*IF POLITICS IS DIRTY, LET US BE THE DETERGENT – AKAN IMOH, ASPIRANT, LAGOS STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY*
*_A very vibrant and smart young man, Akan Imoh is taking a plunge into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. He is coming in with new ideas, strategies and solutions, which has young people as a major target. He sat down with our reporter of recent to talk about his life, political ambitions and more. Enjoy._*
*Can we meet you?*
My name is Akan Imoh. I was born on the 25th of December, 1990, which means I am currently 27 years old. I have lived in Lagos all my life, having schooled, worked and run a business here. I'm a graduate of the University of Lagos, where I studied Political Science and also the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, where I studied Mass Communication.
*How was growing up like for you?*
Growing up was fun for me. I grew up in a house that had lots of love. We were four kids, two girls and two boys. My parents were the best. They made sure we were trained excellently. Two things my parents did that shaped our lives was that we were introduced to God at a very early age and made sure we had the best form of education. I remember one thing my parents always said is 'train up a child in the way of the Lord, and when he's old, he'll never depart from God.' This helped a lot. During my growing up age, I never missed church. Sundays and weekday services. My father would bundle us all in his car and take us to church. It became a part of me. Trust me, we all somehow grew up with a deep love for the things of God. Also, for education, my parents didn't spare any dime. They weren't so rich, but education wasn't what they wanted to ration or manage. I went to the best of schools. Very good private schools which were also expensive. I remember several times, I was sent home because I hadn't paid my school fees. It was a regular feature. I was always at home for a larger part of the school session. But, I always somehow still came out top of the class. These two factors during my growing up age helped shape me to be what I am today.
*How did you discover your passion, what challenges did you face in becoming who you are today and how did you tackle them?*
Discovering passion is a very serious business (laughs). Today, I am a Politician and a host of other things. How did I find myself doing all these? Simple. First, is understanding that your purpose is in God. It's not about what you want to do with your life, but, more about what God wants to do with your life. Hence, there's a need to connect with the father in your discovery stages. Also, there's a need to experience life. To make sure you never sit at the edge and just watch life pass by. You must get into the thick of things. Some call it 'trial and error', I call it 'trial and discovery'. This is because, the more you do things and get involved, you'll begin to find out more about yourself and what you can do. For me, I made sure I got the best out of life. I didn't let anyone tell me I couldn't do something. I already understood that my life was going to somehow revolve around the media and public life, so, I kept on moving and pushing myself.
As for challenges, the major one was financial. Growing up was not smooth. I was away from school more times than I was in school. I was always sent out for defaulting in fees payment. I grew up experiencing what its like to be poor. This can be a major limitation in a young man’s life. I have come to realize that poverty has a way of messing up with a person’s thinking and reasoning pattern. And so, one thing I did was to begin to work on my psyche. I used to say that I broke out of poverty in my head first before I broke out of it in my pocket. But, its been an amazing ride. With hard work, determination and God on my side, I have been able to surmount any obstacle life has thrown at me.
*What motivated you to go into politics?*
Hmmm. Politics has always been in the picture for me. Before we even talk politics, lets talk leadership. I think I was born to lead. I have always been at the fore front of things. You put me in the midst of people and somehow, I will just come out as the leader. I have extraordinary organizational and people skills. I was the Head Boy in both my primary and Secondary schools, I was also a major Teen Leader all through my teen age at the Foursquare Gospel Church, Saabo in Ojodu-Berger. Leadership has always been my thing. Now, let’s bring it to politics. It is obvious that we’ve have a huge leadership problem in our country. We keep complaining, yet, we don’t do anything about it. I remember when I told my mum I was going into active politics, she nearly had a heart attack. Its not rare to hear people say that politics is dirty and they would never go into it or advice their family or friends to go into it. Now, I ask ‘if we don’t go into politics, how is it ever going to be better?’. I am tired of people who sit back and complain. We have got to move into the system and effect the kind of change we want. Yes, not all of us will run for office, but, what we all need to do is to get involved. Firstly, if you’re above 18 years old and you don’t have a PVC, im sorry to say, you are part of the problem. We must rise and take actions. We must hold our elected leaders accountable. We must ask questions, we must not just allow these people do as they please. Those of us who have decided to contest need your support, and not only support, we need your criticism. Make sure you hold us accountable. If politics is dirty, lets be the detergent.
*Tell us a bit about your political ambitions*
Yes. So, I intend to contest elections next year. I am aspirating for a seat in the Lagos State House of Assembly, LSHA (Ikeja 1 Constituency. Ikeja 1 Constituency consists of Ojodu-Berger, Omole, Agidingbi, Ipodo, Alausa, Oregun, Olusosun, Onilekekere, Onipetesi & Seriki Aro. I've been told several times that I stand no chance, especially because I am not an indigene of Lagos State. When I hear this, I just have one statement as a reply - Development doesn't have a state of origin. If I've lived in this city for 27 years of my life, I think I deserve to be involved in the decision making process of this area.
Now, let me say that I am doing this for all the young people in this country. I am taking a step to take our fight to the place that matters. We need to have a seat at the table. When I get to the State House, I will push aggressively for youth-related bills. By this, I don’t mean all these ones they do where they come and give us jotters and other useless things. I mean creative policies that will better the lives of young people. We have young people with big entrepreneurial dreams, walking around with laptops in their bags and great ideas in their heads. How can we do something to help these ones? Some of them just need a place to work from, can’t we have entrepreneurial hubs or coworking stations? Have we thought about sports and how we could leverage on it to get to foster communal unity, get people off the streets and give them a purpose to live for? Why can’t we work towards setting up a football club (Ikeja FC), which will be poised to begin to play in the Nigerian Football League within three years of creation. This is what governance is about? The people who are voted into the Legislature are supposed to be your representatives, yet, many of us don’t even know them. So, tell me, how are they representing you. I believe that a legislator is supposed to be close to the people, close to the grassroots. You are supposed to know what is going on in your constituency, feel the heartbeat and take the concerns to the center. But, no. we have legislators who are comfortable in agbadas and don’t care about you. When elections are close, they then come out, do one or two things and make people feel like they’ve been working. We are no longer going to be deceived. I leave you with this, accountability and transparency will be the hallmark of my leadership. The power actually belongs to the people, we have to give comprehensive reports to the people who voted us in. I am bringing an open feedback system. This is time for a new kind of governance.
*You’ve done a lot for young people over the years, why are you so passionate about this demography of people?*
I am a lover of Young people. For eleven years now, I have consistently worked directly with teenagers and youths. I have always had a deep desire to help shape and positively impact young people. In church, I have worked closely with the teenagers and youths for years. This has led me to be a regular Guest Speaker at several events for young people, trained hundreds of them, mentored and still mentors hundreds of young people. I run an NGO, ProjectLEAD, which specifically focuses on capacity development of teenagers. ProjectLEAD has been able to spread its impact wings reaching teenagers far and wide across the country. In 2016, I ran a Skill Acquisition Programme in Ojodu aimed at closing the skills gap for competent persons (target audience were Teenagers and Secondary School Leavers) who can handle Digital Media and Content Creation. This programme, in its first edition had forty teenagers who were being trained for free on courses such as Photography, Graphics Design, Front End Coding, Copy Writing, Social Media Marketing etc. I also founded The Boss Approach, a platform which is focused on Entrepreneurial Leadership and provides advice, opportunities and inspiration for African millennials in business. This platform has been able to reach out to thousands of young people providing content to aid them in their businesses, careers and life in general. I am passionate about this set of people because I believe in the future, and that is why my campaign is themed ‘Create Your Tomorrow’. To me, I believe that the choices we make today will affect our tomorrow. I believe that these young people are the ones who are going to inherit the Nigeria of tomorrow. If we don’t take a step, we wont even have a country to inherit in the first place. I believe that we need to be deliberate about building a kind of future we can be proud of and our children can inherit and be happy.
*Where do you see yourself in ten years?*
In ten years’ time, I see myself married to an awesome woman, the very best on earth. I see myself with kids, two or three. I see myself being a key figure in the economic development of Africa as a whole. I see myself being a role model to many young people. I see myself still in governance and politics, influencing key decisions and helping to make the world a better place. I see myself more and more devoted to God and leading a life taught by Jesus.
*What's your advice for youths?*
Youths, we can’t afford to continue our siddon-look attitude. Wake up and smell the coffee. Its time to fight for our rights. Go and get your PVC.
*How can people follow your campaign?*
Its easy. I am *@theAkanImoh* on Twitter and Instagram. Follow me to read up on my ideas on governance, read about my bio and my political agenda.