For the first female architect in Lagos State and founder, Dada Marquis Foundation, the day she won N2 million on the celebrity edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show, would remain unforgettable.
Marquis, whose architectural works include some major skyscrapers in Lagos, opens up on her Foundation, challenges and sundry other issues. Enjoy it.
Tell us briefly about yourself
My name is Dada Marquis. I am the founder of Dada Marquis Foundation. I graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I am the first female architect in Lagos State. Some of my notable works as an architect include the Lagos State governor’s house, and major skyscrapers in Marina, Lagos.
When did you start the Dada Marquis Foundation?
The Dada Marquis Foundation was officially registered in 2010. I started it because I wanted to give back to the society in my own little way, based on my experience. I lost my father when I was about to get into the university. I was able to pay for my first year in the university, using my share of inheritance but I was stranded in the second year. Someone gave me a cheque to pay for my second year but the cheque bounced. I was later told by the university authorities that a certain British lady, whose name I did not even know had established a scholarship scheme for students having financial challenges in getting through school. I was able to graduate with the help of this woman whom I never met. So, I believe I owe it to the society to also provide help.
What challenges have you faced running the Foundation?
The NGO started out with a vision to provide affordable housing for graduates who are just trying to find their feet. However, I changed the direction of the project when I discovered that the community had more pressing needs – access to quality education and medical help. Instead of the housing scheme, a hospital is now under construction. The part of the Foundation that caters to educational needs through after school classes, also gives me joy. We have a system in place where children in the community are tutored after school. I am also willing to give the state government some parts of the land to build a secondary school. The children from there have to travel all the way down to a neighbouring community to get secondary school education.
However, at the outset, a major challenge I faced was with the ‘Omo Onile’ (land grabbers). They kept badgering me to pay one fee or the other. We were eventually able to resolve and reach a consensus through the help of some community leaders. They made them realise they had more to gain from the project.
How do you cope financing a project of this magnitude?
So far, I have been single handedly financing the project, with support from my ex-husband and children. I also got donation from former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, but now I need help from individuals and establishments to complete the project because funding is now a major challenge that we have. That’s why the support provided by Mr. Olu Akinlabi through his company, Ultima Limited is really timely. The winnings on their programme will go a long way! But at the same time, I am calling on construction companies and building material manufacturing companies like Nigerite, Julius Berger, and Dangote Cement etc. to further assist us.
To what extent would the N2 million won on the celebrity edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire help the Foundation?
Sincerely, this is the Lord’s doing. I started noticing God’s intervention when Mr. Olumide Akinlabi found time out to visit the site one early morning in February this year. He painstakingly assessed the project development and offered some pieces of advice. In fact, he was with me at the site for almost the whole day. Honestly, that gentleman is wonderful! Later, he gave me a date that the company’s crew would be visiting the facilities, and it happened just as arranged. I was scheduled for appearance on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show and it happened without any impediments. On my arrival at their office in Lekki, Lagos, the reception given me was warm and exceptional. I had thought I would be the only one to fight the ‘battle’ with the presenter, Frank (Edohor) but two intelligent people, Mr. Tosin Ajirire, Entertainment Editor, The Sun newspapers and Ms Alex Okoroji, an actress, were organised to assist me on the hot-seat and we won N2 million. So, when you look at everything, you would agree with me that just as I’ve said earlier, there has been the Lord’s involvement in the whole arrangements. May God bless all the hands that have contributed to this success!
This project will definitely outlive you, what plans do you have for its sustainability and continuity?
Although, I have asked God to grant me 17 more years on earth (laughs), I have established a board of trustees to ensure that the Foundation continues when I am no longer here. I’m showing them the ropes and they understand the vision. I believe they will be able to continue. They are currently in charge of the housing scheme allocations.