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Florence ‘Cuppy’ Otedola, the Nightingale of Nigeria’s Northeast kids

…Otedola’s N5b record, Dangote’s wish when he passes on

By OMEIZA AJAYI

No fewer than 35,000 people have been reportedly killed since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency became active in the Northeaster states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

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According to Medicins Sans Frontiers MSF or Doctors without Borders, 1.8 million people are internally displaced, and 7.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across the three states, while around 230,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Other documents suggest that 1.3 million children have been forced to flee their homes from conflict in North East Nigeria while 3 million children cannot go to school, with many suffering from malnutrition and diseases.

It was in the midst of this situation that one of Nigeria’s foremost disc jockeys, Florence “Cuppy” Otedola, a.k.a DJ Cuppy visited Borno state on the invitation of Dangote Foundation.

The plight of the children in many of the displaced person’s camps forced Miss Otedola, through her charity, the Cuppy Foundation, to begin to create more awareness about the situation in the Northeast and the need to assist the people, especially the children.

Like Florence Nightingale who devoted her time to organizing care for the wounded during the Crimean War, Cuppy has shown her resolve to rewrite the stories of the victims of insurgency in the Northeast.

Being an ambassador of the United Kingdom Charity, Save the Children, Cuppy last Sunday in Abuja organized a Gold Gala, where her multi billionaire father and philanthropist, Mr Femi Otedola gave what has now been regarded as the largest single donation to a charitable cause in Nigeria. Mr Otedola in one fell swoop donated N5 billion to “Save the Children” of the Northeast.

At the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called on Nigerians irrespective of their wealth to contribute towards the upkeep and education of children displaced by insurgency in the Northeast.

“What will you be remembered for? No one ever remembers the number of houses, cars that anyone has. We do not need to be billionaires to start doing something. It is time for everyone of us to decide that we really can make a difference”, he said.

His position was re-echoed by Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who donated N100 million to the Cuppy Foundation, as well as Mr Femi Otedola whose donation of N5 billion remains one of the highest to a charitable cause in Africa.

In his keynote address, Osinbajo said despite the success of the federal government’s school feeding programme which has seen 9.3million school children being fed daily, the administration was still short of its target by about four million.

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Also speaking, Dangote who challenged wealthy Nigerians to donate to charitable causes, restated an earlier promise he said he had made to donate a large chunk of his wealth to charity before his transition.

He said; “We need more Nigerians to have a big heart to be giving back to the needy. Nigeria has been good to us and so we should not just leave everything to the government. Government has a lot of challenges. We also have challenges but we can still give. To whom much is given, much is expected. I keep praying that I give most of my money before I pass on”.

Otedola who was the Chief Host of the event spoke through one of his daughters, Tolani who announced the donation of N5 billion to the Cuppy Foundation.

Addressing the gathering, Cuppy said she has a great vision for the country, and appreciated her father for all his support to charitable causes. She was quick to acknowledge the rigours of putting the high-profile event together, an assured her father that her wedding would be less stressful.

She said; “This is a very emotional night for me. It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the first-ever Gold Gala hosted by the Cuppy Foundation. Twenty six year old, soon to be 27 year in few hours. I am so humbled that you have taken time out of your busy schedules to be here. People have flown from around the world and the country and I am so grateful”.

“I stand before you in my capacity as an ambassador for Save the Children. But, most of all, a daughter; a sister; a friend and a performing artiste to most of you. While many know me as DJ Cuppy, the Gelato Fanatic, I stand before you today as a young philanthropist with a big vision for our country, Nigeria.

“I would like to thank His Excellency, the Vice President for joining us tonight. Your presence has already made this a very special night for me. I pray you will stay and enjoy some Gelato, sir. To Mr Otedola, the Gelato King himself, don’t worry, my wedding would be smaller and less stressful”, she added with a touch of humour.

On her experience in Maiduguri, Cuppy said Save the Children has exposed her to a world she never imagined.

“I founded this Cuppy Foundation as a way of giving back to children. As many of you know, I am very passionate about what I do. And, through this foundation, I have contributed to many Nigerians; those with disabilities, visiting places around the country. I have also supported children through music,” she added.

“Save the Children has exposed me to a world I never imagined. However, nothing prepared me for my recent visit. I was able to visit Save the Children’s work in Maiduguri, Borno State. At their stabilization centre, the first child I met in the hospital was only two years old. She was so malnourished that she needed a blood transfusion.

“After then, I met more and more sick children dying, including a 16 year old mother who was also malnourished. Because of how serious this problem is, I was told that I was only meeting the lucky few who were able to make it to the medical centre. My heart broke and it is still broken as I stand.

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“Ever since that visit, my determination to save Nigerian children has grown. I have committed my time, my strength and my passion for this Gold Gala to help Nigerian children. I beg you all to join us in supporting the Save the Children cause. A quick note to all of you, I am happy to add extra zeros to any amount you want to donate.”

Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Foundation, Kevin Watkins lauded Miss Otedola for her efforts in changing the narrative in the Northeast.

The event had dignitaries including the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan who was represented, former senate president, Bukola Saraki; National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ogun state Governor, Dapo Abiodun, diplomats and other top government functionaries.

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