by ‘Damilola Oyedele
By many standards, Ohimai Amaize is a successful young man. At 26, he is Nigeria’s youngest presidential campaign coordinator. Even if the Wallstreet Journal refers to his Dele Momodu, hiscandidate, as “fringe”, it is still an impressive accomplishment.
Amaize, who goes by the moniker Mr. Fix–Nigeria, tells our ‘Damilola Oyedele about growing up without a television (‘The Devil’s Box’, as his parents called it), his decision making process, and his intriguing induction into Nigerian politics.
Ohimai Amaize vs. Mr. Fix Nigeria. Who is who?
Mr. Fix Nigeria is the young man who is passionate about Nigeria – to a fault. I call him the activist – the roving, restless side of me. Ohimai Amaize is the more mature politician, family builder, and media mogul in the making.
What’s your story?
I was born 26 years ago, the last of five children. My parents were devout members of the Deeper Life Bible Church, so you can imagine how “churchy” my childhood was! I grew up without television – the Devil’s box, as we were told. My dad was a secondary school principal who got transferred around a lot, and the family always went along with him. I was educated beyond the four walls of a classroom. I had access to complete sets of Junior World Encyclopedia and the advanced Britannica editions which exposed me to the study of people, places, world history, science, the planets, literature and all sorts of things about the world.
I graduated from the University of Ibadan in 2007 (Combined honours in English and French) and proceeded to the Fix Nigeria Initiative (FNI) department of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abuja where I spent my National Youth Service year. It was there, I was appointed as Programme Officer, Popular Culture, from where I got the appellation “Mr. Fix Nigeria”.
After my youth service, I joined ADSTRAT Brand Management Consultants. In March 2009, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu invited me to work as a research assistant on a book project about his experiences at the EFCC. I gladly accepted the offer, if nothing else, for the experience and the privilege of working with him on such a personal project.
Earlier in October 2008, I had been inducted as Ambassador, Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (MISSPIN). As a MISSPIN Ambassador, I designed B.L.I.N.G. (Brilliant. Legitimate. Inspired. Nigerian. Great.) – a pop culture strategy with which we assembled some of Nigeria’s finest music artistes to record the popular song and music video “Maga No Need Pay”, Nigeria’s first ever musical collaboration against cybercrimes.
In March 2010, I teamed up with Ferdinand Adimefe, Bamikole Omishore, Tobi Oluwatola, Sunday Ogidigbo and Fi’ammari Machar Zoaka to start BLING Corporation – a media/communications outfit committed to the use of pop-culture, new media, and new technology for social re-engineering. I joined the Dele Momodu Presidential Campaign in August 2010 as the National Coordinator.
Young Nigerians have been notoriously apathetic about politics. What set you apart?
I started getting interested in politics from my undergraduate days when I ran for president of the Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ). Then I came to terms with the intrigues and conspiracies of politics. I contested against a lady, and it was the first time in the 19 year history of the UCJ – the umbrella body of over 70 student-controlled press agencies with a membership strength of over 2,500 students – that a female was running for the office of the president. It was like Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama!
There was serious politicking going on. She gave me a run for my money but in the end I won the election. From that day, I started seeing politics differently.
What does it mean to be the youngest campaign manager for a Nigerian presidential candidate?
It’s another significant step forward in our nation’s journey into the future. It’s beyond Ohimai Amaize. For me, it represents a breakthrough in politics for this generation of Nigerian youths. For too long, we have been called the leaders of tomorrow; a tomorrow that never comes. So when you see a presidential candidate like Bashorun Dele Momodu who is walking the talk about empowering the youths of this nation, it rekindles hope and faith in a future Nigeria where the brightest of our youths are not reduced to bodyguards for illiterate politicians but actual game-players on the field of leadership. We have created history. We have shown Nigerians and the rest of the world that Nigerian youths are responsible, hard-working, competent and capable of delivering the future!
What do you say to those who write the Dele Momodu campaign off as “too young; too inexperienced”?
My response is simple. General Yakubu Gowon started leading Nigeria as military head of state at the age of 33. Ojukwu led Biafra at 34. Professsor Pat Utomi became an adviser to President Shehu Shagari at 27. So why don’t we respect the youth? Why do we belittle young Nigerians when elsewhere, 25 year olds are running global corporations? Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg is my age-mate, so what are they talking about?
I have discovered that in Nigeria, we are good at making mountains out of molehills. We mystify politics and leadership. It is nonsense! With due respect to the likes of Audu Ogbeh and Dalhatu Tafida, campaign managers to President Jonathan and Mallam Ribadu respectively, I don’t see what makes them better than me. Give me half the resources available to them and I will run their campaigns out of town. It is not a function of being a Methuselah in politics, but knowing what it takes to be the David who will defeat Goliath in the battlefield.
A typical day at the Dele Momodu Campaign is…
Trust me, you don’t want to know! From coordinating volunteers, to strategy sessions, to late night meetings, to dealing with the media, interacting with Nigerians on social media, traveling from city to city, managing the creative team, and all, it’s not a joke!
I can receive a call from my candidate at anytime of the day and we can spend hours on the phone, talking about Nigeria, politics and strategy. It’s both fun and work put together.
Your thoughts on the state of Nigerian politics?
My involvement in politics at this level opened my eyes to certain harsh truths that we read about, but never experienced first-hand. Nigeria is run by a political mafia. Money is the only language they understand. If you cannot play dirty, they make it look like you are a fool. Until Nigerian politics is taken over by the technocrats, we are not going anywhere.
Would you run for office one day?
I am beginning to consider it, but if I decide to run for public office one day, it won’t be just for the fun of it.
How’s the support from your family?
I lost my dad in 2008 and I think he would have been the only one with reservations, because he didn’t like politics. But, my mum? God bless that woman! She has been a huge pillar of encouragement, prayers and support. My siblings have also been solidly behind me. For instance, not many people know the pressures I went through when Mallam Nuhu Ribadu joined the presidential race. I had several offers to drop Dele Momodu’s campaign for Ribadu’s. I was initially offered a position as national youth leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and later offered the position of Director of Social Media in the Ribadu campaign. I went into prayers and consulted with my close friends and family and I decided on principle to stick with Dele Momodu’s campaign.
Your confidence in Dele Momodu is unflinching.. Why him?
Good question. He’s the only candidate today who truly represents a breath of fresh air. He has never been in government and has never been accused of corruption or abuse of public office.
How did he ‘propose’?
We first made contact while I was the President of UCJ, and during the Microsoft-sponsored “Maga No Need Pay” project. A few weeks after we had premiered the song in Abuja, I received a call from him.
He asked me: “Ohimai, do you think Nigeria is ripe for change?”
I answered “Yes”.
“Do you think you have a role to play in the process that will bring about that change?”
I answered in the affirmative, and he said “I am embarking on a project that will change this nation and I want you to be a part of it. I will call you when I get to Abuja so we can discuss the details.”
He invited me to his house in Abuja, unveiled his presidential aspiration to me and asked me to lead his presidential campaign as National Coordinator. I went home and couldn’t sleep that night. I consulted my close friends and family and asked God for direction. Eventually, I got the answer I was looking for in my Spirit: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
How would you characterise the exactrole of young Nigeria in bringing about change?
Young people must come out to participate in leadership, politics and social advocacy. You never know how much influence you wield until you step out of your comfort zone to participate in the process. Look at the EnoughIsEnough rally to the National Assembly on March 16, 2010. It was driven by the youth. The next day, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was allowed to exercise his full powers as Acting President. The era of siddon look is over! Y!