Founder, Eleven Eleven Twelve Foundation And Socio-Entrepreneur in Oyo State, Mr Adetunji Lam Adesina, son of the Late Former Governor of Oyo State, Lamidi Onaolapo Lam Adesina, in an interview with our correspondent, Akinlabi Afolabi, speaks on how the Waste Management Sector can boost the economy of Oyo State. He highlighted key things to be done in achieving this and more. Excerpts
Let’s start with getting to know you
I am Adetunji Lam Adeshina, I am a social entrepreneur. I started up in Nigeria with the great government college Ibadan. I had little time with the Obafemi Awolowo University before I moved to Bowen university. After my one year National service (NYSC), I left for the United Kingdom to obtain my masters degree in marketing. After my masters, I joined the Lewis banking group, it was during that time I fell in love with environment and everything that has to do with nature and I told myself that one of the things I like to spend my time on is working on the environment, apart from the fact that, the way I was brought up is to understand the fact that success is not supposed to be one person thing, it’s supposed to be a collective responsibility, when success is shared, it is more productive and rewarding. Apart from the fact that I see myself giving back to the society because of the social side of me, I also appreciate helping people which is also the main part of me as well. So, putting both together was how I ended up being a socio-entrepreneur. Working with nature that I so much like and care about, and also helping people because I believe we have to be our brother’s keeper.
As Loyola college ex- student, I heard a lot about your Father, Ex Gov of Oyo state, Lam Adeshina, being one of the people that helped the school, does that mean you inherited giving back to the society from him?
I inherited it from him, he was the one that groomed that part of me and all of us. Someone once asked me, you called yourself a social entrepreneur, how did that come about? I told her that the social part of me, I inherited it from my dad because he lived his life for people, he was always happy giving to the people, seeing people smile around him and that is where I picked it from, while the other side which is the enterprise side of me was picked from my mum because she is a business woman so she groomed us on that side because at a point, I was involved in her business and she taught me how to put one and one together in the right and legal way, she taught me how to be hard working and how to always drive for success, bringing both together got out the social entrepreneurship in me. In the past 3 days, you are the second person to talk about my dad and Loyola college; Olamide Idowu, one of the top environmentalists in the country also talked about him. I think he also finished from Loyola college. My dad was one of the first set and they were called the Nine Wonder Boys Of Loyola College. He laid down a lot of legacies and it’s something that I’m pushing through to meet up.
Eleven Eleven Twelve Foundation, What prompted you into organizing the foundation and why the name?
When I came back from United Kingdom, at first, few of my family members wanted me to work at least for a while to understand the ground and know more because I have always been doing the major work in the United Kingdom but along the line, it didn’t happen so I started to build my own business and I ventured into waste management and setting up the system. While setting up, I was growing in it and I was learning as well, so I discovered that waste management which formed a core part of the environment has a whole lot of potentials to solve a whole lot of problems within our system. Looking at the environment in total, for me, I think the environment can drive a lot of success out of the system especially within the youth because one of the problems we have presently is bringing up the youths in the right way and creating opportunities for them. So, I talked to myself that there will be a major arm of my business which is the CSR and that was what led to me coming up with Eleven Eleven Twelve Foundation. About the name, Even my father wanted me to be a politician but unfortunately I told him that I don’t think in this line I can operate and I might not be able to work perfectly well. I know why he really wanted me in politics which is to carry on the legacy and legacy is vast and one of it is giving back to the society. So I told him why not let me go my own way, the private sector way and still drive this legacy. Reluctantly, he accepted, so, after he passed on, my aim was that I have to look for a way to immortalize him in my own way. When he passed on, I was there with him and the date was 11/11/12, so I decided to use the name for the Foundation in order to say thank you to him. The foundation operates on three key important things: advocacy, research and empowerment. In environment, we discovered that a lot of problems we have in this part of the world and even in the developed countries is the fact that people don’t know and when people don’t know, you don’t expect them to act. It’s just like when you don’t go to school and someone asks you one plus one, hardly will you be able to give the answer. We discovered that even the learned people, there are some key things that have to do with the environment in general that they don’t really understand. Some of the things we do are not right, but not until people come to tell you this thing you are doing is destroying the environment and may destroy you one day, you won’t see it as a bad thing. So, we felt advocacy is key, we have to educate people, we have to tell people. Before you are saying what they are doing is wrong, have you told them what to do? Or discussed with them on how to do it rightly and in education, you have to educate and continue to educate so everybody keeps on learning till the last day. Our advocacy takes different steps and some of it are those you have been with us, we go out one on one, house to house, organize events, meet with people and talk to them. Some of the Advocacy we do is marking major events such as World Environment Day, World Clean Up Day, we use that as an opportunity to reach out to people. Another one is that we always have series of events online especially at this period, we have a lot and we have another coming up in October. The October event is a series of webinar throughout October and it is going to be talking on key things in the environmental sector that has to do with youths and that can help youths to perform better within the sector. In term of research, along the line, I also discovered that major things affecting the environment sector in this part of the world is we don’t have statistical data, there is no information and anybody that wants to come in within the sector cannot get proper information, we don’t have a database. We say we want to do something and we don’t have any theory to back it up so we are going into this, collecting data at the local level, comparing it with academic and international data. as it is, the researchers are working on something we are going to push next year, and some of the key things we are pushing is composting and briquette making. In term of the briquette, we have been trying to look around on how we can further participate in the management which is becoming a serious menace around here in Africa. we discovered that also on one part, the issue of cooking with kerosene and stove, cooking with firewood causes air pollution and this air pollution is killing a lot of people, majority of whom are women. So, the research team has put heads together to solve several problems and how to go about it. They came up with production of briquette and the kind of briquette we do is from sawmill wastes, paper waste and other forms of waste, we mix it up together and go through a process and to form briquette, and our own briquette has passed through the testing stage, we have it go through the laboratory and other testing to confirm the air quality which is far better than firewood, kerosene. what we want to do next year as part of our major project, we are going to adopt two communities for a start, one after the other, we are going to fabricate the briquette making machine locally because we are also encouraging local content. we go into these communities, we teach them how to make this briquette, we show them how to source for their own material, we go in with necessary materials as we are working on partnership and support. We go in with plain stove that they can use this briquette for, like for cooking. We will be with them for about three months to teach them how to use this and hand over to the community, then we move on. Another one we are working on like I said is the Composting. I discovered that over 50% of the waste in Oyo state are food waste like food from the kitchen and this is becoming a serious issue as the dump site keeps growing every day. There is an international association that only my company belongs to in Oyo State, it is called The International Solid Waste Association, and is clamoring presently is the reduction of waste throughout the world, cleaning down dump sites. For us, everything we call waste has opportunity to be reused or recycled so why are we dumping them? The research team came up with the idea of Composting, and the pilot of Composting is not the end, we just got the result from lab and we are doing theoretical writing on it. There are other things we are working on but these are the key things we are most likely going to be working on in 2021. Empowerment, remember I said there are three keys this organisation is based on; Advocacy, Research and Empowerment. In terms of empowerment, for us, the youth is the key. For the youth to be able to do what we want for a better continent, we have to be able to support them and give them everything they need. You will discover that many of these youths are so innovative, creative and super intelligent but unfortunately, the society is not helping them and is not giving them what they need, which is preventing them from showcasing their talents. the empowerment part of this foundation is to discover these youths, promote and empower them. Some of the things we do to empower them is our Green Grant where we get to give back to the society every year. We also have an event we do to celebrate youth in the environment sector every year.
As an Ibadan born, can I say that the saying that Ibadan is the dirtiest city pushed you into having this foundation?
Yes, it is part of it. when I was growing up, I wasn’t thinking of what I want do but what I want to solve and the time I was growing up, the major saying like you have said is that Ibadan is dirty or the dirtiest city, but for me, the story of how Indian made their problems into success i.e the transportation system and now the highest employment of labour in India is their own transportation company. Coming back home with the mentality that we can also turn our problems into solutions especially at this period that the world is focusing on the sector and doing everything to ensure we are able to sustain through this sector. There are lot of opportunities for me, not even the environment but in the waste management sector, a lot of opportunities and for me, between me and you, waste management alone can drive 50% of the economy of Oyo state.
Can you speak more on your claim that waste management alone can drive 50% of Oyo state economy?
If you are able to successfully come up with a standardized integrated waste management system, even though, the one you are going to use is going to be different from the ones in the developed countries, most of the ones they use are almost automated but for us, we are going to a semi-automated and get our people employed. I run a waste management company, what my share is in terms of work in Ibadan and that’s only Ibadan where waste management covers less than 60% of the entire of Ibadan and the wholesome of the work that I do is not even up to 40% and even at that i have over 50 staff working and collecting the federal minimum wage as expected. As at the last time I checked, we have above 80 waste managers in Ibadan and we are covering 60%, if you multiply the 80 by 2, we have 200 or more and if each person can have 50 to 100 staffs working with them. If the world continues to exist, the waste management can never go anywhere, just like agric will never go anywhere because you have to continue to eat as long as we eat, wear cloth, build houses, there will always be waste to manage.
Before I go forward, I am only talking about Ibadan, if we spread this out of Oyo state, we are talking of a whole lot of job creation. If we are able to ensure that each person in the waste management sector sets up their company in the right manner, like I have said, waste management is not going anywhere and the business is going to be a sustainable business and later can become a family business, passing from one generation to another. I am only talking to you about collection and transportation, waste management has a whole of things to start with; collection and transportation and before that, we have advocacy and enforcement where you need to go to people and talk to them, where you need to do jingles on TV and Radio, where the CHO and other organisation are there to enforce people that are not abiding by the rules and regulations, before moving to collection and transportation and then you move to revenue collection. You can have several organisations working with collection and transportation agents while they will be collecting the revenue or make an auto payment with people in the office managing the finances. Recycling is becoming so big and it is generating a lot of jobs and finances and moving landfill which is the end of it. When we are talking about recycling, there are several types of recycling, there is waste to energy, compositing and the likes. For instance, there is this lady making magic with pure water nylon, there is waste to passion, if you remember at the last world cup, the jersey that Nigeria wore was made out of plastics and it was rated among the best. So tell me, this alone can generate billions of naira within the economy of the state every month if well done. I know Rome was not built in a day but a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step in the right direction. You cannot continue to go around the circle, and I understand the fact that, in this part of the world or in the developed countries we look up to, they don’t believe in the Environmental sector. We need to move out of our comfort zone and do the needful. After the Agricultural sector, we should focus on Environmental sector because we can run the system to provide a whole lot of opportunities.
What is your relationship with Oyo State Government?
I work with the Oyo State Government and I have been working with Oyo State Government for several years.
And are you trying to help the Government with your brilliant ideas?
You know the government has a team setup, consultants such as Oyo State Waste Management, Ministry of Environment and Government task force who are doing the needful already.
What can you say about the low turn up of Youths in the development of the State?
I have seen especially in our sector, brilliant youths, innovative youths doing superbly well and if you give them the opportunities, they will deliver success but the thing is the opportunity is not coming as well as the right tools not being given which is quite unfortunate. We have number of graduates out there looking for jobs but don’t see the opportunities to do so. As it is and as far as I have tried to manage to grow in the business, I have never received any support from Nigerians, all the facilities I have been using have been from abroad because as a young man, if you want to access loan, you will be asked for collateral and where do you expect youths to get this?
Youths have been experiencing police harassment here in the country, many are accused of being desperate to make it early, what’s your take on this?
The truth of the matter is that, in a sane environment, when you are 30 years or above, you are expected to have gotten to a point where you can comfortably build your own structure. Remember the saying that ‘a fool at 40,’ this doesn’t work in Africa because you are expected to start late in Africa. Every youth should know that nobody wants to be oppressed as everyone wants to be seen, that is why the government needs to invest in these youths because the brain they used to mastermind these fraudulent acts, we can talk to them to use this brain to do something nice for the community. If you go to mighty organization today, you will discover that not only Nigerians but African youths with high population in these organization doing big things. So what’s the problem? The problem is systemic, which we have to ensure that at least you have a certain level of education to fight for themselves. This is a big problem and the only way to tackle this problem is that we have to start from the grassroot and start working on educating the Youths. Unfortunately, my own generation was the scapegoat and what we are trying to do is ensure that the ones coming after us don’t get to experience that act, making sure youths get to turn their passion into reality. It’s so unfortunate that people come from outside to help us when we have everything to fight this.
Let’s talk about your relationship with your brother, Hon. Dapo Lam Adesina
We are good, very good.
Do you see yourself in politics anytime soon?
I have never sat down to pray to God to be a politician.
What if you are being called on by the people to lead them?
It’s going to take a lot. I am a principled man though many see me as being stubborn. This is one of the things affecting us when people say this and you bend immediately. So, if anybody say I must by force come to politics, my decision still remain and that’s the truth. Like I have always said, we have bad Politicians but the major problem is the system, so, go and bring the best of the best president in the world, it’s most likely it will not work but take the worst person to abroad, it’s more likely the person will be successful.
What can you say about the current administration of Oyo State?
They are trying their best but for me, before you can impress me,you need to be extremely good because what I use to judge each government is where they started, where they are and and what they finish with. So, let’s wait for them to get done before we start judging.
Moving away from politics, you are being accused of being nice to female gender, how do you react to this?
That person is right because they call me a feminist. Apart from my dad, siblings and some people that I look up. I have found myself having several women achieving great things and getting things done, hitting things on the nail. Most of the people I look up to are women and in fact my role model is a woman. Even in my business, I prefer women because they get things done without any excuses unlike their male counterparts. Though, it is just in terms of my career. I have had people asking me how many wives I am planning to marry and I said to them that I’m getting married to one.
Lastly, how do you use your free time?
One of the things I appreciate doing is playing tennis and when I do, it relieve me of all the stress I might be going through. Another thing is I always listen to my body , one of the key things I make sure I do every year is my routine check up. Apart from that, I love my home, I know my home and they know me, even my siblings. They known to push and when not to, when I have problem, they have to help. With all this, I am able to cover up with all the excess work I do.