Speech delivered by Hon. Tajudeen Adeyemi Adefisoye, Member Representing Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency On Wednesday 16th October, 2019 at the Awo Hall of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife during the Annual Economics Students Conference.
I will like to start this address by positing that appreciation is not only limited to recognition of excellence, but it also serves as a catalyst that can spur into greater accomplishment. Truth is that I feel very honoured and yet humbled by the thought of being considered worthy of the ‘Award of Excellence in Grassroot Politics’ by the greatest Nigerian students. I am thankful and inspired to aim at and reach for a greater height.
It is without doubt that virtually all Nigerian students perfectly fit into the description of youths. By extension, I am also a Nigerian youth by the virtue of age, agility, streams of boisterous and creative ideas as well as a broader world view. It has often being said that the youths are the future of tomorrow; I quite agree with this assertion, but disagree with the timing because the tomorrow is now. You need not be deceived that this statement is nothing better than a rhetorical gimmick by the elderly to perpetually delude and subdue the youths that chose to remain comfortable in their seeming comfort zones.
You will agree with me that youthfulness naturally confers certain potentials and physiological advantages of those that fall into the category. This is a stage of life in which calculated risks could be easily taken and audacious dreams could be vigorously pursued. This is also a stage of life in which those that qualify to be addressed as youth could dare to dream without limitation. The youths have the unassailable advantage of dissipating their strength on all sorts of human endeavours to carve out niches for themselves and possibly rewrite history.
The ‘Award of Excellence in Grassroots Politics’ being presented to me today simply underscores my continuous strive to render service and give helping hands to my people over the years. This award also highlights my desire to maintain relevance in the grassroots politics of Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency. Meanwhile, it must be pointed out that being a youth does not confer easy access to success and breakthrough in a chosen field, particularly in politics. Aside the powers of prayers and clear vision; resilience and doggedness are very crucial in attainment of success. Please refuse to get deceived that there can ever be any easy ride to political prominence for the youths. As a matter of fact, the entrenched elderly ones are not willing to yield space to the youth and they cannot be blamed for this in any way. Since nature abhors vacuum, it is then expected of the youth to put their thinking caps and position themselves for relevance in politics.
My struggle and modest success in politics are confirmation of the truism of uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Most people are only aware of the fact that I am the youngest House of Representatives member in the South West of Nigeria. But I doubt if majority of these people are also aware that the same Small Alhaji had unsuccessfully contested elections at two different times before the eventual victory in the 2019 elections.
It may interest my listeners that my election as a member of the Federal House of Representatives was about the most daring and audacious in the political history of Ondo State. It is on record that I contested on the platform of a party, Social Democratic Party (SDP) that was relatively unknown and unpopular at the time of the election. I also took the risk of contesting against the candidates of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a state that has a sitting governor who is a member of the APC. I am sure that you are all aware of the powers of a governor and the enormity of resources at the their disposal. The electoral contest seemed hopeless to some of my supporters in view of the daunting opposition. Some even described me as a day dreamer who was only hoping against hope.
In the midst of all the distractions experienced in the run up to the House of Representatives elections, I stood firm and refused to get distracted. I resolutely stayed focused on my goal and promptly developed thick skin that helped me to absorb all sorts of insults and humiliations that naturally accompany politicking. The road to victory for me was far from being smooth. It was rough, coarse and suffocating; but I refused to quit because no quitter had ever won any battle.
Let me encourage you on the importance of developing the mindset of ‘I can do it’. It was this conviction that spurred the ambition of contesting for the position of Member House of Representatives; having contested unsuccessfully for the position of Member Ondo State House of Assembly on two different occasions. My resolve was to keep aiming higher and not allow the shenanigan of politics to discourage me from offering quality representation to my people.
Inasmuch as I will want to encourage youth participation in politics, it should be pointed out that politics is first and foremost a call to service and not a short cut to accumulation of wealth. I can assure you that any politician that is primarily given to self seeking and personal aggrandizement is not likely to stay too long in the corridor of politics. Welfare of the masses and good governance ought to be the reason for political participation. I cannot shy away from the fact that a labourer deserves his wages, just as the benefits of any political office holder cannot be denied such an individual. Above all, patriotic service, good governance and welfare of those being represented deserve premium priority in the scheme of politics.
As students of Economics, I am certain that you are very familiar with and appreciate the essence of ‘scale of preference’. My honest advice to you at this stage of your life is to give due preference to your academic pursuits. Since we have far more graduates in the country than the number of available jobs, I will likewise advise you to start thinking outside the box. I am sure that the plans of majority of you is to secure a white collar job upon graduation. But, the reality of our society is that the white collar jobs are now keenly competitive or in some case not available. This is the more reason you need to study very hard to be the best in your field of discipline, while some of you with entrepreneurial or creative skills are encouraged to explore it. But the pursuit of personal skills or talents must not be at the detriment of your academic. It a fact that good academic background, wealth of career experience and good financial standing are some of the key ingredients of emerging victorious in political contests.
Being an entrepreneur provides the platforms of free entry and exit in politics. It is by this reason that I am able to venture into politics at a relatively young age. I can also return to my businesses whenever I choose to exit politics. Successful entrepreneurs with partisan inclinations undoubtedly have the advantage of good war chest to prosecute their political ambitions. Without doubt, money is now a factor in Nigerian politics, but this should not discourage youths that are willing to contest for political offices.
The ‘Not too young to run’ Act is a window of opportunity for greater participation of Nigerian youths in politics. But political participation truly requires conviction, preparation, awareness creation, resoluteness and resources. Demographic advantage can also play a good role if the youths are truly prepared to take charge of governance. Please let me reiterate once again that the politically enthrenched elderly will not willingly surrender to the youth. It is expected of the youths that are interested in politics to get prepared to engage and wrestle political relevance from the entrenched forces. Let me also point out that venturing into politics requires calculation, caution and carefulness because there are a lots of politics hawks out there waiting to mislead new entrants into politics with the intention to suck them dry.
Thank you for you time and God bless.