Nigeria uses money meant to develop her youths to keep them locked in Prisons—Lukman Oyewole Lawal + Told Asabeafrika about his humble beginning

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Lukman Oyewole Lawal, President, Ultimate Youth Dream Initiative (UYDI)
Young, dynamic and policy savvy; that is the best way to describe Lukmon Oyewole Lawal a Surulere Lagos born Politician and Policy experts famoulsly known as LOL by friends and associates. If you have the opportunity of sitting with this Lagos born accountant for few minutes,  you will start to have the ironic feelings that indeed ‘the beautiful ones are now born’ and presently living with us. LOL is one of the few Nigerians that are very angry with the state of the larger Nigerian youths. For him, the Nigerian situation is quite bad enough that a high number of young people have turned  to drug and lotto addicts and if Government fails to act fast, it could prove disastrous for the future of the country.
 LOL is the founder Ultimate Youth Dream Initiative (UYDI) an NGO he uses to carry out what can be termed as “norms and values auditing exercise” of government policies and their direct impact on the larger society.  In this rare exclusive with Asabeafrika, the Youth development expert shares his life ambition with us amidst the story of his humble beginning in Suru-Lere—Lagos (South West Nigeria) Enjoy the excerpts.


To be honest, how do you really see yourself?
LOL to Asabeafrika....'I am a concerned Youth'

I see myself first of all as a youth and a concerned youth at that. I was born in Lagos, Suru-Lere to be precise some 41 years ago. I grew up in Suru-Lere.  I am a chattered accountant by training. I have 5 years of private sector cognate work experience; 5 years of public sector cognate work experience and formal entrepreneurship experience of about 3 years as well as student and street entrepreneurship experience of over 5 years because I actually saw myself through university education. That is a brief introduction of my person.
Your developmental years must have been tough in a country like Nigeria?
LOL: The Leader...

I lost my father at the age of seven; my father is the late Alhaji Ibrahim Lawal. He was an Islamic missioner of the Ansar-Udeen faith. By that time I recall on Fridays my mother will call me and say ‘that is your father talking on the radio’ . My dad normally gave prayers on the then Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). He was one of the very few people to speak in English language on the Islamic platform and translated it to Yoruba to educate the mass of our people. I equally recall that the Ansar-Udeen society members were all over his funeral program; they did a very huge funeral for him and they were at the 8th day prayers ceremony as well and they held a reception in his honor a few months after his death.  And I recall that my mother took me there to represent the family and I think I got a good sum of money as compensation as at then.
What year did you lose your dad and were you his only son?
LOL & The GDA

It was actually 1983; I was not his only son but I was his youngest son at the time and he loved me and took me everywhere he went and a lot of people knew me with him at the time. It was quite toug after his demise and I was taken in by my paternal elder sister to whom I owe a lot in terms of gratitude and appreciation because I was trained by a young woman who will not take any nonsense from me. A woman who made me very conscious of time; a woman who made me conscious of discipline; who made me conscious of cleanliness. I was brought up never to leave any filth on the floor at any point in time in the day. I was brought up never to leave any plate unwashed overnight. Even during the holiday period, she will buy bags of beans for me to pick, rice for me to pick, just to engage me. Wash clothes, iron clothes. So, I was well brought up, well trained and I would not have had that kind of training if I was left with my mum because naturally she would pamper me.  I didn’t enjoy the luxury of living with my mother while growing and it made me to really appreciate my sister who saw me through primary and secondary education.
Was dad a polygamist?

LOL; The Future Leader

Not exactly; of course, he had two wives and incidentally my sister who trained me is my half sister from the first wife. I guess my mum was equally a very good mother to her and she didn’t see me as a half brother in any way. She is a very big pillar in my life’s journey. My mum is also late as well. I lost my father at 7 and I lost my mum at 17, just ten years apart. My mother Ramat Ayinke Lawal is from the Agbole-Oluwo of Epetedo in Lagos Island as well as the Yekini Bakare family also of Lagos Island.  My dad is from Ikorodu. My sister’s name is Mrs. Oluremi Cole (Nee Lawal) she is a trained nurse, she retired as an apex chief matron from Orile Agege General Hospital under the directorate of Lagos State Health Service Commission.
What were the issues of life that shaped your personality while growing up?
The Elders of Surulere loves LOL & his vision

Basically I want to bless God for my life; in those days in Suru-Lere the society was a lot more serene and we would play a lot and we would also read a lot. I started school at over six years old; I never attended any nursery and primary school or any private school in my life. I had public primary education at Jehovah-Jireh African Church Primary school between 1982 and 1988 from where I proceeded to Berth Freeman High school between 1989 and 1994. And I recall that I used to run from school when I was in Primary 1. My school was directly behind my house; so as a spoilt little boy, I would sneak home to come and eat with my dad and I saw school like a punishment until the day one of my elder brothers was became furious that I was hanging around 12 pm in the afternoon  and he beat the hell out of me and ran me back to the school and pupils were made to sing for me “Isan-Nsa ma tun de o, a le ko lo kole lo” from one class to the other; they took me round all the classes, singing for me and that ritual became the end of my being a truant and always running away  from school.  And I recall also that some of my mates at that time will hold my hands to write something in my book.
LOL; The Social Engineer....
I was so lazy and my mother will cry and tell the teacher to kindly put me through. Funny enough, the teachers of those days were a lot more committed; they were a lot more tolerant and they were a lot more detailed. So my teacher at that time will deny me going for break time, she will sit me on her lap and will take time to explain to me the basics at that time without taking any money or gratification. Nothing like private or after-school lessons, it was just her personal efforts and her passion to help because indeed children have different receptive abilities. Some kids get things fast while some need extra coaching. So, by the time I got to primary 2, I was a lot more settled and i started being one of the first 5 most prized students and at primary three, I was about the best and I started becoming a class captain at that tender age; through out my primary 3, 4, 5, 6, I was class captain and I took the same level of intelligence to the secondary school. That is Batch Freeman Secondary School. And I must really commend the kind of competition we had in Berth Freeman High school. We used to look forward to prize giving days; I was a prize winner and I also used to come first in class. I was also a class captain for most part of my education life at Berth Freeman High School. It was a very wonderful experience at Berth Freeman because we were very keen on academic excellence, we had prize giving days and it made us very committed.
LOL honors Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande....First Executive Governor of Lagos State
We want to know who will score the highest in a particular subject and at different times we would commend ourselves that ‘oh, you got more than me’ or ‘I did more than you in that subject’, a kind of healthy rivalry. I really can never forget the kind of apt it built in me to strive and I have discovered that everywhere I find myself; wherever there is healthy rivalry, it is a moral booster for me as a person to want to put in more efforts and to want to do better than my colleagues. From there, I wrote JAMB in 1995 and I gained admission into Ogun State University Ago Iwoye.  
So, what was life at the university like?
LOL: The Orphan...
 
Initially I wanted to study law but somehow I started with philosophy; so I studied philosophy for one year but somehow at that time, accounting was a very popular profession and my sister was like ‘you got to read accounting’ because it was quite attractive and very prominent at the time. So, I wrote another JAMB and then started accounting at the following session and that made me to be a graduate of accounting. In school, I started a phone business center and it was what I could say  helped me to make success in my educational endeavor because it was quite challenging at the time; my sister had her own kids growing up and trying to settle and I thank God I was able to succeed with the business at that time.
LOL to Asabeafrika....'Nigerian Government will not spend to develop the minds of the youths but will spend large budgets to keep them locked up in prisons'
I had a leeway with the business and it also gave me a social lift in school. I was seen as a very popular person, I became very popular because I provided a platform for people to phone their parents and nobody would have ever looked at me for one second that I was an orphan. I never had that kind of outlook and I never bordered to tell people. I really thank God for the period because it really shaped my persuasive skills, communication skills because I had to make people come to my business center; I was loved by so many people. I was seen as a very friendly person and I was able to sharpen those skills while I was  studying as an undergraduate.
As a Youth leader, today, when you look at our education sector, what crosses your mind?
LOL to Asabeafrika....'I am sad for the state of Youth Development in Nigeria'

 I recently did a survey on Nigeria’s education system, my brother, what I saw rattled me. In my primary two, primary three of the public schools of those days, we were able to learn and read. But today I did a survey and the results were shocking. Only four out of ten public school pupils of JSS1 to SS3 could read. We set a reading skill text; I am not talking about reading culture because if you don’t have the reading skills, you cannot imbibe any reading culture. I am talking about reading skills; imagine a system where we have pushed a pupil from Primary 1 to SS3 and he cannot even read? These are the kind of young people that will fail WAEC year-in-year out. For the private schools, we got 7 out of 10; the private schools also have different categories and I will now look at those children; in Lagos today 63% of pupils in primary schools attend different classes of private schools. I met some primary school teachers who told me that their own kids also attend private schools. The 37% in terms of enrolment are the ones in public-primary schools and we keep pushing them. 80% of secondary school pupils in Lagos are in public secondary schools while 20% are in private secondary schools not to talk of those who found their ways to Federal Government Colleges and even outside Nigeria.
LOL to Asabeafrika....'Nigerian Prisons are congested with young prisoners'
Now, those pupils we keep pushing and pushing, one day, I pray it does not happen. They will meet with our own children that we have sent to schools abroad, that we have protected, that we have given the best of education. When they meet someday, somewhere, somehow, sometime, they will either meet for the good reasons or for the bad reasons. The other day, I visited the prisons and there were lots of congestion and who are the culprits? It is the same youth. People, who I knew by mere interacting with them, were not given any opportunity, any qualitative education, any positive social inclusion, any good mentorship. The system that they met threw all kinds of negatives at them and unfortunately they are already in prison, awaiting trials and some serving sentences for different kind of flimsy and minor reasons.
LOL honoring First Civilian Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande as Jamiu Abiol (L) watches and a veteran Surulere Politician
So, it is a shame that today’s Nigerian system does not look after its children. It is a shame that you will leave a child to have a negative thinking between the ages of 0-to-12, between the ages of 12-to-18 and you now use those funds you are supposed to have used to develop them while they were growing up, to fund the police to be arresting them, to fund the prison to keep them in jail. The prison system today is so bad that every month more than 10 to 15 inmates die because of the poor condition. We have to say no to all these, we have to rise up and come together as leaders of this hour. We must shun corruption and not be tempted by the kind of poverty of the mind that has bedeviled our present day leaders who dragged us to where we are now.
Why are you so passionate about the youth?
LOL & Some of his Youthful Friends in Surulere (Fuad Laguda in shades)

I am deeply pained that a lot of youths of my generation are  wasting away, drinking Ogogoro from morning till night, doing cultism, becoming lotto addicts, because they don’t have any viable alternative. From my research findings, I have discovered that 70% of our problems today can be solved at the governance level, within that corridor. Because professionals like me have taken a back seat over time, we have had all kinds of people ruling us either as executives or as legislatures.
LOL & His Friend & Youth Leader, Fuad Laguda
I have beautiful models that can intervene in the educational sector because the first panacea against poverty and ignorance is quality education. My workable modem I believe would address those bunches of problems that we have in the education sector today. I also have workable models that gives wealth creation; that will built trust in the army of youths that are wasting away in cultism, robbery, lotto addiction and other criminal acts. I have a workable modem on talent enhancement; people who want to exhibit singing talent, acting talent and I have a very good notion because I know that if you don’t have sincerity of purpose, if you don’t have a clear good conscience, you will get into the murky political water and fall.
LOL....Also cares for the Old Ones in the Society


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