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Married to a monarch doesn’t deny me freedom to serve – Tonia Agugoesi

BY JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA

For her, service to humanity is the essence of man’s existence. A royal mother and senior serving officer of the Nigerian Customs with a Masters degree in Political Science, Rotarian Anthonia Agugoesi is the charter President of the Rotary Club of Festac Central. The club which officially took-off with twenty-nine members recently in Lagos is the offspring of the Rotary Club of Festac. In this interview, she speaks on her zeal for selfless service and plans for the club among other issues. Enjoy!

You have quite an impressive number of charter members; how did you do this?
Determination made it happen. Of all our members, only two are old Rotarians from other clubs. The others are new Rotarians and we were able to get so many of them through determination and commitment. The requirement for chartering a club is twenty-five members, but we surpassed that. Also, we didn’t just go about looking for members; we scouted for accomplished professionals.

What likely challenges do you foresee?
My concern is how to retain these members. We’ve heard of cases where after the euphoria of being chartered, club membership begins to dwindle.  I however think we won’t have such problems because, from the onset, we were careful about the people admitted into the club. Nevertheless, we won’t take anything for granted; we’ll keep inviting older, prominent Rotarians to keep mentoring our members. Even as we work hard to retain existing members, we’ll keep going out on membership drive because we really want to grow beyond our present seize.

Tonia
Tonia

How exactly do you hope to retain these members?
Like I said, we hope to keep inviting older Rotarians to educate us on the essence of Rotary. Also, we plan to make our fellowship interesting by coming up with programmes that would excite them each time they come to meetings. We would also engage in family programmes that create platforms for extending love to our spouses and children. Again, we’ll embark on very essential projects for our community because once they see that their works are being appreciated by the community, they definitely would want to remain in Rotary.

What are these projects you plan to embark on?
As part of activities for my tenure, the club will engage in the construction of three public toilets across Festac Town, the donation of chairs and tables to public schools, distribution of micro-credits to women, sinking of boreholes, scholarship schemes, carrier awareness talks, provision of artificial limbs, visit to less privileged homes and sponsorship of corrective surgery for children with hole in the heart.

How do you hope to accomplish these?
We intend to gather support from corporate organizations. We also believe there are individuals who desire platforms for helping humanity, so, we hope to give such people the opportunity to benefit mankind through Rotary and watch us work wonders with their money. Of course, they will be there to witness the commissioning of the projects.

Which of these projects is paramount to you?
The public toilet! It’s worrisome to think that markets exist without public toilet facilities. This is a place people go to, and probably stay from morning till evening. How do they ease themselves? In corners that are filthy? I’m very particular about this; maybe it’s because the construction of a public toilet was the first project ever done in Rotary down town Chicago.

You’re a busy professional; how do you hope to serve effectively on this platform?
Once there’s a will, there must be a way. It takes determination, and then with commitment, providence will head me on. I’ve been a Rotarian since 2002 when I was inducted into the Rotary Club of Festac Town- the club which founded this new club. Providence has always pushed me on.

Did that same providence make you the president of this new club?
(Laughs) It did in a way. By the time we all came together as members of the Rotary Club of Festac Town to make our inputs on the formation of a new club, everybody said it had to be me who would head the club. So, I did not have to refuse the honour.

Prior to that time, have you held key positions in Rotary?
Oh yes!! I’ve been chairman of so many avenues of service in the Rotary Club of Festac Town; I’ve been chairman of the Rotary Foundation and of several service projects.

You’re married to a traditional ruler and under traditional African society, being married to a royalty places some sort of restraints on a woman’s life; do you get enough freedom?

Freedom is a very relative concept; being married to a monarch doesn’t deny me freedom to serve humanity. Yes, I’m married to a traditional ruler, but does that deny me freedom to be kind to the next person or to do what is right? I don’t think so, and these are all what Rotary stands for- service, kindness, care. If being married to a monarch does deny me the freedom to be kind, to serve and to care, then it’s as good as snuffing life out of my body because I really don’t see the meaning of a life that does not care about the next person. Above all, I thank God for an understanding husband; he’s wonderful and has supported me all the way. He’s extremely a great husband!

It’s 11 years now since you became a Rotarian; how has the experience been?
It’s an experience I’ll forever be grateful for. It has availed me a whole lot of opportunity and has exposed me positively. Most importantly, it has taught me to wake up everyday with thoughts of how to be kind to the next person. In Rotary, we have what we call ‘Paul Harris Fellow’. This is earned when somebody donates a thousand dollars to the Rotary foundation which in turn spreads the money to the needy in different parts of the world. Can you picture me touching the life of a child crying in Tanzania? The beauty of it is: that child is benefiting from my money without ability to say ‘thank you’ to me. What can be more fulfilling?


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