Meet Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel – the “First Corps Member” to ever Step into the Nongov Community

It’s been a hectic two weeks and I hope that more funds come in so the building work in Nongov can resume this weekend. I’m in the process of getting an NGO to partner with while I am also trying to put measures in place such that the project can run smoothly even when I return to Lagos at the end of July 2012. Today, I bring you a long overdue interview with Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel, the first Corps member who visited Gbeji Village in Nongov community. He built a block of three classrooms, dug a motorized well and donated some other items to the community during his service year. Do enjoy this insightful conversation!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself – family, education, fond childhood memories and what you currently do?
My name is Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel. I hail from Osun State, but was born and bred in Ibadan, Oyo State. I’m a Christian by life style; I’m a cool headed person, easy going and friendly. I love reading; swimming, travelling and I love God. I’m the youngest child from a polygamous family of two wives and twelve children and my dad is late. I attended Trinity Home School and B’Alpha Height Nursery & Primary school for my primary education; Federal government College Ikirun, Osun State and King’s International College Ibadan for my secondary education; and I graduated from the University of Ibadan in 2010 with a B.Sc. (Second Class Upper) in Agricultural Economics.

Could you share some of your special childhood memories?
When I was a child, I enjoyed visiting the kitchen so much to cry for my food until a day I had a terrible accident. That fateful morning (as I was told), I visited the kitchen to cry for my food as usual, but this time around I received a bath of hot water from my brother who was trying to prepare water for my grandma to have her bath. He did not realize I was beside the bucket… Thank God I am still alive today! I also loved to draw when I was a child even though at the moment I’m not so good with such again.

Could you tell us about your developmental work at Nongov Village and the successes achieved?
My development work was borne out of passion for positive change in the lives of the villagers. I built a block of three (3) classrooms, fixed a WC toilet, an adjoining office and a motorized well with an overhead tank. I started these projects on December 23rd, 2011 and they were commissioned by the NYSC officials on February 9th, 2012. I am happy that the projects were completed and the children and teenagers have shown increased interest in learning unlike before. These projects have also stirred the interest of some Corps members to embark on Personal Community Development Service Projects in the village.

How did you discover the Nongov community and what drew you to the land?
Nongov village was discovered by me during my village survey, as the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Felowship (NCCF) evangelism secretary, for our Rural Rugged Evangelism outreach (an evangelistic and humanitarian outreach to the interior villages in the country by members of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship nationwide). It is situated in Buruku Local Government Area, Benue State under the council ward of Mbaade. I believe it is God that drew and led me to Nongov, and my passion for change and transformation especially for the children also helped. It is worthy of note that no Corps member had ever been posted or been to the community before I visited them late last year. Mr. Dev Israel, the Chief’s son told me: “You are the first Corper to step on our land.”

Why did you decide to carry out your NYSC/MDGs personal project in Nongov – building a block of three (3) classrooms, fixing a Water Closet, and constructing a motorized well?
Nongov has a population of over 10,000 people. There is only one primary school with no record of any secondary school in the entire community. This situation has made the level of illiteracy to be very high among the people. It is interesting to also note that in the entire Gbeji Village, which is centrally located in Nongov, there is neither a clinic nor medical personnel; and most of the women still give birth on banana leaves. The children are malnourished as they feed mainly on carbohydrates all year round. The prevailing health challenges: hepatitis, malaria, yellow fever, whooping cough, cholera, dysentery, STDs, and HIV/AIDs.

Nongov does not have any well structured market for economic activities; the roads are in bad condition making access into the village difficult, and there is also no trace of electricity since inception. In Nongov, water is a major challenge, especially during the dry season as we have now. The villagers move from one end of the village to another in search of water to drink and for their household chores. Dysentery is a major disease in Nongov and this is due to the water condition in the village. Cases were reported in which villagers had to drive away frogs before they could fetch their drinking water; also, drinking of water with mosquito larvae is common among the villagers. Though there are wells in the village, many of them are open wells (which render them unhygienic for drinking) and these wells dry up during the dry seasons. All these numerous reasons motivated me to embark on the personal Community Development Service (CDS) Projects in the village.

One of the Classrooms being used by the students of Kings Technology Academy, Gbeji, Nongov before the construction of new classrooms by Igbagbosanmi

What were the major challenges you encountered in the process of trying to raise funds for the projects in Nongov and how did you handle them?
The major challenge I encountered in the course of these projects was unavailability of funds. The funds were not just coming and we had a very limited time to execute them. Prayers, determination and persistence were what broke the jinx. The festive period and the national strike was another challenge we encountered in the course of the construction. Work was grounded for more than 10 days and there was serious price hike on transportation and building materials, those who could have supported the projects were incapacitated because of the strike. Another challenge I encountered were people who tried to discourage me and never saw the need for the projects; some of them literarily sent me out of their offices when I was soliciting for funds. I remember a particular young man who told me I was wasting my time and that such projects should be handled by the government. But the question is can the government do everything? If we wait for the government for development, then we will wait till eternity. This country needs people, but young and old, who will arise for change and take the bull by the horn before we can see any major development in this country. At a point of the work, some of the villagers became a pain in the neck insinuating that the construction projects were a contract from the state government and demanded their own share of the money. Some of them that were employed to work on the construction site, but never showed up after they had been paid and this brought a set-back on the project.

Israel and some of the local workers at the site during construction

Generally speaking, how supportive were the people of the community in helping to complete the projects?
The villagers were very supportive in the construction work and in the donation of local materials such as burnt bricks, sharp sand, plaster sand and wood/planks. There was a very high level of community engagement and mobilization.

Who were some of the key people with whom you partnered and liaised in order to ensure successful project execution?
The first person is God, then Mr. Msuega Martin (the headmaster of the school), the community, NYSC – Benue State, Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship (NCCF) – Benue Chapter, and every donor and contributor, whose names time would fail me to mention.

What are some of your (other) dreams for the people of Nongov village, and how do you hope to sustain the work of transformation you have started?
My dream for the people of Nongov village is total transformation in every ramification of life. I want their standard of living to improve (electricity, good roads, potable water, hospitals etc). I want illiteracy to be a thing of the past and I desire social and moral transformation among the people.

A cross-section of NYSC Officials and people of the Nongov Community at the commissioning of the classroom project

One of the locals giving a vote of thanks during the commissioning of the classroom project in February 2012

After your service year, you returned to Nongov briefly; for how long were you there and how would you summarise your experience there?
I was in Nongov for 5 days. I had a refreshing time over there and helped out with some projects ongoing in the village at that time.

What do you do now and what are some of your future career goals for the next five years?
I currently work as a Commercial Assistant with an Agro-Allied company and I do some farming as well. In the next five years, I want to put smiles on the faces of as many people as possible through rural development projects, study for a Master’s degree in the United States, establish an integrated farm and also raise my own family.

Do you hope to return to Nongov any time soon?
I plan to go back there before the end of the year to launch some agricultural projects.

Any other details you would like to share with us?
My desire and heart cry is for the rural communities to be focused upon by the government and NGOs. Many of the rural communities are marginalized and neglected; they are in pathetic conditions and it is unbelievable in this so called modernized age. I really want to appreciate God for the grace to embark on those projects within a space of six (6) weeks! The transformation they have brought to the entire village and the impact in the lives of the children are tremendous. I thank all those who believed in the work and contributed in cash and kind. Special thanks to my friend, Na’aty Bashiloni, for her encouragement all through this period and my brother, Gbenga Awomodu, for his support, thank you so very much.

Thanks for your time.
My pleasure!

Photo credit: Gbenga Awomodu; Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel



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45 Bags of Cement: A Day in the Life of a ‘Development Worker’ – Photo Story

On Tuesday July 3rd, 2012 I was in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area to pay for 45 bags of cement which would be used when we resume building the Nongov Primary Health Centre Project. It was a long day as I had to wait for Mr. Martin Agen Msuega, a resident of Gbeji Village, Nongov Community, to arrive from the neighbouring Buruku Local Government Area. We were able to convey 20 bags of cement which would eventually be our only trip for the day. The vehicle we rented broke down three times on the way before we had to call it a day. I had to return to Makurdi the same day, so the remaining 25 bags as well as additional 4,000 burnt bricks will be transported to the building site by the weekend. Here is a photo story of the long day’s happenings.

At a Cement Store in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area


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The Way Forward: Updates on the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project

Hello Everyone,

It’s been a hectic two weeks since I last posted here. I have spent quite some time moving around, officially rounding off my NYSC programme in Benue State, submitting a report on my personal community development service project, getting some documents sorted and much more. Besides, I had a bike accident in Makurdi on Tuesday 5th June 2012, barely ten days to our passing out parade, but thank God I am no more limping and the scars are healing well – hopefully my ankle pains will cease totally soon…

As this post is published, I am on my way back to Makurdi, Benue State after breezing in to Lagos last Friday to see my family and attend to some important matters. I am returning to Benue for the next five weeks to seek further support in order to complete the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project. Funds have not come in as much as expected, but I believe more awareness is being made. I plan to get the bricklayers back to the site to continue with the PHC building (we stopped at the foundation last month due to lack of funds). Here are some key notes:

I am considering building with burnt bricks now because they are much cheaper than cement blocks, though they consume more mortar (cement). Many houses in Benue State are built with burnt bricks and in fact you hardly know after they have been plastered adequately with cement.

In the next one week, I will be looking out for a reputable and trustworthy NGO that I can partner with; anorganisation that would be willing to commit time and efforts in ensuring continuity when I leave Benue State at the end of July 2012. I envisage this would be a pretty difficult task, but I hope for the best. Perhaps, the NGO would be able to open an account in the name of the project and more people and organisations could be encouraged to support financially and otherwise since trust is hard. Two representatives from the community could be made signatories to the account alongside a representative from the NGO (preferrably, the executive director).

I also hope to get a detailed income and expenditure account ready based on the funds raised by me as at the end of July 2012.

While I gear towards resuming the building as soon as we have fifty bags of cement on ground and additional 8,000 burnt bricks, I will be bringing you interviews with a few former Corps members who have been able to make a difference in the Nongov Community, especially in the area of Education. I hope that more funds and support would come in and that my meetings with government officials and prospective supporters would yield positive results in the coming weeks.

I encourage you to donate to this cause and help get the word out to your contacts and appropriate quarters. Thank you all for your support so far. We are making a difference!

P.S: Here is a recent article I wrote on Kindly read and share with your networks. Thanks!

The Benue Notes: Introducing the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project – You Can Change the World, One Community at a Time!

The Benue Notes: 14 Year Old Kenger Igba is Dead – Another Reason to Help Build the Nongov Community a Primary Health Centre

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Children’s Day Special: 1,200 Exercise Books, Textbooks, and Other Stationery Donated to Students and Teachers in the Nongov Community

Gbenga Awomodu with the PTA Chairman and students of Kings Technology Academy, Gbeji Village, Nongov Community

It was a memorable day in Gbeji Village, Nongov Community, Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State, when on May 28th 2012, 1,200 exercise books, courtesy, a US-based NGO, and several other educational items were donated to the children of Kings Technology Academy. Though it was a lecture-free day set aside to mark the 2012 Children’s Day and many of the students had trekked several kilometres to celebrate with students from neighbouring communities, over 200 of KTA’s 300 plus students were in school to receive gifts that would change their lives and further ignite their passion for schooling.

I realised some of the peculiar challenges here when I started taking sessions on the Millenium Development Goals with the children and one of the school teachers had to start interpreting to the children. Many did not have school uniforms, most did not have exercise books and pencils/pens, and school bags were a luxury. I decided to get more materials – pencils, sharperners, erasers, textbooks for the school (teachers), and waste bins for the school – in order to give the children more reason to love schooling and stay longer in classes. Special thanks go to Millions4One.Org, Sunkanmi Akinnifesi, Olanrewaju David, Ibidunni Oluwole, Emmanuel Madu who made this educational project a reality.

The Primary Health Centre project is still on and I plead that you share the project idea with someone today. Work (laying of cement blocks and raising the buliding beyond the foundation level, where it is currently) is scheduled to resume early next week, but we need to have at least 50 bags of cement on ground before engaging the site workers again. I appreciate all support thus far, and we can only hope for more concerted efforts. Thanks!

Below are photographs from the May 28th event. The video files are currently being editted.

The Parents and Teachers’ Association Chairman receiving the gifts on behalf of the Kings Technology Academy

A parent giving vote of thanks, and stating that if he had enjoyed same privilege, he would have gone to school

Gbenga Awomodu and four of the school teachers at Kings Technology Academy, Gbeji, Nongov

Students of Kings’ Academy, Gbeji, Nongov in school after the May 28th distribution

Gbenga Awomodu with the parents after the presentation of gifts to the children

A cross-section of the students singing the Nigerian National Anthem

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More Notes on the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project – You can still make a Difference!

It has been several weeks since I wrote the introductory post about building Nongov Community’s Primary Health Centre. Since then, I have been in an unending circle of activities and pursuits – trying to raise more funds and following up on submitted proposals. The good news is that we have finally done the foundation of the building, and the other news is that we still have a long way to go! That distance can only be shortened when adequate funds are available – I have been told the whole structure can be built and equipped in less than three weeks if all funds and resources are ready. While I still plead that you donate and encourage others in your networks to do same, today, I write on the general concerns and frequently asked questions that I have had to tackle since I started sharing the project idea with people as early as February 2012.

The choice of Nongov: My immediate boss at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Makurdi, still asked this question earlier in the week. Of course, there are millions of communities in this world so much that scarce resources cannot go round to fix all the problems in all of those communities. I chose Nongov because I saw a need – a serious one, at that. I visited the Nongov community in January for the first time and throughout the two days that we (members of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, Benue State Chapter) spent there, it was glaring that these people needed some serious intervention, especially in education, health, and social infrastructure (most notably, good road network). Chief Moses Awua, a notable community leader, kept asking us to plead their cause with the government. They felt we had access. Yes, we do. I eventually made up my mind in February after our Evangelism Secretary at the time returned to build a block of three classrooms. It is not of the best architectural designs, neither was it built with the best materials in the world, but it would make a lot of difference in the lives of the kids who had spent months under open huts and on logs of wood which served as seats for them. I was moved when I learnt the women still give birth on banana leaves; even the wives of the chiefs. In this clime, it is not strange to have pregnant women conveyed in wheel barrows, over several kilometres, to the nearest health post. But, we can make a difference. The use of modern health facilities is culturally acceptable in the Nongov community.

I am not a Medic! Someone also asked, “Is the writer a medic?” Oops! I studied Chemical Engineering in the university… But, wait! I am blessed with a rich network of diverse professionals, including medical doctors. I believe in building global partnerships and networking with professionals in other fields of endeavour, aside one’s primary discipline. I am grateful to Dr. Adedayo Osholowu and Mr. Idris Ayodeji Bello, two exceptional Nigerians who have allowed me to tap into their networks whilst educating me further and making me answer some critical questions about the project. It would be interesting to also add that: in 2007, I was an independent consultant for Action Health Incorporated, Lagos, and the job took me to four States in North-Eastern Nigeria where I assessed sixteen partner organisations which had been involved in the David & Lucille Packard Foundation-sponsored Expanded Access to Sexuality Education (EASE) project between 2002 and 2007. The two weeks of moving around Nasarawa, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna States brought me in close contact with abject poverty and real challenges being faced in development work, especially health care. I had to interview the principal officers and write a story on each partner organisation I visited. That experience, albeit non-technical, has come in handy here.

Sustainability of the Project: Sustainability is more than just a buzz word in healthcare and development circles. It is indeed important that short, medium and long-term projections be considered and drawn up in planning and executing development projects. One of the early respondents to my first proposal draft commended that I had put a good measure of thought into the bigger picture and long-term implications of embarking on the Nongov Primary Health Centre project by considering staffing and similar aspects. Nevertheless, he raised the issue of sustained drug supply, among others. He went further to express concern that the building could be converted into pens and for residential purposes later if not properly managed. Tough question, but with proper planning this can be tackled. Several weeks ago, Dr. Osholowu sent me the link to a success story from Kwara State, Nigeria, where a similar health scheme had been done. The beneficiaries, majorly farmers, contributed to a health insurance scheme facilitated by Hygeia, a health maintenance organisation (HMO), which ensured that drug was consistently supplied and the farmers and their households derived optimum benefit from the scheme. I believe this can work in Nongov (or anywhere else in Benue) – with proper planning.

I have to stop here today as I am off to the Nongov community to continue dialogues with the community people on the Millennium Development Goals, as a way of preparing their minds and getting them to bring back some of their children who have some health care experience, but are currently living in other towns in Benue State. Please, donate and share the message. I will be back soon!


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This Week on the Nongov Project – Chasing Sponsors, Some Progress and Champions League Finals in Nongov

It’s been a rather busy week – one which started with a lot of concerns and called for some slight changes in programme, but ended on an encouraging note.

On Monday, I was at Joy FM Otukpo where I met with Nancy Enwereji, a presenter at the radio station. She had read my posts on and offered to interview me on one of her weekly programmes. For certain reasons, I could not arrive in Otukpo before 11am, the end of her show, we got to talk at length about the project and I submitted a few audio files from some of the interviews I have had with two of the locals so far. I will be there early tomorrow on her Monday morning show between 9am and 11am. I hope to reach a wide audience and answer questions from the public about the project.

Most of Wednesday was spent tidying up some proposals, which deterred me from following up at Dangote Cement in Gboko. It is not easy juggling so many things at the same time o! I guess you knew that already. Eventually, most proposals were turned in, but I could not submit the one for MDGs office as someone suggested on my last post. I got a sincere advice from a man I met there; he gently told me that many other Corps members had been there and that they do not handle the funds, except that they are just in charge of paying contractors who usually would have been pre-qualified and selected by the government through a given process. On Friday, it was time to submit the updated timeline for the project as well as new photographs related to and from the project at the Ministry of Health. I also wrote a letter gently reminding them of the earlier requests (staffing and equipping the centre) and informing them of the new date for the sensitization on health and general hygiene targeted at the entire Nongov community. I hope to have a health educator and the head of births from the Ministry of Health address the people on May 28th.

Eventually, I got into Nongov on Friday evening, some minutes past seven. On Saturday, the mason and the bricklayers were not on site, but I still got some photographs from the site showing the progress made during the week while I was away in Makurdi intensifying efforts to raise funds and other support. The foundation was done earlier on in the week. I also had the opportunity of paying courtesy visits to several stakeholders in the community once more, even meeting a few of them for the first time. Everyone is excited about the MDGs training for the children (which would now hold in the new week) as well as the community dialogue on the MDGs which will hold on the same day as the health awareness programme. Now I need to catch some sleep in time for the morning’s interview. Here are five photographs as well as a short audio clip from the Nongov village. Yes, we watched the Champion’s league live! Many young men trekked several kilometers to converge at the missionary base to watch the match. They were mostly Chelsea and Drogba fans… Do have a fabulous week ahead and remember to donate and spread the news! Make a difference! 🙂

P.S.: The construction work will resume only after some substantial amount and bags of cement are secured in order to save some cost and not keep the workers waiting for too long.

Update!: Radio interview now either this Friday or next Monday.

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Millions4One.Org Approves 1,200 Books for the Kids in the Nongov Community!

A lot has evolved since I made the first post on this blog. I have written a few articles online about the project and the comments have been coming in from different parts of the world. Not much funds have been realised so far, but two – notable things that happened this week: a reader paid in a sum of two thousand Naira (approx. 13 USD) towards the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project, and, a US-based non-profit organisation which raises funds towards implementing developmental projects largely in the educational sector, has approved a donation of 1,200 exercise books for the use of the school children in Nongov Community. I will be receiving the items from their Lagos-based volunteer next week and this would be timely as I will be holding a three-day training for selected (about forty) elementary school students in the community on the Millenium Development Goals. Some days later, I will be organising a two-day dialogue with some parents, young adults and key stakeholders in the community on the Millenium Development goals. I hope to get some stickers done on which the eight (8) MDGs would be printed both in English and the Tiv (native) languages. I will be back shortly with more detailed updates while I also tweak this blog a bit. I also hope to install a widget to give readers an idea of funds raised on the go. Please, contribute towards the success of this project and tell others in your network. Your sincere and candid opinion are welcome and appreciated. Kindly use the comment bok. See you soon!


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Introducing the Nongov Project

Hello Readers!

I am Gbenga Awomodu, a Batch B (2011/2012) Benue State Corps Member. I have started this blog to chronicle an unfolding story of development and challenges in the life of the people of Nongov Community in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State. It is the story of a people long forgotten; over ten thousand adults and children scattered in small huts and hamlets across a large expanse of land. They lack electricity, clean/potable water, and several other basic amenities, but they have survived several decades. It is the dawn of a new day in Nongov as some young Nigerians serving under one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps programme  recently discovered the community. These Corps members have started to do as much as they could to drive sustainable community development via advocacy, community awareness and sensitization visits, and actual physical projects. It is hoped that eventually, the government would wake up to the needs of the Nongov people whilst the people themselves would wake up to take responsibility for driving the much-desired transformation of their homeland. We seek as much support as we can obtain from the good people of this world – individuals, government officials, private donors, corporate sponsors, and everybody across the globe. Watch this space for many tales of development as they unfold. I’ll be right back!


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