From Desmond Utomwen, Abuja
In yet recognition of her commitment to nation building and general improvement in socio-economic circumstances of humanity in a public service career spanning over 25 years, the Lagos State University will this Thursday conferred Honorary Doctor of Arts (Poverty Alleviation and Technology Incubation) Degree on Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals.
The conferment of the doctorate degree is a fitting honour for Orelope-Adefulire who began her political journey during the Third Republic with her election as a member of the Lagos House of Assembly to represent Alimosho Constituency 1, between Jan. 1992 and Nov. 1993, thus becoming the first female lawmaker in the State.
On Nigeria’s return to democracy, Princess Orelope Adefulire was in 2001 appointed Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission; a position she held until 2003 when she was appointed Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation by the former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Her achievements in her first term as commissioner earned her a reappointment into the position when former Governor Babatunde Fashola took over the reins of the government in Lagos. Her sterling performance further earned her elevation into the position of Deputy Governor of Lagos State between 2011 and 2015 during which she also proved her mettle as an administrator.
The passion of this Princess from a royal family in Lagos State for uplifting and offering succour to the vulnerable members of the society attracted the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari who in 2016 appointed her as his Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals.
As the head of Nigeria’s National Office saddled with the task of providing horizontal and vertical inter-governmental coordination; multi-stakeholders’ partnership, resource mobilization; as well as robust advocacy and communications for the SDGs in Nigeria, Princess Orelope-Adefulire had in the past five years worked with other stakeholders to lay the groundwork for acceleration of the achievements of the global goals in the country.
With the support of President Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders, the OSSAP-SDGs under her leadership has also been delivering on brick and mortar projects – the strategic interventions aimed at advancing the achievement of the 17 global goals in Nigeria.
Indeed, the Office just commissioned a 100-Bed Mother and Child Centre in Ifon, Ondo State. Similar facilities have either been commissioned or waiting for commissioning in Lagos, Kwara, Kano, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue, Abia, Kogi States and Oyo States.
These are complemented by other 80-Bed Prototype Hospitals also being established across the country as well as refurbishment of health facilities among others. The strategic intervention in the health sector are directly linked to the achievement of SDG-3 on ‘Quality Health and Well-being for all’ and other cross-cutting SDGs and to help tackle the problems of high prevalence of maternal and child mortalities in the country.
In the same vein, OSSAP-SDGs is also working with the Federal Ministry of Education, subnational governments, the Governors’ Forum and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to tackle the problems of out of school children in Nigeria.
Also, just recently and in line with the objectives of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire led SDGs Office also donated a 208-bed Model Transit facility aimed at supporting and providing lifelong skills to empower women and girls who have suffered abuse and domestic violence to stand on their feet economically and meet the demands of everyday life to Ekiti State. In addition to this, the Office is also implementing many programmes and initiatives singularly or in partnership with its partners to empower Nigerian youths and women in various parts of the country.
In this vein, the Office recently commissioned a Skills Acquisition Centre designed to help address issues of poverty and unemployment as well as jumpstart a surge in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in Ile-Oluji community, Ondo State. A similar skill acquisition centre has been commissioned in Benue State while the construction of others is going on across the country. And as part of her ensuring that no one is truly left behind, OSSAP-SDGs is about to commission the 200 houses it built for persons displaced by insurgency in Borno State among other similar on-going projects designed to give succour to the people of Northeast Nigeria.
The fact is Princess Orelope-Adefulire’s has always approached any assignment she is saddled with at any particular time with passion and determination to bring about positive impact in the lives of the people, especially vulnerable members of the society.
In this vein, she has successfully carved a niche for herself with her devotion to activities designed for empowerment and development of the youth and the womenfolk over the years.
She is an unrepentant advocate for the girl-child, especially on issues related to their welfare, protection against abuse, education and development. Princess Orelope-Adefulire demonstrated her commitment to development of youths and alleviation of poverty with implementation of initiatives and programmes aimed at protecting and empowering them as commissioner and deputy governor.
As Commissioner for Women Affairs, Orelope-Adfulire co-sponsored the Child Right’s Law as well as the Domestic Violence Law in Lagos State, the first of such laws to be enacted in Nigeria. Her quest for empowerment of the vulnerable members of the society resulted in establishment of 22 functional skill acquisition centres that have over the years continue to impart knowledge that have enabled thousands of young men and women to be economically self-reliant and independent.
She also constructed a 176-bed Transit Home for victims of domestic violence and abuse while also promoting routine medical screening for women and supporting the Girl Child Education Initiative.
She built the First Multipurpose Home/Clinics for children with Disabilities in Lagos State to provide succour to parents, especially the mothers who have children with disabilities. Her disposition to help others without regard to religion, ethnic background and other extraneous considerations over the years earned her the appellation of ‘Iya Alanu’ (cheerful giver).
Her efforts to help alleviate poverty have been recognized with many awards in and outside of Nigeria. She was awarded the International Public Servant of the Year 2007 award by the Scottish Widows; a UK-based Non- Governmental Organisation and was also the recipient of Lagos State Man of the Year award in 2009.
She received the Daisey George Award 2010 in USA as an advocate of children’s protection and development. She was also in 2018, honoured with an award by the International Women’s Society (IWS) in recognition of her efforts at empowerment and defence of rights of women, youth and children. Based on her contributions towards the attainment of Goal 8 and 10 of the SDGs, Princess Adejoke was on May 10, 2019 inducted as a fellow of the global membership platform of the Association of Business Executives, ABE in United Kingdom.
She is also a fellow of the Anglican Diocese of Lagos West and recipient of Award of recognition from Anglican Church of Resurrection. The SSAP-SDGs is also a recipient of the Guinness World Records for the most children reading aloud with an adult at a single location, which she achieved while reading with 4,222 school children in 2011.
The Honorary Doctor of Arts (Poverty Alleviation and Technology Incubation) conferred on her by LASU is therefore another bright feather on her cap (or is it gele?) and a fitting recognition for her dedication and work devoted to improving the lot of humanity over the years.
I congratulate this uncommon Princess on this honour, especially as I know that the Honourary Degree will spur her on to do even more for humanity.
Desmond Utomwen is a journalist, based in Abuja