A Pro-Democracy Activist, Timothy Oluwagbenga Ajayi, has received several death threats for calling on Nigerians to demand a better country from political leaders.
The 37-year-old social crusader, who was born in the Mushin area of Lagos but hails from Ekiti State in South-West Nigeria, has dedicated most of his life to fighting for the poor masses of the country, constantly educating people on their rights and engaging government officials on the best ways to manage the affairs of the nation.
But unhappy at his activities and how he has helped raise the consciousness of average Nigerians to now demanding better governance from their leaders; Ajayi has constantly been the target of those in power.
Apart from receiving calls from strange persons threatening to kill him for speaking against large-scale corruption in government and human rights violations perpetrated by politicians and their cronies, persons close to Ajayi have also been harassed over his clamor for good governance in Nigeria.
Narrating his bitter experience and how the threat to his life led to the collapse of his marriage in Nigeria, the United States-based social crusader fears that he would be killed by government agents if forced to return to his country.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent, Ajayi said, “Before coming to the United States, you know I worked at Ogun State Institute of Technology (formerly Gateway ICT Polytechnic) located at Igbesa, Ogun State, Nigeria. I was married to Oluwatosin Ajoke Ajayi (nee Ayeni) in 2014.
“I have always taken interest in political matters right from the time I was a college student. I always sensitized the youth about the failures of governance in Nigeria and the need to revamp the economy as leaders of tomorrow. I was able to get people to come to meetings where political issues were discussed. I started by holding small meetings with members of staff, community members, and mature student union members who showed interest in nation-building.
“During this time, I spoke on a number of subjects. My major message was that the Federal Government of Nigeria needed to practice true federalism. I reiterated in my lectures that the democracy practiced in the country was an extension of the dictatorial administrations of the late 70s, the 80s, and 90s. I gave pieces of evidence such as the return to power of ex-military heads of states. I also faulted the 1999 constitution of Nigeria because I felt it was disproportionate. Then I got more active.
“I organized rallies where I led members of the community to denounce the colossal powers of incumbent presidents and state governors in Nigeria. I instilled the notion of decentralization into my fellow activists, stating that the Nigerian Government should redraft the 1999 constitution, and ensure that the seat of government (Abuja) should relinquish its strong control over states.
“The idea was that the states would have the autonomy to manage their affairs and report to the center. I also supported local government autonomy as this level of government is closest to the citizens.
Ajayi started getting noticed by the government when he gave a series of lectures where he criticized the Nigerian Government for witch-hunting political opponents using various organs at their disposal such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, the Department of State Services, and the Nigeria Police Force. He voiced strong opinions that the government had failed woefully in giving citizens better lives and instead of prosecuting political opponents, they should focus on addressing the perennial problems of poor infrastructure, abysmal healthcare, and deficient social amenities.
The first indication of government hostility towards Ajayi was a rally he held at Abeokuta, Ogun State, in February 2015. The crowd was massive, and protesters carried placards around markets and other key places. This got the attention of the state government, who dispatched the local police to the scene. A lot of his members were attacked, maimed, and arrested for what the government called ‘disturbance of public peace. He was attacked and assaulted by three policemen, who left me for the dead. Some well-meaning citizens, who saw what happened took him to the hospital where he was treated for two weeks. “By this time, my wife became apprehensive and believed that I would be killed in my struggle with the ruling class. A few months after leaving the hospital, I decided to give some attention to my professional growth,” he said.
In mid-2017, he started receiving strange phone calls from unknown contacts threatening to kill him.
He was told to desist from canvassing public support against the government or else he will be eliminated. The calls became constant to the point that he stopped answering calls from unknown contacts. Ajayi reported the incident at Agbara Police Station, Ogun State, but nothing significant has emanated so far on the matter. Hence, He started figuring out a way to leave Nigeria under the pretext of his professional life. “I had applied to attend a conference in the United States a few years back, but my application was denied. So, I re-applied for a US visa at the US Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, in June, 2017. I was called for an interview at the same venue on August 8, 2017, and was granted the visa,” he disclosed.
Ajayi like many other freedom fighters and political activists have absconded from the country for fear over their life. The development in fact opened a new and painful chapter in his life – one whose scary shadow has refused to go away.
“Since arriving in the US, my marriage has been rocky. My wife’s family kept putting her under pressure to get me to return to Nigeria because they wanted her to start rearing kids (their grandchildren) and to be in physical contact with me. “My marriage has ended after my wife left me, and I see no reason to return to a place where the government is out to get me,” he said.
Ajayi is currently in the United States on exile while many of his co-activists are still in the custody of Nigerian security agencies for standing for the rights of the masses.