There will never be enough words to describe the man that is Nuhu Kwajafa . Nuhu Kwajafa’s life and journey as the founder of the Global Initiative for Peace, Love and Care (GIPLC) is one that is worthy of emulation and celebration. His work over the years has brought smiles and hope to the hopeless; his unrelenting efforts in championing the cause of the less privileged makes him one Inspirational African we are proud to celebrate.
In this interview with Whoot Africa’s Olushola Pacheco, Nuhu Kwajafa shares about his journey to GIPLC, using the power of volume to raise funds, supporting child education and his push to get international support in ending the plights of the less privileged.
Nuhu Kwajafa and the journey to GIPLC?
I lost my sister 10years ago; after her burial, I found myself asking many questions. Was that it? Is that all there is to life? I wondered about the mystery of life of having people here today and gone tomorrow, I realised everything could change and life would continue. I left Nigeria for the UK a short while later and stayed for about 9months. On my way back to Nigeria, a chance meeting with a black cab driver who had picked me as his last passenger changed the course of my life forever, he was retiring after 20years to join the Red cross as a volunteer driver in Iraq. When I got on that plane back to Nigeria, it was like he had set fire to my soul, I barely slept and I realized I had no guarantees, I had to make the most of my life and I had to start now.
When I got home, I started reaching out to people in desperate need to help in my own little way, and as the outreach got bigger, I decided it was time to register a charity and that was how we came up with Global Initiative for Peace, Love and Care (GIPLC).
His inspiration as at the day of this interview?
When I wake up in the morning, I go through my phone. The text messages are countless, with words of appreciation and prayers from people whose lives we daily touch through GIPLC, to me this is inspiration, and one that is fulfilling beyond words. Knowing that someone woke up happy either as a result of paid medical bills, food supplies or school fees being paid is real joy to me and one that I don’t take for granted.
The terrain out here is tough, and dishonest people have succeeded in putting a dent on charitable spirits and givings, tell us about the challenges? Days when you really just feel like quitting?
Sure, we had gone at some point to help raise funds for a child in need and then you realize there are middle men who are willing to help you raise funds, but with massive kickbacks or else they shut the door to any funds you are able to access. At that point, I was shocked beyond words and unable to phantom such inhumanity, I ended up selling my car to raise the money we needed at the time. People couldn’t believe, some even said I was stupid, how can he sell his car to raise money for a child he barely knows? But surprisingly, I had hailed a cab to visit a rape victim at a hospital, when the cab driver recognized me and volunteered his services 4 hours daily, and he did it for a year to support us free of charge, that action restored my faith in the power of possibilities and greater good when you set out to do good. Another incident happened when we were accosted by Fulani herdsmen who were up to no good, but one of them was wearing a GIPLC T-shirt, a shirt I had given to him during an outreach a year prior and that was how we escaped being killed. They escorted us to safety and let us go.
What you do through GIPLC is as a result of the failing in the system and the government’s inability to take care of its own people, have you ever thought to engage government?
Yes, we did try, but the bureaucracy is daunting. You can write from now till eternity, you’d be lucky to get a reply, or middle men who are so corrupt and inhumane towards the plight of the downtrodden stand in your way for a quick buck. Many of the people in power want to help, but the people between you and them are the real bottlenecks.
When you talk to your parents, how do they react to this path that you have chosen, rather than ride on the opportunities that those before you have availed you?
When I first started, my dad was against it. My dad had served in government as the Chairman of NDLEA; when he retired in 1994, he set up a security consulting and supply firm and I worked with the company. Leaving the company to work in charity full time didn’t go down well in the beginning, my dad didn’t understand why I decided to follow this path. He felt I was throwing away my opportunities, and he put his foot down about it. I knew I had to navigate this journey on my own and there was to be no fall-back plan on family of any kind.
Today, the story is different; people now ask him, are you Nuhu’s dad? Which used to be the other way around. My dad is proud to support GIPLC, he always ensures to attend our end of the year parties just to spend time with the children and those who are less privileged. In all, to have both my parents alive at this point and also to have their unrelenting support with what I do, is truly a blessing.
Lessons in the last 10years?
The last ten years of GIPLC has taught me that life isn’t all about us, what we see and neglect today will certainly destroy us tomorrow. I remember writing an article concerning the number of street kids out of school in Nigeria in 2006, and I said if we don’t tackle it, it will be a time bomb, and today, things are almost the same as they were back then, these children are being used for all the wrong things. When an hungry child gets food even from the wrong pots, it would be easy to use such children to perpetrate whatever the hands feeding them command. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly side of life; it has taught me bigger lessons about life, everyone gets one shot at this thing called life and that’s it. I have seen life in a different perspective than I used to, that’s why I take nothing for granted, it is a privilege to be here and also be impactful in my own little way.
If you were to be a policy maker right now, with the work you do and everything that you have seen, what changes would you make?
First, implementing the child rights act of 2003 that was passed; no child is supposed to hawk on the streets, no child should be a child labourer. Every child of school age should be in school, if children are on the streets hawking, then you need to get to the bottom of the root causes. When you empower parents with thriving atmospheres and jobs, empowering their children through education will come easier.
The largest percentage of out of school children in Nigeria are based in the north. As a northerner yourself, have you tried to engage the northern leaders to help take on these causes?
In 2007, we were trying to launch a food kitchen to feed ten thousand children during the religious holiday celebrations, but it is unfortunate that society has become so untrusting that genuine kindness is often perceived with motives and agendas. The plan was to be able to get an accurate data of how many children were out of school at that time; it was alarming to verify the number of children who were out on the streets begging and out of school. We prepared for ten thousand children and ended up with sixteen thousand. By the time, we started the sensitization program to bring awareness to why children needed to be in school and the value of education, the scholars and leaders in that community were unhappy, and the fact that they realized I didn’t share the same faith with them became a major issue for them as well. Things are sometimes not black and white, we are living on a religious time bomb out here and it makes it difficult to do charity work when your faith and beliefs are more important that the good you and your team are bringing to the community.
Your life is one of service; when you look at the young people out there today, many are selfish and self-centred living the me, myself and I lifestyle that does little to impact others. What would you say to that young person reading this about serving humanity, being sacrificial and impacting our world?
My advice is this – you want long life? Be compassionate to others who are in need. You want good health and happiness, and to also enjoy your life? Don’t look at life that it is all about you, there are others who are not as privileged as you are, there are people you are looking up to, no matter how bad you think you have it, someone has it worse than you do. Tomorrow, these young men and women are the leaders we will look up to as the mothers and fathers in the society. Be wise, don’t take life for granted, look at the people before you and do better, be better and be impactful. Our generation needs to put humanity first, forget about religion, forget about tribe, embrace humanity because it is the only race that exist.
We want to be the African UNICEF or Red Cross; we want to be able to spring into action when crisis happens around the continent. We know it won’t be an easy road, but we will get there.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for being real. That this man changed lives and he was real and genuine about everything he did in the charity world. I want to be remembered for the joy and happiness my work with GIPLC brought to many. To be said, that he did what he did because it was the right thing to do, and lastly, to have young people look at my life and resolve to be better and do even greater works than I did.
To support GIPLC visit www.giplc.org