MARKET UPDATE
Advertisement

TheCable

Why ZESPRONET is a role model to society

Why ZESPRONET is a role model to society
January 28
17:36 2022

BY NDUKAKU NWOSU

A non-governmental organisation, Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network (ZESPRONET), was launched during a 2015 reunion, by the Abia State University alumni, to address issues of global warming in the south-east, seek ways of adding value to the alma mater and help each other. Emeka Boris Oji, international president and leading US physician, and his colleagues recount the journey so far after delivering an N80 million postgraduate hostel to the university.

Giving back to society has become a coinage embraced by the old school and the next generation of achievers. Corporate social responsibility, if you like, is no longer a badge of the exclusive club of billionaires, great achievers of society and leading corporations.

It starts right from school — primary, secondary, and tertiary. These days it comes with a sense of urgency with age groups, college sets, alma maters, religious groups, et al. There is this desire to return to society what society has given to man.

Advertisement

This was why when Emeka Boris Oji, a 1999 optometry graduate of the Abia State University School of Medicine, and his fellow alumni of the university came together to form an association whose interest is to address ways of helping each other while adding value to the university community and the larger society The move attracted critical applause, especially with what they were able to achieve within the time frame set for deliverables.

Oji recollects that during a 2015 alumni reunion, the members agreed to form a non-governmental organisation to address such issues as climate change, environmental cleanliness, and protection, as well as seek ways of being useful to each other.

Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network, or ZESPRONET, believes people and their way of doing things gain value when the mind is positively skewed on doing the right thing. The organisation’s mandate is to deliver the best to the people because by so doing, society gets better. Oji said: “The body was formed to create value for our members, positively impact their alma mater both by being impactful role models to the current students and by giving back to the school in many ways.”

Advertisement

According to Oji, the idea is to protect the environment through constant sensitisation programmes involving the public and government on issues of global warming, “especially in the eastern states of Nigeria with the devastating effects of gully erosion as well as interface with them and the international community to bring global best practices to bear and not just ameliorate but reverse the trend”.

The most impactful achievement of ZESPRONET till date is the building of a post-graduate hostel for the alma mater which started as Imo State University and later grew to Abia State University with the carving out of a new state. Oji, the international president of ZESPRONET, explains: “We just completed an N80 million, 44-bed post-graduate hostel with each room being en-suite and with TV rooms and game rooms which were handed over to the Abia State University, Uturu, with no strings attached.”

Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia state governor, was so elated at this gesture that he asked Sir Bidwell Okere, the national president of ZESPRONET, to represent him. Those present affirmed the amenities were ultra-modern, justifying the N80 million spent on the 44-room hostel.

Oji — a specialist who holds a doctorate in medicine specialising in optometry and winner of several medical awards and currently practising his profession in the United States — had while receiving an honorary doctorate degree from ABSU in 2019, hinted he and his colleagues were going to deliver a hostel to the university in less than 15 months.

Advertisement

In November 2021, they made good their promise. Oji, a native of Arochukwu and son of Rev Prince Joshua Oji, added: “This is the most ultramodern hostel in the school. We believe both ABSU and other universities and the state governments can learn from this model and utilise it for what it is worth.”

Till date, the group has had a fundraiser of about N67 million from members with overseas medical treatments for those who are infirm. “We have assisted our members with the funerals of loved ones, sponsored the education of the children of our members who died suddenly within six months of our inauguration from secondary through their university education. We had since launched life and accident/ hospital insurance schemes for all our members.”

Oji speaks more on ZESPRONET and its members: “The value of ZESPRONET are its members and on aggregate what they bring to the table, which is non-quantifiable. We are made up of heads of government parastatals, permanent secretaries, and heads of businesses as well as CEOs and lots of medical professionals, engineers, architects and sundry business owners and members of the clergy. This provides unlimited networking potential for our members; those that are not well to do for now are being mentored by those that are doing well, on how to succeed. There is a lot of business interaction amongst members! For our members, this value is difficult to attach any numbers to it.”

How was he able to raise the figures in so short a time? Oji explains: “It was purely the work of God. I do not know how to do half measures. God knows why. It was an 80 million Nigeria project. It was a collaborative effort from all of us. My colleagues at work here in the US raised 10 million for me, whites, and Indian Americans, that may not be able to visit my country but keyed into my vision. My wife and I put in N45 million approximately.

Advertisement

“Then my younger brother, my parents, friends, including brothers from other fraternities, contributed N4 million. Then my ZFN brothers to whom I will remain forever grateful completed the rest. The thing is this: in every human organisation, you need a crazy person that can always go all the way to get things done Sometime in heaven: we will balance the book.”

According to Oji, the alumni had in the past supplied books and medical journals worth over $20,000 to the ABSU medical library and only recently completed a six-week radio campaign in the five eastern states. ZESPRONET went out of its way to ask citizens to be civil, shun violence, avoid corruption, and protect the environment, including prompting and sponsoring members to contest elective positions in the last general and local government election, adding that the membership would do the same thing in 2023. Reason? “We figure the only way to positively change the system is to be a part of it and bring the desired change from within.

Advertisement

“For me, I have plans to positively impact my Arochukwu kindred, but will only share that once conceptualisation is completed and implementation started.”

Oji and his colleagues are proud of what the alma mater has bequeathed to them, a quality education that has brought them centre stage to global relevance; yet he is not happy that things have fallen apart in the management of public schools. Public schools have caved in, he laments, while private institutions have become the vogue.

Advertisement

This should not be so, he insists, and clearly wants a bridge built for public school managers to walk across and have a constant dialogue with the alumni for purposes of sustaining the lofty standards of great learning expected of such public institutions.

“No government in the world abdicates the training of current manpower and future leadership to the hawkish and murky world of private education,” he says.

His argument: private education should be complementary to public education “but not to replace public education hence our efforts to bend the curve positively, by liaison with the management of our alma mater to see how this type of interaction between school management and alumni could be utilised to its full potential”.

The education system in Nigeria today, he explains, “is ill-positioned for the challenges of the 21st century while the private education is almost out of the reach of most Nigerians, thus creating two parallel societies we may live to regret”.

Oji’s powerful argument that the great institutions we try to emulate are largely beneficiaries of endowments from alumni, are resonating in alumni associations with laudable responses, even if it is like a drop of water in the ocean.

He said: “All the powerful public schools-Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, etc. depend a lot on endowment funds donated by their alumni and families to make up for the difference government and tuition provide for them. This model also needs to be adopted and encouraged by the government.

“We thank the former Vice-Chancellor of the institution Prof E. U. Ikonne who had the same worldview as we did and embraced us with open hands and supported progressive ideas. We hope to continue the same relationship with the current Vice-Chancellor-Prof Maxwell Ogbulu and his executive team.

“We also want to thank our executives and members for being great givers and accepting all charitable challenges we throw at them. We know this country will be better off because of organisations like ZESPRONET that believe there is joy in meaningful and impactful giving.”

On the outlook of ZESPRONET, he says the future is very bright.

“As an organisation, we have invested significant funds as fixed deposits, whilst we have a five-year development plan during which time all funds that come into ZESPRONET are fixed and to be used for our future projects that will benefit our members,” he added.

Oji speaks of ZESPRONET projects in the pipeline: “We are in conversation with Heifer international to see how we can distribute high breed dwarf goats to widows in different communities as a means of wealth-building and the acquisition of financial independence. Once the security situation in the east improves, we shall proceed to build a ‘soup kitchen,’ the first of its kind in Owerri, Imo State. There will be a complex with an event centre where funds coming from the event centre are utilised in running a high-end restaurant where the less privileged can walk in and get fed for free without any questions asked.

“We are also gearing up to start a tree planting exercise in Lagos State where some of our members are domiciled, in the five eastern states and in our Alma mater Abia State University Uturu. These are some of the projects to be delivered in the next two years; for our members, we are working out the details of a small business loans scheme that we hope will come on board through our cooperative society in 2022.”

0 Comments

No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment