Richard Ojo Babajide is the current National President of Junior Chambers International, JCI Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation committed to mentoring youths on leadership and role as Change Agent. Babajide is the Head of Operations, North for Boff and Co, an Abuja-based Insurance Brokers firm.
In a chat with the Editor of Time Nigeria, Abdul Rahman Aliagan, the Ekiti-born Chemical Engineer turned broker speaks on JCI, what informed his decision to contest the National President’s position and what he will like to be remembered for. Excerpts:
Tell us about your inroad into JCI?
Thank you very much. My name is Ojo Babajide Richard and I am the National President of Junior Chambers International Nigeria. I am married with four kids, and I am currently the Head of Operations North for Boff and Co Insurance brokers
I joined JCI about 13 years ago in Federal Poly Bida; then I was a student of Chemical Engineering. From there, I moved over to JCI Aso which is a local organization of JCI in the Federal Capital Territory. I served in various capacities between 2004 and 2016 both at collegiate, local and national levels among which are 2011 JCI-Aso President, 2013 Chairman National Presidential Swearing-in Committee, 2014, National Vice President (North East), 2015 National Executive Vice President and the National General Legal Counsel, 2016.
What does JCI stands to achieve?
The JCI is an organsiation which is meant for young people between the ages of 18 and 40. It is meant to produce young leaders who are responsible for the development of their communities. By essence it makes them to be good leaders and active citizens of their communities. Ultimately the greatest goal which the organisation looks forward to, is achieving everlasting peace in every community and ultimately in the whole world.
What informed your decision to contest for the National Presidency of JCI?
My decision to contest for the National Presidency of JCI is all about service, because the organisation itself has its own system in place and it has its own administration. Whether there is a President or not JCI Nigeria will still run. We have a good template and a good leverage on the fact that leaders may come and go but the organization will continue to move on its own.
My own decision to run was premised on having viewed what was going on in the organization, I thought I must give back to the organisation through my time and service to the development of this institution.
The theme of this year is “turning point,’’ what do you want to achieve?
The turning point agenda is a major agenda that has silently been in place in the organisation even before this year. We decide to work along it and make it pronounced because it is very important for us as an organisation to identify the basic foundation of what this organisation stands for. The turning point wheel is more or less like a four section wheel that is moving in the positive direction of projecting of our organisation in the way it is supposed to be among other youth organisations in Nigeria.
The four major components is the vision and values of the organisation which we believe that if our members can live or they learn by heart the visions and values of the organisation, it is going to have a lot to do to their integrity and their value in the society.
We believe that if we can get that right first then our membership of the organisation will be of quality and one we can depend on. If we can get our membership right definitely leadership in the organisation will be extremely beautiful. Because we believe that with a good followership we will get good leaders.
You cannot just be a leader until you become a member. For us to run our organisation we strongly believe that leadership is from the members that have gone through the visions and values of the organisation and as members we only spend few hours together as members of the organisation. That means ultimately, our lives are outside the organisation. If we can project the best of hands to go out there to make impact on fellow individuals in our society then JCI is contributing a lot to the society.
The last part of the wheel is what we call Nigeria as a country because we really want to have our own impact in what is happening in the country both as active citizenship as well as also ensuring that the people around us feel the impact of the organization.
Within the short period of your presidency, what has been your impact and experience?
My own experience has been one of expected results and expected outcome. In JCI, the President can be at the apex but he is the least when it comes to decision making. I have been on the executive of the organisation for the last two years and I have seen that government is a continuity. The last two years have been significant and promising for JCI Nigeria. Whatever we are doing is just consolidating on what is the achievement and effort of the last two years. We are doing the best possible to ensure that we get it right in the right direction to ensure that members get the best service they can from the organisation. They pay their dues and also provide an enabling environment to tap into the resources abound in their own local communities where they are making impact.They should be able to feel also and identify with the government both at the local, state and federal levels.
JCI will be marking 60th anniversary this year, can you tell us how JCI has affected the lives of Nigerian youths?
As an organization we believe that what we have done over the years have a lot to do with the numbers of leaders we have trained. There is no major business leader that you meet in Nigeria today, when you ask them about JCI, you either get three of this kind of answer that either he was a member, he has heard about it or did not join or I heard and did not join.
It is very essential that we have to identify that JCI has produced a lot of leaders in Nigeria today. However, we have concentrated efforts on what our members do on daily basis in creating impact in where they are. JCI exist in 80% of the cities in Nigeria and this helps us to have a very good leverage on day to day activities of our members in their communities. Is it about sensitization, or health related issues or education or business entrepreneurship. We have been at the helms of affairs in educating people as well as providing opportunities for young people to learn different kinds of vocational skills that has really empowered them over the years. Basic actions in which our members took part in years past saw the Federal Government keying into them. For example, it was the JCI members that came up with operation one million cans which the Lagos state government later adopted as sanitation and it later become a federal government exercise in which most states shut down their states to clean the environment. This is one giant step in which we have seen young people take that affect their societies.
Before the issue of climate change started, we had seen a lot in which JCI members played critical roles. If you go to Obafemi Awolowo Way in Lagos you will see a lot of trees, these trees were planted in the 80s by JCI members and today those trees make that place beautiful and balances the ecosystem in that areas. These are some of the things that JCI had carried out over the years.
When you look at the age bracket you find out that it falls within the youth, what is the synergy between JCI and the Nigerian youth?
Young people of the world are dynamic. They have the same challenges with different faces. If you go from Africa to America you will see that the young people face the same challenges all over the world but the way it affects us is different because of the basic amenities that our communities offer. Once some basic fundamentals are being removed from the challenges you will find out that we are facing the same thing.
However in Nigeria as a country, JCI had tried to identify with the challenges of the youth and also ensure that we identify that we are in the millennium age and we must be able to connect with the people. As an organsiation we identify that most people don’t even buy newspapers because everybody in this age is glued to their phones, so we believe that if the youths are glued to their phones then our social media must be very apt, it must give the right message and connect with the youth of the society.
In that direction, JCI Nigeria has really put a lot of effort into ensuring that our social media pages reach out, are up to date and the right messages are sent to the youths of this country.
We want to empower them and also ensure that they are being fed with the right information that can make them to become leaders in their own right as well as also take cognizance that the society belongs to them and they must be responsible enough and not endanger the society.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for an impactful leadership in JCI Nigeria, with multiplier effect on Nigerian youth, where Nigerian youth will be confident in taking the mantle of leadership and deliver creditably well. Where Nigerian youth will shun thuggery and hooliganism, where Nigerian youth will not be used to prosecute electoral fraud, rigging and other social vices. I equally want to be remembered for a situation when Nigerian youth will be alive to national growth and development.
The 365 days have really exposed me to what they called Public life. There is nothing you do in public service than just to give your selfless service to the people as well as to live what they called public entity. But I just want to leave quietly and go back to my work.
The 365 days have really exposed me to what they call public life. There is nothing you do in public service than just to give your selfless service to the people as well as also to live what they call a public entity but I just want to leave quietly and just go back to my work.
During the electioneering period the youths are usually major stakeholders, as the president of JCI, what is your advice to them?
Nigerian youths have always been a vocal when it comes to elections. As a non- profit organisation we believe that the youth are the future. Our advice has always been that the youth need to identify with what is their right. When you know your right then you take up what they call the civic responsibility that is expected of you. Go out there, get your voters card, identify those who need to be voted for, assess them based on quality, based on performance, and trust. Bring yourselves together and form a formidable team to ensure that your grassroots election you bring in the right people that are meant to lead you from within you. If we can get it right from just ordinary ward elections or local government election then it is going to transcend to general election.
My message to the youth is challenging them that staying away from election will not solve the problem but they must ensure that they get their voter’s card ready. They must be ready to vote or be voted for. They must be the voice of their own people.