In a bid to reduce criminality and other social vices in the nation as well as empower the less-privileged youths, particularly through the provision of quality education, Chief Leemon Ikpea, ably supported by his brothers, recently inaugurated a foundation to better the lot of indigenes of Ewatto in particular and Edo State in general. Mary Ekah writes
The twin-problem of youth unemployment and insecurity has raised the tension in the nation's polity and today Nigeria is at a crossroads. Despite the resources that abound in the country, it is sad that over 70 percent of Nigerians live on less than $2 (N300) a day. Statistics show that between 2000 and 2011, over 800 manufacturing industries closed down and for those industries that are managing to survive, capacity utilization drifts between 30 and 45 percent on the average with 100 percent overhead cost. These are the ugly statistics that breed crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery and other related vices.
Hence the belief of the founder of the newly-inaugurated Agbonjagwe Leemon Ikpea Foundation, Chief Leemon Ikpea along with his siblings, Joseph and Tony, that the most effective way to curb criminality and other social vices in the nation is to empower the less-privileged, particularly the youths through the provision of quality education to those who cannot afford it on account of poverty as well as provide opportunities for the youths to acquire basic skills and employment.
The foundation, conceived and brought to being as a platform to give back to the society in appreciation of the many blessings that God has continued to shower on the Ikpea brothers, is established in the memory of their late parents, Johnson and Iluaria Ikpea, who died in 1973 and 1985 respectively.
The foundation, among other things, is meant to celebrate the success of John and Iluaria Ikpea's children, who rose above all the challenges of poverty and grew up to conquer the inhibitions of ghetto life. And though their parents who lived from hand to mouth, died relatively young, the Ikpea boys have grown to become successful businessmen who believe strongly that being a part of this world requires that we do our best to make the world as best for all as they believe that success not shared with others, particularly the less-privileged, is failure.
Looking back now and how things have turned around just when the worse was equally anticipated, the Ikpea children are full of gratitude to God for the journey so far and now crave to share their blessing, having emerged out of the woodlands of dire want to become successful professionals, parents and grandparents who could send their children to school - a necessity they almost missed. Hence the Ikpea brothers resolved to set up a foundation that will offer a lifeline to the helpless children who may currently be passing through the hurdles they themselves crossed.
The eldest of the three, Adolor Ewatto and Chief Executive Officer of Lee Engineering and Construction Company Limited, Chief Leemon Ikpea, spearheading the project, has been involved in a lot of charitable works in the past, all of which his brothers identify with. The establishment of the foundation is a formalisation of that charitable disposition and commitment to better the lot of humanity in his own little way.
The unveiling of the foundation, which started on a solemn note with a thanksgiving service on Saturday November 18, St. Anthony's Catholic Church, Ewatto, Esan South-East Local Government of Edo State, witnessed the unveiling of the foundation logo, cutting of the anniversary cake as well as presentations of cash to beneficiaries and some very special programmes that would affect their lives positively.
Over a thousand students at various level of education and future leaders of Nigeria, who probably did not have hope of tomorrow benefited from the Foundation as chaques of N20, 000 and N50, 000 were given out to students in the secondary schools and tertiary institutions respectively as well as N50, 000 to artisans and widows as startup capital for various businesses.
"I feel great and I am proud to be a child of Ikpea and I am fulfilled that I went into the foundation in the first place because I know there are so many people out there who are presently passing through the path that we passed years ago. So when I reflect back, I say now, I need to go back and touch the lives of people who are passing through that same path. Today we are giving over 170 people scholarship from secondary school level to university level. We are doing this so that this set of young people will not go astray", he said, adding that the Foundation would cater for the less privileged in the society, orphans and widows in all the senatorial districts of Edo State.
He explained further that Foundation serves as a humble gesture to identify with the less privileged in the society, adding, "These are those who are walking the same path we walked many years ago. We know what it means to be hungry and we know what it means to be well fed. We know what it means to be naked and what it means to be clothed. We know how it feels like to have a brilliant child who wants to go to school but there is no money to send him/her to school. We have been through it all", he noted.
Unveiling the logo for the Foundation, he explained that the image of a man walking from darkness-covered ghetto or slum to lit modern city reflects the now successful brothers' conviction that no matter how dark the tunnel, there is light at the end of it.