We are pleased with this opportunity you have given us to have this interview with you. I am Ojogbon Adeyemi Onikosi from Parrotreporters.com. We are doing special features on Nigerians in Diaspora, who despite their success stories outside the shores of Nigeria still have a deep passion for Nigeria. Can you give our readers a brief introduction about yourself?
My name is Lawal Rilwan Ayoola (LRA) from the Odunewu family in Isa-Eko, Lagos State, Nigeria. A social entrepreneur and politician.
I’m an alumnus of Lagos State Model College, Meiran – Lagos State, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos State, MDF, Ede, The Netherlands, Focus Business School, Sweden and Salford Business School, Manchester, UK/ Robert Kennedy College, Zürich, Switzerland and Institute of Competitiveness and Strategy, Harvard Business School.
The CEO, LRA Consulting Limited United Kingdom, the COO, Scandinavia Designs Trading AB and an Associate, Inclusive Business Sweden. A member board of directors of many organizations which include; Diaspora Invest Group Limited, Peoples Health Foundation, Afrosky, Nordic-African Association and much more.
Also the Chairman of All Progressives Congress Scandinavia (APC Scandinavia); Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden. Also the National leader of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria Scandinavia Chapter (ACN Scandinavia).
Can you give us an insight into the kind of industry you are, in the current country where you currently reside?
I reside in Sweden and work in marketing and consulting sectors.
Can you share with our readers how long have you been living and working abroad? Also, can you share with us your reasons for relocating?
I have been living abroad for over a decade, and I relocated because of studies which were instrumental to my paradigm shift in terms of sustainable development and good governance.
What was your reason for choosing Sweden?
I was a scholarship student in The Netherlands and later moved to Sweden to further my studies because it was one of the tuition-free Scandinavia countries irrespective of nationality then.
Have you been back to Nigeria recently and how would you rate Nigeria in comparison to where you currently are now?
I frequently visit Nigeria and truth be told, it will be unkind for me to compare Nigeria to Sweden in nearly everything. Sweden is an amazing country which evidences in its international rankings in all indexes year in year out.
How would you rate the current business/career environment here in comparison to when you were in Nigeria?
Well, I earlier said that I will not like to compare the two countries, for now, however, Nigeria has enormous untapped potentials, and we just need to be ready and be committed to getting it right.
So, when did you start to consider yourself as a success in your chosen career/industry?
I thank God so far. However, I see it as just the beginning.
Are you interested in politics? How much interest do u have in political issues in Nigeria?
We are all political animals though. And I see politics as part of my own natural calling. Living and joining active politics in the advanced country further expand my understanding and perspective about politics and good governance.
It is hard to quantify my interest in Nigeria politics but my position as a former national leader of the defunct ACN Scandinavia and presently the national chairman of APC Scandinavia which comprises of 5 different countries could depict something.
Which political party do you have affinity for and why?
APC! My affinity for APC is because of the social nature of its manifesto and its progressive ideology.
How would you describe the way you see yourself?
In the context of a country, I see myself as a Nigerian, in terms of tribe, a Yoruba man, and Omo Eko.
Would you advise that Nigeria should cease to be a Republic? That all willing geo-political areas should exist as independent states?
If I may recall the meaning of Republic” It is a state in which supreme power is in the hand of many, and delegation of power to their elected representatives.
I strongly believe that before we resolve to the path of independent states, we should consider restructuring first for a specific timeframe as a Republic, and if it does not work, then we can consider having a peaceful understanding of independent states.
I do state my view time and again the opportunity presents itself on this peculiar issue.
As a Nigerian, I had the opportunity of studying in the West, did my youth service in the East and worked and lived in the Northern Nigeria for certain period of time, and as once a Masters student in Global Management in advanced country, all I could see in our diversity in Nigeria are strength, creativity and unlimited possibilities if we stop allowing nepotism, bigotry, tribalism and myopic thinking to be beclouding our existing as human being, conscience, and integrity.
Switzerland and Scandinavia countries are references.
If you had a chance to make in change in Nigeria, what changes would you effect?
If I had a chance to make a change in Nigeria? I will rather say if I´m more strategically better placed to make a change: I will first gun for building a formidable progressive party with zero-tolerant for indiscipline that is made up of patriotic citizens with the long-term mind-sets for the nation.
A political party ideology religiously followed is the bedrock of any nation.
If you had the opportunity to advise the Nigerian government, what advise would you give them in order to encourage Nigerians both in Diaspora and locally?
The government should implement the manifesto of their party religiously and make governance inclusive across the board, be accountable, strategic and timely in the implementation of policies and programs.
Regarding Diaspora, the government should further tap into the potentials of the Nigerians in Diaspora through the country consulates, their accredited political platforms in Diaspora and other networks such as Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation and Diaspora Invest Group Limited.
Also, give the Nigerians in Diaspora the sense of belonging as a Nigerian irrespective of where they might be residing outside the board of Nigeria by passing into law the Diaspora voting rights.
If you were to consider taking an active role in the development of Nigeria, what would you do and how would you go about affecting the Nation positively?
I have already taken the active role in the development of Nigeria and is an ongoing endeavor though. First by getting involved in Nigeria politics and played active roles as one of the founding members of Nigeria political party in Diaspora. In addition, as an active APC member that rescued power from the clueless and auto-pilot government of PDP.
Furthermore, I have consistently fought for the development of Nigeria by facilitating collaborations between Scandinavia countries and Nigeria in public and private sectors by connecting the government, Nigeria entrepreneurs and NGOs at local, state and federal levels with Scandinavia countries public and private sectors in health care, waste and water management, housing, agriculture and capacity building and good governance.
If I may also recall, I was involved in the struggle that got a grant of $1.5 million for Chibok girls rehabilitation and school rebuilding in the North-eastern Nigeria from the Norwegian government, facilitated the Sweden partnering with Lagos State on waste to energy management, facilitated the meeting of Nigerian Ministers with business sectors in Sweden, working with my team on collaboration between Finland and Nigeria in education sector base on the international ratings of education in Finland, and much more.
One thing I tend to realize is that one needs to be fully on the ground and involve in policy and decision making in order to be able to influence and effectively get the buy-in of all the major stakeholders to fly most initiatives and possibilities one is cultivating in Diaspora in order to make sustainable and timely impact on the life of Nigerian masses and the economy.
Therefore, I decided to run for the house of assembly in my constituency (Ifako-Ijaye) in Lagos in 2019.
I know that very few elected representatives presently occupying positions of authority at the state and the federal levels have done what I have and still doing before elected into salary elective positions in Nigeria.
In a nut-shell, I will further tap into the potentials and experiential power of Nigerians scattered across the globe in bringing “Foreign Direct Investment” into Nigeria. Work with Nigerian professional, NGOs and artisans across the country and encourage the state and federal policies to be designed in a way that will allow to forge strategic symbiosis relationship with foreign investors in “BUILD, OPERATE AND TRANSFER “BOT MODEL” and PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP “PPP MODEL”, encourage Base of Pyramid “BOT Model” and “ CLUSTER APPROACH” that will be adapted to Nigeria specific region.
Invest heavily in education and human capital, infrastructures, health care and well integrated centralized data system that will eliminate census. Standardize our tax system with a well-classified tax code. Encourage innovation and build of clusters community. Loan and grants for students, easy access to finance for the entrepreneurs. Above all contribute patriotically in build a formidable progressive social party that prides itself in peoples’ welfare.
Any advise for Nigerians and especially the youths?
My advice for the youth is that they should cultivate discipline as a habit, be focused, have patience and ready to pursue their dreams doggedly. The should have half full rather than half empty thinking with a long-term paradigm.
Advice for Nigerians; We should be more righteous than religious. We should think long -term and ready to sacrifice for the future rather than short-term thinking of stomach infrastructures and now rewards. We should demand more transparency and accountability from our elected representatives rather celebrating rogues and criminals and mediocre at the detriment of ourselves, nation and the future of our unborn generations.
On a personal level, if you had a chance to make a change in your in past, what would you do differently?
Taken more risk.
Every individual at some point in life has gone through one challenge or the other. Give us an experience of yours and how you pulled through
I had several challenges and I take challenges as a normal part of life. As a leader, it’ a normal thing day in day out. One that suddenly came to mind was a leadership challenge. During the Buhari Presidential inauguration ceremony in Abuja, all the accredited were invited to attend the event. Then, the national secretary of APC Scandinavia was on an official assignment in Canada but put it on pause to join me in the Netherland to Lagos.
We went through hell in getting to Abuja because of aviation fuel scarcity. Our flight was cancelled but we later made it to Abuja with more than 500% increase in flight ticket to Abuja. My other countries chairmen joined us later in Abuja few days to the proper inauguration.
A day to the main inauguration ceremony, I was handed an envelope written Scandinavia at the office of the national organizing secretary followed by much apologies from the director of organizing. When I opened it, I saw only two tickets instead of five tickets. Unfortunately, it was two tickets each for all accredited chapters. I went straight to my executives discussed with them on the way forward so that everybody will attend an inauguration ceremony at the state or federal level. We were 5 in number, 3 chairmen at country level and two executives at Scandinavia national level, the national secretary and me.
After much deliberation, we had a consensus that the national executives should attend. Immediately after the deliberation, I got a phone call and went straight to the office of the director of the organizing committee and he promised to struggle out one ticket for me based on my narrative to him. Immediately, I left his office for the office of the National organizing secretary, I demanded a letter of recognition to a state in order to attend a governorship inauguration based on the issue on ground, and he approved it without objection.
I called the Scandinavia national secretary and explained to him, it was quite hard initially for me to present to him my plan because of what we went through in the struggling journey from ACN to APC, how he paused his official assignment in Canada, and the last struggle and unplanned financial expenses.
I know that it was not an issue of deserving, it was his right by position and privilege and even at least for hard work, loyalty, and struggle over the years. It was his right, period! However, I discussed it with him and he took it with calmness and agreed to my proposition.
We gave out the tickets on a promise that they will continue to promote and grow APC Scandinavia and be loyal to the party constitution and call the third executive to ring the director of the organizing committee for the third ticket.
We left that night with a chartered car for the state and got there in the middle of the Night.
All the 3 states executives attended the historic celebration and inauguration ceremony in Abuja while we attended a state governor’s inauguration.
It was a real challenge for me to take such decision. It was a great sacrifice for both of us.