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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo credit: Gbenga Awomodu; Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel