PORT HARCOURT 2019 - Rotary's Public Image / The Rotary Foundation Seminars @ Port Harcourt -Rivers State. Date: 22nd - 23rd November, 2019. REGISTRATION IS ONGOING


Rotary arrived the West Coast of Africa during World War II when the Rotary Club of Dakar (Senegal) was charted in 1939, in what was called French West Africa. However, in Spite of finding itself, at times, very much in the midst of hostilities, the club managed to Continue in being throughout the war.

It took nineteen long years for a second club to be established in Abidjan, Cote d'lvoire (1956). The next two years, however, saw a club in Duala, Cameroon (1957) and in Accra, Ghana (1958).

In 1961, Rotary arrived Nigeria with the formation of three clubs in Kano, Lagos and Ibadan in that order.

The administration of clubs in West Africa was first ad hoc, since there were not enough clubs to constitute the area into a Rotary International District. However, from 1968, Rotary International appointed Zonal Representatives to oversee the clubs with the following across the years:

Rotarian Jack Fransworth (1968/69)
Rotarian Bayo T. Braithwaite (1969/70)
Rotarian Inder Baker (1970/71)
Rotarian Anofi Guobadia (1971/72)
Rotarian Philip Dudeney (1972/73)

In 1973, there were 33 clubs in West Africa and the Cameroon and it was then possible to establish a District. At the 1973 Rotary International Convention in Loussane (Switzerland) the "amiable" Rotarian Francois Amorin of the Rotary Club of Cotonou was elected the first District Governor of the newly created District 210.

The following Governors administered the District:

Rotarian Francois Amorin (1973/74)
Rotarian Anofi Guobadia (1974/75)
Rotarian Tommy Hope (1975/76)
Rotarian Henry Gallenca (1976/7)

By the 1977/78 Rotary year the district was given a new nomenclature of 910 with the "indefatigable" Rotarian Sam Okudzeto becoming the first Governor. The following were at various times at the helm of affairs of the district in order:

Rotarian Sam Okudzeto 1977/78
Rotarian Joe Richards 1978/79
Rotarian Nicholas Antoniades 1979/80
Rotarian Georges Sangaret 1980/81

As the years rolled by, the number of clubs, if slowly, kept rising. Some years were more dramatic than others. One of the more dramatic years was Jon Majiyagbe's. He made a determined effort to organise the formation of new clubs, six of which he was able to charter during his year, with seven more chartered the following year. With the number of clubs increasing in this rather expansive geographical area with poor communication and other logistical problems, it was becoming increasingly difficult to effectively administer the district. By 1981, it had become clear that the West Africa sub region could no longer remain as a single district. Thus by mid 1982, District 910 was- split into three, 910, 911 and 915. All the clubs from Senegal to the Republic of Benin remained as 910. Nigeria became 911 and Cameroon with parts of Central Africa became 915.

The new District 911 was inaugurated in August 1982 under the "youthful and articulate" Julius Adelusi Adeluyi of the Rotary Club of Ikeja as Governor with 26 clubs. Due to the hard work and impressive public relations of Governor Juli, more clubs were formed during his tenure, and by the end of June 1983, there were 62 clubs in Nigeria with a membership of 3,400. For the two years of the existence of District 911, in that form we had the following Governors:

Rotarian Julius Adelusi Adeluyi 1982/83
Rotarian Beremako Bob Ogbuagu 1983/84

Governor Bob provided strong leadership for Rotary in Nigeria. He was able to persuade Rotary International to establish a local account in Nigeria into which dues and other payments have continued to be made to this day. It was also during his year that a district fund was established for the "adequate administration and development of Rotary". District dues have thus been paid by all clubs in the district to this day on a per capita basis.

As the second Governor of District 911, which encompassed the whole of Nigeria, Bob Ogbuagu continued the momentum of Rotary Extension with the number of clubs reaching a record high of 83. Because of this phenomenal growth, Nigeria was redistricted into two, the country being split vertically into 911 (comprising Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Sokoto States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and 912 (comprising clubs in Rivers, Bendel, Anambra, Imo, Cross River, Benue, Plateau, Gongola, Bomu, Bauchi, Kano and Kaduna States).

The following Governors presided over District 912 to which we belonged:

Rotarian Vogen Gambo Sanda1984/85
Rotarian Mike Nduka Okwechime 1985/86

During these two years the onslaught on Rotary Extension continued and by the end of the 1985/86 Rotary year another redistricting had to take place into 912 (with 28 clubs and 1,183 members) and 914 (with 49 clubs and 1,852 members).

So Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bendel, Cross River, Imo and Rivers States became District 914 and Frederick Abiye Agama became the first District Governor. The following Governors have resided over the affairs of the district so far:

Rotarian Frederick Abiye Agama 1986/87
Rotarian Ben Chudi Udeze 1987/88
Rotarian Chike Nwizu 1988/89
Rotarian Isaac Omire Jemide 1989/90
Rotarian Ngozi Cyprian Allanah 1990/91

By the 1991/92 Rotary year the district was given a new nomenclature of 9141 with Rotarian Edward Dandeson Spiff becoming the first Governor. The following have since been at various times at the helm of affairs of the district in order:

Rotarian Edward Dandeson Spiff 1991/92
Rotarian Ita Okokon 1992/93
Rotarian David Chineye Okonkwo 1993/94
Rotarian Benson Udealor Aghazu 1994/95
Rotarian Cornelius Colonel Otiteh 1995/96
Rotarian Eddie Mbadiwe 1996/97
Rotarian Henry Ejimudo 1997/98
Rotarian Macaulay Nwankwo 1998/99
Rotarian Timothy Nwankwo 1999/2000
Rotarian Omaka Okoh 2000/2001
Rotarian Emmanuel Nwamkpa 2001 /2002
Rotarian Eddy Ikponmwen 2002/2003
Rotarian Odoliyi Lolomari 2003/2004
Rotarian Jonathan Ikeakor 2004/2005
Rotarian Nwankire Onuoha 2005/2006
Rotarian Charles Femi Lawani 2006/2007
Rotarian Udo Mbosoh 2007/2008
Rotarian Elizabeth Nwankwu 2008/2009
Rotarian Uduak Edward Inyang 2009/2010
Rotarian Gabriel Toby 2010/2011
Rotarian Olayinka Hakeem Babalola 2011/2012
Rotarian Onyebuchi Onuoha 2012/2013
Rotarian Charles Onianwa 2013/2014
Rotarian Noble Eshemitan 2014/2015

A lot has since happened to Rotary in these parts in all these years these Rotarians have been at the helm of affairs. Just in the last Rotary year under the leadership of Noble Eshemitan, the Rotary International approved the redistricting of District 9140 into two new districts, 9141 and 9142 with effect from 1st July 2017. District 9141 comprises of clubs in Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo and Delta states while District 9142 comprises of clubs in Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. The implication of this is that the current District 9140 will cease to exist after June 30, 2017.

Not all years have been equally successful. But each Governor has performed to the best of his ability, though. Another area in which the district has made tremendous advance is in Rotary Foundation matters. Once the myth of substantial giving to the Foundation was broken, we have since nearly always exceeded our target. During some years we even won laurels from TRF for substantial annual giving. The roll call of Paul Harris Fellows, benefactors, major donors and Arch Klump Society members has also continued to rise. And more recently, we have also begun to access foundation grants to fund humanitarian projects. District Governors have also conceptualized the idea of District Projects. So we have had years in which we emphasized Breast Cancer Awareness, the Gift of Life Programme, Aids Prevention, Blood bank or the Safe Africa Blood Project, the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets, the District Education Endowment Fund (DEEF).

Avoidable Blindness, and the erection of Four Way Test Billboards. All these projects have helped to give the district more visibility and created greater awareness of Rotary in the minds of the public. The district has also had to face challenges: These can be grouped into a number of compartments: First administratively, the landscape has changed significantly since the district came into being. We used to have an informal arrangement by which District Governors had Group Representatives to help clubs that needed district assistance but could not.
Rotary International itself saw the need to provide official assistance for the District Governor to administer the clubs more efficiently so the position of Assistant Governor has been created in the District leadership hierarchy. In fact, no one can become District Governor without first serving as an Assistant Governor. Assistant Governors, created through the District Leadership Plan, now have the official role of visiting clubs, holding Club assemblies, reporting periodically to the Governor.

Secondly, Rotary Extension has been a problem not only at the District level but also at the international level. Every RI President appears to be introducing a new strategy. We even tried a global quest which, while it lasted, increased members tremendously but collapsed soon after. At the District level we are receiving mixed signals.
Club numbers have continued to rise with the result that today we have up to 115 clubs making up the district. But many of these new found clubs have low membership, some so low that they would not even qualify to receive a charter were they to apply for one today. If one attends meetings of some of these clubs one will notice attendance that is less than for even a board meeting.

The next challenge has been district finances. Every Rotary year appears to start from scratch. And each Governor starts with opening a new district bank account. This defeats the concept of the District fund and the management of district assets by a Finance Committee.

Therefore this year, we have succeeded to reuse the District account of 2011/2012 Rotary year to administer the District finances.So although Rotary was embraced with enthusiasm, and its growth was like wild fire, things are not the same anymore. We need a period of sober reflection to enable us forge a Workable strategy in this part of the world if we must Be A Gift To The World. It is time to unleash our passion.