Gbemisola Ope: After 8 years waiting to conceive…


Gbemisola Ope, President of the Association of Professional Party Organizers and Event Managers of Nigeria (APPOEMN), who is also the chief executive of Omega Events, was justifiably over the moon, when she discovered that she had conceived, after waiting for eight years. Pregnancy it would seem, played hide-and-seek with her. In fact, the pretty lady had even resigned herself to fate and chosen the option of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and was already on the preliminary medication, when she accidentally discovered that she had conceived naturally. When the shock of the pleasant discovery ebbed, she resolved to donate the load of expensive drugs she had just been given by the British IVF centre, for use in treating other less privileged patients in need of IVF intervention but could not afford the cost.

When she looks back at the road that brought her to that point in her life, Gbemisola is filled with gratitude to God, the Ever Present Help in times of need. These days, she devotes time to nurturing young people who are choosing event management as a career, in much the same way that she has watched her children learn about life from her and are growing beautifully.

In this interview she talks more about her journey in motherhood and business mentorship.

First, tell us what APPOEMN is about.

APPOEMN is the association of party professionals and event managers in Nigeria. It has existed for eight years but hasn’t been too visible. We didn’t have a lot of people as members back then. But in the last four years, we have come out very strong and I think it is a lot better. Our mission is to set the standard in the event management industry and educate the practitioners to exceed clients’ expectations. We also recognize that networking is very key in our business. If you are just starting out you have to know who to go to for certain resources. There is need to generally protect ourselves from clients and also protect clients from unscrupulous and unprofessional event planners.

How have you been able to regulate the industry?

Right now it is still a work in progress, we have started setting standards. Through APPOEMN, we have started sanitizing the practice. We recognize that it is going to be a long process. We have reached out to the Senate, to seek the assistance of the legislatives body to pass a bill that would regulate the practice of events management.

That is why we are planning to hold a town hall meeting in April. During the town hall meeting, we will discuss the way forward for the industry and other issues affecting us. At the town hall meeting, clients will be able to ask questions. The town hall meeting will be an opportunity to tackle issues facing the practitioners.

How have all these helped to improve the industry?

First of all, there were several disputes prior to the emergence of APPOEMN, and we had to sort out issues among vendors in the event industry. The peace moves by the association were successful. Through the membership drive we did, the number of members rose from about 40 to 150.

What are the challenges you face as an event planner?

The biggest challenge as an event planner is the Nigerian factor. It is unfortunate that there is Nigerian Factor in everything.  A client will ask an event planner to deliver and the Nigerian factor gets in before he delivers. The Nigerian factor rears its head in terms of the quality of what they will deliver. Of course, we have the good vendors but that Nigerian factor is there to slow things down. We have the challenge of traffic snarl, bad roads and light issues, custom, police and so on. Also another issue is from event planners that are not professionals, the ones that are not trained; the ones that are reducing our standards and so put the rest of us in bad light.

How did you get into the industry?

I grew up in a home where my mum was a service’s person. We had aunties, uncles visiting our home and when people came to visit, my mum always had everything in place to entertain her guests. She wasn’t a rice and stew person; she would always have dodo, salad, chin chin and every other thing. She will think that it is necessary for us to have Ludo or Ayo in the house and she always ensured that everyone was comfortable. Eventually, I think I was in the university when a friend was planning her birthday and I started helping out and from there here I am.

Is event planning very lucrative?

Yes, it has not been too bad for me but it can be better. I won’t run, I am still here.

What keeps you going?

It is passion. Besides, my clients would not let me stop. I took a break when I had my first daughter and the clients kept calling. They were like ‘Gbemi you have to do it, even if you have to call someone you have to monitor it yourself.’

Was there a time you were overwhelmed by challenges that you wanted to quit?

Yes, there was a time I stopped briefly because of a personal challenge. That was when I took out time to have my daughter. I was married for eight years without a child but to the glory of God, I got pregnant without IVF. So one year, I stayed to nurse and care for my child.

Have you had another child since then?

Yes, but she is adopted.

Tell us more about your IVF journey

I went to England and registered for IVF under the National Health Service (NHS). I was told that because of my age. I would be on the waiting list for two years. So we decided to approach a private facility. Now that I am talking about it, it seems funny because I am saying it casually. I remembered that after paying the fee, we were told that the medication would be sent because I had to inject myself for up to 30 days. When the box arrived, it was a big box, almost like 10 times the size of the Indomie packet. I remember telling myself that these people must be joking. Anyway my mum flew in from Saudi Arabia because I needed someone to inject me. The drug was also intended to induce ovulation, so that the IVF process could start.

Back then I was working and so on my way to work, I passed in front of Boots, a popular shop in Britain. Then something said to me go in and buy a pregnancy test kit there. I wasn’t even a religious person but I heard the voice clearly. I kept walking and the voice wouldn’t stop. So I walked in and bought the cheapest pregnancy test kit because I had previously bought assorted ones in the past and found out that I wasn’t pregnant. Somehow, I went ahead to purchase one. Then I went into the toilet. I did the test, and saw two blue lines. I was stunned. Do you know I left the kit on the table and sat down for about 10 minutes, until somebody said, “Are you okay?”

I replied, ‘I think I am pregnant.’ They were all looking at me like I was crazy. Then I remembered the test kit I left on the table. I went back to pack it and called the hospital. The hospital did a proper blood test and the laboratory technician said the hospital would get back to me. Later I was called and told that I was pregnant. Immediately I called my mum and told her what happened. She said I should come home and stop working. At that time my husband was in the United States and I called him. It was 2.00 a.m in the US, so he didn’t take the call. Later he called back and told me that I was pregnant. I asked him whether my mother called to tell him, and he said no and added that he had a dream in which he saw his late mum who told him I was pregnant.

Eventually, I donated my IVF injections to the IVF centre for people who might need it. From that day I named my daughter, Oluwadara. That is what everybody called the pregnancy. I had fibroid and it was really bad and they even told me the fibroid would kill the baby but she is well and alive.

How is she doing now?

She is growing fantastically. Although she is mega-spoilt and last year I decided to adopt another little girl. Dara will be 10 this year and Oluwakemi will be nine this year. So I have two girls.

How was the adoption process?

It is very tedious and hopefully the government will step in and make it less tedious. Although, I understand where the government is coming from because some people use the kids for different things. I still think there should be a way whereby they can protect the kids and people who want the kids genuinely. For me it wasn’t too difficult because she was somebody I already knew so it wasn’t like I had to go to orphanages looking for a child. But it was still tedious because I have friends who have been trying to adopt and they have been at it for three years.
Gbemisola Ope: After 8 years waiting to conceive… Gbemisola Ope: After 8 years waiting to conceive…   Reviewed by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu on Sunday, March 25, 2018 Rating: 5

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