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Night Airtel touched the lives of Mrs. Osinbajo, Adeosun, Dalong, et al By Emeka Oparah

“To be a great person, you must be a good person. By extrapolation, to be a great organization, an organization must first be a good one. And that’s what is driving our passion for and commitment to touching the lives of less privileged Nigerian.” 

This is how Segun Ogunsanya, the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria sums up the company’s innovative social investment initiative eponymously called Touching Lives, which seeks to provide empowerment and succor to the needy in Nigeria. It captures the essence of the Telco’s Corporate Social Responsibility philosophy, which derives essentially from the spirit of GIVING, a salient part of the DNA of Airtel people.

So, to the gathering of political and business heavyweights, last week, at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp-Hilton Hotel, Abuja, at the Premiere of the television series, Airtel Touching Lives, Mr. Ogunsanya was sharing a story that not only touches the lives of those Airtel has supported but that which should ultimately touch the heart of the audience to aspire for greatness through doing good. From the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo; the Honorable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and her counterpart of the Ministry of Youths and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalong; Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and other dignitaries in attendance, not one person left the exciting yet emotion-laden evening the same way they came. Not a few shed a tear or two in appreciation of God’s blessings upon their lives in contrast with the challenges of the less privileged, which were poignantly highlighted during the course of the evening.

Let me explain Airtel Touching Lives in a nutshell. As a third pillar of its social intervention plan, in addition to its Adopt-A-School initiative (through which the Nigerian company adopts primary schools located in disadvantaged areas across Nigeria) and Employee Volunteer Scheme (a voluntary movement through which employees pool resources of time, talent and cash to help the needy), Airtel Nigeria two years launched a scheme, which in simple terms, seeks to identify people in great need and help them to deal with it. Nigerians are, therefore, encouraged to submit via text messages, emails and voice calls requests for support of personal or community problems or causes. These requests, which come in their thousands, expectedly, are reviewed by a committee and the most pressing shortlisted.

Then, a crew comprising journalists, television producers, social workers and Airtel employees go to the field to verify and investigate the requests and identify those affected or concerned. The stark realities are filmed and the key actors invited to the studio, where their plights are highlighted and the support announced. All these are recorded and then broadcast on national television, not for publicity or marketing, but to highlight the enormity of challenges facing the less privileged and encourage the haves to support the have-nots, thereby promoting the culture of giving. 

The event of Thursday, January 14th had the trappings of a charity show minus a fundraiser. The audience was clearly moved. Their feelings were aptly captured in the emotional speech made by the Second Lady, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, who called for people to reach out and help not only the physically challenged, but also the emotionally troubled. She took a somber trip back to her visit earlier in the day to one of the camps for Internally Displaced People in Borno. Hear her:

“I am speechless and dumbfounded whenever I think about the need of Nigeria. I just left the IDP camp in Maiduguri some few hours ago. It is emotionally devastating and very painful to see mothers without children, fathers without wives and children without parents. I couldn’t find the tears. After leaving the IDP camp, I visited the palace of the Shehu of Borno. The palace was beautiful, marbled floors, chandeliers, kingly sofas…but the Shehu was downhearted; his countenance was completely down because we have people whose lives need to be touched. 

“We have people in homes, orphanages and shelters. They cannot afford to feed, clothe or to be educated. There are those who are in homes, yes they do live in homes. 

“I watched the first season of touching lives; I watched the story of the Chime’s family, the children who had challenges. We are told today, over and over again that the colour of love is red. And we all know the emblem of the red heart that symbolizes love. You can always tell when some of my children are at home, that is when they make me…when they are not at home I think I look a bit more  down. The color of love is red, we are told today. And all around me I see red. But the red of the heart needs to stop the river of red, the river of blood that flows through this land. 

“My prayer is for Nigeria, even as I choose to touch lives, and I pray we all choose to touch lives in any way we can. Not only to help physically, but sometimes even to help emotionally. My prayer is that the Lord will repair Nigeria, He will restore Nigeria and he will direct Nigeria.”

That short speech brought people to their feet as they acknowledged the sense, essence and passion it exuded infectiously. The unintended highpoint of the evening was the live appearance on stage of one of the beneficiaries of the 2016 Airtel Touching Lives, David Anyaele, a social support activist, whose hands were amputated by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in 1999 while on a business trip to Sierra Leone during the Civil War. With the aid of prosthesis and the support of family and friends, he recovered quickly to only carry on the burden of life and living, but also to canvass for the support of the less privileged. He brought quite a few in the audience to tears with his moving story, but expressed utmost appreciation to God for sparing his life and to Airtel Nigeria, for donating laptops, printers, desks, photocopiers and other office equipment to enable him do his work of mercy and faith. 

The presence of the Explicit Dancers, the Ibadan-based choreography group, also added spice to the evening and indeed extended the frontiers of giving to the less privileged. The story was told of how the group, made of over 80 young boys and girls mainly street kids was put together by David Abraham, who taught them how to dance to make a living and go to school. Today, over 26 of the kids are university graduates, and recently one of them got married to ace Comedian and Airtel Brand Ambassador, Akpororo.

It was indeed an evening of double paroxysm of style, class and elegance mixed with powerful emotions driven by a passion to support the less privileged in our society. 

Night Airtel touched the lives of Mrs. Osinbajo, Adeosun, Dalong, et al By Emeka Oparah Night Airtel touched the lives of Mrs. Osinbajo, Adeosun, Dalong, et al By Emeka Oparah Reviewed by Emeka Oparah on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 Rating: 5

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