HISTORY OF LIONISM IN DISTRICT 404 NIGERIA.
The harbinger of Lionism to Nigeria is Lion Rene Louiseau who in 1963 started proposing membership to prospective members in Lagos. The activity led to the charter of the first Lions Club in Nigeria, Lagos (Doyen) Lions club on the 21st of December 1964.
The Charter President was Lion J. Houlgate, while Lion R. Louiseau served as Secretary and Lion Akintola Williams, the only Nigerian in the 24-member Club served as the Treasurer. It is gratifying the Doyen of Accountancy in Nigeria, Lion Sir Akintola Williams still stands tall and strong today as the supporting pillar of Lionism in Nigeria.
As the only Club in the Country then, the Lagos (Doyen) Lions Club was grouped along with others, mainly Francophone countries in West Africa, into what was then District 403A.
Unhappy with this grouping, especially as congress was conducted in French with in-adequate simultaneous translation facilities and also the monopoly of District Offices by the French speaking countries, concerted efforts were made at home by the Doyen Club to start off new clubs. This led to the Charter of several clubs viz, Apapa, Yaba, Ikeja, Benin etc.
These new clubs in turn started sponsorship of other clubs and with the efforts of several Lions, most prominent of whom were Doyen Akintola Williams, Lion Harry Knoop, Jaap Spiering, Olubunmi Odebiyi, Sam Alamutu MON, Chief Lai Balogun, Ayo Rosiji, Fola Odufuye, Labi Silva, Chief Gbadamosi etc; a sizeable number of clubs were chartered in several parts of the country.
Having therefore formed enough Clubs to constitute a New District, the International Office at Oak Brook, Chicago, Illinois, USA, granted Nigeria a district status named District 404 in April 1984.
The new District had Lion Harry Knoop as the first District Governor. On board with him were Lion Sam Alamutu as the Lieutenant Governor, Lion Fola Odufuye as the District Cabinet Secretary, while Lion (Chief) L. Gbadamosi served as the District Cabinet Treasurer.
The women were no less aggressive in imbibing and spreading the gospel of Lionism. With the formation of the first Lioness Club in Nigeria, Apapa Lioness Club (sponsored by Apapa Lions Club) in December 1980, several other clubs sprang up, namely Lagos, Ikeja, Sapele, Warri, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Victoria Island.
By the end of the 1982/83 Lions Year, the Lioness had formed enough Clubs to wrestle themselves out of the Francophone West African countries. Hence, Oak Brook approved the formation of Lioness District 403A in July 1983. The first Lioness District President in Lioness (now Lion) Oye Williams, while Lioness (now Lion) Marion Johnson served as District Secretary. The Treasurer was Lioness Ladehinde.
Both Lion Oye Williams and Lion Marion Johnson are today very strong members of the Ikoyi Lions Club. Several other Lionesses have since the prescription of the Lioness District by the International Headquarters in July 1993, transformed into Lions, enjoying same status, rights and privileges of Lionism with their male counterparts.
By 2004, membership has grown tremendously and following an avalanche of leaders across Nigeria, steps were taken that resulted in granting of a Multiple District status. This followed the failed attempt of 2001. With this, Princess (Same) Adetope Tychus became the first Multiple District Council Chairperson in 2005/2006.
She was followed by others as Council Chairpersons: AVM Anthony Okpere, Dr. Teslim Sanusi, Engr. Adeniyi Abiola, Sir William Park, Dr. Yinka Griffin, Engr. Jaiyeola Balogun, Oqua Itu, Prof. Ayoade Adesokan, Sam Ekpuk, Madam Stella Agbogun, Kola Oyekanmi, Pharm. Gbolagade Adebisi and currently, Lion Lami Ahmed
The Multiple District status has impacted positively on membership drives as the two district grew rapidly such that in 2001 an attempt was made to redistrict the then District 404A and B into three sub-districts 404A, B and C. This was not successful. However, following deliberate and concerted efforts, District 404A started the process of redistricting in 2012 and got redistricted into 404A1 and A2 in 2013.
District 404B got redistricted into 404B1 and B2 in 2014 in what has become a record breaking event as the step to achieve that were started and completed within a period of four months by late DG Yinka Bolarinwa. That was indeed phenomenon. The small but significant seed sown then have blossomed to the extent that we celebrated fifty years anniversary of Lionism in Nigeria in 2014.
From a humble beginning of 24 members in one club, the then Lagos Lions Club, now The Lagos Doyen Lions Club, we now have over 7,000 members in more than 270 clubs. From being part of the then District 403, we now have Multiple District 404, Nigeria, with four Districts.