In what many have described as a massive boost for its cause, the 10th Anniversary of Heart & Soul Gala of the Chike Okoli Foundation witnessed a huge turnout of pharmacists, technocrats, political bigwigs, socialites and professionals from all walks of life.
The Foundation was established in furtherance of the ideals of Chike Edward Okoli who had died five days to his 25th birthday from undetected coronary artery disease. Rising from the grief of his untimely death, his family had set up the Chike Okoli Foundation to promote the passion of his life – entrepreneurship – and to combat cardiovascular diseases which had led to his untimely demise.
Speaking at this year’s event, Dr Stella Okoli, chairman of Emzor Group, explained that when the Foundation was established 10 years ago, the only thing the family had held on to was faith in God.
“Today, every evidence shows that our faith has been justified and bountifully rewarded by Him,” she noted, adding that “it is for this reason that we are now celebrating 10 years of the Foundation, which has grown and evolved from just a dream to an institution to which many young people owe their entrepreneurial beginnings.”
The Emzor boss further remarked that the Foundation’s activities had impacted close to 10 million youths, while several thousands had been trained in entrepreneurship at the Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies (COCES), located at the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka.
Okoli further noted that, since inception in 2006, the establishment, in partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Education, had sustained a regular grassroots cardiovascular health programme which had so far reached out to thousands of young people with valuable information on lifestyle habits.
“We owe all that we have been able to accomplish at the Foundation to the unflinching support, donations in cash and kind prayers and good wishes of our sponsors and supporters,” she noted.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Chief Eric Umeofia, chairman of the occasion, exhorted on the importance of making a positive impact before leaving the earth.
“Our treasure should not be found in money or big cars but in the lives of people we have impacted. With what happened to Chike 10 years ago, Stella (Okoli) has shown her good side to ensure young people don’t suffer the same fate. She has done well. Some people have money but cannot invest in other people,” Umeofia stated.
When called upon to kick-start the donation and appeal segment, Mrs Taiwo Taiwo, managing director of Shonny Properties Limited, told a shocked audience how she shared a similar fate with the Emzor boss.
She gave a brief narration of how she equally lost a daughter to vehicle accident before her 24th birthday, adding that it was shortly after that Chike’s unfortunate death also occurred.
“That is why Stella still stands in the colour of love. I know that God will be quite happy with all she has done so far. Only a mother’s love does that. I know what it feels like to see people you love leaving you suddenly,” Taiwo said.
She further noted that “some beneficiaries of the cholesterol and high blood test we have conducted may not know why we are doing it for them for free. I therefore plead with you to donate generously toward sustaining this cause.”
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, former boss of Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Limited, also showered encomium on Okoli for sustaining the vision of the Foundation over the years.
In his words: “I am always short of words each time I recall God’s mercy over us. Personally, I don’t think God made a mistake by placing this burden on Mrs Okoli. She has shown commitment all the way.
“The root cause of Nigeria’s problems, from kidnapping, Boko Haram to Niger Delta militancy, all boils down to unemployment and abject poverty. Therefore any contribution you make to this Foundation goes a long way to alleviate these problems.”
Other personalities at the event were Prof Jane Ajuluchukwu, consultant cardiologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, vice chancellor, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka; veteran actor Chief Olu Jacob and his wife, Joke Silva; and Weikang Jiang, chairman of Success Way Clean Technology Company.
Others were Dr Jide Idris, Lagos Commissioner for Health; Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State; Pharm Okey Akpa, chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN); Chief Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, Ogun State Deputy Governor; Mrs Uzoma Ezeoke, executive director of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries and Pharm Folourunsho Alaran, Emzor’s business development manager.