FREEPRESS — The CEO of Jeekreni and Founder of Support Our Troop, a non-governmental organisation taking care of the needs of the soldiers on the war-front and their loved ones, Mrs. Funmi Ogbue, spoke with Yemi Akinsuyi on motivation, relating with military personnel and workplace efficiency, among other issues. Excerpts:
Mrs. Funmi Ogbue’s name may not ring a loud bell in the ears of some Nigerians, especially those who have not had any reason to come in contact with this CEO of Jeekreni Ltd and the Founder and Executive Director of Support Our Troops (SOT) foundation.
However, she certainly has delved into different aspects of living including her recent NGO, which is taking care of military personnel on the war front as well as their loved ones. She is also into taking care of the widows and children of those who lost their lives while fighting for the sovereignty of the nation.
Speaking recently on the SOT, which one would have thought should be handled by not mere men but those who have tasted war in their life time, Ogbue said her military background has helped in shaping her thought and given her the boldness to delve into such venture.
“The military like you said, historically, was not an area women delve into or even undertook. But in my case and in two reasons: my father was in the army so I grew up around military people and I became familiar, I wouldn’t say not scared of them because it is really possible not to be, in all considering that military people can be quite fierce.
“But I grew up around them; I have a lot of cousins, some very good friends, who are in the military. But I think more importantly because President Goodluck Jonathan, through the singular directive that women should be allowed into the officers’ cadre of the NDA, has made it a bit more possible for women to be in the military and to get to the top. To her, “we have people like Admiral Hotonu who was the first Vice Admiral in the Navy. So it is becoming slowly something that women are getting involved in.
“But having said that, against the backdrop of the current situation in the country where we have most of the citizenry coming out to criticise the military to say they are not doing enough to protect them, we felt that it was imperative for us to rally support them, for us to let people realise that this is not a territory that we should play with.
“I lived in Liberia for two years and I know how very quickly things can degenerate. So for me, I thought it was important that people realise that it is either you stand against terror or you stand in support of your military. So that is why we started the foundation. And we felt that we have got to do a lot of communication. So the largest part of our work is communication letting people realise the important of information to the military, winning the heart and mind of the citizenry in support of the military and the efforts that they are making to quell Boko Haram and all the other insurgents or terror groups that are operating in the country.
Speaking on the strides of the foundation, the mother of three was also forth-coming. She said: “Since we started in September 2014, we have had two major activities. The first one was that we have launched a massive care campaign to celebrate every little success we have achieved so far where the military people do something heroic every day. So we launched a massive care campaign to communicate and let people realise that the military are making huge success. And they are putting their lives on the line and going to war under conditions that a lot of us cannot. So we did that and that is on-going.
“So we produced a documentary and we have a big social media drive. We also produced a lot of merchandise and I will show you some of them so that people with their outward appearance, visibly show support for the armed forces. So that was the first thing that we did. The other thing that we did is that we gave out school kits to orphanages, children who have lost their father and mother as a result of insurgent actions. And we gave food, bags of rice to the widows. And we reached all the people without anyone hearing it.
“And the next thing that we did was to launch a morale boosting kit drive so that we can send basic supplies to the soldiers that are on the war front. So we have got the kits sitting right now in the Army hierarchy. Once they approve it, we deploy them and send them off.
“The other thing that we have done is that we initiated a study into the medical side of things. What are the needs? We know that the military hospitals are there and they are treating the wounded soldiers but we know that it is not possible for them to do everything. So we are doing a need analysis, what do they need in addition, how can we help, so we will now go and get grant or secure funding to be able to provide their needs”, she adds.
On the issue of funding for her activities, Ogbue said, “We don’t have a sustainable funding mechanism but we are doing this to let people know these are our programmes, can you give us money? And we have money coming here and there, one guy from Facebook page gave us N50,000, Exxon Mobile gave us N1,000,000, Tunde Ayeni gave us N25,000,000, one guy as a result of us doing a drive at the bank gave us N50. Chief of Defence Staff when we paid a courtesy call on him, gave us N500,000, the Chief of Navy Staff gave us N250,000.
“It is not lots of money but we make sure that whatever we get we use it to impact somebody’s life in one way or the other. And we try and do it in partnership with the administration so that we don’t give the wrong people.”, she added.
Although the NGO does not supply equipment for the military personnel, Ogbue said they supply very simple things like toothpaste, food, soap, and water. It supplied 3,000 books to their children in partnership with books for Africa project and computers to military schools, laptops and desktops.
Combining her career with being a wife and mother is a thing of interest to this middle-aged woman, who said everybody around her have been pillars of support for her.
“My husband is a member of board of trustees. He supported our troops foundation registered in the UK and he is the trustee of that one. He got a lot of contact with the international NGOs and he is the CEO of UBA in the UK and he has a lot of corporate friends and he is able to inform them to let them know what we are doing. And we are working through him with Help for Hero, a Foundation”, Ogbue noted.
The mother of three did not mince words when she was asked what could be the cause of the various problems we are currently facing in the country.
“I think the problem we have now is with the youth, and it is lack of vision, personal vision. When we were growing up, you read a lot, you saw in books a lifestyle that you would aspire to and then parental guidance, parents telling you what to find if you behave in this manner you are going to end here, if you behave in this manner, you are going to end here.
“People are not reading enough. So if you don’t read, how are you going to build a vision for yourself? How are you going to dream about the future that you want? And if you are not dreaming about what you want, you are not seeing your role in achieving it.
Growing up in the Barracks could be as fun and regimented as people would naturally view it, but to this middle-aged lady, it was much more than that as she was not exposed to a fun-filled lifestyle until much later parts of her growing up.
“It was a very happy childhood. I was a very big tom boy. I would climb up the trees, fall in the gutter and so I ran around a lot with my brother in Lagos and Kaduna and all the barracks we stayed so children would come out to play. I had never been to a party or anything like that maybe till I was 21years and it was a very sheltered life. So I really didn’t see the world outside of the barracks. So when I came out I didn’t really understand what people were talking about.
Supporting the Nigerian troops is another passion that has driven this woman to the point of committing all she can afford into ensuring that the military and other security personnel facing the heat from the insurgency are well taken care of as well as their family members.
“We support our troops and the time we started it people said it didn’t make sense, the military people are so bad, they are not heroic, they are cowards, and they don’t have equipment. And I said no, this is not my focus. What I am interested in is what is good about what we are doing and we focused on that and make a lot of noise about it and before you know what is happening everybody wants their story told, everybody wants to see more good coming out of that thing, so it sort of permeates.”
One aspect of human life Ogbue could not just ignore is women empowerment. She would rather work and support women to rise to the top than to just allow men to keep pushing them to the kitchen.
“I think for women, I think it is important that they work and they work very hard. You have to be a good role model for your children. The way our mothers were is the way we have to be. I don’t know anybody that would tell you that the mother did not teach her how to sit.
“We just have to retrace our steps. Hard work, children need to learn those values missing from our society into them, it is very important that we restore them”.
“For the young people, like I said, it is sort of hard work and deciding for yourself what is my personal vision, what is my dream for my future, for myself and then looking for people who can help you looking for things, who can help you seek them out. Don’t wait to be told or to be called upon, seek them out”, Ogbue added. (Thisday)
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