Allure cover: Adedamola Aminu – Help From Diaspora
Words By – Jemi Ekunkunbor
There is so much to say about our cover personality today but, space limits me. But on first encounter, you see a man enveloped by humility, a burning passion to serve, and a desire to see Nigeria better and working again.
This desire is what brought him and his team from the Association of Nigerian Academics UK (ANAUK) to Nigeria, to help train teachers on best practices all for free.
A shining Nigerian export from Oyo State with sterling leadership qualities, Mr Adedamola Aminu was elected Counselor in 2006 under the Labour Party to represent Tulse Hill Ward, Brixton, Lambeth. In 2013, he was again elected as Deputy Mayor in 2013 – 2014 and later served as the Mayor of London Borough of Lambeth between 2014-2015. Between 2010 to 201, he was the Deputy Cabinet Member for children and young people. The list goes on.
The recipient of several prestigious awards including the Nigerian High Commissioner Award for meritorious services to Nigerian Community in the United Kingdom (2014), he is the Chairman of Association of British-Nigerian Councillors in the UK.
What brings you to Nigeria?
This trip is about us, the Nigerian Academics UK, to come and share good practice with our fellow colleagues in Nigeria. We want to brainstorm and see how we can work together, and share good practice about how we teach over there, how we impart knowledge to people compared to the standard in Nigeria, and look at better ways of improving teaching and learning in Nigeria.
If you look at our educational system, what would you say is missing? What are the gaps?
I think over the years, government has not really invested in education that much. Things are not the way they used to be and that gap that’s making things so bad for ordinary citizens is why we are here to give back to a country that brought us up to the level where we are now. This trip is self-funded. We are not charging a penny even for the materials we are bringing. Luckily, the two local governments we’ll be working with in Lagos, they’re very proactive, very interested in developing education in their local government areas, and in us sharing knowledge with their teachers on good practices. Next week, we’ll be in Ibadan to do a one-day workshop for my old secondary school, Ibadan City Academy, to train their teachers as well.
How would the training be effective if the teachers themselves are not well motivated in terms of adequate remuneration, would your training address this with government?
Every one of our leaders, before they became Governors, Ministers, Counselors, passed through the school and they were taught by teachers. We need to appreciate them and pay them well. There’s no reason why you should be owing people. It kills the motivation that wasn’t much in the first place. They have to pay their rent, pay their kid’s schools fees, and all other expenses they need to sort. So if you don’t pay at the right time, then you’re not motivating them to do well.
I find it really sad that in Nigeria teachers go on strike for months. I know they are fighting for their rights, but they have to think of the effect on learning. In the UK when you go on strike as a teacher or lecturer, you lose pay because you didn’t work for it. Teachers all over the world complain their pay is not good enough but in the UK, at least, it is regular and on time.
How can the girl child be helped especially now that we hear cases of abuse by teachers?
I’m a champion of the girl child. When I was the Mayor, my charity was to raise fund for the girl child. I raised over seven thousand Pounds to support the girl child. I think what the government needs to do is to ensure they have policies in place, make sure they follow it up and implement. They have to prosecute anyone that commits any crime against young people; especially, girls and women who are our lives. They brought us to this world, and in most homes, women are the ones holding it together. Anyone found guilty of abusing any child, either girl or boy should be prosecuted.
How do you monitor the little girls who are in the care of a male teacher?
Children need both male and female figure in their lives. So, I wouldn’t say they should ban male teachers entirely. What they can do is to maybe, have a classroom assistant who will work alongside that teacher to ensure abuse doesn’t take place.
How can the community be involved?
The community can do a lot. I wrote a proposal to Oyo State Government. The proposal is about how the school budget can be better used and how to find ways to raise funds for the school. They did not invite me. Instead, they tried executing it themselves and it backfired. The problem with us is always about how we can make money out of any project. The truth is there’s no way you’re going to implement someone’s idea without carrying him along. In Oyo state, they have what they call School Governing Board, that was part of my proposal but I didn’t tell them how they were going to do it. So they organized the school board but they didn’t know the composition so it cannot work. They just picked people here and there. I don’t think they are making any difference or achieving anything.
In your own council in Lambert, how did you do it?
The experience I have as a school governor is massive. I was a cabinet member for children and young people, which is the department of education and social service. During that period, we planned the school and forecast how many we’re going to have every year. So we know in about five years or ten years, this is going to be the population. So we plan for finance, teachers etc. During that period, we were able to change the dynamics of our school. When I was there, we were judged good or outstanding from Oxford inspectors. We have a body that actually inspects schools; every one or two years, they go into the schools and look at teaching and learning.
They’d assess the teachers; they’ll question the students, governors, parents and all. So these are the things they measure to judge whether the school is good, outstanding or poor and not just the performance of the student. That experience is something that we can bring back here to improve schools and the education system, if we’re given the opportunity to do that.
Stories like yours inspire young people to want to leave this country. What counsel do you have for them?
My advice to them is that they should stay in Nigeria and build Nigeria. I think it’s hard because a lot of people will say why didn’t you stay? I left Nigeria many years ago when things were okay. In the UK and probably part of the European Union, they’ve tightened up their immigration. I went when you didn’t need a visa. Just buy your ticket, board the plane, at the other end, you are issued a visa and after six months you’re a citizen. But nowadays, if you’re there illegally, you cannot rent a house, you cannot open a bank account. You’re not allowed to have access to health care and you’re not allowed to work. How then do you survive? You’d become an illegal immigrant; work behind the scene, paid peanut like a slave. So I won’t advise anyone to go to any European country without the right papers.
Those who have children. How do you support them? Most of our children are being taken to social care in the UK. As I speak, I’m fighting a woman’s case whose children have been taken from her because her partner disciplined the child and then they called the police to file an abuse case
How do you make Nigerians abroad understand that they can’t raise their British children as Nigerians?
They say when you’re in Rome you have to behave like the Romans, when you go to the UK, it’s a different culture, it’s a different lifestyle entirely. The way you discipline your children in Nigeria, you cannot do that in the UK. and it’s even difficult or harder for children born in Nigeria taken to the UK because the children born in the UK. When you smack a child there are marks on on his or her body, that is abuse. When children born in Nigeria and brought to the UK now realize that “oh, my mum can’t touch me”, they start misbehaving and in the process, they get their parents into trouble.
In spite of the issues you’ve enumerated, living abroad still has its allure that make people want to travel out. What is this missing link?
There’s no rocket science about the way things are done over there. Things are the way they are here because of the kind of leaders we have. God has blessed Nigeria with resources, talento, etc. If you look at Europe, America, you’ll see that a lot of Nigerians are the engine. You name it, the NHS healthcare, local government.
How has your life in politics been?
I really enjoyed it. I had a great time. You know, spending 12 years in politics in the united kingdom and having played the role I played as the leader of the British Nigerian Council since 2010 when I took over as his chair. It has taken me to places I never thought of, it has brought me into contact with so many people that I never dreamt of in my life; Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Royal families etc.
So believe me, my time in politics there has shown me that we can do a lot. The British system actually gave us that enabling opportunities to serve and do things without saying you’re a Nigerian, so you can’t be a part of our politics. So what we need to do in Nigeria is to remove that ethnicity and monetary incentive out of politics. If you really want to serve, don’t go there because of money.
You should have a job and earn a salary. You shouldn’t be a full-time politician. You see, myself as a politician there, I lecture full time. I think my next trip, I’ll probably be bringing Nigerian politicians both past and current to come and have a dialogue with the Nigerian politicians here and then rub minds.