In his book, what is History? Historian, E.H. Carn examines the role of people and personalities in defining and shaping events in society. While he agrees that the society offers the platform for individuals to achieve set goals, he accepts that there are personalities whose vision and strength of character have significantly shaped, defined and influenced their respective societies.
Undoubtedly, the socio-political landscape of Lagos state from May 2007 to date has been greatly influenced by the thoughts, visions and activities of members of the state executive council who toil endlessly to ensure that Lagos retains its status as the nationâ€™s centre of excellence. These men and women personify the spirit of the trail blazing years of the Fashola administration and the moving force behind the numerous land mark attainments of the administration.
A thorough background check on Princess Victoria Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire confirms that she is privileged to belong to this group through which she has left an indelible mark in the sands of time as a Commissioner at the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. The passion, commitment and energy she applies to her duties are amazing. She has set a high work ethical standard that has completely changed the attitude of staff in the ministry to duty. No wonder, the ministry has become an active player in the efforts of the state government to empower Lagosians in its effort to banish poverty in the state.
Today, the Lagos state government, under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has empowered many Lagosians through its numerous Skills Acquisition Programmes. What many do not know today, is that the first Vocational and Skills Acquisition Centre in the state was built and funded with Adefulireâ€™s resources on her fatherâ€™s landed property. It was at the commissioning of that particular project that the immediate past Governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu bought into the vision. Today, Lagos boasts of 17 of such Skills Centres, that have trained and empowered thousands of young men and women to be economically self reliant and independent.
It is her unreserved and sincere love for women and girls that breaks all barriers, extend the frontiers of her Ministryâ€™s statutory responsibilities to hitherto no-go area. In the process, women and children have been rescued from cruel husbands and parents and rehabilitated. Her passion to provide succour for helpless women and girls gave rise to the establishment of the Transit Home for the victims of domestic violence. The 176-bed is well equipped and furnished home, that is currently providing solace for women that have their rights abused and violated. It is also at the home that they are temporarily accommodated, fed, clothed, and counselled and motivated until they overcome initial psychological trauma before returning home.
Her love for children was further demonstrated with the rehabilitation of the Motherless Children Home at Lekki and the construction of Home and Clinics for the Physically Challenged Children at Ketu Mile 12. The physically challenged home is a multipurpose complex with state-of- the-art-facilities, such as clinics for speech and language therapy, medical, audiology and physiotherapy, reception and common rooms, recreation centre, kitchen and dining rooms, dormitories, generator and solar lamps. The essential thing here is that such children can now live a dignified life and also able to assert their rights in the society through such physical and medical rehabilitation facilities.
Closely related to this, is her commitment to the implementation of the child rights law. Today, the fear of this law is the beginning of wisdom for child abusers in Lagos state as many children have been rescued, errant parents arrested and prosecuted for violating childrenâ€™s rights. The awareness created by the simplified version of the law and sensitisation given to it and the introduction of YELLOW CARD that serves as warning card for parents/ guardians, for the prevention of Child Abuse has been accepted across the state. This, as well as the introduction of YELLOW CARD that serves as warning card for parents/guardians has consequently raised the awareness and reduced the incidence of child abuse in the state.
Her natural concern for women and children equally influenced the Ministry to collaborate with the Ministry of Health to implement a comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment for women around the state. Also included in the health advocacy programme is the de-worming of children in all Public Primary Schools which have saved many from avoidable health hazards.
Another area where she has demonstrated unequal zeal and industry is the poverty alleviation programme of the state government. Underlining her fight against poverty is the belief that poverty goes beyond just inability to eat, but lack of access to basic health, malnutrition, hunger, starvation, disorientation to lack of rights and self dignity. It is in an attempt to reverse this that her ministry-engineered revolving loans system with selected Micro finance banks for women as well as thousands of the graduates of the state Vocational and Skill Acquisition Centres are financially empowered after graduation to practice their trade. This has turned many to employers of labour.
Princess Adefulire recognised link between domestic violence and unemployment among men. Since men often visit the economic frustration on their wives in terms of physical assaults, she initiated partnership with selected banks for unemployed men to access loans to buy brand new taxi cabs. Over 1,000 new air-conditioned cars for poverty reduction were given out to the Taxi Association to restore hope and confidence that life is worth living. Her interest in the total womenâ€™s well being predates her current role and activity in government. As an Awori blue blood and a daughter of first class Awoist, she once hired services of a lawyer to eject her motherâ€™s tenant for physically assaulting his wife. The event of that time and subsequent evolvement as a women and child right activist is a story for another time.
One unique thing about her personality is her humility. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire is humble to a fault. The respect she accords all categories of staff in her Ministry is unusual in the public service. Her kind and humane nature makes it easy for people to access her without the usual officialdom. It is indeed this particular side of her that is partly responsible for the harmonious working relationship existing between her and members of staff in the Ministry and the success she has recorded so far.
One other striking thing about Adefulire is her generosity that knows no bound, which many grassroots people have benefitted from. It is no secret that her office has become a Mecca of sort to people who are in need of various forms of assistance. No wonder she is popularly referred to as Mama Alanu (a kind-hearted woman).
It is this human milk of kindness flowing in her veins and passion for work that have endeared Princess Adejoke Orelope- Adefulire to all and sundry. She has become an enigma with a Midas touch that is ready to serve her people diligently and honestly. I have no doubt in her energy and mental infrastructure to perform at an office of higher responsibility. And her combination with Fashola will surely take the centre of excellence to an enviable position in the coming dispensation. Here is a princess on the threshold of history!
â€¢Mahmud Hassan wrote from Lagos