Will Rotary, City Chambers, forge common front to boost devt?


* As Obafunsho Ogunkeye flies Rotary’s value proposition

Rotary Club members often are successful business people and professionals who care much about integrity and service to the community. Members of city chambers are also people who care about coming together, giving to the community, giving care, and pressing the government of their host cities for better business environment.

Now, if both Rotary and City Chambers come together in cities across the world, could it bring about stronger synergy? The new president of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Chief Nabil Saleh, has opened a new window of thinking.


A proposition has been tabled that may boost wealth creation, jobs, and business development, should Chief Saleh’s suggestion for Chambers of Commerce across Nigeria to join Rotary clubs and vice versa. This is as a leading lawyer, arbitrator, negotiator, and top Rotary leader in Ibadan, Obafunsho Ogunkeye, has tabled what he called ‘value proposition’ to old members and incoming business leaders and professionals aspiring to lead a rewarding vocational life in the Rotary International family.

Chief Saleh, a chief in Port Harcourt, but with Lebanese roots, is the current president of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA). His administration is committed to definite boost in wealth and job creation in the Niger Delta especially as he now heads the Organised Private Sector (OPS) in the state and chairs the job creation committee in Rivers State.

Floating the proposal at Rotary’s ‘International Night’ at the White Hall in Vineyard Mall, Woji Road area of the GRA 2 in the Garden City close to where a 7-story tower collapsed in December, Saleh made it clear that a partnership between Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce around Nigeria would create a boost. He said in particular that a partnership with PHCCIMA is proof of synergy and the connection is that both Rotary and Chambers of Commerce talk business and promote business success and values.

On that note, the CEO of M-Saleh Group said: “We pledge to support the Rotary club in any way that would help foster this relationship towards helping the community. We urge Rotarians not yet in PHCCIMA to consider it ripe now to do so, and let Chamber members not yet in Rotary take action, now. . It is the best thing to do.” He made donations in support of the efforts to finally kick polio out of Nigeria, hopefully by August 2019. Chief Nabil was toasted at the event as a worthy ‘Port Harcourt Boy’.

Reacting to the partnership offer, Ibadan-based Ogunkeye said the suggestion could start off immediately through honourary membership offer to Chamber members. Ogunkeye actually attended his first Rotary meeting in PH way back in 1980 as a Youth Corps member prodded by Graham Douglas (lawyer). He is a past district governor and now Rotary Coordinator Zone 20A (Ibadan) as well as founding/principal partner of the leading law firm Ogunkeye and Ogunkeye, established in 1983 in Ibadan.

The top Rotarian tabled the Rotary value proposition in his dinner speech thus: “The most important matter any person must resolve at heart in deciding to be part of the fantastic Rotary family worldwide is to resolve the lingering question of; ‘what is in it for me? Why am I in Rotary, actually?’ In dealing with this matter, consider the core values of Rotary: Friendship, leadership, integrity, diversity, service, and fellowship. These values add up to define a man and help a lot of people to achieve destiny and a worthy life.

“Where else would one find all these values imbedded in our cause or vocation? It is therefore necessarily to effectively communicate the core values to new members so they can quickly resolve within their inner minds their purpose in the journey. This would help them travel better and achieve objectives which have been properly set.

“It is a fact that Rotary loses about 70 per cent of its new members in the first three years. This could be because most persons do not form a strong motivation that would be a driving force within as they belong. Rotary is for business and professional people. Business people give mere sums of money to communities but Rotary multiples that sum to give service. That is our value proposition.”

Ibim: Conflicts ruin communities

Welcoming her guests, Ibim Semenitari, the president of PH Cosmopolitan, pointed to true love and friendship as the only remedy to global conflicts and violence which she said had resulted in 68 million displacements globally in 2018 alone, regretting that more than half of the victims were children. Ibim spoke as some communities in Rivers state go through pains of conflicts and violence, too.


She said: “In a year that Rotary marks 114 years in existence, the former Information Commissioner in Rivers State said Rotary works in six areas of focus, one of which is peace and conflict resolution and prevention. “As Rotarians, we refuse to accept conflict as a way of life, and as Rotarians we choose to “see a world where people take action to bring about lasting change in the world, in our communities and in ourselves”.

She went on: “Today, we celebrate the friendship and harmony that Rotary brings and we are delighted at the mix of friends in this room. Special appreciation must go to our friends from the Lebanese, Indian, Italian and Chinese communities for making this evening truly colourful. Tonight, we specially celebrate two Port Harcourt Boys, Chief Nabil Saleh, President Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce as our Special Guest of Honour for the night and Past Ditrict Governor Obafunsho Ogunkeye, our guest speaker for the evening. Both of them are men who have continued to serve humanity selflessly.”

She explained thus: “For those of our guests who may not know, Rotary is a special global network of neighbours, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves.

“Solving real problems takes real commitment ad vision. For more than a century, Rotarians have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects. From literacy and peace to water and health, we are always working to better our world, and to we stay committed to the end. With a mission to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders, “Rotary International is inspiring leaders around the world to effect real and lasting change”.

Toasting Chief Nabil Saleh:

Toasting the PHCCIMA boss, Ibim described Chief Saleh as a special character who is always extending the frontiers of peace. “He supports and identifies with this noble cause.

He brings the Lebanese community closer to Rivers people. He promotes international understanding and peace. That is why we need his name on the fight to end polio in Nigeria. This is the right time at the right bus stop.”

Goodwill message;

Goodwill messages came from Barry Rassin, Rotary’s International President, who noted thus: “Let each Rotary Club come up with one high-impact project. For instance, by merely providing a jeep for Haitian midwives, they were able to reduce mortality rate of pregnant women and children in a remote rural area that was endangered for years. It requires careful planning and good research to deliver high-impact projects, not all the money.”

Adeyemi Oladokun, District Governor RID-9141, added: “Rotary is humanity in action. People must pause and wonder what the world would be without Rotary. Think of simple, maybe not capital intensive, meaningful projects that would satisfy service opportunities of your communities. And, if clubs come together in cities and states to execute projects, it would create meaningful impact on communities.”

Pearl on magic of donations:

Assisting Ibim to decorate Saleh, Ijeoma Pearl Okoro revealed how the financials of the war against polio run. “If you give one Dollar, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match it with three Dollars, to eradicate polio. It costs higher on advocacy, instead of on the drugs. It takes a lot to get to remote communities, and convince them to accept polio vaccines. Often, they rather ask for schools, food, and other basic needs. Also, it takes a lot to convince most rural people that the vaccine is not a contraceptive mechanism that may stifle their reproductive abilities in the future. The drug is about 60 cents each but advocacy is huge cost.”


The night went into dinner session and American auction to raise funds for more projects. The foundation was thus laid for Rotary and Chambers of Commerce to form a collaboration to push businesses and community works.