Mrs Comfort Olufunke Ponnle died on October 29, 2012, less than a month to her 68th birthday. The father of her five children with whom she co-founded MicCom Group of Companies, Prince Tunde Ponnle, has kept her alive by continuing their charity work, writes Associate Editor OLUKOREDE YISHAU
Until death took Comfort Olufunke Ponnle exactly eight years ago, she and the father of her five children, Prince Tunde Ponnle, a pioneer industrialist, were synonymous with the MicCom Cables and Wires, which they gifted Nigeria. They also revolutionised the game of golf with the establishment of MicCom Golf Hotel and Resort Centre in Ada. The people of Ada will never forget the Ponnles in a hurry. The town was sleepy before they established what has become one of the best-known leisure and hospitality centres in Nigeria. MicCom Golf Hotel & Resort is the first privately-owned golf course facility in Nigeria.
Madam Ponnle died October 29, 2012. Death ended this beautiful union, which gave Nigeria a lot in the form of the MicCom holdings. She died of cancer at the Ilandough Hospital, Cardiff, United Kingdom. Her death led her widower to start a foundation, which seeks to curtail the spread of some forms of cancer. Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu described the lives of the couple as a “study in diligence, honesty, integrity and dedication to the Christian faith”.
The late Mrs Ponnle and Prince Ponnle spent over four decades empowering people and showing them the way to make their ways better. One of their phenomenal contributions to nation-building is a viable annual scholarship scheme – MicCom Foundation for Educational Development (MIFED).
The late Mrs Ponnle attended the Anglican Girls Secondary Modern School, Ile-Ife from 1959 to 1961. It was in this school she met Tunde Ponnle, who later became her soul mate. He was a teacher at the school. They got married on Tuesday, April 26, 1966, in Ibadan.
“I saw her at the school, I taught her as a student-teacher; and, of course, she was a very brilliant student; and the most brilliant in her class. I proposed to her after her final year, when she was to proceed to UMC at Ile-Ife,” said Ponnle.
In an interview, the late Mrs Ponnle said she did not want to marry him.
“I didn’t want to marry him because he was my teacher. Again, because I wasn’t looking for a husband that I was going to answer ‘sir, sir’. When I agreed to marry him, I told him that I wasn’t going to address him as sir again and he agreed. And, before he left that day, I called him his name, Tunde, several times and he was very happy,” the late Mrs Ponnle said.
After modern school, the late Mrs. proceeded to the United Missionary College, Ibadan for teacher’s training course from 1962 to 64. She obtained her Grade Two teachers certificate before moving to the University of Ife in 1969 for her associate diploma in Education, which she completed in 1970.
Since her death, her husband has kept hope alive through the MicCom Cancer Foundation. The Ibokun Road, Ada, Osun State-based foundation is out to help women fight breast cancer and also help men who may have prostate cancer. The cancer centre, at no cost to women and men, conducts tests for breast cancer or prostate cancer. The centre seeks to curtail the spread of these cancers. The foundation chose these two types of cancer because statistics show that they are the most prevalent among Nigerians. The foundation is about to take delivery of a mammogram machine capable of changing the face of cancer management in Osun State and its environs.
The foundation runs a cancer preventive and treatment centre at its secretariat. The centre focuses on providing screening, counselling services and other support for treatment of early stage of cancer.
“The data being generated will also be made available to the concerned government parastatals either for evaluation and/or research purpose. The programme managers assisted by assistant programme manager and programmes assistant provide services. The foundation links up with secondary and tertiary health institutions in identified target communities in Nigeria (the OAUTHC Ile-Ife at inception) to facilitate access to management and quality care of patients with established lesions. There is a plan to support and invest in the capacity development of the institution will be in the form of equipment (Laboratory, Radiology) and capacity building in diagnosis and treatment and facilitation of treatment of early lesions through a cost sharing strategy between stakeholders,” the centre said.
The foundation mounts advocacy and awareness campaign in Osun State, the neigbouring states and plans to go nationwide.
“This will be done through various media – radio and television, print-media and visits to community leaders. This has commenced in earnest in the first month of the Foundation’ operation through visits to tradition rulers of the 6 communities identified namely Ada, Ororuwo, Iragbiji, Aagba, Iree, and Eripa. The Foundation has created awareness through media (radio and television) programme in the form of radio jingles and lectures on ‘the Cancers and their prevention’ on the radio. Other advocacy will include sourcing for increased national, regional and international investment in the prevention and management of breast, cervical and prostate cancers in Nigeria,” the centre said.
On capacity building, the centre said: “With respect to human capacity building, it will provide fellowship awards for short stay of experts to acquire skills for management of these three focal cancers in institutes with such expertise. We will also invest in training and building capacity of local experts to be able to manage these lesions in many medical centres all over Nigeria.
“With respect to infrastructural and institutional capacity building, MCCF shall invest in installation of equipment and production of materials that will enable our various partners at all levels to conduct health education in order to create awareness about cancer prevention, screen and ensure early diagnosis of cancer and effectively manage all referred cases.”
On plans to remain visible, it explains: “MCCF is planned to be an ongoing concern. It will therefore strongly invest in partnership and institution capacity building. Also it shall create an environment that can support continued research and academic affiliation that will enable the foundation continue to generate the needed evidence for policy development and review for cancer prevention and management in the country. It shall start small, but evolve to be a major cancer centre in the future.”
MicCom House, Ada, Osun State, which was their home for decades, has now been donated to the medical college of the University of Osun.
Aside the thousands of students whose education the foundation has funded, the Ponnles also built a six-bedroom bungalow to the Baptist Church in Ada; donated money and cement for the renovation of Ada Mosque; donated money to the Anglican Church in aid of their church – building project; funded the extension of electricity at Ada with transformers; funded a water supply scheme in Ada; built and donated a church in Ada to the Baptist Convention; instituted two prizes in the name of MicCom in four Department at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; instituted two prizes in the name of Michael Ajayi Fabunmi in the Depart of History, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; donated a science block to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso; Bowen University, Iwo and the Baptist Seminary at Ogbomoso; instituted the WAPCO Scholarship Fund for workers’ children; reconstructed the palace of the Olona of Ada; established the MicCom Evangelical Foundation; built and equipped a six-classroom block for Baptist Day School, Ada and many more.
The late Mrs Ponnle will also be remembered for other goods she did while here. One of such is a bungalow in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital that she built for her teacher, Mrs Adenike Oni. Her teacher only knew of the house when it was completed and handed over to her despite the fact that she was the one who helped get the land. She had told Mrs Oni that a friend living abroad needed land to build a house for her mother. A derelict building was bought, flattened and from the ruins rose the beautiful bungalow.
Also on the same plot of land that used to house the derelict building, the late Mrs Ponnle also built a three-bedroom apartment for Mrs. Oluremi Awofisan who was her chief bridesmaid. They met in 1959 in Ile-Ife as a pupil of Anglican Secondary Modern School.
The late Mrs Ponnle said God instructed her to divide the land into two, use one for her ex-teacher and the other for her childhood friend who almost fainted when she realised the house she witnessed its sod turning ceremony was actually hers.
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