Over five years ago, Ifeoma Anieze-Corona recognised the need to help the less fortunate in society. What began as a casual conversation turned into passion and purpose. Today, Ifeoma Anieze, from being a mere member of the Rotary Club, is now the 15th president of this charitable organisation, Rotary Club of Lekki Phase 1. Over the years, she has played an integral role in building the club from the foundation and has taken a lead role in providing a safe haven and support for many underprivileged folks. The Nigerian Xpress spoke to her at her installation, which also doubled as her birthday.
How do you feel today, having your investiture and birthday on the same day?
I feel great! It’s wonderful, a double celebration.
Was it deliberate?
Actually, yes and no; because there were certain people I really wanted to be part of my investiture but they were not going to be around. Unfortunately, one of them is still not around because he had travelled with his wife but he came back alone because she passed away. He told me he would be back at a certain time. So, I decided to move it to the 23rd of October, which coincides with my birthday. So, I really feel bad that they could not come.
What is your background and how long have you been in this charity role?
I am an indigene of Onicha-Olona in Aniocha North, Delta-State. I spent most of my childhood with my mum, as the last child and everything I know how to do today; I owe it to my mum. She was my greatest inspiration and I still miss her even as she is late. I went to the Federal School of Arts and Science, Lagos, and was later admitted to the University of Jos where I studied Theatre Arts. I worked as a Women Editor at the then weekly paper, “Today’s Newspaper”. I worked as a Public Relations Officer in Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) between 1987-1991, and later on for a foreign construction firm. Presently, I am the Executive Director of Finance and Administration of Reji Roma Limited.
You are obviously a career woman; what continues to keep you so involved in this organisation?
I believe that if I live without assisting the disadvantaged — be it the homeless, the abused, the incarcerated, the hungry or the mentally ill — then I haven’t lived at all. I am always happy to put a smile on other people’s faces no matter how little it is. I have joined them as a group so, the more we are together, it’s exciting. So, I am just happy, anytime I go to those communities and you see how you touch people’s lives. It makes me feel very happy.
What does Rotary Club provide that is different from other charity organizations?
Our club is unique in its global representation of every tribe or nationality. We have perhaps, the most diverse and far-reaching organisation in the world. Our diversity goes a long way in understanding, navigating and working sensitively with the varied cultural nuances. Like myself, I speak two foreign languages, Italian and French.
What levels of assistance does the club offer to people in need?
Today, the club provides: immunisation for polio, treatment of diabetes and hypertension, vaccination for cervix cancer, clean water, food, amongst other things. My tenure is for a year and there are so many things we are going to do, like taking care of communities, school projects, trying to sponsor some kids whose parents cannot afford to, build toilets for schools, sickbays, taking care of women with physical challenges.
What types of people have you been able to help?
We have continued to advance and spearhead new programmes and serving an increasing number of disadvantaged people, including the economically disadvantaged, those suffering from catastrophic illness.
As a woman of many parts, you are a thespian; you are in so many things. What experiences in your youth do you think prepared you for this role you are starting today?
Actually growing up, I learnt everything from my mum. She was the greatest teacher and those were the things I needed to know. The kind of things we did; we went to the stream before going to school, went to the farm. I mean even though I was the last, I was not exempted from doing chores. I did all those things; I know how to fry garri and to pound yam and all those things. I am just a home girl and a village girl and I am very excited about it. And I can tell you, I can stay at home and do things; I don’t get tired. I have been on my feet for the past few days; so, today, if I finish and I rest, I will just go and prepare for the next day.
Do you think that your role as Rotary president is going to impact on your daily activities?
Not really. The truth of the matter is that I worked on myself and I think I am very excited doing Rotary work; that’s why it doesn’t disturb anything. I can plan my work; I can work from anywhere.
Speaking of the work you do for Rotary, it seems there is a daunting task ahead of you based on the number of projects, the amount of money that needs to be raised, it seems like a lot. Do you think you are going to make this work?
Definitely; I believe in achieving whatever I set out to do. Yes, I know that these days people find it difficult to give because of the bad economy …but there are still some givers around us.
In this period that there is Covid, there is a different kind of challenge. Do you think that the challenges of this season are going to impact on your performance as president?
No, not really. I don’t like to believe that because l believe that we are people who believe in virtues. So, if you need all those kinds of people, you can still wrap up a whole lot of things. It is not as easy as it used to be, I can tell you because if you look at the value of the naira and everything but somehow, I am determined.
As a woman and a leader, what advice do you have for younger women, who find it difficult to come up with this balancing act that you seem to do effortlessly?
When there is a will, there is a way. How I do mine is different because of the kind of training I got from my mum. I am not expecting everybody to be like me but I encourage them that to be in this space, you must have a heart to lead. People in this digital age, I don’t know where to start from but I think we can still find one or two people who will be willing to make a difference.
At 57 years, you still look very good. Tell us the secret.
First of all, I think women should stop hiding their youth. It is in the mind and when people feel like they are getting old, it even stresses them out. I am a happy person, I just love to be happy and then I exercise as much as possible and I am always on my feet and I think it helps. I think people should take exercise more seriously.
Nuggets of wisdom at 57 years you wish to share to younger females.
First and foremost, you must be straightforward and you must be principled. Some people may see me as tough or something but that is not the case. I just love to do things the right way and I am straightforward; my word is my bond.
You mentioned earlier that this digital age, they tend to be selfish. Now with this in mind, how do you intend to attract younger people to this club?
Well it is really tough because their ways are not our ways but we have a series of new things we are trying to introduce in Rotary Club. Rotary is trying to introduce a lot of new things, making the rules simpler because there are many things that were not allowed in Rotary Club but now you have to do things that will attract them like relaxing some of the rules but yet you are still trying to do Rotary work and be a Rotarian. We really work to make it more interesting, more interactive and to see how the younger ones can join because if you do it the way it was before, their ways are completely different so you need to do a lot of things that will make them feel welcome.
What is the most important thing for you as a leader?
Humility. I like to be very humble and then come down to everybody’s level.