ARMSTRONG ‘TOPE AKINTUNDE, a young budding politician is a full time businessman and Real Estate Developer. He is currently the Executive Director on Special Projects at Suru Group Limited while he also doubles as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aerofield Homes Limited.
A very influential student activist during his days in the University, Akintunde was the General Secretary of the National Association of Ogun state students (NAOSS) between 2003 and 2004 and later elected as the President of National Association of Ogun State Student (NAOSS) from 2004 to 2005.
A social democrat with conservative values, he is passionate about the people especially the youth who he believes are the engine room of any nation. His undying passion for service made him present himself as a Senatorial aspirant under the banner of Green Party of Nigeria (GPN) in Ogun East Senatorial district in 2019 during which he registered his ideas and ideologies in the mind of his teeming followers in his Ogun East Senatorial District as an emerging leader to watch. As a result of his believes in indigenous politics and leadership style of Prince Dapo Abiodun, he pitched tent to the All Progressive Congress in the State to support and worked towards his emergence as the Governor and with APC to continue his advocacy of advancing the cause of the youths in a just democracy. In this interview, he spoke on the ravaging COVID-19 epidemic and the roles he believes the youth should play in to bring the society back to normalcy. Excerpts:
Being a young, vibrant and budding democrat what roles do you see the youths playing in combating the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19?
First of all, let me say that we are all in a very critical phase of life in the global sense of it. This is a disease that cuts across all races, cultures, ages, religions, class, gender just mention it. We are all exposed to a pandemic that had, since its outbreak, defied any known solution. But be that as it may, God created man and gave him the power to control his environment. That to me shows that as a people, we can collectively fight against any enemy seen or unseen if we are all sincere and resolve to achieve our collective goals.
When you say the roles youths should be playing in combating Coronavirus, I was tempted to ask myself; “What has the government been doing to empower the youth?”. That is the salient question. It might sound a bit radical but that is the reality. You see, as it has been said repeatedly in many fora, this pandemic has exposed our ineptitude – our ignorance, greed, unpreparedness, lack of any meaningful ideology, large scale corruption, insincerity and I can go on and on. Yes, the youths should rise up and do something to save the community, the nation and the world at large but at what expense? To me this COVID-19 episode is a blessing in disguise. It will open our eyes to quite a lot of things and would make us stand and demand our fundamental rights.
It will awaken and re-awaken the sense of responsibility in every sector of our daily and national life and make us prepare better for any future occurrence. Right now, the youth being the engine room of a nation’s development should be at the forefront of the advocacy of enlightening and educating the people. They should channel their time, energy and initiatives towards getting the best out of this predicament and contribute their quota in the fight against the dreaded disease. But this also comes at a price, the youth should be empowered in every sense so that they have that sense of responsibility and belonging within the society. Look at what happened in Lagos State at the beginning of the lockdown when the so-called one million boys started harassing innocent people – maiming and killing – all in the name of lockdown simply because they do not have any means of living and even the hideous act they carried out at odd hours and in odd places seized since everybody was at home hence they resolved to daylight robbery. It is that bad. Take a look at the case of Kano State too where ignorance, non-challance and many years of neglect have institutionalised the Almajir system to the extent that they do not see any reason why people should stay at home. What I am driving at is that the youths have, for long, been neglected and the aftermath is the vices and uncompromising stand constantly exhibited by many of our able bodied youths. A lot rests on our youths at this crucial period and the only solution is to get them involved in policy-making so that they too can contribute their own quota towards a meaningful development.
What can you say about the activities of the State Government under the leadership of Governor Dapo Abiodun in alleviating the challenges faced by the people during this lockdown period?
Actually like I said earlier, we are in an abnormal period where things were not going as they ought to. Everybody and every facet of life is affected by the pandemic and government as an institution is hard hit and governance itself is not spared. The irony of the whole scenario is that the bulk of the fallout is on the government. Right now, it is as if all aspects of governance is at standstill. Everything has been stalemated and all focus have been shifted on combating the virus and making the people safe. The State Government is trying its best possible in setting up isolation centres and getting on top of the situation by mobilising medical personnel and also engaging the security agencies to enforce laws guiding the spread of the disease. I also give kudos to them for alleviating the challenges in the provision of palliatives and other essentials. Again, credit must be given to the sensitisation activities of the government in the media and other information dissemination channels. We must not also forget the prompt action taken on fumigating public places all over the State which has greatly put the spread of the disease at bay.
One thing we must also commended Governor Dapo Abiodun for is the relaxation of the lockdown to ease the effect on the masses. Although this comes with the risk of possible exposure of the people the more to the disease but since the government cannot afford to lock down an economy which is being sustained by small scale businesses, it is only wise that he gave the order and provided windows when people can briefly go out and take care of their needs before returning to their various bases.
With all these, can you say there has been tremendous improvement in the battle against the pandemic?
Definitely yes, the battle against Coronavirus is being fought from all fronts and thank God, the people are getting more informed and knowing more and more about the disease. The government, starting from the Federal Government to State and Local Government have collectively risen to the occasion. What I can only observe is that equipment for testing people to ascertain their status are still short in supply which makes it a little difficult to know the actual number of people that have actually contracted the virus. I want to believe that there are a lot of carriers of the virus out there who are not aware they are harbouring it.
In the same vein too, there are some people who are still ignorant of the disease and believe it is just another way of ripping the government off. This will pose a lot of challenges to the government, the healthworkers and the community and the nation as a whole because people are sceptical about submitting themselves for test for fear of being stigmatised. But, in all, I can still say we are not doing badly especially in Ogun State with it’s proximity to Lagos State which is one of the epicenters of the outbreak.
Can you educate the people of Ogun State and residents the more on the importance of staying at home during the total lockdown period and observing other stipulated rules in order to forestall the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease?
If one doesn’t necessarily have anything worthy doing outside, it’s better to stay at home and stay safe too. This is for our own sake and for the sake of our family, community and the larger society. And again, we should observe the guidelines against COVID-19 as spelt out by WHO and other relevant agencies. We should wear face mask when going out, wash our hands regularly and make use of the sanitiser often. Above all, we must also observe social distancing. It is pathetic that as soon as the lockdown was relaxed in Lagos State and people were given freedom to go about their businesses, they failed to comply with the regulations of social distancing and wearing of face masks. This is dangerous because the disease is now in our various communities and we never know who and who has contracted it. If we don’t abide by the laid down regulations we may have a time bomb waiting to explode and we pray it doesn’t get to that extent.
What is your advice to the youths in the quest towards building a virile and progressive nation?
The youths are very essential in the development of any nation. A nation is as great as its youths are. Don’t forget this category of people form the largest percentage of the population and so has all the powers to influence it’s growth, development, progress or otherwise. But unfortunately, many years of military misrule aided by the civilian kleptomania has disorientate the youth many who now think of cutting corners to achieve their mundane goals without necessarily thinking of sweating for it. The rot in the system has eaten deep into the psyche of the youth and that is why many are into antisocial and illegal activities. Things should not be allowed to continue this way. To save the nation from self-destruct, we need to act fast. We need an urgent and complete overhaul in our value system and discourage the get-rich-quick syndrome that is the order of the day. The youths should remember that they own tomorrow and whatever they do now will be the direct consequences of what they expect in the nearest future.