Mr. Mattew Oruga, a graduate of the University of Lagos who is offering humanitarian service has revealed his plans to make Nigeria a better place.
Mr. Mattew Oruga
Tell us about yourself?
I am Mr. Mattew Oruga from Delta State. I attended University of Lagos. I studied sociology and graduated in 2006 have. I went into Humanitarian service. In fact, I registered a company before I got into the University and I have been using the proceed to sustain the organisation after I registered Concerned for Elders Initiative (CEI) in 2010. And since 2010, the organisation has been actually addressing the issue concerning the Elders and trying to raise a voice for them. Before now, we used to do town hall meeting, house to house programmes to reach out to them and support them. But now, we have moved to a level support for advocacy and Policies that actually address the population of the elders in Nigeria.
Can you tell us about Concerned for Elders Initiative (CEI)?
CEI is an organisation registered to check the problem of ageism. To also look at the high level of problems and widespread of elders abuse. And now we are trying as much as possible to see that we do advocacy to reach out to the legislators & the political leaders. First, we can get what we call the ministry of the aged and also see how we can push for the adults protective agencies that will be established in the state and local government and urban centres where the problem of the elders can be addressed. Besides that, CEI is also trying as much as possible to see that we raise funds for CEI arm centres and CEI palliatives units in all the remote areas of our country, so that the problems of the elders, the lack of respect, love that they have today will be actually addressed. CEI seeks to reduce or eradicate it, if possible, and the fear by many of growing old in the future. Growing old today in our society seems to be hand in hand with being abandoned later in the future and nobody want to be abandoned. My Initiative don't like that and the organisation is really taking care of that. We are working to see that we address that adequately. This is our pursue, our duty, our call and we are doing it to the best of our ability.
What actually inspires/ motivates you into this advocacy?
If you look around, you see grown people turn their back to the elders, who trained them. And nobody wants to be abandoned. An abandoned person can never be happy. This is what I see. I see it in my home, in my village. I see it everywhere, and nobody is thinking about it. If attention is not paid about it, the nation will just collapse one day. Even today, you look at militancy and every side of this country, agitating for one thing or the other, it all boils down to lack of care and people are not sure of the future. We must do things that will let people know tthat there is social security everyone that nobody is actually manipulated or deprived or abused. And the elderly people that have birth to us in the country are suffering and when we grow old today, it will be our turn. It is right time somebody do the needful by caring and doing things that will make ageing peaceful and elderly active in our society. As we see today, the elders are neglected to the extent that even in the family, they don't make contribution. Giving a voice to the elderly is what actually motivated me and inspires me that with it, we will have a better society.
Can you tell us the mission of your initiative?
Our mission is to raise a new moral consciousness for people to continue to show love and collectively address ageism. The alarming and wide spread of Elders Abuse across Nigeria and importantly lack of respect, tender care, chronic and extreme poverty towards the elders, inadequate policies, poor implementation of state and federal laws towards the elders to protect and advance their course for a peaceful and actively ageing. It was a clarion call for CEI to unearth causes of both Elders Abuse and Chronic poverty amongst the elders in Nigeria and help proffer enduring solution to stem the tide of Ageism. CEI is poised to engage the legislators and other political leaders in Nigeria for a strong political will and policies for support and adequate protection of the elders. The organization is presently raising awareness on Ageism, Elders Abuse and promoting the rights of the elders in Nigeria. CEI mandate is to protect and support the elders to live a life of dignity irrespective of their ethnic, origin, social status and creed.
Is your initiative in any collaboration with any sister agency and if yes, why?
I think we have few ones in Nigeria and intentionally we have affiliation with some of them abroad. Not for us to seek their support financially but to also join them in their trend of technology and information. We are doing that and the ones we have, we try to collaborate. We have just done one now, but it was successful. So we are collaborating with others.
Can you tell us some of the challenges your advocacy has been facing since inception?
Well, the organisation has been facing quite a lot, especially in terms of resources. Nobody wants to give you because they don't see the need to give out to people that are old. Sometimes they tell you that the youths are suffering. Why are you looking at people that have lived their lives. Sometimes people look at you with disdain when you try to seek support for the elders. I think what is responsible for that today are greed and modernisation that we are not getting right. We have abandoned what we call Africa Kingship system that was operational before now. That is when your children grows up they try to look back and give back to you. Now, modernisation and industrialization has made people to look for greener pastures, which actually changed the narratives that children will come back and cater for their older ones. Unfortunately, the political leaders in Nigeria are not helping matters. You know, We lack adequate policies that will support the elders. This is a very big problem, because of that, we rely only on what the organisation can generate and it's actually telling on us. It is very funny we are where we are today because of lack of support from political sector and even the citizens who also disdain the elders and see them as witches and wizards. I know we will overcome it. It will be nice for people to grow old and have social security services that we take care of them. I know overtime, we will get support to get there. The youth of yesterday are gradually growing old. The youth are the elders of tomorrow and if they don't do anything, actually they will be the one to suffer it first. We are encouraging them to desist from that act of not showing love and disdaining for the elders.
Is there anyway government has intervened in your advocacy or has government policies affected or impacted in your advocacy?
It has not in anyway impacted because except last year, that President Muhammadu Buhari signed a policy concerning the elders. Though, we are actually studying it carefully enough to see the direction. You know, Lagos state Government under Mr. Babatunde Fashola sometimes did something concerning the elders, but that is too elitist because we have higher population of the elders in the remote areas. It was for the elite. A common man cannot be in that place and the Elders Home the Lagos state government runs. I don't think is of effective as one should think. When we started, we were looking at not encouraging private homes here. But we look at it again and we saw that there is need for it, so that people can use it to engage the need for it, so that people can use it to engage the elders. It is not just putting them in private homes, but also to have them work in such places to check boredom and loneliness when the need arises. On the intervention, nothing has actually come to us as a support from them in any way.
How has you advocacy group impacted on the society/elders?
A lot. We have don't programmes, majority in Lagos and few outside Lagos and everywhere we have gone to, we have impacted lives. The elders were so happy and hopeful and they prayer with us that what we are fighting for should come to pass. There lives would be better and generation unborn would also benefit from it. So we are imparting and impacting and so many of them are happy. When we started, we were just doing unit, go to places, we give care, drugs and address their immediate needs. But today, we are looking at policies that generally of elders in Nigeria because what we are doing now is unit by unit in Nigeria. It is difficult for us to cover the whole of Nigeria because of our resources. So now, if we go to government to do policies, we can also join to drive such policies and it will be better because more NGOs concerning the elders will be registered and they will also continue from where we are or help in area we are weak. So it is something that has to be done. We are really impacting.
We learnt that you marked the World Elders Awareness day with the United Nation on June 15, is there any program ahead for this year?
Yes, we have. Every June 15, the world elders abuse awareness programmes is deliberated. We have just done one now, we are looking at another one, the international day for the elders, it is also a global programme. That day coincide with our independent day, October 1. Because of that, it is not actually noticed or celebrated in Nigeria. But this time, we are going to raise our voices, if it will mean collaborating, doing a more collaboration with other people so that we can raise the awareness and can also be celebrated along side with our independent day.
I will also like to add that, you know elder in Nigeria or African generally, when they grow old, young people ascribe them as witches and wizards. That is what CEI is fighting against that government should make policies that address the issue and immediate needs of the elders. We should not forget those at the informal sector; the traders group. Pension should be paid to them. Policies should be made such that if you do not take care of your elderly father or mother, there should be a penalty for you, so that every child as he/she grows up knows that his/her parent are sacrosanct to be taking care of.
If you look at our society the way it is structured we have pension and gratuity for those that are retired, but we also have population of the elders that are in the informal sector that are more in the rural areas and these ones are cut off from the society, because I don't have information and they are not even remembered. So, what CEI is concerned about is this category of these elder are being classified. The one that are getting pension they go through a very rigorous processes to get their entitlement when they are disengaged from active service and it is very bad, awkward, barbaric. We want that appalled in every sector. We want those in the rural areas or those that are in the informal sector, there must he something for them.
What we intend to do is to meet those private pension organizations who are now engaging them, that if there is a way, those that are in the informal sector can be contributing, so when they get to their old/retirement age, they can also be given some government polices should also take care of these people. That's why we are waiting for that ministry of the aged that will come from the federal and the protective Adult agency that will now hendle the issue, not just pension, but issues or ageism and elders abuse and poverty among the elders. Once these are done, we will have a peaceful society and people will know that once they are old, apart from their children, who are there to support, that government has strong policies that will take care of the elders. So, with this, our society will be a better nation. If you want to see a society that is actually moving forward, if you see their elders, as a youth, you will know how your tomorrow will be like. At CEI, we say they are mirror to the society and they are our future-self. If we grow old, this how we are going to look. If they abandon them, we will also feel that when we grow old, they will also abandon us.
So, the youth want to do everything humbly possible today to make it and plan for their future. In Nigeria, your future is in your hand. If you don't provide for yourself, you will not have something for it tomorrow. So, this attitude is something the government must address. We are doing that at our level but the government must put strong policies to do that and for policies that are in place, you don't even know whether they exist because the driving force behind them is so weak and sometime we don't even have. We just mention something and it does not happen. At the end of the day, they tell you this is what we have. We want to work as much as possible to be a support to drive those policies.