Bolanle Ambode’s heart of gold
That Lagos State First Lady Mrs. Bolanle Ambode really cares about the people is an understatement. This is, perhaps, why she is fondly referred to as ‘mother hen’ by her admirers.
Currently, Mrs. Ambode is expanding the definition of service to humanity through her different life-impacting programmes and projects. Contrary to flawed stereotyped opinion about First Ladies and their activities, Mrs. Ambode has demonstrated that compassion and passion truly make the difference.
Empathy is an integral part of her nature. She can’t just close her eyes to the sufferings of others. Her heart is full of compassion for people, especially the downtrodden. She has had course on numerous occasions to extend hands of love and fellowship to many who had suffered diverse losses. In this case, her empathy for such people does not only lie in what she has to offer, but really in the manner she does so. She feels and bears other’s grief like it is a personal loss. That is her person. That is who she is. It is no pretence or make- belief. It is real!
She never thinks twice to wipe away people’s tears. You do not even need to have either casual or intimate relationship with her before she takes over your cause as hers. She is always willing to provide a shoulder for others to lean on. She doesn’t even keep tab on the number of cases she has intervened in. This is not to mention the number of children she has directly and indirectly adopted.
Humility is another of her admirable nature. Humility is not an easy virtue to acquire. Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
While some unduly raise their shoulders high when they are privileged to occupy transient public positions, others have the distinct trait of being able to remain calm and modest. Considering the nature of my job, I have been privileged to interact with many ‘powerful’ individuals across the country. I am talking about men and women that traverse the corridors of power like colossus. Not mean men by any means!
But I make bold to say that Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, no doubt operates at a different dimension in humility. I once had an appointment with her at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja office in the company of a few colleagues. As we were ushered into her office, I was expecting to see a woman gorgeously dressed and seated in the fullness of glory. But, how wrong! By the time we got into her conference room, she was standing just in front of us, waiting to usher us in with a warm handshake and a shy smile.
As a humble leader, Mrs. Ambode serves without allowing the office she occupies makes her look down on others. Both in outlook and behavior, she exemplifies unbelievable humility. She dresses modestly and addresses others reasonably. It is, indeed, her humble mien that makes it quite uncomplicated for her to serve others. When we act out of humility, we give ourselves to serve no matter the personal costs in terms of reputation, time, money or other inconveniences.
The amiable First Lady has never used her position to lord it over others. She is more humble than haughty, more elegant than arrogant, more serene than snobbish, and inclusive rather than exclusive. She is a thoughtful spokeswoman, glamorous hostess, cool and amazingly humble. Her voice has a smooth timbre and she speaks directly: no grandiloquent rhetoric.
Mrs. Ambode is in reality leveraging her status to advocate for and attend to wide range of social issues ranging from moral boost to children without limbs and other physically challenged persons to less privilege students and widows in the state.
Through her Foundation, Hope for Women in Nigeria Initiative, HOFOWEM, Mrs. Ambode is giving a new definition to the art of social work and community development in the country. HOFOWEM’s key area of influence is Lagos State, particularly rural communities. One of the themes for the actualization of HOFOWEM’s goals is “Hope for Children through which it seeks to help rehabilitate Vulnerable Children and encourage the education of disadvantaged children in the society. Similarly, the wellbeing and health care of deprived children is also one core aspect HOFOWEM deems vital in its plans. The “HOFOWEM Scholarship Scheme is another central part of the Hope for Children initiative.
Since the inauguration of HOFOWEM, Mrs. Ambode has used the platform to put smiles on faces of the less privileged in the society. HOFOWEM has (and it still does) concentrated on empowering widows and mothers with multiple births and also funded major surgical procedures for many people. This is not surprising as a crucial goal of HOFOWEM is to touch and transform lives as well as create sustainable means for the underprivileged in the society.
One good thing about HOFOWEM is that its focus is all encompassing. For instance, pupils, indigent students, widows, multiple birth mothers, orphans and many others have received varied degrees of helps from HOFOWEM at one time or the other. The Foundation did its maiden empowerment programme when widows, sick women and mothers with multiple births, were supported in various ways. It has since gone ahead to cover other grounds such as assisting indigent students, supporting widows and mothers with multiple births and a host of others.
HOFOWEM creatively covers assorted areas of interests as it comes up with a variety of innovative ideas aimed at bettering the lots of the hapless in the society. Through strategic and inventive thinking, it comes up with robust initiatives to address emerging and critical needs of the less privileged. Considering current economic realities in the country, HOFOWEM’s novel approach to social intervention is quite admirable. A major benefit of this strategy is that as new challenges surface, the people are not left in the cooler for too long before help comes.
Lots of people have benefited from several of HOFOWEM interventions. For instance, 2 year old John Akinbo who had a hole in the heart was sponsored to undergo surgery in India by the Foundation while Mrs. Folake Muritala also successfully had a hip replacement surgery courtesy HOFOWEM. Similarly,
HOFOWEM has provided financial grants to several other bodies with which it shares same vision. These include Sebeccly Cancer Foundation ( to support cancer cases), Irede Foundation (to provide prosthetic limb for children with mobility issues), Children Development Center (to support children with autism) Lydia Foundation (to rehabilitate prostitutes) among others
Lagos State is, indeed, extremely fortunate to have such an inspiring and compassionate First Lady who is a role model, an educator and an inspiration to many. As she continues in her service to God and humanity, one would like to admonish her with the words of celebrated American author and writer, Patricia Lynn Reilly: “Hold on to your courage: don’t let others preach it out of you”.
• Oyinade wrote from Ilupeju, Lagos.