DESMOND UTOMWEN writes on some of the giant strides taken by Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire who clocks 60 years today
Chalse Caleb Colton, it was who said that, ‘In life, we shall find many men that are great, and some men that are good, but very few men that are both great and good’. Perhaps he had Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire in mind when he made that thoughtful observation many years back. Her greatness is never in doubt, yet her goodness is evident for she has the milk of human kindness flowing in her heart as exemplified by her sense and devotion to serving humanity. She is quite extraordinary, passionate, hardworking, tolerant, devoted, observant, diligent and committed to serving humanity with all her God given talents and every ounce of energy it has pleased providence to endow her with.
It is not surprising to many, who know her intimately and those who have kept a keen observation on her over the years. Many have indeed, recognized her invaluable participation and contribution to the advancement of humanity, have been adjudged as worth celebrating. She is a peace lover and stands for anything that will foster development.
Princess Orelope-Adefulire has for a long time been an agent of values, which seeks to temper the volatile temperaments and her untiring efforts at ensuring peace, which is a necessary pre-condition for development to grow. She has shown over the years by dint of hard work, collaboration and a unique sense of mission in every office she has held in close to three decades of public service, she has continued to tower with consistency, contagious optimism in ensuring that whatever task is assigned to her is carried out to the best of her abilities without attracting unnecessary attention to herself. She is a simple yet extremely productive personality.
As an inspirational leader, team player, selfless and resilient player in Nigeria’s political space, she has employed the use of warmth, wisdom and wit to engrave her name and style of accommodating all in the heart of the people. She doesn’t play politics of bitterness nor is she given to violence. Her traits have continued to pave the way for her steady rise since she joined partisan politics in 1992. Born on the 29th September, 1959 to the family of Prince Kareem-Laka of Akeja Oniyanru and Amore Ruling Houses of Lagos State, she has remained unswerving in the pursuit of an all-inclusive and better society. Perhaps her educational background with a diploma in Social Works and Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology has prepared and steadied her for the task she has undertaken in life.
The calm, amiable and focused princess is an astute politician and administrator par excellence, a trait not many are gifted with. She has continued to show that service to humanity is a calling for which she is born. Her trajectory and ascendancy is quite revealing. By the dawn of her career in politics, she was elected into the Lagos State House of Assembly to represent Alimosho Constituency I, where she creditably earned the respect of her colleagues and was subsequently elected as the Chairman, House Service Committee.
In 2002, she was appointed as Electoral Commissioner at the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commissioner. From 2003-2007, she was appointed Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs and was subsequently appointed to same position between 2007 and 2011. By 2011, she was elected the Deputy Governor of Lagos State and occupied the position till the end of the administration of His Excellency, Babatunde Raji Fashola in 2015.
Her brilliance and fierce determination for excellence as a culture in service delivery is evident and has since not waned within the intervening years. Rather, she has continued to carry out any and every assignment given to her to the best of her abilities. Her sterling qualities, perception and devotion to the best in her daily activities have made her a crisis manger of no mean repute. Ever ready, she is willing and always poised to serve and perhaps one could surmise that those were part of the qualities Mr. President spotted in her by appointing her Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs), the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.
By her role in the Presidency, she is saddled with the coordination and responsibility of implementation of the SDGs, providing strategic direction for the attainment of the Goals at the national and sub-national levels. On the saddle, it has been by her dedication, perseverance, hard work, ingenuity and constant willingness to go the extra-mile that has enabled the initiative to continue to gain traction within the circles of both the government and the private sector. A caring and affectionate personality, she is concerned that in life, the poor and vulnerable are always protected against the harsh condition of living by providing access to justice and respect for fundamental human rights.
It was in this discernibly but bold move that she signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU with the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), in October 2017, to help foster conducive atmosphere for Goals 16 & 17 of the 2030 Agenda which encouraged partnership for the implementation and achievement of the development framework. Her resolute commitment is not in doubt having served in various positions in the past, she said, ‘my experience as a commissioner and deputy governor in Lagos State revealed monumental oppression, deprivation and wholesale abuse of the underprivileged, the indigent and vulnerable group. This arises simply because of lack of social financial capacity to protect and enforce rights when trampled upon. The situation is even worse due to prevailing economic environment. This is one of the motivating factors for partnership to provide opportunity for stakeholders to come together to mitigate, defend and protect the vulnerable segment of the society’.
Princess Orelope-Adefulire’s impeccable achievements as evident in her unwavering commitment to chat a strategic pathway for the attainment of the SDGs and her passion to improve the lives of the poor and vulnerable would once again earn her a re-appointment as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SSAP-SDGs) by President Muhammadu Buhari in his second term (in 2019). A position, she currently occupies.
As an accomplished public servant, administrator, consummate grassroots politician and an advocate of the rights of the girl-child, their education and full development over the years, Princess Orelope-Adefulire has implemented many women economic empowerment programmes. She co-sponsored the Child Right’s Law as well as the Domestic Violence Law as deputy governor of Lagos State.
She also as part of her outstanding performance established 22 functional skill acquisition centres for the unemployed young men and women, while a 176-bed Transit Home was also constructed for victims of domestic violence and abuse. The centres have trained and empowered thousands of young men and women to be economically self-reliant and independent over the years. She also promoted routine medical screening for women, supported the Girl Child Education Initiative and also built the First Multipurpose Home/Clinics for children with Disabilities in Lagos State to provide succour to the parents especially the mothers that have children with disabilities.
Popularly called ‘Iya Alanu’ (cheerful giver) and always ready to help, she has introduced several poverty alleviation programmes and has received several awards locally and internationally. She was awarded the International Public Servant of the Year 2007 award by the Scottish Widows; a UK-based NGO and bagged the 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.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (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.
She was also in 2018, honoured with an award by the International Women’s Society (IWS) in recognition of her efforts in the 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.
The recognitions is a re-affirmation of her life of donation and service to the advancement of humanity.
Princess Adefulire is happily married with lovely Children.
*Desmond Utomwen is a journalist and wrote from Abuja