On the evening that Mrs Ibim Semenitari, publisher, former information commissioner in Rivers State, and former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), was installed as President, Rotary Club of Port Harcourt (District 9141), a major revelation spilled out on the floor of the exquisite events centre, The Dome, on Peter Odili Road, in Port Harcourt, Saturday.
It was revealed how the humble effort a man made to serve humanity (through Rotary) since 1993, turned round to move his business to monumental levels and later helped him clinch a royal throne. Today, His Royal Majesty, Noble Eshemitan, from Ogbara Kingdon in Ethiope West LGA of Delta State, has his slogan as ‘My Profile Lies In Service’. This means that every great achievement that stands him out in his adult life was earned while serving humanity. Today, he believes that despite all the things people think he has gained in life, he still owes a huge debt to the Rotary family than Rotary would ever owe him.
In the year 1993 which is some 25 years ago, I was invited to the fellowship meeting at Midwest Inn Effurun, on aMonday evening, of the gathering of some persons I’m told were Rotarians. I was fascinated by the personalities, professional and business persons, I met; the jokes and songs rendered at the fellowship. I repeated the visit to the fellowship a couple of times and I made friends. I quickly got hooked by their exciting fellowship and passion for their service to humanity when I became aware that the members of this club are donating a bus to the Catholic Orphanage at Effurun. I was told that the Orphanage itself was built and donated to the Catholic church by the Rotary club of Warri. I attended the ceremony where the bus was presented to the orphanage. The joy in the faces of the matron and adult members of the orphanage enveloped my whole being and implanted a permanent zeal in me to work and do more for those who are in need. I became aware also that the Rotary club of Effurun built and donated an abattoir to Ugborikoko community in Effurun to improve the hygienic condition in which cows are slaughtered and sold to the public. Yes, I gained friendship from important persons in the city and I resolved to give my time, my money and my talent to mankind like the friends I have gained.
I cannot also forget the ethical behaviour, the hallmark of integrity, imbedded in the 4 Way test of the Things we Think, Say or Do which Rotary club members always read at their meetings. Consequently, I have tried always to put integrity in front of whatever I think, say, or do. Thinking, saying and doing things with integrity is a habit I have found very rewarding. It releases you from bondage of false life and distasteful behaviour. You are better and happier upholding the tenets of integrity rather than being saddened by misbehaviour. Rotary has been molding my life towards treating people with integrity and fairness.
After the bus donated to the Orphanage, Rotary club of Effurun through their partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd, built the Urhobo college large perimeter fence to assuage the truancy of the students. I got more involved in Rotary and was promptly elected into executive positions of the club. It started from the position of club secretary, which I held for a number of years, to the position of Treasurer, then to Vice President and President-elect, till finally, I became the club President in the year 1999.
I have attended several leadership trainings, seminars, conferences and conventions organized locally and internationally by Rotary to develop and improve the leadership and service capacity of Rotarians. Locally, in Abakiliki, Auchi, Calabar, Warri, Owerri, Yenagoa, Enugu, Uyo, Ekpoma, Nnsuka, Awka, Umuahia, Lagos, Abuja, e.t.c and internationally, in Glasgow, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, Birmingham, New Orleans, Bangkok, Lisbon, Jerusalem, San Diego, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Seoul, and recently in Toronto. I benefited a lot from these trainings, conferences and conventions. When people receive trainings, they manifest more often than not in whatever they do or say. I believe that is why I became Warri Branch President and then Deputy National President of my, alma mater, St Malachys College Sapele Old Boys association. I also became Warri Branch President of the University of Lagos Alumni Association. Furthermore I became Chairman of Warri District Society of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. I became Warri branch and then National President of Urhobo Solidary Club of Nigeria. Still more, I became the President- General of Oghara General Improvement Union.
I won a number of laurels in a number of the leadership positions I held. My Profit lies in Service. Yes, Rotary molded me properly and gave me the capacity to serve. That is why I will always appreciate, Rotarian past President Thompson Ovwere who introduced me to Rotary. Thank you Rotarian Thompson, Rotary has changed my life forever.
Today, I feel indebted to Rotary than Rotary is to me. As I served without expecting reward, I got rewarded more than I ever imagined.
My dear friends, fellow Rotarians, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to share just a story with you.
I withdraw from paid employment in 1995 to run my small 12 rooms hotel in Effurun. At the time I wanted to launch the hotel in 1995, my friends I invited to the launching were mainly Rotarians. At the launching it was a Rotarian who cut the tape to open the hotel to allow all the invitees and spectators to go in. It was another Rotarian who commissioned the generator of the hotel to let the invitees and spectators be aware of the availability of brand new standby generator power. After the launching and unknown to me, a Rotarian asked my then manager to come over to his company to see him. That trip by my manager resulted in the retainership of my hotel by the then Texaco Overseas Petroleum Oil Company of Nigeria (TOPCON). With a constant patronage from TOPCON and within a short time, the hotel financed an expansion into a 22 rooms hotel, then 32 rooms hotels. Later TOPCON was acquired by Gulf Oil Company which later developed into Chevron Nigeria Limited. As TOPCON was acquired so also my hotel retainership was also acquired by Gulf Oil Company/Chevron Nigeria Limited. Then the problem of militants kidnapping oil workers in the delta creeks and operational area of oil producing companies came up to the point that oil companies resolved to deploy soldiers and policemen to their operational area for protection. My hotel was fortunate to have 25 soldiers and policemen, courtesy of Chevron for full board lodging for over six months. This wonderful patronage by Chevron through the effort of a Rotary friend resulted in the acquisition of additional adjoining land and building of a 20 rooms, 200 persons capacity event hall and a board room seating capacity of 30 persons expansion. My hotel which started with 12 rooms without a hall or board room, now occupies a larger land space, has 52 rooms, a hall and a boardroom. But do you know that my Rotary friend who gave me the patronage of TOPCON does not appreciate or understand the great help he has given to me freely without expecting any reward. But it is my reward for serving in Rotary. My Profit lies in service.
For almost six years now, I became the monarch of my people of Oghara kingdom of Delta State. The pressure on the kingmakers for my candidacy was overwhelming. Those I told my story said that the position of the monarch which I got is a reward for service, a reward for fairness to others and a reward for integrity. Looking back to my life since I became a Rotarian, I feel indebted to Rotary than Rotary is to me. As I serve without expecting reward, I got rewarded more than I ever imagined. My service to humanity is my life which cannot be separated from me.
My Profit lies in Service. Indeed!