By Tunde Opeseitan
“I am not a Nigerian but the name of Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu is one name anytime I hear sounds so nice to me and I will look for opportunity to get the meaning of that name one day. She is one person I have monitored closely as World Health Organization (W.H.O) personnel in Lagos State and from all indications we can say that health is on the body of her hearth” – Dr San Nyeni, W.H.O Coordinator in Lagos State.
Dr Nyeni made the above comment on November 13, 2020 during the flag off of the polio vaccination exercise for children in five local government areas of Lagos State by the First Lady, Dr. (Mrs.) Claudiana Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, and this aptly typifies her passion for the welfare and well-being of the people.
Today, January 8, 2021 marks another great day to celebrate Dr Ibijoke as she has been blessed by God to clock 54 years.
A passionately caring mother and wife of the amiable and indefatigable Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Dr Ibijoke has clearly proven her mettle as a thoroughbred professional and a worthy partner of Mr Governor in the quest to deliver a greater Lagos in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda, a strategic development pillar which encapsulates the vision of the present administration for Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy; Entertainment and Tourism; as well as Security and Governance.
Before the emergence of her husband as the 15th Governor of the State of Aquatic Splendour and Centre of Excellence, Dr Ibijoke served the state meritoriously for 25 years as medical doctor, her last posting before retiring from service being the Chief Executive Officer/Medical Director of General Hospital, Somolu. And as such, it was not a surprise that she has taken keen interest and greatly supported the vision of Mr Governor to revive, rejuvenate and reposition the health sector for optimal service delivery.
An highly unflappable and meticulous professional who prefers to work behind the scene, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu played key role in the fight against Corona Virus pandemic, for which Mr Governor has earned both local and international accolades especially in terms of the brilliant manner with which the response has been coordinated so far so good.
From February 27, 2020 when Lagos recorded its index case, the state has been the national epicenter of the virus and there is no gainsaying the fact that the pandemic brought about unanticipated and unprecedented health crisis and socio-economic destruction, as well as the painful but necessary lockdown that followed it.
Aside the huge professional support which the First Lady gave to Mr Governor as the State’s Incident Commander against Covid-19, she also embarked on massive support for various organizations to mitigate the impact of the lockdown.
According to a popular aphorism which says a friend in need is a friend in deed, realizing that the lockdown which was imposed as a major strategy to flatten the curve of the novel Corona Virus must have had a negative effect on the people, the First Lady set machineries in motion to mitigate the impact, especially for members of the lower rung of the ladder in the society.
Specifically, the First Lady targeted the less privileged most affected by the lockdown and supported them with palliative items. These include correctional service, health facilities, senior citizens, youths, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), among others.
At the last count, 27 Secondary Health Facilities across the state, three Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Kirikiri, Badagry and Ikoyi, various associations as well as several NGOs, Orphanages, special schools and homes taking care of children and adults with special needs were visited by representatives of the First Lady in all the five administrative divisions of the state and given relief items to cushion the effect of the lockdown.
The relief items include bags of Rice, bags of Beans, bags of Garri, toiletries, sanitizers and food packs containing small bags of Rice and Beans, Noodles, Spaghetti, Macaroni and Semovita, among others. Another critical group that benefited from the distribution of palliative items by the First Lady was the Police Widows Association, Lagos State Chapter which received the items at Police College, Ikeja.
An ardent believer in the philosophy that a man should be taught how to fish rather than being given fish, just after the state was emerging from the lockdown, the First Lady partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to train women and youths in the value chains of Aquaculture, Poultry Production and Rice Farming.
At the end of the training, each of the beneficiaries were given take off grant by the First Lady to start their business, and testimonies abound about some of them who are doing well and have even employed one or two people, thereby reducing unemployment.
The First Lady has also gone into similarly partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation through which women and youths have been equipped with vocational skills on Catering and Beverages Production, Hairdressing, Stoning, Makeup and Gele Tying, Soap Making and Perfume Production, Tie and Dye, among others.
Up until now, the Adopt-A-Child Project of the First Lady through which scholarships are given to students whose parents can’t afford their tuition, is still running. The beneficiaries are selected through an independent and transparent process by the management of the affected institution, while funds are disbursed by the First Lady to support their education. Also, the First Lady assisted several students to pay for the last West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in the state.
During the EndSars protest, the First Lady actively identified with the demands of the youths by speaking up loud and clear and called for an end to all forms of brutalities by security agencies. She also strongly empathized with victims and their relatives.
Another area which the First Lady has not hidden her passion is in terns of stamping out all forms of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) from the state and country. During the Covid-19-induced lockdown, a worrisome spike was noticed with respect to rape cases and domestic violence across the country, and as a proactive and kind-hearted woman who is passionate about the well-being and welfare of residents, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu swiftly swung into action, first by participating in an All-male Walk against Rape held on June 11, 2020, where she received signed pledges by men of good conscience who have decided to speak up against the menace.
There were other symbolic All-male Walks in Surulere Local Government, Bariga Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and Egbeda in Alimosho Local Government Area, where signposts declaring the Councils as “Rape Free Zones” were unveiled by the First Lady.
In building on the gains recorded, the First Lady also coordinated the Lagos State Stakeholders movement against the menace of rape and all forms of SGBV, through which series of meetings were held as precursor to the annual Lagos GBV Week, as well as the annual global 16 Days of Activism designed to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, with the harsh tag #OrangeTheWorld.
Basically, the involvement of the First Lady was to galvanize relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, as well as the private sector to fashion out strategies to further ramp up response, ensure necessary care for the victims and fitting justice to the perpetrators.
As part of activities for the Lagos GBV Week, a Press Conference was organized to bring issues of GBV to the front burner, while Community Courtesy and Sensitization Programme was organized for various Women Groups in the State by the First Lady.
As a result of her untiring commitment to rid the state of the menace, the First Lady was invited to lead another Community Sensitization Programme organized by the Lagos State Ministry of Health at the Alimosho General Hospital, Igando where people were enlightened on various initiatives of government to confront the menace headlong. She also made presentations during the Public Hearing organized by Lagos State House of Assembly on Bill to establish the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency and the Sex Offenders Register.
When passed into law, the Bill will help to name and shame perpetrators of SGBV crimes, and most importantly provide medical and legal support to the victims.
Also, through the intervention of the First Lady who, by the way, is a seasoned medical expert, the government was able to launch Rape Fund for victims of sexual violence to be implemented through the Lagos State Health Scheme (LSHS).
According to modalities, the LSHS covers some of the services required by survivors of sexual assault and as such enrollees can benefit from it. However, some of the services required are not covered by the scheme. For services not covered by the LSHS, the fund will cover the additional medical needs that are not covered.
For survivors not enrolled in the LSHS, the fund will provide payment for the initial immediate medical intervention for the physical trauma including medical consultation, testing and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections, Pregnancy Test, Emergency Contraception, HIV Testing and Post Exposure Prophylaxis. The survivor will also be enrolled into the LSHS (as family or individual plan) to provide additional support for sequelae that may occur like pregnancy for a period of 12 months.
Perhaps, the highpoint of the activities coordinated by the First Lady is the presentation of a Compendium of Stakeholder’s Meetings on Gender-Based Violence in Lagos State to Mr. Governor. The compendium, which is a result of series of meetings by the Inter-Ministerial Stakeholders Committee on SGBV, essentially highlights comprehensive action plan to drastically reduce SGBV, provision of Rape Kits and Victims Support System, as well as list of laws that protect women and children, among others.
Just recently, the First Lady concluded a 14-day Social Media Campaign against SGBV with positive feedback on its impact among youths. Through the campaign, several informative contents on SGBV were released to educate the people on relevant laws, actions that constitute abuse, where reports can be made, the Victims Support System in place in the state, among others. It was also made colorful and impactful with several celebrities both public officials and private individuals signing on for the campaign.
For the First Lady, she has said it repeatedly that her aim of championing the cause is because she envisions a society where Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is reduced to the barest minimum and she is relentlessly determined to achieve this by working collaboratively and effectively with relevant stakeholders.
She equally plays an important role in leading the Lagos State Government efforts to improve the indices of the state on maternal, new born and adolescent health.
At the level of Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) under the leadership of the First Lady, the organization, in response to the new normal thrown up by Covid-19 pandemic, donated 5,000 transistor radios, 5,000 face masks and cash to Ministry of Education in a bid to ramp up access to learning for pupils and students especially in the rural areas and riverine communities.
This was done during the lockdown and it was aimed at complementing efforts of the State Government to ensure that about one million children who were at home as a result of closure of schools had access to educational contents on radio.
In terms of training, quarterly hybrid workshops on Protocol, Security, Etiquette, among others were organized for COWLSO members via a combination of physical and virtual participation, while the 20th edition of the National Women Conference of COWLSO was held virtually for the first time in line with Covid-19 protocols and it was a huge success.
The First Lady has also sustained the tradition of visiting Senior Citizens which she initiated in 2019. Through the initiative, senior citizens are regularly visited to keep up to speed with their welfare, and support them where necessary.
In taking the annual first baby of the year celebration to another commendable level, this year, the First Lady decided to visit General Hospitals in Lagos West axis including Mushin, Alimosho, Orile-Agege and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja where she presented various items such as mum’s packs, baby essentials and other baby gifts to the first babies of the year and their parents.
Besides, in keeping track of the growth of the first babies, the First Lady has also come up with a brilliant initiative to hold birthday reception for the first babies, starting with the 2020 first babies who were received on their birth on January 1, 2020 at General Hospitals in Ijede, Agbowa, Ketu-Ejirin and Lagos Island Maternity Hospital. She held a reception for the babies and their parents on January 1, 2021 at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja where various gifts were equally presented to them.
As a keen follower of the activities of the First Lady, I can vouch that she is passionately committed to the well-being and welfare of residents, and I will like to seize this opportunity to join others to heartily congratulate this remarkable daughter of Zion, exceptional wife, humanist to the core, thoroughbred professional, a workaholic and caring mother. I wish her happy birthday, long life and prosperity.
-Opeseitan is a Lagos-based journalist.