POVERTY TAUGHT ME HOW TO ASSIST OTHERS â€“ DAME AKOGUN
Glamorous Dame Tuminingoningim (Tumi) Akogun, is the wife of the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Honourable Tunde Akogun. The 'Dame' recently clocked 60, yet does not look it. But at this diamond period in her life, one would rightly say she has seen it all.
Having gone through the pains of poverty, married to a retired army officer turned politician, educated outside the shores of Nigeria, mingled with Nigerian first ladies such as Dame Patience Jonathan, Turai Yar'Adua, Maryam Abacha, the late Stella Obasanjo, Maryam Babangida and other eminent Nigerian women such as her darling friend, Her Excellency, Mrs Remi Tinubu, surely, she has seen it all.
From the lessons taught her by 'Mr Poverty,' she has being at the forefront of extending a helping hand to the needy, most importantly her immediate community, Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency with her pet project 'Ningim Hope Alive Foundation' without the aid of any donor agencies, except her meagre resources. And she has vowed never to relent on this. She believes that 'every woman whose husband occupies a position of authority, has the challenge of complementing her man in rendering service to the people.'
For this singular act, she took the bull by the horn by declaring a three-day free medical delivery and free cancer and healthy lifestyle awareness campaign from December 10 to 12, 2009, and at the end of the day, well over 500 patients were screened on the dreaded Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and over half the number, of cervical cancer. And she said, 'the event gave me great joy that I was able to make people have hope again in life; people who taught because of funds, they would not be able to live again.
We carried out enlightenment on radio and television, sent out fliers that people should come with whatever ailment. Due to the number of patients that turned up, we had to even extend it by one day and some women who had some minor ailments and who had hitherto given up hope because of the meager amounts they were charged at the hospital, we gave them hope. One was asked to part with fifteen thousand naira for surgery at the hospital but went home and gave up hope because she could not even raise one thousand. I was able to get over twenty of them in that group and they were operated upon. I really felt happy,' she said.
She didn't stop at that. She has also been giving out school fees, including WAEC, NECO and JAMB fees to students whom she normally picks from different wards. In the past, she gave out money but unfortunately, some of them misused the money by buying dresses and make-ups, or whatever rather than the original plan. That not withstanding, she has not relented on her mission since she believes that 'when you train a child, you are giving the person an opportunity to live a better life in future.'
Is she limiting her charitable work to Akoko-Edo alone? No. After the ground breaking ceremony, she has also been to the health centre at Kuje, Abuja, precisely on April 3, 2010, where she gave out worm expellers. According to Akogun, 'I decided to extend a helping hand to them since we live in Abuja. A doctor at the Ministry of Health, told me that if children are not well-fed, their formative life will be malfunctioned and would equally lack intelligence. I thought it was something good. That motivated me,' she enthused.
With her mission of empowering women, youths and children, she had bought sewing machines, hair-dryers, complementing her husband's work who have equally given out motor bikes to youths who have no source of livelihood. 'From time to time, I go to the village, the constituency and I make sure that I give money, rappers and foodstuffs to people who are not in anyway empowered so that they don't lose out completely. Even though I haven't got any donor agency yet, from my little resources, I make sure I assist others, encourage them to live better lives. Whatever I have, I share with them,' she said.
Speaking on her drive, the President, Retired Armed Forces and Police Officers Wives Association (RAFPOWA), Lagos Chapter, said, 'my motivation rests on the fact that as a child, my father died when I was four months old and it wasn't easy. My mum was not that educated, not employed and was just a petty trader. Sending us to school was tough for her. Growing up was on a difficult side for me as a person. Any opportunity I have to assist someone who is facing the same predicament I was as a young person, I feel I should go out and help, showing them that I once went through the same fate but out to assist them now.'
Her husband, she said, facilitated her schooling abroad and for this, she is eternally grateful. According to Dame Akogun, 'when the army sent my husband abroad for a course, he insisted that I accompany him to England. Being the first to arrive England, he secured admission for me in Pitmans College. As soon as he secured the admission, paid the school fees, he asked me to join him, which was very encouraging. It boosted my educational background quite a lot and when I returned to the country, I got a better job,' Akogun remarked.
Her home state, Rivers, she said, is her next port of call. But she further said she started from Edo because she is now an indigene of Edo state, Aiyegunle, in Akoko-Edo to be precise. 'Whatever I want to do, I have to begin from there,' she also remarked. Politics! 'I normally don't like politics,' was her remark. 'I am doing everything I am doing to support my husband.'
For the rest of her life, Lady Akogun wants to enlarge her work of assisting the less privileged in our society so that she would be better fulfilled. And she said she wants to promote the work of God in Nigeria. 'I am not doing enough for Christ. I wish I would wake up one day and build a Church for Christ. I want to give back to God whatever he has given to me.'
Dame Akogun, even though many do misunderstand her, is an easy going person, a happy individual who does not like trouble. She is grateful to her circle of friends whom she has mingled with and had also shown her love and affection. For these, she remains grateful to the Late Stella Obasanjo, Remi Tinubu, Turai Yar'Adua and Dame Patience Jonathan. According to her, 'I see them and I pick so many things from them. Hajia Turai Yar'Adua was all out to assist the sick and the poor and most importantly in the area of cancer. I have also gone out with the Wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan and I saw how she feeds the poor from time to time.
She goes to the Church, gathers women, the handicapped, interacts with them, feeds them and gives them foodstuffs to take home. She goes to the prison yard, feeds the inmates, gives them food and other gifts, interacts with them as well. Such things touched me and I said if I have the opportunity, I will do the same. So, from time to time, you see me doing what I am doing. Mrs Tinubu also does a similar thing through her foundation. I like people who have something to offer to the poor and to those around them. In five years time, I see my foundation doing great, ' she concluded.