Mrs Moji Akeredolu, a US based Health Manager is the Managing Director of Tonike Integrated situated in Akure. In this interview with EVELYN OMOTOYE, she bares her mind on the economic values of regular body exercise, the need for regular exercise for body wellness, fitness and productiveness.
What do you do at “Tonike Integrated to give back to the community”?
Tonike is a combination of an event centre, gymnasium, physiotherapy, facials and body massage outfit.
The event centre is also serving as a cinema in the evening or when there is no event where people can come and watch football matches (leagues) in a cosy environment. This is part of therapy because while watching, people scream, shout, clap and talk out stress.
The gym is about our health. It is also about the body figure too, that is keeping a good physic. In terms of health, people that have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, heart or endocrine problem of all sort can come here and she’d some weight. Those having arthritis, rheumatism or any other related medical challenge are welcome too.
Before we start the exercise with people, we will check their blood pressure first. If you have high blood pressure, we will start with low impact exercise and gradually to control the pressure.
Apart from these, we counsel people about their health and diet. The Bible says my people perish because of lack of knowledge, if they knew that what they eat may be detrimental to their health will eat right and will be able to think right and live right. So, we are trying to educate our people on healthy living. You can see that the gym is buy one get ten free…, laughs.
If we found out that someone has high blood pressure or cholesterol, we would tell him to follow up with his doctor. So, in essence, we want to keep a healthy community because if our people are healthy, the better for our community.
What motivated you to establish this kind of business here going by the level of exposure and attitude of the people towards exercise or health issues generally?
I have lived in the United State of America for over 40 years now. Though I did my Nursing and Midwifery in UCH when it was still the only premier hospital in the whole of West Africa, I had my degree in Health Management in the U.S. I passed my board examination over there and I started working as a Registered Nurse.
After all these years I came back home and I found out that people are so ignorant about the importance of health and exercise. I could remember when I was much younger, my mum used to walk to the market. In those days, if there would be any incident of blood pressure or diabetes, it would be at the lowest level because people, young and old walked to the market and farm, carrying things on their head. We don’t need to carry things on our head now, but we can walk.
If you ask a little child to go to the market now, the first thing he would do is to stretch out his hands for ‘okada’ money because he doesn’t want to walk.
As an alternative to walking around as way of maintaining or improving our people’s health, we decided to put up a gym here. Over there in the Western world, going to the gym is a lifestyle especially the young girls and boys either morning or after work in the evening. And there, you don’t see pregnant men there because it our these things we eat that really precipitate to give us big tummy. That is why we counsel people on what and when to eat too. Taking solid food after 9pm and going to bed almost immediately would be a reserved energy and result into accumulation of these things. So we talk to them on this. Nobody wants to die stupidly but it is because they don’t know. But we want to bring the health awareness, to educate people on the importance of exercise so that they can have a healthy lifestyle.
Apart from health, what other economic values does your organization want to add to people’s lives, the community and to the entire state?
Number one, we are going to hire people. We want to have not less than 50 people working here, from professional to the low skilled. We are creating job for our people and by that, it’s taking a lot from the problem of unemployment in this community. We are here to alleviate the suffering of the people.
Then, our youths, instead of using their strength for some illegal work like “yahoo yahoo,” they can use it for productive exercise such as weight lifting. By the time they lift weights, they stretch their muscles and get home exhausted and tired, they go to sleep instead of going about committing crimes of all sort. So, they will be able to use their energy for something beneficial to their community.
(…Cuts in) do you have any plan or programme in the pipeline for youths in form of training or what have you to encourage them in this regard?
We have plans. I have a group of youth at the Ilu Ireti, we take them to Idanre hills, by the time they come back, they won’t even have time anything else. We are planning that we will gather the youths, maybe every three months and take them on mountaineering. We have lots of mountains around here and we know that our youths are interested in this kind of thing. So we are going to do something like excursion to expose them to something positive that they can expend their energy on instead of negative activities. We will gather them, talk to them to desist from illegality and put the baton in their hands to be useful for themselves.
You are a Nurse, with all these your combination of gym, diet, counseling, facial and physiotherapy, how do you intend to mange all the facilities for optimal customer’s benefit?
As a health manager, you are trained to talk to your patient about his diet, exercise, disease and general health management.
You know I said I didn’t just stop as a registered nurse, I did my health management, though my area of specialty in the US where I worked is Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery. Back pain, accident injury in the bones, etc. After the major treatment, you would put then through therapy called rehabilitation. We have a physio section here too. We use to have physiotherapist here from UI or OAU. Actually, we are number one that the National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS registered.
So when doctors could not get a specialist to handle some of these cases, they refer the patient here knowing well that we have good hands, I mean professional physiotherapists as well as full facilities here.
People having stroke, within three weeks, if they come immediately the thing struck, we will rehabilitate them, we have all the equipment including the ultrasound. This is my area of specialty, so I can easily handle them.
Like I said earlier, we also have a nice cosy section with air conditioning for facials, we remove moles and do body massage. And with other sections, it is not going to be me alone doing all the jobs, I have professionals with me.
More so, we can train people. Some of our young interested people can come and learn with very small amount and then leave to set up their own to give the community better service and have some income for themselves.
Putting up this kind of outfit is not going to be a child’s play, how can these young ones set up after training with you?
They don’t have to start this big, they don’t have to do everything all at the same time, They can specialize in one of these things such as doing facials for people with pimples, wrinkles and treating dead skin. Around here, we are not used to taking the old layer of our face off, most people are not even aware. We need to do this so that the new one can come out and glow. We need to scrub and exfoliate the old layer and allow newer fresher skin to spring up. They do these businesses in Lagos well.
What is your advice for our people living in diaspora so as to give back to their home community?
Well I must tell that our people over there are so scared to come home. They think people are being slaughtered on the road just like that. When I told them about my decision to come back to Nigeria, they thought I was losing my mind and was going to loose my husband. Their people here too scare them more, they don’t even want to come home than asking them to send money. Our people over there work so hard like idiots to meet up but here, we are living fairly okay. It takes serious determination to come home, myself and my husband didn’t just come alone, we came with our children.
So we just have to really pray that some of these people in diaspora will see Nigeria as their root, no matter how bad it may be, there is no place like home. It is good to live where everybody knows your name, they are always glad that you come home. In the US, how many care about you? The last time I returned from the states, about three people cooked different local delicacies to welcome me whereas there in the US, a young lady born right before me in my neighborhood didn’t know I travelled for three months, when I told her that she didn’t ask after me since I travelled, she just said “you travelled? Oh! You know what, I’m too busy with my life, leave me alone and manage your life”. You see, they don’t care.
I always encourage people there to come home, though I can’t force them. We used to assure them that Nigeria is not as bad as they thought. It will take you and I to build our country, we can’t leave it for government because it can’t do it all alone. The US is where it is today because the citizen come together in one mind to develop the place.
What challenges are you facing since you have started this business?
The number one challenge I face is electricity. Up till now, the BEDC has not given us a prepaid meter. For the past two years, we have deposited for three-phase meter, they have not given us, we have gone to every person that we know to get it but to no avail. You cannot move too far in any business without electricity in this millennium era.
Can you imagine a company like this without power supply? We have been blowing money on diesel since we started, 10,000 every two days and our client are just coming one by one. For a young guy that put all he’s got into a business like this for instance, how would he cope without power supply? Light has been an issue since I have been here and it is still an issue.
Nigeria should be above the issue of light by now. We have the brain and the resources, only that we don’t have the leader to say come what may, light must come to stay.
Do you have any idea to the government on your business?
We want patronage from the government.The government can send in its workers here at a subsidised rate as a form of welfare package because this is part of health issues. Your workers should be taken care of medically. The government can also invite me for a health talk to workers on the importance of exercise related to health and good nutrition relayed to health. The government should do something in this regard to encourage its workers. It can even make it mandatory for them to attend because our people don’t respond to a thing that is not tied to their promotion or things like that even though they know it is good for them.
How do create awareness for people and even government to know about these services you offer?
We are going to create awareness on air, in our radio stations in the state. We also go online and we equally distribute hand bills and fliers around.
We just opened this place about a week ago though we have started this business since year 2002 at Olukayode house at Oshinle during the late Chief Adefarati’s regime. Then it was his Chief of Staff alongside the commissioner for health then and Regent Yinka Adesida that came to do the Grand Opening
What is your advice to the people?
I want to advise our people both young and old that exercise is not luxury, it is needed, it is should be in their character. It should not be seen as meant for the rich alone but should be as part of routine in life. They should come and make use of the facilities here, they don’t have to wait until they are sick and need to see a doctor before they come. Most diseases are preventable if the take caution, eat right and do the right exercise. They don’t have to come to Tonike, they can have a 30 minutes to one hour walk. But is there a conducive environment for such elsewhere? So they should come to the gym.
Exercise to the body is like when you service your vehicle. If you don’t service your car, after a while it will crash but if you do, the car would be back to itself. The same thing is with our body because it is like a machine that need regular servicing. Most of the disease happening to us is preventable by exercise. The potency of some these diseases can as well be reduced by regulated exercise. Just brisk walk on regular basis, it can take care of most of the diseases I have earlier mentioned.