Allure Cover: Efosa Iyamu – Eye On Charity
Efosa Iyamu also known as Efex D Entertainer, is a stand-up comedian, politician and philanthropist. As a comedian, Iyamu is good at his act which has opened doors for him.
Born and raised in Benin-City, Edo State, Iyamu holds a degree in International Studies from the University of Benin and an MBA from the Metropolitan School of Business and Management, UK.
More than a comedian and a politician, Efosa is Founder of the Efosa Iyamu Initiative, a charity organisation with focus on education. Since inception, he has fed hundreds of out-of-school children, paid school fees as well as empowered women, small scale businesses, amongst others.
The Comedian shares with us his passion, the need for Nigerian youths to own their space in politics, family life and more.
You are actually a stand-up comedian, a philanthropist and a politician, all roled in one. Which comes first for you?
I am first of all a human being, everything I do, I enjoy doing. It is just an added advantage that I get paid for it. Entertainment started for me about 20 years ago professionally, but I started when I was in school, in Edo College in Benin. Entertainment has been awesome, with its ups and downs, highs and lows, but, I have met great people and created awesome relationships.
As for politics, amazingly, it was entertainment that got me into politics in 2009, through my boss, Adams Oshiomole. So far, it hasn’t been an easy ride but, I really appreciate every step of the way.
So how and when did philanthropy come in and the inspiration behind the Efosa Iyamu Initiative?
One of my slogans or motto in life is that: I don’t give because I have too much; I give because I know what it takes not to have sometimes. Growing up, my parents did their very best for us, but I possibly as much as I wanted, didn’t get a very luxurious life.
Some years ago, I had an event at Akwa Ibom and then I sat at the airport and I saw a little boy, who was telling the mum that he wanted to eat rice. The woman was very angry at the three year old boy and was dragging him away. I looked at the boy and thought to myself that if he was hungry, why is she not giving? It occurred to me that this woman probably couldn’t afford it. I just called my manager, and told him I think we should be feeding children on the streets, once or twice a week, just to give them a meal.
So the first week, I called a chef, to give me an estimate. I already told myself that having an NGO is dependent on my finances. No disrespect to people who have NGOs, some people do it as a job, some strive on donation. For me, If I have one naira, I will use it for that week. If before that week runs out and I have another one naira, I will bring it out again. That was the idea I had and I told my manager.
Our first outing was to three public schools in Benin. We had about 60 children, made uniforms for them, along with shoes. We also gave food to some homeless children. When some of my friends saw what I did, they decided to support me with a few Naira in their own way. So when I saw that I had more money, I started putting it up on social media. People who couldn’t pay school fees, started sending messages to us. Sometimes, people refer people from their area to me for help.
In the process of helping, I discovered that a lot of people are going through a lot. So I decided to have a proper structure and my manager and I registered a company and that was how the Efosa Iyamu Initiative started.
How do you ensure that you are not swindled?
We do checks to find out if beneficiaries are really in school. For those we pay house rent for; we go to check the area, to find out if they really live there. We have done tremendous work, I can’t thank God enough. We have paid fees for people who have now graduated. We have been able to pay hospital bills for some people. Whatever we can do we do. We do not have money in the account of the foundation
I talk to my friends for support. Sometimes, I repost it so those on my timeline can see it and assist. So far, my NGO gives me utmost joy a nd I say it with all conviction. I am very excited and I thank God for how far he has brought me.
Is this something you intend to continue for as long as possible?
Of course, I have by God’s grace, the dream of building an orphanage home. The Initiative is not just tied to Benin but to different states. I always tell people that if you want to help, just help; don’t ask who the person is, or where the person is from. Just do what you can do because God doesn’t give us whatever he gives us because of our tribe.
I have this dream of building an orphanage home to take care of children. My joy is just to see them smile, happy and back in school. Once they are happy, they won’t let you down.
And for politics? How far do you intend to take your political career?
I was one of the people who used to say that I can’t partake in politics, but I think if we all keep saying no, we will always end up with the wrong people. There is this myth that if thieves are elected, it is because the people who elected them are just like them, or people didn’t come out to vote their choice. So yes, I would really want to continue with politics. It is time we changed the narrative. It is not enough to be heard on social media, or coming out when things are going wrong, let’s come out and do our own thing. Young people should contest for president. If they don’t do well, we can handle them. I think we should keep trying and I can tell you for a fact that, with recent happenings in the country, young people will come out and contest.
In the last general elections, young people who came out to contest for certain positions but didn’t do well because the youths often do not vote for other youths. What can be done?
It is very disheartening; I tell people that we Nigerian youths, we are our own problems, because now it has gone beyond party affiliations. If our fathers, the older politicians see how serious we are by really taking the bull by the horn, they will even make us their own flagbearer, because they will know that these youths are truly clamouring for change. It wouldn’t matter the political party we belong to.
Once we come together and start doing what is right, and let people see that our intentions are very pure and good, they will definitely vote for us. It is gone way beyond this political party or because this person has been there a long time. For instance, a president or a governor who is 70 or 80 as the case may be, you can’t be talking to me about a future you won’t be part of. I have been hearing that since I was born.
I must mention however, that in the last election, some youths got positions and I believe that will really spur more youths to come out. Again, with the #EndSARS protest and the soro soke youths like we popularly call ourselves, this is the time to get popular, get yourself acquainted with your local community, go back to your ward, go back to your state, go back to your local government, and let them know that it is no longer business as usual. This is a time for us to vote for somebody who will really mean well for us and not just someone who will be staying in Abuja and leading his community from there. It doesn’t work that way. If you want to lead people, you should be with them and be able to mingle with them, which to me is the best way. So youths should come out and really make their voices heard.
Is it about youths not being in power or about the individual not having the country at heart and do you think the youths will do better?
Well it goes both ways. I think the youths will do better; young people are very innovative. Youths have gone far ahead of their parents. They have a lot of ideas and they know what they want.
I see a lot of brilliant young Nigerians who can change things. We just finished watching the American elections, where we saw young Nigerians who are making wave outside the county. What is wrong with us fixing our own country? When we fix our own country other people will want to get visas and come here and stay. So until we stand for what is right, we can not get it right.
What was it like working with Comrade Oshomole?
Working with him has been an amazing journey. And I say it to anybody, I have not been working with the office, I have been working with him as a person. So I am not loyal to the office, I am still with him, as his chief protocol officer. Comrade has been my father, my leader, someone who has helped me grow. Comrade is not a perfect person, I tell everyone who cares to listen. He has flaws, he says it himself. In all of those, Comrade made me and even when things are not going as much as people want, we still know that I talk to him, he listens and he talks to me and I listen.
You recently empowered some women as part of your birthday celebrations, what inspired that?
I just thought by God’s grace, we should be able to do more, empower more women. You won’t know what great deal ten thousand naira is for a woman who is selling plantain chips. You won’t know what 20,000 will do for a woman who is selling akara, it is a lot. The foundation also decided to pay fees for some. When schools resumed, a lot of people had issues with this pandemic, parents lost jobs, businesses went down and people dropped out of school. I just felt by the grace of God, I should do as much as I could. God willing, we’ll continue to do more.
When you are not working, what do you do?
I read. I love to read. Anytime I travel, the first thing I do is buy a book. When I was building my house, I made sure that I built a big library, I didn’t have as much books then, but I knew that I would. And, you can’t see me traveling without a book. During the #EndSars protest, while people were breaking into stores, they didn’t break into any bookshop, because they don’t read and it is very bad.
Finally what is your word for Nigerian youths?
Stay away from anything bad. You know what is bad stay away from it. Be humble, hold onto God. Whatever you are doing, it might not work now, it will work someday and if you do not believe in yourself, people won’t believe in you. Believe in yourself, stay true, whatever you are standing for, even if you are standing alone, just stand for what is right. It will work one day.