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HANDEF Empowers Her Graduate Trainees, Awards Winning Schools and Students in Essay and Art Competition-

-Agagu’s widow fetes handicapped trainees, students

THE wife of the former Governor of Ondo State and founder of Handicapped Education Foundation (HANDEF), Dr Mrs. Olufunke Agagu, last week feted primary, secondary school students and physically impaired trainees to mark its tenth empowerment programme in Akure.

HANDEF, since creation in 2008, has been encouraging people living with disabilities by organising different seminars and workshops on different aspects of life to empower them on health issues, business and entrepreneurship, and partnering with other local and international organizations, geared towards giving the focal persons a sense of belonging and purpose on earth.

Seventeen people living with various disabilities at the HANDEF Mobility Aid and Braille Centre were given six laptop computers, three knitting machines and eight cash empowerment, while 11 students from primary and secondary school categories won several awards and cash prizes in a competition.

According to the founder: “This will be the tenth in the series of our empowerment programs since the centre was commissioned in 2008. In fact, we had three ceremonies in the first year where we graduated 20 in ICT and seven in bead and hat making.”

She stated that the foundation has trained for free and graduated 56 people in ICT, 29 in fashion designing, knitting, hat and bead making from 2008 to 2015, “and all of them were given tools of their trade or start-off grants.”

Mrs. Olufunke Agagu mentioned that during the same period, the foundation has counselled and tested 1863 for HIV/ AIDS and have given out over 700 mobility aids throughout the south western states, and even to beneficiaries in Edo State, adding that one of the Ogungbeni children, who are beneficiaries of HANDEF, would soon graduate from the Technical College, Okitipupa.

The foundation in the last two years has introduced “The Essay and Artistic Drawing Competition,” which is open to select private primary and secondary schools in the state, and as affirmed by Agagu, “would serve firstly as campaign among school children on the plight of people with disability.”

She emphasized that the competition “also seeks to discover the latent creativity of our children. The winners of this competition in the various categories will be given awards and a reminiscent of the HANDEF Partners’ Club of the early years of the foundation.”

The former governor’s wife expressed displeasure over the poor use of the e-granary library that is domiciled in HANDEF Centre and the subsequent sale of the empowerment tools given to the trainees after graduation, thereby imploring parents to discourage their wards from such acts. HANDEF is also making efforts to partner with some tertiary institutions in the South West to reverse the former trend.

However, she said: “HANDEF will continue to work for the benefit and recognition of our focal group but I must say that we need encouragement from our parents, the general public and government at all levels; people with different disabilities are part and parcel of or society and they deserve recognition and place of pride, not pity or discrimination.”

The founder recounted that the donation that was received at its inception has yielded more profits, has been the source and financial base for the sustenance of its operations and empowerment programmes, thereby urging the general public and humanitarian organisations to partner with the foundation to better the lives of the handicapped and impaired people. Earlier, in a lecture on entrepreneurship, which is the key focus of HANDEF, Mr. Michael Amushitan, from Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), orientated the trainees and on the technicalities and strategies of becoming a successful entrepreneur in their various vocations.

The President of HANDEF Beneficiaries Business Association (HBBA), Falae Mayowa, thanked the founder for the humanitarian drive and pledged that the association would continue to dissuade the beneficiaries from further abusing the great gesture to give them a sense of belonging as a people.

Present at the occasion were: Chief Dr. Mrs. Olufunke Agagu, the former First Lady of Ondo state and Founder of HANDEF, Chief Femi Akinmade, a Board of Trustee member of HANDEF, Chief Mrs. Cecelia Meradesa, the Iyalode of Akure, Mrs. Bike Akinduro among others.

… Cued from The Guardian June 16, 2015




It was a Friday like any Friday. The weather did not give any suggestion that it was going to be a black day or that it was going to set in tears. The day before my boss had called to say she had just arrived from her well deserved rest abroad. She sounded refreshed and raring to go. We talked about the plans for the 10th anniversary of the NGO, Handicapped Education Foundation that we all called HANDEF.

I expressed anxiety over the tardiness of a sponsor we had been waiting to respond, and she kindly said I should not worry so much, that we should depend on the Almighty about how the anniversary would be celebrated. However, she might be paying a visit to the centre soon, in a week or thereabouts. Anyway I should let her have the sample letter I was planning for schools.

I promised to send her an update of activities since she had been away, to bring things up to the minute. A few more chit chat and the conversation ended with me in an upbeat mood which carried me into the next day Friday the 13th of September.

Report up to date, I called her and informed her that it was now in her email. The day ended peacefully enough and I went home. Then came the phone call. I was already half way to dream state when the call came and the caller in deep anxiety called to ask if the news was true. My boss had lost her best friend, confidant, role model and husband of more than three decades.

My heart hammered against my rib cage and I wondered if I was about to reach to the cold beyond to yank him back. I felt very sad. The phone calls kept flooding in thereafter so I abruptly switched off. Dr, Olusegun Agagu had passed on. The man who seemed indestructible from the numerous betrayals of close associates had been felled by the cold hands of death.

I wondered how my boss would be feeling and shuddered in real pain, at what I sensed would be the huge black hole she would be gazing at. My memory took leaps as I recollected the close bond that held them together. I remember these stories that had made me to respect him.

I remember his passion to showcase only the virtues and abundant resources of the state to anyone who cared to listen. A practical and pragmatic person, he was under no illusion about anything, but had a will to change things. Once when I took him up on the granite tiles that he had used for the government house, because I had like many other people assumed he imported those beautiful tiles, he had smiled and invited me to visit the state ministry of commerce so they could take me to the granite sites of the state so I could see things for myself. There was justified pride in his mien and voice as he said Ondo state had the best granite in the world. He could say that, for he was on familiar grounds.

I worked for his wife, but gradually learned the personality of Dr Agagu. He was always courteous, dignified with an unfailing smile each time I met him. I always felt there was a lot he kept under control behind those smiles.

My husband and I are like two peas in a pod as we go everywhere together, and I felt we were not strange as I saw the bond between Dr. and his wife. Over time, I had learned to see a lot of virtues in this dignified man. He was a rare breed who conducted his political affair with a deft brilliance that angered his enemies and left some of his aides frustrated because they could not match his moral ground.

I am sure Dr. Agagu was not exactly a perfect man, he was aware of his foibles. Some faux pas he committed, particularly his naïve acceptance that it was okay to surround himself with very ambitious men. This naivete cost him dear politically but I think he simply shrugged and moved on to the next step, next rung of his experiencing.

I understood his focused understanding of his people and what would seem best for them. His attitude was sometimes patriarchal, with a benevolence that tended to make me wish he would just for once look around him. I always felt he had no business being in Nigerian politics with its cut throat viciousness. He was like an eagle amongst hawks.

I have an understanding that long association begets familiarity and could bring about a transfer of virtues and behavioral change. For most of the time I knew the couple , they were a constant study for me.

Mrs. Olufunke Agagu created HANDEF and she carried the same attitude as her husband. I remember asking her the first day I met her if the NGO she formed was really sincere and if it will last the distance. Her answer was just as simple as herself. She gave me a smile, and said she hoped the NGO will outlive her existence.

Well it outlived their tenure in office and we were making plans to have a fairly grand 10th anniversary of the NGO come December 18th. Obviously that plan has bit dust now.

We are devastated by this loss of one we saw as a mentor, role model and Patriach. Dr. Olusegun Agagu infected us through his wife and our boss Mrs. Olufunke Agagu with his disciplined approach, compassion and generous spirit. It was thus not surprising to have an NGO headed by a personality like Mrs. Olufunke Agagu with a vision for a better world for persons with disabilities. A vision of constant distribution of wheel chairs in their hundreds, training and giving persons with disabilities dignity,, through vocational skills training, and avenues to succeed and be self reliant. Like two streams Dr. Olusegun Agagu and his wife flowed individually and jointly towards a common goal… serve humanity in gratitude to the Creator.

At HANDEF, we salute Dr. Olusegun Agagu, and send our thoughts to his wife our boss and hope that as the Eagle soars above, may his spirit find his path lit with the Divine Love and he soars to human kingdom of paradise.