Olarenwaju Oba is an energetic and dynamic youth. He is the founder of Olarenwaju Oba Foundation, a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) that is principally focused on assisting the needy and empowering the youths. Apart from being a farmer, Oba is also into real estate development. In this interview, he spoke on several issues ranging from the activities of his foundation and comment by President Muhammadu Buhari accusing Nigerian youths of laziness. Excerpts;
What is your NGO all about?
We come from a community where everybody is trying to survive. We are working on helping the youths and suppressing the hardship in the society. We have done a lot of programmes in terms of health, food items, giveaways, youth empowerment and education in Lagos and Ilorin. We constructed two industrial boreholes in Kwara State, Ilorin West. There is a special programme that we have been doing for three years which is the food giveaway for the Muslims during Ramadan and for Christians during Christmas. This year’s Ramadan, We are partnering with the Lagos state government by ensuring everyone gets Lake Rice. We plan to reach out to 1000 people across Lagos. We are out there to help the poor and the less privileged.
What informs your decision on which set of people or communities to help?
I focus more on the women, precisely the old ones because they are the ones that take care of the home. As youth, we want to make an impact starting from the grassroots. We started from the community where I grew up in Surulere. We have done two health programmes – one in Paddington Ward F2 and Shitta / Akerele Ward G1. We offered free health consultations and medications to over 400 people for two days with expert nurses and doctors from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
In 2016, we also did a school equipment giveaway to most of the government schools in Surulere. There is also a motherless baby home (Hospice Hearth of Gold) in Onilegogoro in Surulere which we donate foodstuff to every month.
How do you fund these projects?
They are all self-funded, we fund it ourselves, I and some of the members. There is no support from any individual or organisation. We use our personal funds. I use proceeds from my farming business and investments to fund this project.
What prompted you to set up this foundation?
I grew up in a society where everyone had to struggle to make ends meet. I have to be very lucky to have traveled abroad when I was very young. I was 15 years when I went abroad and I worked, then came back home to help those in need. I met a couple of people who are now part of my team. We came up with the idea of a foundation. Now, we intend to spread to the 36 states of the federation and beyond West Africa.
Where do you see this foundation in five years?
In five years, it is going to be very massive because we are youths. We have the energy and the insight. We have a very big plan for the nation but it’s scary because we don’t have the funding for our planned programmes in the nearest future.
Many people are of the notion that some people start foundations so that they can make money from foreign donors. What is your take on this?
We are not like that because you see we don’t do any publicity stunts. We run it ourselves. The truth is that God has been so good to me and merciful so I don’t mind using 90% of what God has given me to help others. When I watch the video of the day they were test running the boreholes in Ilorin, the look on the faces of the children and the people of the community was priceless. That is enough for me.
What is your take on the president’s comment that Nigerian youths are lazy? Well,
the president was probably referring to the youths around him. He cannot be talking about people like us that came from nothing and are trying to make something out of our lives. We are hardworking; I learned early in life that there is no food for a lazy man so I don’t agree with that statement at all.
The Olarenwaju Oba Foundation believes in Nigeria. I am a farmer. Very soon, the foundation will be empowering youths to go into farming. We have a very large cashew farm in Kwara State; a cassava farm in Badagry and another in Ikorodu as well as a poultry farm in LASU, Ojo. We just purchased 100 acres of land for cash crops. We are also constructing a large fish farm in Ibeju-Lekki, Epe which will be producing 60,000 fishes every six months.
What is your advice for youths?
No matter how hard it may be, just keep focusing on your dreams. Continue to network so that you can share your ideas with people. Many people have money but no ideas. You have to focus on your goals and watch the people around you.
How would you assess Governor Ambode’s administration in Lagos?
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is giving us the Lagos of our dreams. I am part of the founders of Project LOUD which is Lagos Of Our Dreams. It is dumb for anyone to contest against the present government because that is our governor. We don’t think we want anyone else because he is the best man for the job.