Rev. Dr. Gabriel Oyediji, the President Compassionate Orphanage, Lagos and Secretary, Association of Homes and Orphanage in Nigeria (ASOHON), in this interview with FEMI-OLUSOLA IKUGBAYIGBE speaks on illegal baby factories in the country, among other issues. Excerpts:
Can we meet you sir?
I am Rev. Dr. Gabriel Oyediji, the President of Compassionate Orphanage in Isheri-Olofin area of Lagos State. I am also into outreach on homeless people and people living with HIV/AIDS.
What inspired you to go into this vocation?
Well the motivation is there, the hope and vow also complement it. And the fact that I was not born with a silver spoon, I was born half orphan. I have struggled and that has really made me who I am today and it has helped me to take care of my family, though, I faced several forms of sufferings. I was rejected, I was traumatized and I had to move from one family house to another. All thanks to God because I did not allow all those things to weigh me down instead I saw it as an avenue to be successful. Nothing really keeps me worried than to see an average Nigerian been brutalized, traumatized and dehumanized, it makes me grief within myself and this gives me the zeal to want to defend them. Because as a young man, I had an unforgettable experience with the police, I was actually arrested, beaten and pushed into a blackmaria and I was later remanded in the prison for the offence I did not commit, all these happened in Ibadan. I was remanded for two days just because I defended a bike man who was accused of not using helmet while his bike was parked, it was actually a funny accusation, I defended him because I saw the whole scenario but at the end I was punished for defending him. So, the situation in Nigeria is that people who are in the force or have relatives in any force in Nigeria tend to oppress other people with their power and advantages. Because they have this strong believe that whatever act they perform they cannot be punished for it. So majority of the people in police cells and prisons are suffering from offences they did not commit.
At what age did you start having plans to run an orphanage?
I was about 17 and 18 years old and then I was still staying with my family, a big family so to say. I was also a victim of circumstances because I was actually different from the rest in the family. I actually stood my ground that the truth must always be withhold but then everybody sees me as bad luck child because I lost my dad and do my things differently and this annoys them so greatly.
What are the challenges since you started this job?
The major challenge is accreditation because the whole job has been bastardized by people who are not practitioners and the people rendering assistance are no longer willing to help. So it’s really a big task operating a motherless home (orphanage) because it is a business that an individual runs without aims of making profit. At first, I wanted to have a change of heart, since there is no reward for it and I cannot make ends meet from it. When we first started, we started by helping the miscreants on the streets and people who are financially stranded and then we upgraded to this level that we are now.
How can government sanitize this sector?
The Nigeria welfare system is very poor and that is why crime is on the high. In Nigeria for instance, everyone seems to device away to solve his/ her problem not considering the effect it has on others. So, I would suggest and implore the government to provide adequate social welfare for the masses by doing so it would reduce the bridge between the poor and the rich. Practically, there is no social welfare in the country. So for us to live a better life, we must ensure that we judge whatever we do ourselves and the effect it would have on others.
Moreso, poverty is a big syndrome causing havoc in the lives of the masses because most orphans have been separated from their parents at the early stage with fear or no means to raise them. If only government can provide adequate financial provision for all accredited orphanage home, then the standard of live orphans are living would be improved. So, I implore government to ensure that orphanage centres don’t lack anything in all aspect by doing so they would encourage every organization or individual involved in such activities because running an orphanage home is not an easy task but God has been faithful.
How do you make ends meet?
It is a non-profit organization and we have a sister organization in the church which has been helping us to survive, because since the government has refuses to help us we need to device a way to ensure the survival of the organization.
How is government policy affecting your business and activities?
Government policies lack funding for orphanage homes because we could have done better if government has funded such organizations like this, and also the government has failed in the area of social welfare to the masses, ninety percent of programmes we engaged today is as a result of the activities of private individuals. Yes we know that some people are merchandizing the business but what about the orphanage homes that are officially accredited, so government policies has not been favourable at all. But there are laws that can be used to curb the activities of such people who are using orphanage homes for their greedy purposes.
Is the orphanage system actually making any impact in the nation’s development?
Yes, like I said earlier, if not for orphanage homes the rate of mortality would have increased drastically annually. But orphanage homes have served as shield and protections to children who have been abandoned or rejected by their parents and we also help to provide couples who are in need of children to cater for children that are healthy and disease free, so as an organization we provide homeless kids out there with social care. For example, the rate at which babies are been sold is on high and we as an organization are trying all means to curtail such act because in Nigeria people are doing everything humanly to survive. Imagine 25 per cent of Nigerians who have sold their blood, kidneys, wombs, sperms and many more all in the name of trying to make ends meet. So, orphanage homes are there to provide children out there with adequate shelter and practical care.
We learnt some of your children have travelled out of the country, how did you go about it?
There is this family programmes sponsored by an NGO in Spain and Nigeria and the goals of the organization is that African family members should mix and mingle with the European family members and when these children gets back to their various countries they can impact something into their brethren. The programme started about 6 or 7 years ago. The organization’s aim is to ensure that African family members enjoy every social amenity available to them. They pick up these children from the Airport and take them into their homes for four weeks.
Any advice for those willing to go into the orphanage business?
The problem with the graduate of this country is that they do not have the right orientation that would make them self employed. If the Nigerian educational sector is healthy enough, it should ensure that before a student is 18years, he or she should have mastered how to drive a car perfectly and how to use the computer effectively but in Nigeria, the opposite is the case. Government should also ensure that the disparity between HND and BSC holders is eradicated because the Polytechnic’s education is the future of the country. The polytechnic is the way forward for any country, because it gives practical empowerment to each student. The polytechnic education has helped to reduce the rate of unemployment in the country since at the end of each programme, ‘each student is being empowered either as a carpenter, bricklayer, photographer, shoemaker or fashion designer and it has helped to reduce the trauma of looking for job. That is why government also needs to ensure continuity in all technical schools, once you are through with your JSS3 class, one can easily enroll in such school and it does not stop one from furthering one’s education. In Nigeria of today, a driver is earning more than a graduate. Imagine a graduate earning N30, 000 per month compared to a driver who earns N30,000 per week. So by going to technical schools and polytechnics, one is making a career. More so, government should ensure that students in Nigeria learn how to speak other languages perfectly. With this, one can work anywhere without any difficulty in communicating and if this can be done, it would ensure unity among different tribes and ethnicity in Nigeria.
Your educational background sir
I have a qualification in Agricultural study, Veterinary animal care and to God be the glory, I have my animal clinic consulting office and I also pastor a church.