Thursday, 6 September 2012

A Few Good Men

I met a young man a few years ago who turned out to be like a brother to me. One would think that music would bring us together because he is a musician, but it was his giving and kind heart that caught my attention and brought us together. I wanted to tell you all about him and all he has been doing but I have decided to let him tell you who he is:

I’m Yinka Lawanson a.k.a Lamboginny,a young Nigerian entertainer. I’ve been in the music industry for about 12 years now and I’ve worked with various top Nigerian entertainers. I have a pet project called Lamboginny Say NO To Crime and it’s set up to fight against crime.
It all started as a dream. I never thought or planned that Lamboginny Say NO To Crime would be where It is today, I just found myself doing it.
The experience fighting against crime has been a lot of hard work but at the end of the day it’s worth the effort. First, as I always say, fighting crime is everybody’s business. When I started the Say No To Crime movement, it was quite difficult. The society did not really believe in it because I wasn’t a security agent and I didn’t have a security background. All I had was the experience I gained from being in showbiz; I knew my fan base and I felt I could use my talent to re-engineer the minds of both the society and prison inmates in Nigeria. I believed I could use music to distract them from criminal activities.

This whole journey started in 2009. I had my first anti- crime campaign concert in Medium Security Prison, Kirikiri, Apapa, Lagos. We had over 16 top Nigerian entertainers who were involved in the project. But it wasn’t so easy to get volunteers because prison is a place no one wants to be.
It is usually difficult to find someone that is not a pastor or an imam that would wake up and wants to visit a prison. In between my research and fight against crime in Nigeria, I have come to realise that those in the security sector just live their lives on a daily basis. They no longer take it as a duty to inform and remind the general society about the rules and laws governing the country.
I started from the prison because it is the end point of any kind of crime committed. When you look at the sector in Nigeria, you would understand what I mean. I met the former Controller General of Nigerian Prisons Service, Mr Olushola Ogundipe, in Abuja few years ago and he endorsed the Say NO to Crime campaign. Since then the prison doors have been left open for our concerts. Between 2009 and 2010, with the assistance of a friend, I was able to produce an all-star song and video that featured celebrities from both the music and movie industries.
I had a total of 32 celebrities and we recorded a song titled: I no go lose my head, which is now the official song for the Say NO To Crime campaign. I did this song because I felt every time this song is played, there is someone out there that would have a rethink about involving himself in criminal activities. By the end of 2010, I was honorarily appointed a Prison Officer because of the good work my little initiative has done for my country.

It became a different ball game in 2011 because I was able to get more ambassadors on my team. Stella Damasus also came on board. I remember that I personally walked up to her and told her about the pet project and she shared the same vision with me.
We started with a concert in the female prison on 7 January, 2011, where so many celebrities in the entertainment industry came to show their love to the female inmates.
We had the likes of Onyeka Onwenu, Shan George, Stella Damasus, Chidinma from Project Fame, AY Dot Com, Sexy Steel, Dekunle Fuji, Jedi, DJRowland and Jafextra. By the time we were done with the female prison I came up with an initiative called “Season in Prison.”
Season in Prison is all about celebrating all the festive seasons we celebrate outside in the prison as well. This helps in the healing of the criminal mind. This is because the more you remind them of all the festivals they have celebrated outside the prison with their families, the more they will have a rethink and want to be better people so that they can be with their families again.
So I did what I call the VIP Concert, called Valentine In Prison. Many celebrities including Midnight Crew, Denrele Edun, TIm Godfrey & the Extreme Crew, AK1, Dr Dele Momodu, Stella Damasus and Shan George came to show their love and the inmates loved every bit of it.
After that I had Fela Durotoye in a session with the female inmates when he came to celebrate Fela Durotoye at 40. Stella Damasus also came to give the female inmates a lecture. I believe it goes a long way when a celebrity has such moment with inmates, it is something they would never forget.
After Stella Damasus’ lecture, we had Christmas in Prison, which was all about celebrating with the inmates during Christmas.

Coming into 2012 with my experience with these inmates I realised that not all the inmates are capital offenders. While some of them are minor offenders, I discovered that many of the inmates have no reason to be there.
Considering the fact the states have not been allowed to build their own prisons, most of the state security agencies end up sending minor offenders to federal prisons if they cannot pay their fine.
So I gathered some of my friends like PSquare, Stella Damasus, Laide Bakare, TillaMan, Jafextra, Skales, Osita Iheme (Pawpaw), Denrele Edun, Karen Igho, Ilami Akio, and we contributed money to get 32 helpless inmates out of the prison. These are inmates that were convicted for minor offences and were just wasting away.

One of my cries to the government is to stop keeping minor offenders in the same prison with those that have committed capital offences.
When security agencies in states arrest people for minor offences, I don’t think it is appropriate that they should be taken to federal prisons. There should be some sort of remand homes for people that commit minor offences in each state of the federation. For example, it is not right to put a young guy arrested for hawking legal products on the street in order to survive (we are not saying that it’s good to disobey the law) into a prison meant for capital offenders.
Most capital offenders engage in criminal activities and it would be easier for them to convince these young boys arrested for minor offences to turn to crime by promising to bail them so that they can go outside and complete their unfinished business.
The young boy in question would likely take the bait because he would get his freedom and gain some extra money, even though he doesn’t know what this job he is asked to do entails.
Say NO To Crime is a platform that brings the security sector, the entertainment world, the general society and offenders together to fight against crime. We need to fight crime. I will give you an analogy. In the 80s, the rate at which HIV/AIDS was killing people across Africa was so high but everybody came together to campaign against it. And today, the number of people dying of HIV/AIDS in Africa has reduced . I’m not saying I can eradicate crime single-handedly because the fight against crime is everybody’s business. If we can come together as one, I believe the campaign against crime would be more effective. Consequently, criminal activities would reduce drastically in the society.

In an interview I had some months ago, when it was raised that this generation is already corrupt and what are our plans to save the generations after us? I identified ignorance as the problem. In Nigeria, we don’t have books that educate children about crime and how to prevent it.
As I write this article, I have published a book titled: Say NO To Crime, which will help educate the younger generation about crime and criminal activities.
Crime has increased to such an alarming rate that we can no longer treat it with levity. We need to hit the nail on the head and find an effective way of addressing the issue.
If you get into a juvenile prison you will understand what I mean. We have young boys and girls that have committed all sorts of crimes that you can’t even imagine or want to think about. So when you examine how crime has eaten deep into our system, you will agree with me that we don’t have a choice but to go back to the drawing board. I believe that with the help of God, we will be able to make a change.
Already, security agencies are partnering with us in the fight against crime. I have the support of the Nigerian Prison Service, Nigerian Immigration, Civil Defence, Nigerian Red Cross Society, Stella Damasus Arts Foundation, Aki and Paw Paw Child Care foundation, Nigerian Prison Officers Wives Association and over 40 top Nigerian celebrities are ambassadors to Say NO To Crime project.
As I said earlier, I believe that fighting crime is everybody’s business and we should all come together to do it.
The security agencies in Nigeria should take it as a duty to inform the general public about the laws and regualtions guiding us as citizens. I have been in the system for a while and I have not even seen adverts informing people about these things.
I believe that with God and the help of others, this campaign would help reduce criminal activities.
Say NO To Crime is not just a concert organised in prison but a global campaign and very soon we’ll be carrying our message to communities, campuses, and different countries.
By the special grace of God, I hope to keep doing this because the society belongs to you and I. You never can tell who the next crime victim will be.

I’m therefore, calling on companies that keep running away because they don’t want to associate their brands with the project, to have a change of mind. What is the assurance that one of their executives or workers would not be a victim of crime someday? Associating your brand with Say NO To Crime might just save you from calamity.

Say NO To Crime and let’s allow peace and tranquillity to reign in Nigeria.
God bless you.

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