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MOMENTOUS EVOLUTION OF THE COMMITTEE OF WIVES OF LAGOS STATE OFFICIALS

Tayo
Ogunbiyi

The Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials, COWLSO,
was founded by the Late Mrs. Olufunmilayo Johnson, wife of the first Military
Administrator of Lagos State, General Mobolaji Johnson. The objective was to
bring wives of Lagos State Government officials such as Governor, Deputy
Governor, National and State Assembly members, Honorable Commissioners, Special
Advisers, Permanent Secretaries, GMs, DGs, Heads of MDAs, Local Government
Administrators, etc together under one umbrella to discuss issues of mutual
interests.

Having been waning for some time, the body was
rejuvenated by Senator Oluremi Tinubu while she was the First Lady of Lagos
State. Imbued with a good knowledge of the vision and mission of the
organization, Senator Tinubu put in place various strategies that led to the
resurgence of the body in Year 2000. Under her distinguished leadership, all
wives of the State officials were mobilized to complement efforts of the State
government in the provision of essential infrastructure for Lagos residents.
Focus was mainly set on construction of recreation centers and gardens across
the state to promote the culture of good family life among family through
embracing a culture of relaxation in serene centers.

Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s passion for the aged,
especially retirees who have spent their productive years serving the country,
greatly influenced her vision of setting up a Retirement Villa in the State.
When one considers the gross neglect that retirees usually suffer in Africa,
the ideal behind the illustrious senator’s vision will be better appreciated.  Though the vision of constructing the
Retirement Villa was fully realized during the tenure of Senator’s Tinubu’s predecessor,
Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, it is to the credit of the leadership and members of
COWSLO that the Committee has taught our political leaders an invaluable lesson
about what continuity in governance is all about.

Under the leadership of Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, the
focus of the body shifted to include regular sponsorship of free medical
screening and treatment for Cervical and Breast Cancer. This was done across
the State, thereby giving vulnerable members of the society access to quality
health care. Consequently, many residents of the State were saved the stress
and burden usually associated with certain sicknesses and diseases. It could,
thus, be rightly affirmed that COWLSO’s medical intervention in this direction
was a life saving enterprise.  

Presently, COWLSO have initiated a number of carefully
selected health projects to complement the State government’s efforts at
reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality. The body is concerned
about the good health and wellbeing of mothers and children, in line with the
Sustainable Development Goalson the health of
citizens. A few of the projects that have been commissioned include upgraded
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, Lagos; and neo-natal hearing
screening equipment. The
hearing project focused mainly on the distribution of hearing aids to children
and adults with hearing impairment as well as provision of free surgical
intervention for patients with enlarged thyroid.

The necessity to source for funds to implement its projects
devoid of public funds brought about the introduction of the annual National
Women’s Conference, NWC, which was an initiative of Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
Money received as conference registration fees for participants including money
from sponsors formed the totality of funds used for COWLSO projects. The first
edition of the COWLSO NWC was held in 2001 with the theme: The Virtuous Woman.

 Ever
since, the conference has grown in leaps and bounds. In 2015, COWLSO chose “Relevance
in Economic Turbulence” as the theme of that year’s NWC. In 2016, COWLSO held its 16th Conference,
which ran from October 24 to October 26, under the theme: “Strong Family,
Strong Nation”. The 17th edition of the Conference with the theme:
‘She Creates, She Transforms’, was a befitting celebration of the perseverance,
deftness and resourcefulness of women and their outstanding contributions
towards nation building.

The 18th edition of the Conference which was
held between Tuesday 23rd and Thursday 25th October, at
the Eko Hotel and Suites
under the theme:  “Strengthening our
Collective Impact” had in attendance over 3000 participants from across the
world. The focus of the theme is an examination
of the collective impact of women coming together to act as one. In other
words, it focused on the advantage that is derivable in numbers.

At the
event, seasoned resource persons engaged participants on various issues as they
affect the well being of women, their career and their families. Some of the topics
treated at the Conference include ‘Living a Life of Purpose’, ‘Purpose of
Marriage’, ‘Planning for Retirement’ and ‘Parenting Digital Children’. The
topics were tailored towards the advantages derivable when women act together,
as against when they act individually.

One of the major highlights of the
three-day conference was the Inspirational Woman of The Year Award, often given
to a woman of impact, generally acknowledged in the society, and certificates
of appreciation would also be given to individuals and organizations for their
long-standing partnership and support for COWLSO. The Conference,
which was declared closed by Governor Abubakar
Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, is,
no doubt, another significant moment in the annals of the organization.

It
is important to commend
efforts of successive leadership of COWLSO towards resolutely ensuring that
they are well guided by the ideals and objectives behind the establishment of
the organization. It is particularly momentous to laud COWLSO’s founders for
envisaging such a robust vehicle for human capital development. It is to their
credit that, till date, the body remains focus on its major goals and
objectives.

It is hoped
that the COWLSO’s example will significantly instruct Nigerians on the need to
focus more on building enduring institutions. 
If
we are to achieve the Nigeria of our collective dream, we need to lay greater
emphasis on institution building. It is the institutions that we build that will
eventually truly define the quality of our lives. This is where COWSLO has
gotten it right over the years. This is why the fire keeps burning. 

The success of
COWLSO in the modern era should, however, not be surprising to keen followers
of events at the ‘Center of Excellence’, especially in the last 18 years. This
is because recent history of COWLSO is not really different from that of Lagos
since 1999. It is a story of transformation and progression.  The singular lesson from this is that we must
renew our values. We must act now to rebuild our nation by choosing morality,
high ethics and a value system that inspires.

These are the
inherent lessons that we must carefully draw from COWLSO’s momentous
progression. Another instructive lesson from COWSLO is that real and enduring
change requires collective involvement and hardwork.  

Ogunbiyi
is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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