Modupe Ozolua is a foremost body enhancer and founder of Empower54 a non-profit organization dedicated to providing desperately needed humanitarian assistance to underprivileged Africans. She is a social entrepreneur born 42 years ago and of Edo parentage.
Though, she schooled in the United States of America, she decided to come back home at age 27 to contribute her own quota to the development of her fatherland and write her country’s name on the world map of body enhancers. She took time out from her busy schedule to speak to Adewale Ogunniran about her life and works in Africa.
The ever smiling Modupe does not agree that her body enhancement work was out of reach of average Nigerian in terms of costs compared to the services offered to those who need them. “I have a team that handles the work perfectly now 24/7 because people come for consultation from different parts of the country,” she assured. She said she is a successful body enhancer, adding that “the definition of expensive differs when people compare the type of the treatment offered and by the time they compare the price to others, they are surprised at our moderate and affordable charges”.
She said that her charity organization was founded in 2003 before the insurgency started in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. Modupe, who was visibly angry that most Nigerians view her charity work, especially those who thought that she was doing it for political gains said, “I used my personal resources and risked my life on the project.
No government funding, and we did not ask for money from anybody to fund our charity organization,” Modupe is not particularly happy about many Nigerian journalists asking her why she ventured into charity work, claiming that in America where she had lived for many years, they don’t ask her such questions. She says it’s annoying.
“In America, they know that it is normal thing to do such things. But here, they think you are doing it for political gains. I am not a politician and I cannot be one or descend so low to that level just to survive. I spend my money, risk my life for the development of my country. I am doing better than most politicians,” she said.
On challenges Modupe agreed that it was challenging to meet the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs), adding that most internally displaced persons sleep on floors. Modupe says this pitiful.
She claimed that the number of displaced persons was being downplayed, and that the number of internally displaced persons are much more than that because she saw and counted some of them by herself. She said that although only NEMA and SEMA can give correct figures but all she knows is that the numbers are more than what they announce.
Modupe expressed her displeasure on the way the donated items were being handled. She said that most of the goods, products and other items donated to these people were being sold on the road by the unscrupulous elements who steal them from IDP’s camp, which goes against the purpose of the donation. “Of course, there are always bad people; all I know is that my organization has not collected one penny from anybody,” Modupe stated.
She said that charity organizations started to support internally displaced persons as far back as November 2014, especially women and children.
When asked what makes her charity organization helping different from others as she claimed, she said, “what we do is that we look for what they used to do before the insurgency; like tailoring, farming and so on. Those that are tailors were given sewing machines, thread and scissors while farmers were assisted with fertilizers and seeds, “she said.
She claimed that most of the internally displaced persons are the bread winners of their families. She cited the case of a woman among displaced persons who used the opportunity to become the bread winner of her displaced family through the sewing machine given to her.
Modupe’s joy is that the charity work she embarked upon has been positive because it has become a means to an end in terms of skill acquisition and empowerment. She said through her empowerment
programme, 54 charity organization have built six blocks of classrooms for students in the internally displaced persons’ camp, made provisions for their uniforms, books as well as paid teachers. Modupe added that it was a wrong impression that nobody lived in the villages attacked by Boko Haram, adding that people there are living in abject poverty.
She thanked her stars and that of her team for what could have been a disaster when they narrowly escaped the wrath of Boko Haram insurgents. She recounted her experience on how they escaped unhurt.
“We left Gombe on Feburary 13; Boko Haram came killing immediately my team and I left the village; it was a narrow escape. Where could we have run to?” she asked “Gombe is a desert area. We were just lucky it was the closest ever,” she said.
On her adventure to Nigeria from America,she said she lost her mother in October 2013, the same year she returned to her fatherland. She says that her realization of the challenges running a business from one continent to another made her decide to stay in Nigeria. Though she said that she would have preferred America where people understood her better, she has had so much fulfillment in what she is doing in Nigeria.”I wouldn’t have come to Nigeria, but God deceived me to come to Nigeria,” she concluded