The mindset of Nigerians during elections is unfortunately attached to money | ACPN candidate, Atolusi Damilola says

Unlike some years back when young politicians could not do more than be party members, the Not Too Young To Run Bill has opened doors for younger people to run for offices – thanks to Honourable Tony Nwulu and President Muhammadu Buhari.

Therefore, YNaija began a series titled YNaija Politico, so these set of young candidates and/or aspirants can talk about their aspirations as they prepare for the 2019 elections.

Atolusi Damilola, an Ondo State House of Assembly (Akure South Constituency 2) candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) talks about his aspirations in this interview.

Comrade Atolusi Damilola Anthony known as Chief Antoz is a 27-year-old graduate of Federal University of Technology, Akure, from the Department of Mining Engineering.

Read below:

Talk about your background

I’m Comrade Atolusi Damilola Anthony known as Chief Antoz, a 27-year-old Graduate of Federal University of Technology, Akure, from the Department of Mining Engineering.

I was a former Ab Chief of FUTA (Ilya Oyemekun); the immediate past Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students, Joint Campus Committee, Ondo State Chapter (NANS, JCC ONDO AXIS); Coordinator, Nigerian Youth for Good Governance.

How long have you been in politics? And what inspired the decision to run for a political office in an environment where the older generation think they should be the ones leading?

Firstly, I’m happy the bill of Not Too Young To Run Bill was passed and people like us can contest for a key position in the country. It has been my hobby to help younger ones and also contribute to my community. My dream is to contribute my own quota to the society by agitating for proper representation and good welfare for the people. As youth, we have to start from somewhere and stop pointing fingers to the elders and leaders in position. I believe if the youth of this nation rise up and start to agitate and contest for key positions, we can be ably represented as far as Nigeria politics is concerned.

Also, I engaged and joined Nigerian politics as far back as 2012.

Is there a time you went beyond your comfort zone to ensure the lives of the people around – especially the grassroots – are improved? What is the most significant change you brought about in your local community?

A few months ago, I and my team deemed it fit to distribute notebooks to all the Secondary Schools in Akure South constituency and I have also agitated alongside Iyange quarters youth association to dualise the Ogunmolahan layout, Oke Ogba street.

How important is this decision to run for the political office to you and the people you aspire to lead?

My mission is not in anyway related to making cheap popularity, but rather to restore our people’s right in terms of proper representation that entails continuous agitation for our constituency projects, which is expected to be ceaselessly monitored to the execution stage, projects that will affect our people positively and transform the constituency.

I am, therefore, running for this office to make a difference by reaching out to my people and supporters. As an honourable member of the house representing them, I will make sure I understand their problems and also their challenges, so I can solve or help to push forward these problems to the higher authority.

Who in the Nigerian political space inspires you? And if there is someone, is this person a godfather?

Comrade Honourable Olamide George inspires me because as a comrade you have to be focused and also strive hard towards achieving a common goal, presently I don’t have a godfather in the political system.

How far do you think you have progressed as a young politician?

It has been God’s grace. I can say that in terms of familiarisation with the people and also making an impact in my community, I have really progressed as friends and supporters do seek my opinion on issues arising from my Constituency.

How do you plan on tackling major issues such as unemployment, housing, healthcare and education?

One of the persistent problems we experience in Nigeria is the alarming rate of unemployment and underemployment that keeps increasing geometrical daily and has turned our vibrant youth and able-bodied men into crawled entities, while it has been widely acclaimed that Nigerians are brilliant minds with strong tenacity to succeed in every sphere of life. Not excluding business, however, the aforementioned situation has pinned our people down, stranded by lack of capital. The few institutions that try to address the imbroglio have failed in their quest. Rather than giving affordable loans to our young men and women, they, unfortunately, become a mission of wealth transfer among the elite, who only can provide collateral and overwhelming criteria demanded by the institutions. As one who knows where the shoe pinches, irrespective of the circumstance, I look forward to sponsoring a bill at the House of Assembly, which allows Youth Empowerment Scheme to be allocated in the state budget, necessitating youth with entrepreneurial skills to take advantage of the substantial amount of resources to kick-start businesses of their choice, with at least a minimum capital that suits the business.

I am also aware that few of the similar schemes by some States and Federal Government are not easily accessible by the intended youth and women due to huge collateral required and other outrageous demands, this would be taken care of to ensure the purpose of the bill is met.

We have schools that are outdated structurally and some with no significant educational facilities to aid teaching. In order to address the problem, we are going to establish a library project for the affected schools, that will be equipped with different facilities for an average Nigeria citizen to walk up and make use of. We will never allow anybody to rob our progenies, current and upcoming generations, of qualitative education.

Irrespective of the background and party affiliation, education will be relatively free. As we promised, this is a platform where people’s voice will be heard as is expected of true democracy.

Do you think religion should play a huge role in Nigerian politics? If you think so, what would you say about the general idea that religion has so far hindered development in Nigeria?

Religion needs to play a major role as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. Our religious leaders should start preaching good governance and urge their people to participate and also vote in credible leaders into public positions. They should as well as preach unity because this has hindered our development as a nation.

In your relatively short time in the Nigerian political space, are there things you have learnt that you will like to share?

What I have learnt so far in Nigerian politics is that the mindset of our people is now attached to sharing money. That motivates them out to vote and support their choice candidate.

How confident are you about winning the election in 2019?

By God’s Grace, I’m hopeful that I will win the seat of the Ondo State House of Assembly election Akure South constituency 2.

In case you lose the election, what will be the next step you will take?

If things go another way I will still keep in touch with my supporters, friends and my consistuents to maintain the cordial relationship we have built together.

What advice would you give someone who is assuming a leadership position for the first time?

I have gathered a little experience being the first time I’m contesting for public office, and so, my advice for someone assuming a leadership position is to always have it in mind that Nigerian politics requires a lot of money. So it’s good to have a substantial amount of resources to run for the election.

We have had, in this series (YNaija Politico),

Olusegun Akinsehinde (read the interview here);

Omobolaji Ladigbolu, candidate, House of Assembly (Iseyin/Itesiwaju, Oyo) and;

Kayode Oyemakinde, aspirant, House of Assembly (Lagos).

If you are a candidate/aspirant (18-35) or know someone who is, please send a mail to [email protected]