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Orphans, prostitutes, widows, drug addicts besieged my office under the bridge to seek succor — Elishama Ideh

• Preaches new Nigeria founded on patriotism, justice

By Mike Ebonugwo

Though President Muhammadu Buhari lightheartedly suggested that the request of female parliamentarians, who visited him, to concede the position of Vice President to them in the 2019 polls was a threat to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo position, there was no denying the fact that there was merit in the women’s demand which deserve immediate attention.

•Dr. Elishama Ideh

This is because even before the female parliamentarians made their pitch, there are many women who are primed to take the gauntlet by taking to the campaign trail to actualise their political aspirations, women who are motivated not by greed as is presently the case, but inspired to use political office to render selfless service.

One of them is a certain Dr. Elishama Ideh, an unsung heroine who had over the years quietly made a name for herself as a philanthropist.   Driven by patriotism and love to serve her country and humanity, it was not long before this highly accomplished, but God-fearing businesswoman developed a passion for social entrepreneurship which has been her forte. And, indeed, for the past two decades, her life has been defined by the vision and passion to serve society by readily offering a lifeline to the less-privileged, especially the downtrodden and other socially vulnerable persons in Lagos and other parts of the country.

It is an attitude she recommends to other Nigerians, especially those in leadership positions. And today she is the unique selling point of this leadership attribute as it has gained for her the attention of both the local and international media in the wake of the many opportunities she have had to speak on varying issues bordering on business and human development.

Today, the popular feeling among her supporters, admirers and hero-worshippers is that the time has come for her expand the scope of her humanitarian efforts or social entrepreneurship to politics in order to reach a greater number of people in need.

Against the backdrop of the prevailing misgovernance and leadership crises, she says she has been challenged to step forward to make the necessary difference by bringing the kind of humanitarian leadership that has been missing in this country for a long time.

While very much aware of the celebrated exploits of many women before her and the challenge to make a name for herself along that path, Ideh says she is acutely more concerned about how to deal with the burden for national rebirth.   At this point in Nigeria’s history, she has decided to take responsibility for the birth of a new Nigeria under a unified vision, mission and mandate to make this nation an enviable patch of paradise in the global space. This is the summary of her leadership leanings – orchestrating unmissable change.

Her core advocacy is a New Nigeria unequivocally founded on patriotism and justice; prerequisites for building a sustainable and united Nigeria. In recent years, she has repeatedly championed the dignity of our national flag and the need for it to be the rallying point for Nigerians as well as the symbol of our unity.

This has already cost her millions of naira partnering individuals and organisations across the different religious groups and tribes in a bid to find a common ground for a prosperous Nigeria – a Nigeria where peace and justice reign, as expressed in the national anthem.

The enormity of national rebirth is never lost on a woman of Ideh’s make. The sophistication of her mind infrastructure and the sheer audacity of a fiery and humane reformer unite behind her noble ambition to usher Nigeria into a new day.

Her words: “Nigeria will cease to be a potential. It will become one of the most pleasurable experiences on earth”. With these words she has indicated the direction to go towards 2019 where, with every Nigerian citizen, the work for a truly great Nigeria begins.

The only girl in the family, Elishama was the centre of attraction and affection of not only her parents, but by her siblings as well. Her primary education at Mayflower Primary School Ikenne, Ogun State, and secondary at the Federal Government Girls College, FGGC, Onitsha, before proceeding to study Mass Communication at Bowie State College, Maryland, US equipped her to face the challenges she carved out for herself. On her return from the US, she went into business and was doing wonderfully well. In the course of time she succumbed to the powerful desire to go into social work.

It began as a passion and vision for helping the poor on the streets. In the beginning,   Ideh did not envisage she would also be rescuing and giving new lease of life to Area Boys (street urchins) as an addition to her social responsibility. She was initially just focusing on the abandoned, the destitute, orphans, prostitutes and widows.

“But it got to a season in my work on the street, that we now desired an office where people could meet with me for counseling because, prior to that time, we would just carry our chairs and tables to the streets and under the bridges and that was where my office was as we moved along in the work,” she said.

“But by the time an office space was procured in Ikeja, Lagos, no fewer than 150 Area Boys, drug addicts and drug sellers besieged the place to seek succour. “That scared me to death because I was wondering why it should be an area occupied by armed robbers, drug dealers, miscreants that have to be our office location in Ogba area. Anyway, by faith, I stepped out to do the assignment. But on my first attempt to enter the land, my workers were beaten black and blue for trying to come in to possess the land.

“This particular land happened to be a property I was working on before the Lord handed me the responsibility of taking care of this section of the society. I would feed and organise counselling for the Area Boys, repentant armed robbers, drug dealers that were reformed and changed their ways.

“My team and I made sure we come down to their level; we organised a setting in order to catch their attention. The sort of music we play is the sound they are used to. We bring gospel music to them in the form of apala, juju, reggae, alanta, generally street sound but imbibed with anointing of the Holy Ghost, then we would feed them, clothe them, identify what brought them out to the street.

“The ones we can reconcile with their families, we reconcile, and the ones we can we give a new lease of life, we give a lease of life. Some people think Area Boys are completely wasted people. This happens to be the people God called me to minister to and we have recorded tremendous testimonies. We have watched the lives of these young men transform dramatically in a very short space of time. Most of them have been empowered economically and are doing well”.

Ideh also gave account of her reaction when confronted by the stark realities of poverty. “In Nigeria right now, poverty is on the increase, and this is because we’ve failed to understand that poverty arises as a result of the mismanagement and failure to properly harness our God-given natural resources and the insensitivity of past and present government to the welfare of its people”, she said.

“Thus, I have been making conscientious efforts to educate leaders of churches on the importance of getting involved in the polity of the nation and why the walls of the church needed to be broken so that the light and the salt of the earth, which they have been called to be, will be extended to the exteriors of the nation since only righteousness can exalt a nation”.

 


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