If you meet Pharmacist (Mrs) Uzamat Akinbile -Yusuf the Lagos State Youth & Social Welfare Commissioner, for the very first time you will not believe she is a grassroot politician. This is because she is a very refined woman who does not look cut out for the rough nature of Nigerian politics. But she has coped. She is a great grassroot mobiliser.
She has been in it for a long while and she has become quite popular among the youths of Alimosho area. They call her Moremi. It is on account of her popularity among the grassroot that she was made a Commissioner by Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode.
She spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE a few weeks back about her life and career. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Please tell us your story. How it all started from birth to your growing up years? And how all these experiences shaped you into who you are today…
I am a Princess from Ijebu-Ode. I am from the Moyegeso royal family of Ijebu-Ode. My father was a soldier, my mother was a business woman. She is from the Omisore family in Ile-Ife. My father went for trading in Ife and they hooked up over there.
I had my primary school in Ile-Ife at Ansarudeen Primary School and Secondary at Seventh Day Adventist Grammar School, in Ile-Ife, before I went to University of Ibadan for my B.Sc in Bio-Chemistry. That was 1993 to 1998. Thereafter, I got married and I went to University of Lagos for my B Pharm before I graduated in 2006 to be precise. I happen to be the first daughter of my mother. She used to call me one funny name, Omotosonu, Omotanwa.
They call me Tanwa, I have many senior bothers. I happen to be the eyes of my father, being the first daughter with a thick resemblance of his mother. They always call me his grandmothers name. I don’t like the name and so when anybody calls me that name I would not answer. My father loved me so much. I happened to be the apple of his eyes and he didn’t want me to do anything. But my mother on the other hand was a strict disciplinarian.
She made me to be who I am today. Unfortunately I lost my dad when I was still in secondary school. That made life a bit tough for me. My mother brought me up well. My mother made me to be highly independent. She taught me how to plan in life. She taught me how to depend on God. She is highly principled. She does not tolerate any nonesense.
She taught me to be very truthful in whatever I am doing, she taught me not to play pranks. My mother was a very gernerous woman. I am from a polygamous family. She took care of everybody around her. She does not care about only her child she took care of all the children. That is the way she brought me up. I took after her. That is why I like to help other people. I give out. I like to develop human capacity. That has made me to be who I am today. When I became the Commissioner in Lagos State people started calling me the liberator, Moremi. It means they believe so much in me.
They say I have helped many of them, that I have positively influenced many of them. That is why they all call me Moremi, I asked them why they call me Moremi, they said because they believe in me that I am going to liberate the Local Government. To the glory of God, I have tried my best, I have been able to do the little I can. I know I have not failed my people. Though I have not been able to do as much as I wish to do.
Why did you choose to study Pharmacy, why not something else?
It was when I was in Class 3 that I began to think about it, that I don’t want to be a Medical Doctor. I hate seeing people suffering. I started going through courses of what you can become and I saw Pharmacy. I glanced throughout it, I studied it. I looked at it and I knew I have the passion for it. I fell in love with it. Unfortunately when I was applying for it at the University of Ibadan, I did not meet up with the cut off mark.
They offered me admission freely to study it, without knowing anybody, without lobbying anybody at that time. I was never satisfied when I did Bio-Chemistry. It was only when I was in 300 level that a friend of mine said you better have this certificate even if you don’t need it became its not the course you have a passion for, its not what you want. Later, I went to the University of Lagos to study Pharmacy.
It was very challenging. That passion I had developed a long time ago really helped me. Then, I was married. I was bearing children. And this course is tough. It requires total concentration. The love and the passion I had for the course long time ago saw me through. I was determined that this dream had to come through. I gave it all that it takes. To the glory of God, I became a Pharmacist and my dream came true. Since I became a Pharmacist I got my satisfaction.
How did politics come on? You look too clean to be a politican. How did you get into it?
That is another aspect of my life. Many people who grew up with me find it hard to believe it that the Folasayo Ozama they used to know then can ever become a politician. They see me as gentle, an introvert, cool.
And becoming a Politician all of a sudden came to them as a surprise. So what pushed me into politics? Let me say that going into Politics was because I love service. I love giving to my society. At a time, I was doing so many things for my community and society. I live around Alimosho, in Agbado-Oke Odo, to be precise. We are living in the kind of environment where thousands of people need help. I always go out to assist them in my own little way. A few of the politicians then will come then to say they need this and that and the one I can afford I will give it to them. They will question me, why are you not participating in politics?
I used to tell them that I am too busy to participate in politics but whatever little assistance, I can render I used to render. Then, during Asiwaju Tinubus time I was getting interested because I love Asiwaju’s kind of politics from inception.
I like his ideas. I followed him and I added my own little quota to his own campaign. He is a progressive man. I like that about him. In 2007 to be precise, when it was time for former governor Fashola’s campaign, I took interest in Fashola, being a nominee of Asiwaju. When he was contesting against Obanikoro then for the governorship election I took interest.
I started distributing souvenirs for people on my own. I would never attend any meeting personally. I started gathering people but I did not go for any political meeting. After Fashola won, everything went well.
All of a sudden I had a challenge and I had to meet with the local government Chairman of my area. His response was he can not do beyond what he has done.
I said: what do you mean that you cannot do beyond your capacity. The people in my area then said that’s what they are used to say because there are not many people who can talk to them. They see themselves as Alpha & Omega.
I now said if that is the case we are going to rock the boat together. That is how I got involved. I decided that I will be part of all the decisions taken in my local government I would not sit down and fold my arms. I will not let anybody rule me wrongly and sit at the back, whilst you think that is the best thing you can do. You need to add value to peoples lives. You need to do beyond what you are doing if it is difficult then you step aside.
If you can’t, that means you are not capable. If you can capable that is when you can be there.
In my community, they were all happy. They said thank God you have accepted our offer to be involved. I ran for the Princess for the House of Assembly after that the leader said, oh, you are still new.
We want to know the kind of person you are. And my own politics is not a do or die politics. I agreed with the leadership of the party and I stepped down for the present Hon. Bisi Yusuf at that time and I supported his candidature, with everything I have. After the election, I went back to my business.
I am a Pharmacist. I have my retailing outlets. I distribute drugs. I have a computer school. I have a chain of business that are doing well. It was during that time that I was appointed to become a supervisor in the local government. I took it up to enable me add my service to the people. I saw it as a call to service. That is who I am. I like to serve people. I like to add value to peoples lives. I empowered the youths then out of my own resources. I was spending a lot. A lot of my friends wondered why I was spending so much on my people.
They said how much is my salary? I told them its not about salary. It is about how much am I affecting people positively in my area.
I was so happy the day I began to meet some of the beneficiaries of my empowerment prostrating to greet me. I don’t know them. I can’t put a name to their faces. I helped them without knowing who they are. My style is I empower you without knowing who you are.
My own is to add value to humanity. The 1st person I met prostrated and greet me in the banking hall. He told me how well he was doing. To the glory of God that is how my involvement in politics started in my life. I started it gradually up to this point.