Pastor Tobi Adegboyega, the Lead Pastor of SPAC Nation London is a household name in London despite his youthfulness. Simply called Pastor Tobi,the 39 year old Clergy has changed the stories of many London youths from crimes to those impacting delinquents in the society. The Nigerian born cleric decided to replica same in his motherland, Nigeria by redirecting the focus of Nigerian youths from crime and other sixial vices through economic empowerment. He spoke with selected journalists.
Q.Nigeria has been awashed with stories of your passion for the youths. This position, it was reported, would soon be replicated in Nigeria with the empowerment of youths. Have you got approval from the appropriate quarters in the country in view of the fact that some state governments already have empowerment programmes?
We have the approvals and we will work alongside government bodies that are willing to work with us. However, the law of the land allows individuals, church or businesses to help the Youths.But for me, it is about helping young people to fulfil their dreams and to use their talent. So our first option will always be to work with government organisations, bearing in mind the fact that we bring in alot of expertise because of the work we have done around the world, especially in London.
We will want to enhance and complement what the state governments are doing. Approval may be a difficult word because the law does not require that. So like I earlier said, it will be a pleasure to work with anybody ready to do the work with us.
The country is divided into many zones with different tribes. Where are you starting from and what informed your decision?
Lagos and Abuja is a good starting point for us because we are equipped to handle both states because of expertise and finances that we are bringing to the table. Lagos is very central, the state being an economic hub and it has people from all the 36 states in Nigeria. This also applies to Abuja also which is central.
Our intention is to be in every part of Nigeria later. It is not so much about the location but having programs that will bring people from every part of Nigeria and also being able to take them to every part of the world because that is part of our empowerment program which is all about exposure and contact. So we will create a hub where people will come from all over the country to be exposed to a better way of living, trained to build business, get mentorship, and participate in leadership workshops where we will work with other high profile business to provide employment and also many more over time. So we will be starting from Lagos and Abuja because of their centrality.
Some critics are insinuating that there is an ulterior motive for this your empowerment programme. How would you react to this?
There are critics in every part of the world and I think critics are a critical part of any good work. I have experienced it in London but you can not deny the lives that have been helped. The report cards and our track records are visible and the work we have done and are still doing in London did not start with money. So here I am stating that we need to do the same in the country of my birth,Nigeria. What could be the ulterior motive in my own country, where I spent my growing up years? .If the motive is politics, I have the right to hold political office. I have the right to do those things without helping people because as it is, it is my home also. I know people in power that hold political positions without helping people. So if its about helping people, there are no ulterior motives. It is just about placing young people where they should be and I believe they should be in a place of prosperity. Let us start the journey first, then we see what the motives are.
There is no doubt that poverty has turned many youths in Nigeria to criminals. Is it possible to curb the diversion of empowerment funds?
I believe it’s possible to curb diversion of the empowerment funds. We aim to work directly with empowerment banks so projects are done and delivered on time. We have embarked on projects at the international level and they have worked because they are direct and clear. We have all heard of projects where they are given money to do something but end up doing something else, it will be very difficult to do that with the measures we have put in place. We have done this by thoroughly monitoring them and they have done well. We have realized that there are still many Nigerians that need this help and sincerely want to build good businesses to help their families and also provide other opportunities for fellow Nigerians. We will help them to do this, not just with money but with exposure and contact. Like I said before, we will also engage with the banks to help us monitor funds and we will make sure there is constant accountability.
Since SPAC Nation is yet to have a branch in Nigeria, are you enlisting the support of any organization or church of same mind in this project?
We will work with organizations that are willing to work with us which does not have to be churches alone. It could be mosques or international NGO’s . It really does not matter as long as we all want the same thing.
If you study the pattern of SPAC Nation, you will notice that we have always been lone rangers and impacted communities. Under SPAC Nation alone, we have many companies, many charity organisations and foundations we work with and if we find more in the Nigerian territory we will work with them.
Where would you source funds for this capital intensive project?
We have always sourced funds from ourselves. We have managed to create appetite from people that have resources all over the world. They are willing because they believe in the work that we have done over the years and have equally seen it. With or without the government, they are willing to work with us to affect local communities, especially the youth. We have funders from all over the world who are willing to help despite not being big companies. We intend to keep having the goodwill of these people.
What is your monitoring mechanism and what is the sanction for those who go against your laid down guidelines?
We are limited in monitoring because we are not a government organization. We will work with law enforcement agencies within the guidelines of the law.However, my belief is that there are numerous Nigerians that want to do the right thing. One of the challenges we faced in the UK and other countries is we were told there are people that do not mean well but I can say I have been doing this for over 14 years and can say that is probably 20% of the people. Most of the practice we have developed over time will help us fish out those who want to do wrong.So it’s not about monitoring this. Our goal will be to empower. We will definitely work with the law enforcement agencies. However, my focus is to empower and change lives.
You were reported to have done a similar empowerment in London and some African countries. What has been the feedback?
It’s been beautiful in London especially. The feedbacks are everywhere from the businesses being created to the lives helped. We have gone to the most dangerous areas and changed them entirely and the Metropolitan Police can attest to that fact, so we will continue to do the same thing in Nigeria.
There are divergent views about good Christians taking part in partisan politics. How would you react to this?
Christians with the fear of God and patriotism should go into politics on individual basis but Churches should not be dragged into it.
Here In London we are accused of the same. When you say some members are disgruntled, most of them colluded with politicians. These politicians are afraid we are going to take sides with people that they thought I was close with. For example, they believed I was close with cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson. I have the right to be close to a political person but my advocacy is to be close to young people. Our work has introduced us to high level associates across parties in the United kingdom. A church of young people will have members who aspire to be in politics and what I have done is support them in my capacity. You must also know that some of these people are folks I have raised from a young age. So when they show deep these interest in politics, I have to support them. We must be strong in supporting them as individuals, more than the party itself and that’s what we do.