#RunToWin Series — Young Nigerians Running for Political Leadership E3
Meet Folarin Opeyemi Joseph, an entrepreneur and policy engagement analyst.
This article was co-written by Ifeoluwa Kayode-Edwards
On this episode of the #RunToWin series, we share the story of Folarin Opeyemi Joseph, a Young Progressive Party (YPP) candidate contesting for the Federal House of Assembly seat to represent Mushin Federal Constituency 2. He is an entrepreneur, policy engagement analyst, and politician. He was a candidate in the last general election, where he ran for a seat in the National Assembly to represent Mushin Federal Constituency 2. He has been involved in human rights and education advocacy for the past 12 years.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What inspired you to enter politics?
My motivation is my enthusiasm and ardour to serve the citizens of the Mushin Constituency II to give them a voice, to deliver good governance and to be a part of the solution providers to the challenges currently ongoing in the country as a whole.
Tell me about your work and professional life before entering politics.
I am a graduate of Computer Science and Technology from Lead City University, Ibadan. I am 35 years old and currently working as a facility manager at Mandate Investments. Also, I serve as a public affairs and policy engagement analyst, entrepreneur, politician, public speaker and social commentator. I am also an electoral college associate and have attended several governance conferences and workshops to hone my governance, nation-building and lawmaking skills.
What is your view on youth participation in government?
The paradigm shift resulting from youth participation in governance is inevitable if we want to turn a new leaf in ensuring that things get better. It is essential to reset the status quo in terms of deploying beautiful new ideas that would fast-track our development and ensure that youths who are today's leaders, not tomorrow, can contribute their quota in nation-building. We cannot abandon the youths and allow the older ones to make decisions that will affect us later in the future. So, the youths need to be at the table where it matters most in decision-making on deliberating on issues that can cause a shift in governance and the nation at large.
How was your experience entering politics, and what challenges have you faced so far?
The positive feedback I got outweighed the distracting comments I received, which has not prevented me from pressing forward in the electioneering. The journey has been interesting, exhausting, chaotic and expensive. Becoming a candidate is only the beginning of the election process towards the election proper. Immediately after INEC announced the official campaign commencement, my team and I started working. Awareness across the constituency resumed with the mounting of billboards and banners at strategic locations. It was quite interesting to know that getting the materials ready was not a big issue, but mobilising and funding volunteers to set up banners and ensure the task was carried out effectively was where we faced challenges.
In some places, my volunteers were prevented from fixing the banners until some money was paid to guys who assured us of securing the banners from being pulled down or torn in some areas. It is a generally erroneous belief that candidates have a massive financial reserve for stepping forward to signify interest in contesting for an electoral position. Moving around the constituency also came at a cost, especially while engaging electorates in groups across the constituency. Donations after an engagement seemed to be the norm. Some individuals even came up with demands via calls and messages to me directly seeking financial support over their immediate needs that demanded urgent intervention.
The challenge of finance has slowed down the pace of my campaign, especially at the ward level of engagement. But on the positive side, there is still time to recover and build momentum as the election draws closer. So far, the most important part of the campaign was that I recognised people for who they were and respected them all. As the campaign intensifies, I always remind the electorates that voting is not only their right but also our responsibility as citizens of Nigeria interested in electing candidates who will be accountable and serve the people's collective interest.
What part of your corporate and/or community development experience qualifies you best for this political office you are running for?
I have actively been a part of several community development projects. To mention a few, I have provided scholarships to youths in my community to further their studies. I have also provided legal assistance to individuals who need it but cannot access it in issues like police brutality. Over the past twelve years, I have worked as a human rights and education advocate.
Additionally, I have ten years of active political experience to equip me for the upcoming duties and responsibilities in my effort toward my constituency.
What makes me competent to undertake this role is having a thorough understanding of the issues I plan to tackle and the ideas I am pushing forward, in this case, for the electorate. The current methods of tackling problems by the government have not been optimally delivered, so there is a need for a newer system; after all, we cannot expect a different result when we do the same thing repeatedly. That is my message.
I am also willing to serve as it’s all about service, nothing more. It is about always putting the collective interest of the residents of the Mushin constituency as the top priority. We currently find that many experienced politicians in the country are selfish, which has negatively impacted our experience with the government. We do not need such anymore because their decades of experience have brought us to our present state with a rising multi-dimensional poverty rate of 133 million people, high numbers of out-of-school children, and a lack of healthcare services. These issues are the promised deliverables by the so-called experienced politicians, but things are not getting better. So, it is time for a generational shift for the rise of different ideas from young minds and youths interested in contributing their quota to nation-building and who are stepping forward with a different kind of value that can improve the living condition of the state and electorate across the board.
If/when you enter office, what are your plans to create the change you want to see?
My first legislative agenda is to move a bill to bring down the cost of governance in Nigeria by cutting down waste in the form of remuneration of public officers. We cannot continue in this trajectory because we need more funds to channel into the productive sectors of the economy, such as education and healthcare, that can improve the living conditions of the citizens.
Another problem my campaign addresses is the bolstering and funding required for the health sector. At present, the State and Local Governments manage our Primary Healthcare (PHC) Centres, while the Federal Government sets the quality framework which guides the operations of the Healthcare Centres. I am proposing for the PHC Centres to employ mobile primary care to meet the needs of residents timely and prompt. This is to solve the problem of ‘How can we bring healthcare closer to the people?’. Other challenges in the healthcare sector include a long delivery time of resources to people in need of them, a shortage of PHC workers, inconsistent payment of healthcare workers, and inappropriate closing times of PHC Centres for attending to emergencies. However, these ambulances and mobile primary care can serve the needs of people, and we can have health workers working different shifts.
Also, I propose the introduction of Peace Studies to school curriculums because there is a need to teach peace at the elementary level. This is to improve their capacity in negotiating and dialogue for conflict resolution rather than resorting to violence. Through this Peace Studies, we can also assist in building inter and intra-personal skills such as emotional awareness, anger management, self-awareness, and empathy. In addition, it would shape the personalities of our young ones and set a standard for how they address and respond to issues. Another benefit of Peace Studies is to certify effort on an anti-bullying initiative that focuses on cooperation and kindness. When we foster collaboration, we can achieve more and promote more growth.
I also propose providing equitable access to education and protection for children in fragile and emergency situations. For this to be achieved, a collaboration between all stakeholders, from the government to schools to even the students, is necessary. Innovation in the education sector is also essential for improved effectiveness.
I also propose a policy for establishing a gender-focused system for skill acquisition and development centres across all LGAs in Nigeria for women’s empowerment.
Additionally, the agricultural sector is at risk due to the ongoing climate crisis, and my campaign will address this by taking legislative actions to help mitigate climate change.
My campaign also addresses challenges present in the Judicial system in administration, compensation, accountability, and performance evaluation.
Finally, the creative industry in Nigeria is often overlooked, and so numerous talents are underutilised. I propose the setting up of a creative industries tax incentives programme in which companies can offer financial support to creative projects, such as festivals and creative hubs, in exchange for a tax rebate.