The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional, and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
This week’s Abroad Life subject is Adeoju Samuel Adesina, aka Sammy Desh, a Nigerian who relocated to Finland in his third year of university due to student union attacks on his life in 2010. Eleven years later, he returned to Nigeria in 2021 to vie for a legislative seat in the 2023 elections.
He shares with us the details of his exit from Nigeria, his experiences in Finland, and his political journey so far in Nigeria.
What sparked your motivation for politics?
I’d need to start from the beginning. I stumbled upon university politics at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). This was from 2007-2010. Someone running for the position of Chairman of my hall of residence had my name recommended to him as one who could galvanise people for campaigns. He then came to me and asked me to help mobilise people to vote for him as Chairman, which I accepted.
However, it was a surprise because I hadn’t been involved in elections before that time. Interestingly, I got people to vote for him galvanised people and won elections for four different candidates running for student union offices.
I was involved in several social justice causes around school, like fighting against tuition increments or releasing unjustly arrested students. I found fulfilment in this, especially when other students benefitted from it.
But this had downsides, such as attacks. One of these attacks made me leave the country for Finland.
Attacked?! How did that happen?
So it occurred during one of the student agitations in 2010 during my third year in university. A student burnt another student alleged to have stolen some money with a hot iron. While we tasked ourselves (i.e., me and some residence hall executives) to apprehend the student in question, he took refuge with a clique of guys called the DSM.
It was when we approached them to pick up the guy that everything turned violent. The Student Union Government (SUG) president, Paul Alaje, was hurt. I was stabbed in the arm with a knife.
My mum was so scared for my life, and to add insult to injury, there was an Academic Student Union of Universities (ASUU) strike for about four months. It was then my parents decided I had to move to Finland.
So sorry this happened to you. What was the process for migration?
With Finland (as with every other country), the easiest route for migration is through a study permit, which I used. To get information on all the schools in Finland, I first logged into a website called studyinfinland.fi. If you click on the English language option, it has all the info you would need on schools in Finland and the processes involved. You can apply to the website if you open it during the application cycle. With that, you don’t have to pay any application fees.
However, I had to follow the steps. I provided the documents needed, such as my international passport, transcript, WASSCE certificate etc.
Once you’re done with the application, you’ll get a confirmation email and a schedule for a general exam. I hear it’s now online. But in 2010, it was a physical exam, which I wrote in Ikeja, Lagos.
If you pass the exam, you have to go for an interview I had to travel from Nigeria to Accra, Ghana, for that exam. That interview serves as a way for them to judge and understand your English proficiency. They’d also ask for your preferred course of study while in Finland. If you ace the interview, you get your admission letter, and you pay your tuition, which is about €5k. After this, you can apply for resident permit at the embassies in Abuja. It’s that straightforward.
What was schooling in Finland like?
It was excellent. I had to start from scratch when I got to Finland, studying Business Management, but the teachers there were helpful. However, I needed to work and study at the same time, and it was there I got my first political gig in Finland as part of a campaign team.
Nice! What was that like?
In school, I wanted to see how the political atmosphere was; it was a job that was paying at the time. So I helped galvanise people in one or two political campaigns, sending SMS to people. Politics there is almost the same way in Nigeria, with many people trying to persuade people to receive certain ideologies for the betterment of the country.
Aside from politics, I also got to work with a media house, Poland Today, and did some business on the side with friends. It was a great experience.
What made you move back to Nigeria?
I’ve always been a ‘Nigeria-centric’ person. Even from the very first day I arrived in Finland, I didn’t have plans to spend my entire life outside the country. I’ve always had a passion for politics and service. I love helping people, and this makes me happy. But I wanted to help people on a large scale. And this is what made me decide to return to Nigeria and enter politics.
What was the process like?
Unfortunately, due to COVID, I lost hundreds of thousands of euros from my side businesses. I saved some money, but it wasn’t enough to call me rich.
When I returned to Nigeria in February 2021, a good friend connected me to Dipo Awojide’s company, where I became Chief of Staff. I began to receive connections from him, got exposed to various people, and started networking and finding political connections.
Was this how you started politics in Nigeria?
Yes. It began when representatives from two political parties (which I wouldn’t like to disclose) came and promised me tickets to governorship without contesting in the primaries, which I very much refused.
I then got another offer from a friend who knew the Chairman of Accord Party, who knew the man running for governorship in Osun State, Akin Ogunbiyi, who was a billionaire, PhD holder, and that role model Nigerian. He inspired me to register for the Accord Party and my interest in the Osun State House of Assembly.
I also decided to stay in my family house for a while to assimilate into the environment and get to know the people around me. Luckily, my father’s name, Adeoju, was familiar, so it wasn’t too hard.
I then introduced myself to Ogunbiyi, spoke with him, and told him about my qualifications and what I had to offer. He liked me right away.
Did you later run for the Osun State House of Assembly?
No, I didn’t. I only became an aspirant, not a candidate. Before I came to the party, the members already had someone they wanted to put on the ticket. The preferred candidate was also an Osun State-level executive for the party. So, I was a spoiler for them for coming into their system, plus I had the governorship candidate’s backing.
The back and forth was long, but we had to conduct a primary election, which I won. Now, after a primary, the party has to send your name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but my name was never sent. Instead, it was that of my opponent. Because of this incident, I decided that I’d no longer be a party member.
Wow, so sorry. I hope this hasn’t changed your mind about politics?
Yes, I will likely join another political party. I’ve had offers from the two leading parties in Nigeria (PDP and APC) to join them. I consider this recognition as one of the good things that came out of this past election. In my constituency, many people know me; I’m no longer a stranger. I was also able to sell myself to a lot of people. So now, I have my supporter base and people that would like me to contest again.
Those are the few positives from everything that happened. I’m hoping we can get to a point in Nigeria where we can comfortably and confidently say elections are free, fair, and credible. But at the moment, we don’t have one. I believe, however, that we’re moving in the right direction. Especially because you can now check for over-voting, thanks to the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
Things are getting better. And I hope they can keep getting better. We can’t give up. Not yet, anyway.
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