Adeyinka Obalade is a man with a large heart. Though a first class graduate of University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and a chartered accountant with a wealth of experience in the banking industry, he has joined hands with like minds not just to take care of the elderly in the society, but also to make sure that they have a prime of place in our hearts. Obalade, formerly the MD/CEO of Global Bank Plc and Societe Bancaire Merchant Bank, is currently the chairman, Governing Council of the 60 Plus Advocacy Initiative, a non-governmental organization established to promote the collective interest of the elderly in Nigeria. In this interview with NEHRU ODEH to mark the International Day of Older Persons, he speaks about why we must all take care of the elderly and the formal launching and Fundraiser of the 60 Plus Advocacy Initiative scheduled to take place on 19th November, 2020 in Lagos
Could you tell me about the 60 Plus Advocacy Initiative and why it was established?
Three years ago, a group of elders from different fields of life, who shared similar burden of improving the life of the elderly in this country, met to form the 60 Plus Advocacy Initiative. It was borne out of the need to advocate so as ensure that the quality of life of the elderly in this country is improved upon. It is a non-profit and a non-Governmental organization (NGO) and got registered with Corporates Affairs Commission on 21 December, 2017. As an NGO, our sole aim is to be the voice of the elderly and take their needs for social justice and quality living to the relevant authorities, at the state and national levels. We seek to promote the collective interest of the elderly in the nation, primarily through advocacy but also through interaction, where we speak, train and teach them in areas that will positively impact their well-being.
What inspired you to take up this mission?
Knowing how tough it is for able bodied, young men and women to make ends meet these days, made us realize that the elderly is very vulnerable. The rapid changes that urbanization brings have impacted many of the age-old safety nets and communal support systems which looked after the elderly in most traditional cultures of our country. This is a global phenomenon but other emergent societies have realized this and put structures in place to help the aged – e.g., subsidized housing, transportation, healthcare etc. The plight of the elderly in our country has been grossly neglected over the years by government. It is a fact that only a very small percentage of the population of the elderly receives pensions or has independent means of income. The vast majority are totally dependent on family or charity. Many of them are going through untold hardships and there is need to act on their behalf. Our NGO believes that old age is not punishment and is indeed the grace of God on the individual. The society and all communities should place the elderly in a position of value and comfort, not only that it is a destination every young person aspires to, but the society stands to reap the benefits of their cumulative experiences and mentorship. This was what motivated us to start this group.
How have you gone about achieving this lofty vision?
In line with the objectives of our organisation, we put together areas of immediate concern and decided to start with Lagos State. We sought the intervention of His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Lagos State and visited the Governor on 29th September, 2020 to present our proposal. I am happy to inform you that we got favourable responses from His Excellency. Among other things in our presentation, we requested for a vigorous public enlightenment campaign to respect the elders. This should involve religious leaders, community leaders and all leaders of thought. We suggested the campaign should involve the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Education for talks in schools, the market place, motor parks, everywhere in all 20 Local Government and 37 LCDAs in the state. The importance of inculcating the correct moral values in children and the youth was further emphasized by Mr Governor. 60plus Advocacy Initiative will partner with all relevant stakeholders on this initiative.
What challenges have you faced so far?
As an advocacy group we aim for sweeping reforms in the society for which we need the intervention of government at various levels. Take for example the existence of The National Senior Citizens Centre Act signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on 24th January 2018. The Act encourages each State Government to establish Senior Citizens Centres which when fully implemented will take care of many of the needs of this group. Yet we do not yet know of any state where this has been implemented as most people do not even know of its existence. As our emphasis is on areas needing the intervention of the government, this poses the challenge of how to easily access these government executive and how to make them buy into our advocacy in the light of paucity of funds and other competing needs of the populace. Also, our group is largely made up of people that are 60 years and above. Their mobility is impeded by aging. Therefore, we need to recruit younger fellows who believe in our goals and will be the foot soldiers. Much as our primary goal is advocacy, we still try to attend to the financial and material needs of some of these elderly. We did this during the lockdown occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic but at a huge cost. Most of our members are retired and we need corporate bodies and high net worth Individuals to support us as advocacy, and creating adequate public awareness will require a lot of funding.
Have you ever been discouraged to carry this out in the past and how?
We have never been discouraged as we are determined to make a success of what we have laid our hands on.
Could you state some achievements of 60 Plus Advocacy Initiative?
Since her incorporation in 2017, the group has organized several outreaches to groups of elderly (senior citizens) in Lagos State. During these outreaches, we heard first-hand from them, their immediate needs and the challenges they face as a result of their age. The group organized visits to various places in Lagos State during the lockdown occasioned by Covid-19 pandemics. We distributed palliatives to these elderly and also gave them lectures on how to protect themselves from being attacked by the virus.
On 29th November 2020, we visited the Executive Governor of Lagos State and presented our proposals on the plight of the elderly to His Excellency. Our advocacy for the elderly currently focuses on a vigorous public enlightenment campaign to respect the elders, elderly health facilities in all Primary Healthcare Centres. We have also established a Senior Citizens Recreation Centres, providing cheap and safe transportation as well as easy pension system.
Could you tell me where your office is located and about the day-to-day running of the organization?
The group’s office address is Suite 33 Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos and it is manned by an Administrator. The Board of Trustees, chaired by Chief Robert Clarke SAN, has other seven eminent members from the six geo political areas of this country. The day-to-day running of the organization is in the hand of the Governing Council that is made of 15 professionals in Medicine, Law, Education, Pharmacy, Journalism, Business, Accountancy and Administration. The council is chaired by Mr Adeyinka Obalade FCA and reports to the Board of Trustees. Our matrons are Justice Ayo Phillips, Mrs Wonuola Folami, Mrs Fehintola Okunola. We also have patrons. They are Chief Robert Clarke SAN and Alhaji Lateef Femi Okunnu SAN, CON
When will the organization hold its formal launching and fundraiser?
The organization will hold its formal launching and Fund-raising event on 19th November, 2020 in Lagos. The theme of the event is: Challenges of Caring for the Elderly within the Nigerian context: Problems, Prospects and Solutions. The Chairman of the event is Dr Christopher Kolade and the lead paper will be delivered by Prof Konyinsola Ajayi. Mr George Etomi, Prof Asaju, Dr Mrs Kofo Odusote and Mrs Ibukun Awosika will be our panelists for the day.