Sports Policy in Kwara State Has Been Used as an Instrument to Divert Attention of Our Youths from Social Vices” -Perm Sec, Youths & Sports Development, Asiwaju Ayobola Samuel

A born passionate giver, Lions Clubs District Governor, 404B2 Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation and the number one largest service club worldwide. Lion Asiwaju Ayobola Samuel, the Asiwaju of Koro Kingdom, who hails from Ekiti Local Government of Kwara State, rose to the position of Permanent Secretary in the Civil Service of Kwara State in October 2007 till date.  Presently, Samuel is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development and concurrently Women Affairs and Social Development.

He’s a graduate of Political Science ( from University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos. He is an administrator par excellence, call him a result- driven icon and also a philanthropist full of humility, you are not wrong, as these traits are implanted in him. The District Governor later proceeded to have his Master of Arts in Rural Development at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. Samuel is cultured and a responsible and responsive Nigerian who believes in touching lives with his 3ts’ time, talent and treasure. In this interview with BLESSING UMEBALI, a seasoned Journalist and the Media & Publicity Chairperson of the Lions Clubs District 404B2 Nigeria, Samuel gave his six months leadership report and duties as permanent secretaries. Enjoy the pieces.

It has been awe - inspiring service all through; can you tell us what has been responsible for the success these past quarters of your administration?
First and foremost, whatever modest achievements we have had can only be attributed to the help of God. The Bible says if Paul plants and Apolo waters, it takes the blessing of God for the efforts to yield good harvest. So, it can only be the hands of God in our affairs that have been largely responsible for our success.
Secondly, we have been able to achieve due to proper planning and meticulous execution of our plans. Thirdly, we have been able to go this far because of tremendous show of love for this administration by members. Furthermore, we have enjoyed a lot of support and amazing cooperation from our members.

So, how can you describe it?
 It can be described as a period used to review our activities and strategies, a period of consolidating on the activities carried out in the first quarter and to chart a new course for the remaining half of the year to be able to improve our service delivery in order to expand our reach and make more impact.

What are the challenges you encountered in discharging your duties as the District Governor, for this past six month of your tenure? 
 The first major challenge was indiscriminate dropping of members by some Clubs under the guise that they have not been forthcoming in terms of payment of dues and attendance of meetings and activities. The second challenge was paucity of funds because many Clubs were not fulfilling their financial obligations to the District. Following to this is the placing of many Clubs on financial suspension and threat of cancellation by the International Office in Oakbrook due to failure to settle their dues. Also, we faced the challenge of not reporting activities carried out by clubs to the appropriate quarters and in the media for publicity purpose. The implication of this is that we do so much but very little is known about our efforts.

Could you kindly itemize the community based activities or projects embarked upon for the past six months? 
With every sense of modesty, I can comfortably say that our achievements are so numerous that time and space constraints will not allow me to enumerate all but I will highlight a few very important ones. In August, 2017, we had a District Governor’s Public Presentation ceremony in Ilorin that was very successful, colourful and grandiose. It was well attended by important dignitaries from all walks of life. It also paid off in terms of income to the District. We have also; held two successful Cabinet meetings, which served as a platform for information sharing, getting feedback and contributions from those we are leading. Realising that a knowledgeable Lion is a better Lion, we stepped up our capacity building programme by conducting training activities that have further enriched the knowledge of our members.
On the side of impact, we have successfully carried out Projects that have impacted positively on the lives of the people. The most remarkable of them all was the free medical mission held in conjunction with Mercy International Medical Mission, an NGO based in Maryland, USA. In all, 3000 people enjoyed free blood pressure, eyes and diabetes screening and testing. About 1600 free eye glasses were distributed, while drugs were given out free to those who have eyes problem and those who are diabetic. In addition, 20 cataract surgeries were sponsored. As part of the package, dental screening was equally carried out on 300 people. Those in need of treatment, particularly, mouth washing had it done for free.
Other achievements include successfully observing special days, such as World Diabetes and Sight Days with the relevant activities that will benefit the less privileged. During the world sight Day, 40 glucoma surgeries were sponsored and not less than 100 White Canes were distributed. By and large, we have given priority to the implementation of the global five key challenge areas of Lions Clubs International (LCI). In addition, we have successfully marked the HIV / AIDS Day in December, 2017 with enlightenment rally, distribution of advocacy materials such as hand bill and fliers, and sensitization lecture. Furthermore, we broke a new ground by organizing the first Sickle Cell Programme in the history of the Multiple District.
It is also necessary to put on record, unprecedented success recorded during the Peace Poster Contest. We came 2nd and 3rd in the Competition involving the four Districts in the Multiple District. One of the remarkable achievements was the impressive outing during the recently concluded ISAAME Forum in Kolkata, India. We participated in the Project Bidding Activity among all the Districts in ISAAME and came out successfully with a cash prize of $3770. We can continue to roll out our numerous achievements but we are limited by time and space.

What are the futuristic plans for the remaining six months? 
From the benefit of hindsight from where we are coming from, our plans for the remaining part of our tenure is to review our strategies and focus more on where we have not done well enough. We will address the remaining two of the key challenge areas, which are Environmental protection and Paediatric cancer. We also plan to organize a Joint Districts Convention that will remain unbeaten in the history of similar event in Nigeria. The remaining six months will be used to rededicate ourselves to the service of our District and the less privileged.

Considering the volume of a Permanent Secretaries job, how do you marry these responsibilities as Perm Sec Sports and Youth Development on one hand, and that of the sister ministry, the Women Affairs?
Well, I do not think there is any magic to it, neither am I a super human being. The secret lies in ability to organize myself well, plan and manage my time properly. Secondly, I have competent line Directors that are good technocrats in their own rights. What I do is delegate responsibilities and follow up with proper monitoring to ensure that things are done correctly and timely. I also review the activities of the two Ministries daily to know which of them to give more attention to in a particular day.

What policies are in place right now to develop Sports and by extension the youths in Kwara?
As you may be aware, Sports and Youth development are intertwined. In most cases, if not in all cases, it is the youth that are seriously involved in sporting activities. To that extent, government has put in place a policy to encourage grassroots sports development. By this, Sporting competitions are encouraged right from the Primary to Secondary schools across all the Local Governments so that apart from engaging them, raw talents can be discovered early and nurtured in to future stars. The policy encompasses giving scholarships and other incentives to those who excel as encouragement.
Similarly, there is a Policy to encourage individuals to key in to sports funding as government alone cannot do it. Also, as a matter of deliberate policy, provision and timely maintenance of sporting facilities have been allocated a pride of place. This is to provide an avenue to practice and further develop them. In a nutshell, we have used our sports policy as an instrument to divert the attention of our youths from social vices such as cultism and drug abuse.

 In what ways have women been catered for in Kwara State?
 Women have been catered for in various ways. Women are very important in our Society and as such, their welfare cannot be toyed with. In the first place, most of the women in Kwara State are self employed either as a trader or as a farmer. One of their greatest challenges is access to capital to expand their businesses. To address this, the government established the Bureau of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, where they can go for loans at ridiculously low interest rate. Secondly, government has a lot of empowerment programmes for women. As part of this empowerment scheme, they are given sewing machines, grinding machines, hair dryers etc from time to time in form of assistance. They are also encouraged and supported to acquire a skill and empowered to earn a living by themselves.

Are there any special policies in place to take care of poor widows in the State?
Certainly yes, but not only widows also the single parents as well. Widows and single parents are among the most vulnerable groups. They are therefore, considered and taken care of in the policy for women generally. They are however, given priority in the implementation of the Policies.

The girl child falls within your ministry, what are you doing to ensure the development of the girl child in your state? 
The girl Child deserves special care. The first step the government took was to enact a law to protect the rights of the girl child. Under this law, the girl child should enjoy unfettered access to education. The girl child is protected against abuse, Child Labour and Trafficking. These laws enacted to guarantee the development of the girl child were not done for the sake of doing so but the implementation has been put on the front burners.

As the District Governor of Association of Lions Club, District 404B2 Nigeria, have your duties as perm sec of two ministries affected your role as a District Governor of the Lions?
The question is a pertinent one. No really. But let me say again that everything depends on getting me organized and ability to plan and manage my time well. To start with, don't forget that we have drawn our schedule of activities for the whole year. So, we know well ahead, when each event will come up so that I can arrange myself for it ahead of the time. Secondly, I have two deputies that constitute the DG team. We are indeed a team working together for a common goal. So, whenever it is tight for me, they are ever available to fill in the gap. In any case, such situations are few and far in between.

Sir, your organization has just concluded a programme for those with Sickle-cell, tell us more about it? 
The idea about having an activity on Sickle Cell derived from my personal experience as a parent that has gone through the agony of raising a sickle cell anaemia child. Incidentally, I found another Lion, Kemi Afuye, who also had a similar experience as a good partner. We therefore, decided to package a programme that will educate our yet to marry youths on the need to avoid rearing Sickle Cell Anaemia children as they could be expensive to manage and the experience could be harrowing. In a way, it was to be an advocacy programme. We also tried to procure and donate a TCD machine to LASUTH to help those who are already victims. The machine will cost N5 million. The fundraising effort is still ongoing. Again, we used the programme to mobilize drugs and medical equipment, which we donated to some of the sickle cell patients and the medical equipment were given to LASUTH. It is an ongoing activity.

Do you think District 404B2 has got enough membership, if no, how do you intend to drive for more members?
 Of course, the answer is no. As you know, the more we are, the more our reach and impact. So, definitely, we need by far more members. In pursuance of this imperative, we have mapped out strategies to grow our membership as much as possible. First, we have been encouraging our members to at least bring in one new member annually. If this is done, we can double our membership annually. Secondly, at the recent Clubs Sustainability Committee meeting, one of our resolutions was to encourage every Club to organize a membership summit. By this, each Club will invite at least 10 non Lions to a meeting where they will educate them about the Association and what it is all about. It is supposed to be a platform to woo them to become members. Also, we have been using and we intend to continue to use our projects and activities in various states and communities to woo intending members. When we invite them to our activities and commissioning ceremonies, they will see practically what we are doing and that may encourage them to join us.