Rotary international: Service above self an ideology worthy of emulation (1)

Certain qualities and concepts such as service and philanthropy, the hallmarks of many great countries are terms with which many Nigerians are not familiar. Majority of Nigerians do not believe in rendering any form of service without taking something in return”.

Recently I delivered the Keynote Address on the occasion of the investiture of the 8th District Governor of Rotary International District 9125 Nigeria, Rotarian Bisi Adegoke. Though I am not a member of the association, I have nevertheless maintained, in the course of several years, close relationships with many members of the body as to have formed a very positive view of the objectives of the association and the lessons which the country as a whole can draw from them. Without a doubt, ours is a country of immense potential. At independence Nigerians and foreigners alike were unified in their conviction that this country would in no time assume greatness and become a world leader. Decades down the line, Nigeria has become a conundrum of sorts, bewildering not only those who projected its greatness but even those who had their doubts as to its viability as a nation.

Regrettably, most of the problems of the country have been blamed on its leadership and perhaps this is understandably so given its huge human and natural resources. However I am of the view that when the story of the current challenges of Nigeria come to be told decades down the road, the government and governed will take the blame in not too dissimilar measures. For one, “certain qualities and concepts such as service and philanthropy, the hallmarks of many great countries are terms with which many Nigerians are not familiar. Majority of Nigerians do not believe in rendering any form of service without taking something in return”. For many the idea of selfless service is anathema. Yet some groups and individuals exist whom have identified service as a way of life without which there cannot be meaningful development. This is where Rotary International is significant. To set the proper perspective, the history of Rotary International must be taken into account albeit in summary form.



Rotary International is an international service organisation. The website of Rotary International reveals it was founded by Paul.P Harris who, like myself, was an Attorney after he felt the need to create a professional group with the same friendly spirit he felt in the small towns of his youth. From the first meeting, ROTARY was adopted asthe name of the new club. By 1910, Rotary had 16 clubs and had its first convention, that same year ROTARY also went National in the USA. The name ROTARY INTERNATIONAL was adopted in 1922 and by mid-1925;ROTARY INTERNATIONAL had grown to more than 2000 clubs and estimated membership strength of 108,000 members on six continents. As ROTARY INTERNATIONAL grew, members pooled their resources and used their talents to serve their communities. Today ROTARY INTERNATIONAL connects 1.2 million members from more than 34,000 Rotary Clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. The work of ROTARY INTERNATIONAL is to improve live at both local and international levels. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is most appropriately expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

Another unique aspect of the core beliefs of ROTARY INTERNATIONAL is the four-way test. The 4-way testposits four questions of the things we think say or do, viz:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?



Again no meaningful discussion can be held without considering the Object of ROTARY INTERNATIONAL. The Object of ROTARY INTERNATIONAL is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • FIRST: the development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD: the application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH: the advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

These objects are and have been met through various avenues of service such as:

  1. Club service which focuses on active membership development plan.
  2. Vocational service which calls on every Rotarian to contribute their expertise to the problems and needs of society.
  3. Community service which encourages every Rotarian to serve the public interest.
  4. International service through sponsorship of and volunteering on international projects, and partnerships.
  5. Youth service through leadership development programs.



In pursuing its core mandate, Rotary has made many contributions to society which include:

  1. The contribution of over $600 million to the eradication of Polio;
  2. Provision of a vehicle for helping individuals achieve philanthropic goals, in this aspect the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stands out.
  3. Employment of thousands of people to drive its mission in thousands of offices across the world.
  4. Contributions in areas of health, education, economic empowerment, emergency and disaster, and armed conflict situations.

In these areas, Rotary has an enviable track record. However there is much more to be done to place Rotary firmly as a fundamental part of Nigeria’s National development and the development of positive attitudes towards giving in Nigeria.

To be continued