving Sir Emeka Offor expressed profound gratitude for the latter's contribution to ensuring that all Nigerian children are immunized with the polio vaccine. He commended Sir Emeka for being an exemplary Nigeria. According to the Hon Minister, Nigerians who are making significant contributions to the growth and welfare of the society should be celebrated. He expressed the government's determination to collaborate with well-meaning non-governmental agencies, like SEOF, to bring about the "change" aspirations of the new administration in the health sector.

Ambassador Howard Jeter, who gave the Hon Minister a broader scope of the Foundations's work in and around the continent, also used the opportunity to present, as a gift, a set of books written by former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, to the Hon. Minister. President Carter personally autographed the books for the Minister.

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