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.We would like to start off this interview by asking that you give our readers a brief introduction about yourself.
I am Folorunso Oludayo Fasina. I am from Ibadan, Oyo State, a product of Cherubim and Seraphim Primary School, Oje Olokun and Lagelu Grammar School, Agugu both in Ibadan before proceeding to the University of Ibadan for a degree in Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, I served in Abuja and have worked in the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, Nigeria between December 2001 and January 2011. I later left the country to join the University of Pretoria in February 2011 and was made an Associate Professor in 2015. I moved to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in September 2016 to become the Country Team Leader for the ECTAD programme in Kenya. I am married with three kids.
Can you give us an insight into the kind of industry you are, in the current country where you currently reside?
Going through the statement above, it is easy to predict that I am in the livestock industry. My work cut across major field of veterinary medicine (infectious diseases, veterinary preventive medicine and zoonoses-infection between human-animal). The interplay between animal and human means that both cannot be separated in terms of infectious diseases; approximately 60% of human pathogens are zoonotic and 75% of emerging diseases are also zoonotic. Hence I have operated also using a “One Health” principle.
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 relocated in February 2011. I have worked in South Africa since February 2011 until August 2016 but still retain my residency in South Africa.
On the reason for relocation to SA, it’s primarily a matter of career advancement for me. Nigeria is yet to fully harness the potentials in its youth. I finished my MSc in 2007 and returned to Nigeria but I tell you that in almost 10 years of working in NVRI Vom (2001-2011), I made one promotion not because I am not qualified but because the line of clarity was not there and promotion depends on many other things which I don’t agree with as matters of personal principles.
In five years in South Africa, which I call the land of opportunity, I rose from a Lecturer position to become an Associate Professor. I saw it as a compensation for previous denials back in Nigeria. I believe that our Nigerian system still needs structural adjustments so that potentials are not wasted. Nigeria has so many professionals and great individuals who are hampered daily by imbalances in our system. I really should not need to know who or what to achieve my potentials. Anybody should be able to realise his or her potentials from humble beginning.
What was your reason for choosing this country?
As I have said, South Africa is a land of opportunity. It allows its youth population to thrive and despite its shortfalls like sporadic and intermittent xenophobic tendencies, I can assure you that many Nigerian youth still prefer that country. We have had many of our professionals coming there for postgraduate programmes. You have educational supports, opportunity for business, opportunity to thrive and do well and get return for your inputs. If I have to choose a country in Africa to relocate to, South Africa will still be on top of my list with a few others. Africa has got lots of potentials that are yet to be fully explored. I have the opportunity to remain in Egypt where I did some consultancies for the FAO or move to join lecturing team in US but decided to remain in Africa.
Have you been back to Nigeria recently and how would you rate Nigeria in comparison to where you currently are now?
Yes, I have been but not regularly due to the nature of my jobs. I was home a few times and the last significant one being in December 2015, when I was honoured by the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) with an award of a Fellow, a distinguished award from Ibadanland.
Nigeria still has opportunities but the environment appears stifling. Many young people appeared despaired. Irregular electricity is one major limitation that hinders growth. Insecurity can be managed better. Social services can be improved. Health and education sectors can be better restructured.
These are matters that are pushing our young professionals out of the country into desperation abroad. Many African nations much smaller in comparison to Nigeria in terms of populations are doing great thing. While Nigeria still battles with < 2,000 megawatts of electricity, South Africa produces about 34,000 megawatts to meet their current demands and approximately 240,300 gigawatt-hours annually.
South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Libya are all ahead of Nigeria in terms of electricity production but have significantly lesser human populations. Kenya claimed to produce about a quarter of our electricity but yet there is regular power in Nairobi and major Kenyan cities. We need a rethink.
How would you rate the current business/career environment here in comparison to when you were in Nigeria?
Business environment in South Africa is set and work with a system. You relate with a system and not individual persons and that make things work. Maybe I need to explain this, a single individual may decide to make your life difficult in the Nigerian business environment because he is in a position of authority unless you play ball with him but that may not happen in a country like South Africa. In Kenya, the business environment is placed in such a way to attract foreign investments. The University system where I am in South Africa also allows anybody to thrive and is open. I was once shocked to find out that my research funds left back in 2006 was waiting for me when I returned in 2011. Nobody has seen me as “mugu” and embezzle the money. If you are a performer, the system allows you to develop maximally.
So, when did you start to consider yourself as a success in your chosen career/industry?
“When” is a difficult question to answer personally. I believe that success is a work in progress and as Chief Awolowo has put it, “When you stop studying, you start to die”, maybe it applies to success too. I know that averagely, I have had opportunities compared with most of my peers and I am grateful to God for this but I don’t consider myself as having been there yet. The people I look up to within and outside the country make me aspire more. However, I have got many acknowledgements from peers and have got close to 30 career-related awards in different forms.
Are you interested in politics? How much interest do u have in political issues in Nigeria?
Politics, yes but maybe not direct elective position, at least not for now. I hope that things will change soon so that more actors can move into the political scene and change the dynamics. A friend of mine is contesting for governorship now and he has been harassed, blackmailed, recently pushed off the road in vehicular accident, his friends hijacked and many more. That is not the type of politics I want to do. However I am politically active and play critical roles in terms of organization and supports. Maybe one day I will get a nominative position.
Which political party do you have affinity for and why?
Currently, I am affiliated with APC and registered with the party in South Africa. Maybe and arguably, APC is not the best thing that happened to Nigeria yet but be reminded that it frees Nigeria from the shackles of PDP. The years of wastages of PDP are still fresh with us but Nigerians are quick to forget though. We are a resilient people and maybe this over-resilience and condescending too much is bad for our system. The APC is a work in progress and I hope that people will allow the party mature and transform, and instead of staying out and criticising, hard liners and critics should go into the party and help transform it and free it from counter-productive elements that have been identified. I don’t believe in criticising without playing my own role. I am the protem secretary of APC in South Africa.
How would you describe the way you see yourself? (A) Nigerian (B) Yoruba (C ) Igbo (D) Hausa etc.
I am a Nigerian and a Yoruba man. Both are important to me. It is like asking me how I see myself as a husband, father, teacher, administrator, veterinarian etc. I am all rolled into one. There is no separation between your ethnicity and your nationality. If I am not a Yoruba man, I may not have been a Nigerian. However I promote nationalism. Most of the persons I have mentored are not of my ethnic stock and I have also benefitted from the largesse of many non-Yorubas. I am very open and a proud Nigerian. I promote Nigeria anywhere I go and proudly display my national passport even though I have a UN passport.
Would you advise that Nigeria should cease to be a Republic? That all willing geo-political areas should exist as independent states.
Nigeria togetherness is a great asset. How I wish that we can utilise this positively. Our problem is not in being a Federal Republic but in how we operate the system. Our leaders are more like dealers. The interest of this country is not prioritized. Many of the leaders will rather have their investment outside and use this country as the conduit pipe.
Recently, I have read pieces from the likes of Tope Fasua and Bamidele Ademola-Olateju and many others across the divide. These are great writers and are passionate about Nigeria. Many political gladiators and people who live in corridors of power have asked for restructuring but call these individuals to ask about what they actually meant by restructuring and they will begin to babble endlessly.
We need to define what we want as a nation. We need to prioritize love for the poor, the downtrodden, the needy, the motherless, the widow and such individuals. The political leaders need to love their country. There is no single pill that will cure the entire problems but we must keep working at them as a country.
The agitations we experienced recently are because of discontents in many parts of the country. If justice is done and is seen to be done to all, these agitations will disappear naturally. But I don’t subscribe to these ethnic divisions, the rich and political class are united in looting the nation dry and the poor man kept fighting and dividing themselves further.
Ok the Ibos claimed that the north is ruling, you just need to visit the streets in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and you will see thousands of kids who can’t even afford a meal and scavenge plates near restaurants. Do we justifiably say that these kids know what ruling is? The same scenarios or versions of it may be seen in Lagos, Aba, Owerri, Ibadan, Abeokuta.
If regional government will pay us and cut wastages, so be it. If reducing politicians’ salaries is the way to go, all the best. We are yet to firmly decide what we want and we cannot eat our cakes and still have them. Regional agitation will not solve anything. It is the people who seem not to be getting a piece of the cake are the one who suddenly becomes ethnic jingoist.
The same FFK and his ilk of yesterday in PDP who are nationalist are now supporting Igbo secession. The same Akinjide who is the country Minister of Justice and Attorney General is now promoting Yoruba secession. As I said, we need a rethink even on who become our leaders.
If you had a chance to make in change in Nigeria, what changes would you effect?
My own restructuring will start from our academia. I want to clean the rot in our educational system. If that is done, we will even mould our future leaders. Recently I read a striking statement, “Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students.
Patients die at the hands of such doctors. Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers. Money is lost at the hands of such economists & accountants. Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars. Justice is lost at the hands of such judges… The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.” That has been my dream to see a vibrant education system in Nigeria.
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?
Many things actually need advisory in Nigeria. Perhaps I will advise that the government first constitute a team that will look at the original charter that made us a country which were developed pre-independence and see where we went wrong. I will ask that the people in government look into the models of nations doing great thing and see where we can copy. We should be able to move forward as a nation. The effort of each of us has to count.
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?
One of the first and very important thing we have lost largely as a nation is called mentorship. I have seen many young people – I am also young anyway- going through life making many avoidable mistakes. Our leaders in academia, research, corporate world, government, industry, sport and other fields need to develop young people to grow properly into the fields.
An improperly developed individual becomes a deformed person. That is exactly what we have mainly in Nigeria of today. Young graduates just wangle through life and if they make it, they are lucky but if not, well suck it. We cannot afford to continue to waste human resources like that. I once spoke to a German friend and a Professor and University President in Germany asking for their key to success despite the fact that Germany lack material resources and hear him, “Fasina, but what do we have than our human resources?
We developed our young minds until they reach their peaks (PhDs), we then send them out as ambassadors or key them into the industry, they bring resources back from other countries”. We talk of quality PhDs here and not just finishing university education. We need to have a rethink and define our priorities.
Any advise for Nigerians and especially the youths?
First, every youth need to be properly formed. It is not about being able to sing all the songs in vogue. It is not about knowing and using effectively all the social media platform (I count at least 22 of such recently). These fora are important but opportunities exist within the internet space too.
Every young man and woman need to get mentored, look up to someone directly or indirectly, have keen vision, push edges, be daring and go beyond the ordinary to become extraordinary. Launch out through quality trainings and make up your mind to be someone in life.
Someone says that all fingers are not equal but why must I be the smaller finger. Even smaller fingers have decided to be the most important in something, at least in cleaning your nostrils. I want to see youth who dare to contest elections with the established power.
Recently in Kenya, there was a very poor young man that campaign and won election as MP (Member of the House of Representative equivalent in Nigeria) without a single poster or campaign material. He kept going from house to house with his vision and the established politicians thought that he is a joker. When he won, he attracted the national attention and due to the level of poverty, the President has to buy him some clothing and an SUV to match for him to be presentable in the Parliament.
I want youth who made up their minds to be top career persons, internet gurus. Those boys who do internet fraud should rather use their minds to do things legal and productive. We have excellent human resources in Nigeria and the world wonder why we are behind. I have been asked this question again and again and I am also wondering.
On a personal level, if you had a chance to make a change in your in past, what would you do differently?
Possibly, I will still want to be a vet first. Probably would have wanted to graduate earlier cutting out almost 28 months of ASUU parity-disparity strike and others, as young boys, we were explorative and sometimes over-daring. In perspective, I won’t do some of the things I did back then although I was a good boy. Maybe I will also start my business while in school so that I won’t be too keen on looking for jobs but become employer as I am graduating.
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?
Challenges that are very categorical in my life are mainly career linked. First in the final year in the University, a lecturer in my final year held me back from graduating with my colleagues for defending my classmates interest on some matters.
I made him know that I passed but only did not satisfy him as an examiner. Well there was no time between graduation and going for the national youth service (NYSC) so my classmates went ahead of me while I have to stay back. In the intervening period, I worked as co-Farm Manager and consultant veterinarian for Dominican Farm in Samonda.
Secondly, while my promotions in Nigeria were delayed, I delved into self-development and it paid off. I was noticed by international agencies and I kept getting invitations from outside the country and this assisted my career development. I really want to thank some individuals who played key roles in my life. They are too numerous to mention but exist within and outside the country, particularly my former principals, leaders, bosses and key partners/friends. They are the one behind which my nineteen would not become twenty.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
I am motivated by God, by need to contribute to humanity, to contribute to development of animal resources and “One Health”. I take my work seriously and my family is also behind my motivation.
All work and no play they say makes Jack a dull boy, would you share with us how you unwind?
How I play is by playing. How I unwind is by unwinding. I love indoor activities particularly TV viewing, engaging in empirical discussions, communicating science, playing with my wife and kids, cracking a few jokes and going out for socials with friends and such other things. Otherwise I am easy going and can do a bit of everything.