n JOEL JULIUS: Can we meet you?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: My Name is Awogbenle Oluwaseun; I am the Co-founder and Executive Director of Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa (MACAA).
JOEL JULIUS: Can you brief us a little about Millennials active citizenship Advocacy Africa?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: MACAA is a Network that seeks to build a critical mass of active citizenship, with specific focus on African Millennials, because we have an understanding of the specialness and uniqueness of the millennials. as a general cohort, we believe that the uniqueness can be a powerful force for a recipe for a long-lasting social and political change, so basically what we want to do is to balance the supply and demand schedule of citizenship because we have seen that it is Imbalance. The aim is to get more people engaged for the greater good.
In simple terms we want young people to be a part of the process, get actively involved in the process and continue to demand; it is only when you are involved that you can demand. The ultimate goal is to achieve inclusion.
What we have seen overtime is the growing disconnect between the ruling elites and those that are governed. But when we have situation in which people are becoming more conscious and aware then there is going to be a balance in politics because it is going to bring about transparency, openness and improve the quality of the process.
Like we say instinctive openness and accountability. When people are involved, accountability will become a thing of intuition, public servants won’t have to be forced because they know people are watching and when accountability is improved it will then be a culture that is built in the political office holders.
JOEL JULIUS: Sir, what really inspired you towards creating MACAA?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: It is the fact that overtime I have noticed this widespread Apathy and growing disconnect in the polity, Inequality and this wide gulf of difference between the ruling class and the governed; if you will agree with me that is not the essence of governance when people are disconnected from the polity. What I have always had as a goal is that more people are involved in the process as it gives the process more light and truth. Though, there was a major turn which gave me more impetus and drive. November 18, 2017 was the day of Kwara State Local Council Election, I went to a particular unit to go and take picture as a citizen reporter because for the 2-3 polling unit I observed we have more aged persons on the queue, I could refer to them as people who lack the political awareness and consciousness per se and it was obvious that you can question the decisions of these persons, never to forget, these are the people who actually decide for the majority of the people. As I was about to get picture, people got naïve as they forgot that we all have the fundamental duty to make sure the process is a credible and legitimate, somehow they thought I was going to disrupt their ill determination to manipulate the election which they had in mind, due to this, they called the Police and I was whisked away, brutalized, humiliated, beaten and extorted equally. From there I thought that it was one of the price for democracy which made me turn my mourning into a strategy, that was one of the impetus that underscored my thinking to make me come out with MACAA so as to have a civil society where we all can be involved.
NEUMA: After the incident that occurred on the 18th of November, 2017, you voiced out on the radio and social media. Have you since then gotten any feedback from any governmental institution, most especially the Police?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: The Police told us when we got to them through the Radio that we made no formal complaint but nevertheless, that is untruthful because I personally copied the petition that was submitted to the Inspector General through the commissioner of Police in Kwara state. Till today, there is no response from the police as this made me realize more that injustice is now a norm in our society and we have to do more to disrupt the ugly face of injustice. I personally asked my lawyer to withdraw because I felt it was going to distract me. Like they say ‘in despair lies several many opportunities, especially to be great’, so I realize I could do more by turning my Money into a strategy. If I had pressed for charges; although the mill of injustice in this Nation is alarming and if I had gotten a compensation, it will have been a personal glory nd not a win for everybody and democracy, nevertheless, it will still leave the process unjust.
NEUMA: you underscored above that you were brutalized by the Police?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: Yes
NEUMA: The issue concerning people who wants to get involved is this humiliation and intimidation as it has made people more silent because they feel at the long run, it might not benefit them and the process might not yield forth. What way will you cajole people to get into it and won’t look at getting intimidated?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: it is not about intimidation but tyranny of silence because more people have been fed on doses of frustration, since nothing good is coming out of the process except for unemployment, hopelessness and bad governance. People feel defeated by deciding to find a path for themselves. They might not be aware or forgotten that what they eat, how they eat it, drink, what they wear, and the likes are borne from this polity they do not want to get involved in, intimidation, humiliation and the rest is secondary. So when you box yourself to the corner because of this tyranny of silence, it isn’t going to help you. We are looking at breaking the tyranny of silence first by making them know that the more we keep silence is directly proportional to the increase of injustice and unfair policy but if we have more people, the process will begin to look more credible and fair.
JOEL JULIUS: we have so many people who never want to be active, not because of anything; what way or strategy will you use in convincing them?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: That’s a fantastic question and that is why we say we are focusing on the specialness and uniqueness of this generation. Let me give you this example. We have the Gen X, the baby-boomer and the millennial generation; the Gen x were people in the 1940-1960, 1960-1980 were the baby-boomers; now what was specific to the baby-boomers were the television and the radios as that was the best way to pass information and engage in mass education while millennials are the only generation to be fully immersed in digital technology and that is why we have android phones, iPhones, we take selfies among others. What we will be doing now is to focus on that dynamism and the dynamism is in digital technology which have distinguished this generation from every other generation and the best way to get to them is through digital media because that is what they are engaged in. as at 2017 about 85 million Nigerians are connected to the internet. In critical terms most of the connected people are people who belong to the millennial category. With this turn the best way to get to them is trough digital media since this is what they are predisposed to and that does not stop us from making use of the traditional media too.
JOEL JULIUS: In five years, what should be our expectations?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: we will like to see critical mass of people in Nigeria who are consistently engaged and believe in the value of political engagement, so our projection is to have MACAA across the states of the federation though we have a clear understanding in MACAA that you can balance between global challenges with local responsibilities. Although, the problems of the world are quite enormous but little by little you can influence the change at the lowest or rather micro level of governance. Our approach towards this will be a bottom-up approach not the other way round which is from local communities to colleges. What we really want to see is that major places of the federation have a network of MACAA close to them.
NEUMA: This question is a 2-in-1, you mentioned earlier that you want to bring people to the transparency of democracy, have you thought, heard or read of other people in history who came into this fight and triumphed? And do you feel this pattern will work for you too?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: To say no one has triumphed will be unfair as people have engaged themselves in the course of democracy. Some of the things we enjoy today are what people have done towards the fight of democracy around the world, even in Nigeria here the likes of Gani Fawehinmi who have contributed immensely to the growth of democracy governance in Nigeria. For the second question, I said it earlier that we know there can be a balance between global challenges and local responsibilities and these challenges can be tackled bit by bit when everyone play their part to influence the little change. Let me make it clear today that there will never be an utopian state or perfect moment to influence what you want to influence, the thing is just make the time look right with whatever you want to contribute to the polity by having an understanding that the challenges might be overwhelming but one must not allow it destroy ones’ spirit. You just have to believe that fighting for good governance, political inclusion, transparency and the likes is totally worth it. We are not moving to triumph; our win is to see ordinary people involved in the process.
JOEL JULIUS: Who are others involved in MACAA Networks? Associates or other networks?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: Apparently, like I said, I am the co-founder of MACAA which means there is also a partner. I started with one of my friend who is in the United States, his name is Ibraheem Ridwan; we share the sentiment about Nigeria’s potential greatness and that of Africa. Nevertheless, before you can get registered, you need to have a board which has been working greatly; they are fantastic young people who have been exceptionally brilliant determined and committed. You know there is nothing as powerful as a committed group no matter the size.
JOEL JULIUS: African religions and culture believes this “politics” is a dirty game, how do you want to bring these sets of people on board? What will be your reaction and how will you overcome such barrier?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: that’s simple as we know people have always used that ploy of saying politics is dirty just to discourage and dissuade people who should naturally occupy politics with superior value. Apparently, most of these people are people of high moral rectitude. To the real fact of it, I believe this is a fallacy and it is an act of illogic to say politics is dirty. There is always a whole lot of skimming and scamming… well it is part of the process.
JOEL JULIUS: Presently we believe that there should be other network with regards to national activeness and participation; do you wish to form a coalition or a competition?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: I do not agree that we have too many… when registering, there is always a specific aim that is unique to you but for those who actually share our sentiments and believe, I think we can always have cause to partner because we can only consolidate when we come together as a unit; the ultimate goal is actually to engender the country and continent of our dream because alliance is always fundamental to the success of any struggle, fight or projection.
JOEL JULIUS: We might have other networks who had shared the same goal with you but in 5-10 years we notice that they have turned into political aides for the winning political party, what do you see about that?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: Seeing them as political aides, political appointees or public servant… I think that’s the goal of any struggle which is to bring about the ideals and to foster the polity of your dream; furthermore it is not enough to play your part in civil society, there are times to come into the polity and hold it with superior values. To me, I feel it’s fair enough; most times you equally have to come inside to effect the change that you want as there is little you can do from reserve or bench, come into the game and effect the change is the word.
JOEL JULIUS: When you have MACAA in each state, are you having a political party or something else to back it up, maybe to push people who are consistently active into the leadership positions?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: That hasn’t come into the mix and the most important thing is to get people involved for the better good, either they are the ones vying for the posts, pushing the aspirants, playing by the sidelines or getting government turning stones, whichever it is I believe it is brilliant but we will like to see many people who are products of the system occupying reputable political positions. I think that’s win-win.
I talk about instinctive accountability, if you have stayed at the sideline and advocated for accountability and consistent engagement, it will not be an alien to you when people request for accountability or want to engage you because it will have become a tradition and culture and a way of life.
NEUMA: What is your view concerning the “Not too young to run”? Will they save our Nation or be a replica of the older generation?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: Let me quickly summarize this as I was one of the people who forwarded “not too young to run” in Kwara state and my conviction is not that I am of the opinion that the bill will be an elixir to the bad governance, I only believed that any form of artificial barrier should be set aside in a country that needs her best hand in governance. It is a fight against artificial barrier not against the old generation. The problem of Nigeria is that we lack quality leadership of all ages; quality leadership is not only exclusive to Octogenarians and the septuagenarians. Quality leadership is spread across all ages and it can be gotten through activeness and right demands. I am not saying the younger generation will restore Nigerians fortune or glory days. What I opposed is that we must set aside artificial barrier because many young people have validated their leadership in cultural coalitions, large scale businesses, religious institutions and alike, what then is in politics that is beyond their grasp? Nothing! The point is we are not asking you to hand over power to people on the order of political experience, you hand over power to people because they can do it, they are responsible, they merit it, they have the track record that is compelling of that position. If you see a young person who is not responsible, do not give power to them. It is not handing over power on the altar of experiences. If the qualified person is in the older generation, give it to them and if on the younger generation, hand it over; it puts everyone on an equal stand and we pick the best.
NEUMA: How are you recruiting people who share your goals?
Seun: we have a website which is up and running ‘www.macaa.org’. like we said we want to shine a light on effective leadership, most of these political parties do not have the database of their members and we will have to make our members signup and validate our membership strength right on our website.
JOEL JULIUS: Before bringing this interview to an end, do you have anything to tell us about MACAA?
AWOGBENLE OLUWASEUN: Just like Stephen R Covey in his 8th Habit, the most important habit of the 21st century is the habit of helping people find their voice so that the person of conscience knows that it is their duty even at the risk of personal loss to speak truth to power. Thank you very much