Abiola Falayajo Jr.: From Activist to Candidate, ‘Serving Others is The Greatest Reward of All’
By Bayo Oluwasanmi
It is easy to blame Nigerian abroad social media critics, arm chair theorists, bedroom revolutionaries for not running for elective office in Nigeria.
They are often blamed for their seeming lack of political engagement. They are often faulted as consumed by materialism, devoted to spending their time writing criticisms on Facebook and self-involved tweets, and lacking intellectual and political curiosity.
Not true. The fault lies with the Nigerian political system and politicians whose behavior has turned off an entire generation. Our elected officials cheer failed policies and programs, stymie economic and social development. They stunt job creation, induce poverty, sponsor corruption, exploit their constituents, and refuse to do their jobs.
They engage in more than hyperbole and hyper-partisanship. They damage the public’s short-term sense of political trust and confidence, and in the long term, they undermine future generations to be a part of. It is this outrage that drives the political entrepreneurship of Abiola Falayajo Jr., fondly call AFJ, to transit as it were, from activist to candidate. AFJ is running as All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Osun State House of Assembly representing Oriade Local Government.
But why should anyone run for political office? This is the universal question gets asked often by people. The answer is that there are as many reasons as there are candidates. Some of the often-cited reasons are change of the status quo, money, power, influence, and lack of good candidates.
There are some candidates who just love politics, having been perennial observers and now see an opportunity to run. Many people run for public office because a local issue has them upset or because they have a vision for the country/constituency and feel that the current officials are holding it back. Some people run for elective office because they are asked to.
Certainly, some run for the office for the trappings that come with the job, while others insist on helping their territory back home. Candidates seem to have a stock answer: they want to make their country/constituency a better place.
AFJ is running because he cares about his community and the state at large. He wants to go back, reach back, and give back to his community and his state. To him, serving others is the greatest reward of all.
Like everything else, our government has everything backwards and upside down. In a true democracy, the people are in charge, not the elected officials. Elected leaders are public servants and should do the will of the public. That is not happening now. The so-called elected officials spend much of their time and our money serving themselves and their party or support group.
Born December 30, 1976 in Ipetu Ijesa to the family of Pa Samson Abiola Falayajo and Alhaja Muyibati Oyedele Falayajo, AFJ became an orphan before he was old enough to enroll in elementary school. He was raised by his uncle the late Pa Samuel Adetunji Falayajo.
AFJ attended St. Peter’s elementary school Lagos. Later, he attended the famous Boy’s Academy, Lagos. In 1992, he proceeded to the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria to read International Relations. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in 1998 and Master’s degree in 2002 in International Relations from the same university.AFJ moved to Australia in 2002. A registered psychiatry nurse in Australia and Canada, he obtained his B.Sc. Nursing in 2008 from the University of South Australia, Adelaide. In 2011, he completed his postgraduate diploma in nursing science at the La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
Between 1999 and 2002, he served as assistant project officer and later as project officer at the Forum on Governance and Democratization, Ile-Ife, with focus on women and youth participation in democracy.
He began his activism as a student, and his early political activism excelled on many levels at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). A strong advocate for social change, AFJ was the leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), a major political association on the university campus in the 1990s. He held various positions in the university students union – chairman budgetary and finance, financial secretary, and president of the International Relations Students Association of OAU.
After the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, AFJ pitched his tent with the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and finally with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A well-traveled activist, AFJ activism is focused on education, political, and economic empowerment, and building engaged communities to solve various socio-economic and political problems.
His student life was synonymous with political activism. He participated in International Student Festival in Trondheim, Norway in 2001 and 2005, International Student Week in llmenau, llmenau, Germany, 2001 and 2003, United Nations Youth Assembly Sydney, Australia, 2004, International Student Security Forum, Switzerland, 2005, International Youth Leadership Conference, Czech Republic, 2002, and International Student Week in Tanzania, 2004.
In 2004, AFJ set up Obokun Development Initiative (now Alajobi Development Initiative) to serve as economic incubator to stimulate educational and economic growth and job creation in rural areas of Osun State. Some of the ongoing projects of ADI includes community healthcare center in Ipetu-Ijesa, drinkable borehole water in Ikeji Ile. He established annual scholarship for 10 students in Ijesaland.
AFJ is greatly influenced by the life of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Thomas Sankara, Martin Luther King Jr., Wole Soyinka, Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, M.K. Abiola, Gani Fawehinmi, Oby Ezekwesili, and Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
AFJ is the Speaker of Ijesa Peoples Parliament a political action group in Diaspora dedicated to the improvement, development, and rebuilding of Ijesa towns and villages. Vice-President Europe & Australia Ijesa People in Diaspora, VP (Australasia) and member of Trustee of Ijesaland Development Foundation, President, Osun Patriots, Director of Organization, Ife-Ijesa Consultative Forum, Organizing Chair, Yoruba Heritage and Cultural Association of Victoria, Inc., Australia. In 2011, he was appointed International Representative for South-East Asia and Oceania region of the Nigerian Hockey Federation.
AFJ is the publisher of 24/7 west.com, an online media outfit with focus on the south west Nigeria. He is also the editor of the Australian Legacy magazine, an Afro-Australian publication.
AFJ is incredibly frustrated with the current state of affairs in Oriade Local Government in particular and Osun State in general, and growing increasingly depressed about the future political prospects of his constituency. He believes he must throw himself into that process. He believes at a minimum, he’ll be able to get a wider audience for his ideas and views. At maximum, he believes he would win and get a huge audience for his views and be able to directly affect his desired change.
AFJ also believes he could inspire others to run, influence other candidates to pick up certain policy points from him in going forward. Candidates, his opponents in particular, are always acting like experience is important, that the most experienced politician is the best qualified for office.
The opposite is true. The longer someone is in politics, the better they are at politics, not better at running a state or a constituency. They also cannot help but get deeper into corruption. If the candidate has been in political office just a few times before, it is a good thing, because we can see how good or bad they were. But newcomers can do the job just as well, and this has been proven over time.
The most important things are honesty, integrity, and intelligence, not experience. Candidates should spend their time figuring out how to make the lives of people of Oriade Local Government and Osun State in general better when they get in office. They should not be spending their time figuring out how to make their lives better, raise money, and promise favors when they get in office, but they have to do this now to stay in the game.
We want the best leaders and managers in office, not the best politicians. Our current political system creates great politicians, wheelers and dealers, not necessarily great leaders or problem solvers. AFJ believes we have to turn that around now.
Everyone will be happy when things begin to change, even crooks, because most crooked politicians really do not want to be crooks. They just think they have to be crooked to win, and they are right. Most people think the ends justify the means because it works.
Cheating works, and it should not. The reason even the crook will welcome a new fair system is they are beginning to wake up to the fact they are going to die along with everyone else if we do not make the change and make it fast. The survival of every one depends on it.
The way it is now, the biggest hypocrites, liars, and best deal makers win. AFJ will work with progressive elements in Osun State House of Assembly to change things so that honesty works, and everyone will benefit. Until then, the bad guy wins too often, and we all lose, even the bad guys, things must change soon.
When a leader projects purpose and passion for his vision, he creates an atmosphere of expectancy among the people. AFJ has created such expectancy while campaigning in all the 12 Wards of Oriade Local Government:
- A sense of destiny: He communicates a sense of better future, the belief that they’re in this together.
- A sense of family: He is able to convince the people that they’re joined together as a family by his vision – a vision of a better tomorrow.
- A militant spirit: He assured them that he’ll match his representation with a militancy that the urgency of the task ahead demands.
- Connection: AFJ knows how to connect with the grassroots. He speaks their language. He expressed empathy and compassion for their predicament, and brings courage to their pursuits.
AFJ has been able to articulate his vision emphasizing that instead of contagious selfishness, there should be contagious servanthood. He told them that to get ahead, put others first. His vision rest squarely on four cardinal points: Education, healthcare, youth employment, women empowerment, and better life for seniors.
AFJ will champion equitable, accessible, and quality education for all school age children in order to develop their skills and intellect. Highly qualified teachers with better conditions of service will be given the support and all the necessary tools to do their job.
As a rep of Oriade Local Government, AFJ will make urgent healthcare reform his first priority. He’ll fight for provision of free healthcare for all the people of Osun State. Well-equipped modern hospitals and healthcare centers staffed with qualified doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers will be the standard in Oriade Local Government.
Unemployment is the number one killer of our youth. AFJ will initiate bills for job creation and government guaranteed loans for small businesses. He’ll also scout around for foreign and local investors who are interested in citing industries in Oriade Local Government.
Our women are very resourceful and creative. Our women should be empowered to achieve their dreams in the areas of education, business, politics, and other socio-economic ventures. AFJ in concert with likeminded reps, would make women empowerment a focus of the state government.
On our seniors, old age should not mean death sentence in any form. Our seniors have the right to live a decent life in their twilight years. Toward this end, AFJ would spearhead “Better Life for Seniors” program that will ensure decent housing, retirement plans, payment of pensions as at due, and improvement in geriatric health care services.
As a rep, AFJ will quickly build a clout and form a caucus with other progressives in the house to deal with organized nonsense in governance that hinders solutions to constituents’ problems.
He exudes integrity and honesty that will serve him well. He will be a leading voice in the chorus for social change, economic development and prosperity for the majority of Oriade people who live in the rural areas.
Oriade constituency needs a representative with patience and perceptivity to look into a troubled situation, discern the problem, and then do what it takes to correct the difficulty. In short, Oriade needs a troubleshooter in order to grow and develop. Results with resolve – AFJ is the right candidate!
Bayo Oluwasanmi is the Director of Media & Publicity
AFJ Campaign Organization.
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