A student of the University of Ilorin, Oluwaseun Awogbenle also known as Primebaba has co-founded an NGO called Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa Network, MACAA.
In an interview with him, he reveals that MACAA aims to build the active interest of youths in politics through the digital technology.
UCJ – Can I meet you?
Primebaba – My name is Oluwaseun Awogbenle, a 400 level student Biochemistry student, University of Ilorin. I am the co-founder of Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa Network, MACAA and former speaker of Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Ilorin.
UCJ– What does an average Nigerian have to know about MACAA?
Primebaba– MACAA is a network that seeks to inspire a critical mass of active citizenship. What we intend to do is to actually bring about a sense of belonging into the politics. What we are doing is trying to rejuvenate, reenergize. We understand that so many people especially young people have been disillusioned because of hopelessness basically. Not so many people want to be a part of politics because they believe that it has nothing for them.
So what we are set out to do is actually to get more people engaged for the greater good because we understand that there are two sides to citizenship; there is the demand schedule and supply schedule of citizenship. When you talk about supply then you talk about what government has to do for you. When you talk about demand; it has to do with as citizens what you want from government and then how do we demand it. So what we are doing is to actually get more people engaged in politics because what we see every day is apathies and young people who are not exactly interested in political process. Like I said earlier, they have been disillusioned and because the politics have not really looked positive overtime so too many people don’t want to get involved in the process.
So what we want to do is to actually inspire people but specifically we are into the millennial generation. We have a clarity that millennial as a generational cohort, two generational cohort before now; the gen X, we have the baby boomers. More than anything else, millennial actually have what we call the specialness of this generation and then one of the things that define this generation and makes it quite unique is that this is the only generation that has fully immerse in the world of digital technology. You know, you talk about the iphones, the androids and the selfies. These are some of the things that distinguish millennials. Aside from that, there are quite a lot of things. The fact that they have an entrepreneurial spirit, the fact that they are open-minded, they are liberal.
So what we want to do is that we are trying to see how we can actually transform the dynamism of millennials as a recipe for powerful social and political change because we understand that there is a specialness of this generation as a few of these qualities are highlighted. We are trying to see how we can transform the specialness and uniqueness of this generation into a lasting political change.
Now, in simple terms, we have more young people who are disinterested, who don’t want to come on board because they believe that politics have nothing for them. So what we want to do is actually to inspire and encourage more people to get in touch with the process because in the real sense of it, when you say you don’t want to get involved in the process because you don’t want the process to sap all of your energy, in the end the process ends up sapping the energy that you thought you were trying to conserve- emotionally, physically and even financially. The policies from this process determine how what we wear, how we wear them, what you eat and how you even eat them- you talk about monetary policies, physical polices. All of these things are the result and outcome of the process and when people don’t get involved, the quality of the outcome might not be savory or favorable but when you have more people get involved and get engaged you know it brings about transparency into the process and then the process will be quite balanced.
Like I talked about the demand and supply schedule, which is actually commensurate. When the demand goes up, there is likely to be a commensurate increase in supply because government has to sit up and know “oh more people are getting involved and there is really no time for frivolities. In the end, the fulcrum is going to be balance and we will have equilibrium.
UCJ– What inspired you?
Primebaba– What inspired me is simple, the fact that, more than anything else I have an conviction, as much as I see young people listening to music and they are quite passionate about, as much as I see them watch football, movies as much as I see them get interested in entertainment and the rest of them. If a measure of the energy, a considerable measure of the energy and the passion that they put into these other things can actually be invested in to politics. I think we would be better for it.
You know what I see every day and I continue to see are young people who are disinterested because the politics have disillusioned them into believing that they should box themselves into a corner and just be domicile somewhere while some persons should continue to do it. So what we now have is that the quality of the outcome of that process is not always favorable and in the end we all have to pay for it. The other time we had a situation in which fuel scarcity had to go for a long time because some persons fail what they were meant to do.
Most importantly, it now leads to a growing disconnect which really gets to me. I feel like the whole essence of democracy has actually been defeated and that is why our vision is to strengthen and deepen our democratic governance. Because we know that once we achieve what we want to do we would be able to strengthen and deepen democratic process and practices across the continent.
Particularly I had my experience. During the last local council elections in Kwara State particularly, I was out on the queue and I decided to observe a few of the polling unit around my area. I could canter up to as much as two or three polling unit. The last polling unit that I was, I was going to take pictures as a citizen reporter not even as a journalist per say but I was going to take pictures of the process because I had an understanding that we all have a role to play in trying to ensure the quality of the process. So we had a situation in which most of the people that were on the queue were those that you call the impoverished voters, they were the elite nor exactly educated of the society so what I saw was the aged people having to determine the fate of the rest of us.
That clearly played out in the 2015 elections where less than 30 million Nigerians decided who became the president in 2015 out of a possible 180. But about 90 million Nigerians registered to vote in 2015 but about 30 million people coming out. Today, Nigeria’s work force is about a 125 million and then you look at what you have commensurate of people that come out to vote, most times, there is always an imbalance.
So they thought, the impoverished voters that I was probably going to stand in the way perhaps a possible manipulation of process so they had the ears of the police, they called the police, the police whisked me away but before they did that I was brutalized right there, I was hit, I was bitten, I could not remember the number of slaps I even got. I was extorted in the end. The brutality and all of that equally cumulated to the fact that yea I was willing to press charges but as some point I realized that somehow you could turn your mourning into a strategy and that is why I am equally convinced about what I could do.
You know if I had gotten justice for myself, justice could have been my own victory but it could be a shared justice when you have movements like this where people are willing to come open and then when people understand that they must have a role to play. For every 24 hours in a day, it is not so much when young people begin to tune in to just 30 minutes to watch news. Its part of it, just to know what is going on; just to know oh, I have a commissioner somewhere; what’s GDP? What is monetary policy? What’s physical policy? What’s the present inflation rate? Not so many people care about this but these are things that determine what eventually happens in the end.
These are things that determine the value of the money that you hold in your hand. In the end, I just want to see more people get involved and actively engaged. But the indifference and docile attitude that we have to politics basically is not particularly encouraging. Like someone said the greatest ark of human history bends towards people understand that none of us has all of the answers and that all of us just have to come together to roll our sleeves and get our dirty.
UCJ- What are your activities?
Primebaba– Basically we understand and realize that there is a uniqueness of this generation and I talked about the fact that millennials are the first generation to fully immerse in a world of digital technology. What we are doing is that we are going to be leveraging on digital technology as a recipe. For most of the things we are going to be doing, it’s going to be digital technologically inclined and then how to make the process more opened and transparent. Because what you see are more people who have phones, gadgets, and are not really interested in politics. So we are going to be having tweets interactions to see how we can also influence and effect campaigns over whatsapp and all of these social media platforms.
It’s going to be digitally inclined whatever the plan is because we know that that is what appeals to young people- they are always on their phones more than ever before so we see the need to get them involved through digital means.
UCJ – Do your organization have anything to do with the 2019 general elections?
Primebaba – Apparently not, I think it is just a mere coincidence. The scoopful I had with the police was last year November, 2017 and then I got the clarity in December; about a month after. Then we worked on registration process for about four months. I think it is just a coincidence, I think this is genuine and sincere. But it’s a positive that it’s coming at this time because it’s a time when people have to get involved. It’s a win for democratic governance in the end.
UCJ – In what ways will your organization help in nation building and good governance of Nigeria?
Primebaba – Nation building is the assignment of this generation, I am excited that more people are getting excited about the initiative and they want to come on board. So we are going to have provision for people to sign up over our website- www.maccanigeria.org.
We understand that there is a need to balance global challenge with local responsibilities. So what we intend to do is to actually have a critical mass of MACAA network across the State of the Federation. Like they say all politics have to start local, so we know that we can only balance global challenge with local responsibilities. We are going to have more people getting engaged at the grassroot, people that would be talking to even the counselors, we are going to have people consistently engaged- because that is what we want to imbibe. We want to imbibe that culture of consistent engagement. We would continue to provide platforms in which people can assess whoever it is that is representing them. So we are going to be breaking down, shatter all forms of barrier because what we have over time is we don’t have such engagement and it is this engagement that can actually enrich the politics.
The interesting thing is when we have a consistent level of engagement, we can improve the level of confidence and trust in the system and approval rating will equally go up. But when we have a situation in which there is disconnect and nobody is talking to anybody. Like they say, when there is no information, there is always room for speculation. More people speculate that government isn’t really serving their interest. For instance we have people in Kwara State; they are going to consistently engage the government. It’s going to be a bottom up approach and not a top down.
UCJ – What support do you need from youth?
Primebaba – We want more people to sign up and join as much as they actually feel convinced about the whole ideas. Signing up will not mean anything; it does not mean you have joined a political party. Signing up will be that you are taking a pledge to be an active citizen. It means that you are pledging to be an actively engaged citizen. So you are pledging that henceforth, you are going to get interested in simple matters of governance, henceforth anytime you see your Governor talking on the TV, you are not going to change the channel going to watch HIpTv.
So it’s not a big deal at all. You are pledging to say I am going to take my PVC today and I am going to vote the next time. It does not mean joining a political party, it does not mean running for public offices. But what we are saying is that you are getting involved and you are getting to do what you should do as a person. The signing up isn’t much. It’s like to say “today, I am going home by 7pm and I am going to watch the news, I am going to mobilize in my society, I am going to let the government know that our water is no longer functioning, we are going to organize and strategize to get the government to fix our road for us”. It’s as simple as taking basic actions that will eventually go a long way to affect the result, the outcome and the quality of the process.
UCJ – What advice will you give to youth who want to start up NGOs?
Primebaba – It’s more about conviction first. Once you have conviction and clarity of what you want to do, it gives you an impetus and it gives you a drive, it apparently results into determination and confidence. It also brings understanding that you have to fight doggedly.
I was reading recently and someone said “face your challenges and run rather than see your challenges and run”. It is important that you face it and challenge it. It’s always going to get discouraging, I mean everything almost everything in life is discouraging.
Just like Mark Zuckerburg said “the idea of a single eureka moment is the dangerous lie”. You have more people who have gotten inspiration to start something today but they feel like the idea is not worthwhile or wholesome enough to get them to where they desire to want to be. But that’s the dangerous lie because ideas don’t really come out fully formed. They only get better as we work on them. I did not get the clarity about millennials in just one day, it’s taking a whole lot of time to eventually build and we are going to continue to build until we eventually get there.
Even in government, reformation is not a destination. That’s why we even have government change baton every four years. Look at how made Lagos is and then you see that a certain Governor comes and decides to change the place and people are still feeling it.
It calls for continuous yearning. They must have the passion and the drive and that thirst that I think I can do this and most importantly the hunger. The hunger must be there. There are nights when it will be lonely, scary and difficult. There are nights when it will be just yourself and nobody is really encouraging. There are times when you feel like you should actually give up. Nobody will actually encourage or motivate you. You just have to be self prepared because people equally have things that they are going through in their equal lives.
More than anything else, they have to be self prepared because they are times when things will actually get discouraging and they cannot afford to just give up. Once people are self prepared and convinced about what they want do, about any idea, they should get started. They should not wait for when they think this is the perfect state, when they think the idea is right. Ideas don’t get fully formed; they only get better when we work on them.