The U.S. is a Great Country, Everybody Knows

From The New York Daily News


November 27, 2007

“This is the mother, who has leprosy, [and] this is the son,” says Adeboye Subuloye, looking down at a photograph of a woman and a tall young man. “We bought a sewing machine for him.

“We decided to empower the children,” he adds.

A security guard at City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law in Flushing, Queens, Subuloye has dimensions that many who flash him their ID cards might not imagine.

Known to students simply as a conscientious guard, Subuloye is also a royal prince from Nigeria, who has dedicated the past ten years of his life to supporting some of Nigeria’s neediest people – the disabled, the blind, and the lepers.

He has done so quietly, out of his modest earnings as a security guard, and with donations from friends and coworkers.

“It is better to give than to receive,” he says when asked what prompts his efforts. “That’s in the Bible.”

He also credits his parents.

“When my father wanted to give an offering, he would send me, in the nights, to give to the poor,” he says. “I learned this from him; it was in my blood.”

At 60, Subuloye could pass for 40, and indeed, he has embarked on a new life at an age when many people are starting to look back.

He immigrated to the U.S. just ten years ago with his wife, Risikat Subuloye, 58, and three of their six children, after winning the green card lottery.

“The U.S. is a great country, everybody knows,” he says. “That’s why I tried the lottery.”

Because the American dollar goes far in Nigeria, he has been able to undertake numerous special projects.

His latest effort is building a school for disabled children in Iseyin, his hometown in Oyo State, southwest Nigeria. A friend, Chief Akanmu, is co-sponsoring the project. At present, the building has been erected and teachers hired. Fifty students are enrolled, and Subuloye is raising money for plumbing and electricity.

He also supports existing institutions: last year, he bought 40 mattresses, pillow cases, and bed sheets for the Handicapped Special School in the town of Saki, home to deaf, blind, and crippled children. He had traveled there and seen that the mattresses were old and torn.

Smiling, he shares a photograph of children and teachers clustered around employees unloading colorful mattresses.

“$1200 bought all of that,” he says, explaining that he raised much of the money from fellow employees at CUNY law school. In addition, the administrators of the school in Saki told him about a teenage boy who cannot walk and has to crawl to school each day. Disturbed by this story, he told his boss Steve Katz, public safety director at the law school. Katz’s father donated a wheelchair he no longer needs, which is being sent to this boy.

“He’s an extraordinarily dedicated family man,” said Katz of Subuloye. “It’s not only his wife and his blood children, but all the people he comes into contact with who become his family.”

Katz added that, while Subuloye is well-respected, most of the students regard him as an obscure security guard. They do not know about his status as a prince in his home village of Iseyin, or his previous work history as manager, in that village, of a large credit union. Katz recalled that once, when a student was disrespectful to Subuloye in the school’s parking lot, he could not resist filling her in.

“I approached the student and said, ‘You don’t know who you insulted,’” recalled Katz. “This student sought out Adeboye. She felt embarrassed.”

Of being a prince – a title he inherited from his father because his grandfather was king in a village called Oguo, Ogbomoso – Subuloye says only, “It’s your character you want people to know.”

He also helps the Ogbomoso School for the Blind in Ogbomoso, Nigeria, his father’s hometown. In March of this year, he bought 55 mattresses for them.

Subuloye has been moved to help the disabled after seeing the opportunities available to them in the U.S. His wife is blind, and he thinks of how much worse it would be for her if she lived in Nigeria.

“Here being disabled does not mean one can’t do anything an abled person can do.”

Subuloye also supports the leper colony in Abeokuta, Ogun State, southwest Nigeria. Because lepers have no fingers, most of them cannot work, he explains. While vaccination has stopped the spread of leprosy, many people with leprosy remain. Some have children who are not disabled. Subuloye helps these children buy equipment and tools to establish themselves in professions like shoe and soap making, carpentry, cosmetology, tailoring, and auto mechanics.

Subuloye shares a letter from a family, in which the father is a leper and the son received money from Subuloye to open a barber shop.

“We are happy to say a big thanks for your support on my son…for buying the equipment for his barber salon,” the letter reads.

“We received the money and promise to use it for this purpose. We thank you a lot and promise to always remember you in our prayers.”

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1 response to The U.S. is a Great Country, Everybody Knows
  • 1.

    Femi Shodunke

    April 7, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    You have been fair in reporting events that has to do with Africans, particularly Nigerians. Keep it up.