Ajayi… in search of lasting solution to development challenges in Africa
At his age, coupled with his numerous achievements, especially in the medical field, one would have expected that by now, Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the Chairman/CEO of First Foundation, would be thinking of a deserving retirement. But a recent visit to his Okpebi, Ikeja, Lagos, office shows the medical practitioner remains as active as ever.
Year-on-year, he has continually lent his voice to proffering solutions to issues around Africa’s underdevelopment. Few minutes with him, one could easily tell that he is a medical doctor, who is passionate not only about the state of medicine in Africa, but also worried about the state of human development in the continent.
In company of some of his employees, Dr. Ayayi was putting finishing touches to the plan for the unveiling of a new campaign by Africa Future, when this reporter visited. A non-profit organisation he founded some years ago, Africa Future is championing a new path for Africa through its advocacy programmes.
The ultimate purpose of Africa Future’s latest is to bridge the developmental gap in Nigeria and Africa through the first 1,000 days from conception window. The idea is to use the first 1,000 days from conception to shape the future of the continent and use information technology tools to drive this change.
“We intend to concentrate on the children that are coming behind and make sure that they look at the world and see a world we were not able to see. Our children must not grow up to be like us,” he said repeatedly with high level of confidence.
A master strategist, Dr. Ajayi had all arrangements for the formal launch well thought out; his staff members were in awe as they watched him marshal out plans for the event. In fact, he particularly chose October 1, 2019 (Nigeria’s Independence Day) to go public, with a public lecture in the mix.
“We chose to start on October 1 because it falls on our Independence Day and we know that everybody is concerned about all of us. The only problem we had before now was, where do we start? Now, we know how to start; where to start is the first 1000 days of conception. Once we start there, that’s it; we don’t have control over it. The intelligence coming into the world is going to prepare for itself; it’s going to solve the problems by itself,” he hinted.
At the back of his office were carpenters erecting gigantic signposts with eye-catching inscription that explains the rationale behind the campaign.
“Come and have a look at them,” he said, as he led the way through the garden to the staccato sound of hammers driving nails into the woods.
“The whole building will be covered with these boards; we want anybody driving through Opebi to see these messages. By tomorrow, I will carry my own board and stand on Opebi Road to tell Nigerians that we’ve found the solution to Africa’s problems,” he said with so much enthusiasm.
However, on the D-day, weather had a different plan; it started raining non-stop as early as 6.00 a.m. Conceived as an open-air campaign, the first thought was to call for postponement, but Dr. won’t have it; his mind was made and there was no going back.
Defying the torrential downpour, he marched into the rain with some members of his staff holding an umbrella above his head.
“The rain won’t stop us today,” he said firmly. With that resolution, he stood at the bus stop holding the banner: ‘This Is It! Africa Future: Solution For The Continuing Africa’s Underdevelopment, Under Performance.”
Based on his experience as a medical practitioner, Ajayi argued that the solution to Africa’s underdevelopment is “better brains, better human performance, first 1, 000 days from conception is the answer.” this view, he boldly printed on one of the banners placed in the waiting room.
Ajayi believes the micronutrients in a pregnant woman should be preserved and be maintained in the life of the child after birth for the first five years, as this will aid the proper development of the child into adulthood. Also, he said a child should be prevented from toxic stress, diseases. That child will grow up to be a complete human being.
“The reason for this campaign is to change the direction of Nigeria and African countries. That campaign is because we now know why under development and under performance is perennial in Africa. Why are human beings not human beings that they should be? About 90 per cent of human beings cannot have self-fulfillment; they cannot be human beings like they should be. We know why the world is full of vices, why the world is full of war and terrors; we know it and we know we can change it. We can even change it in one generation; we know what to do now,” he said.
The challenge, according to the medical practitioner, has to do with reproduction in Africa.
“The challenge has been the way we human beings have reproduced. If you look at cockroaches, all cockroaches are cockroaches; all snakes are snakes, a tortoise is a tortoise, all turtles are turtles. But when you see human beings, all human beings are not the same. We see a few that look like human beings among us and we’ve now found the reason,” he hinted.
In 2014, Africa Future came up with a theory that the level of micronutrients and nutrients consumed from the time of formation in the womb to age five is not what it should be.
“That’s what is bringing the problem,” Ajayi hinted, adding, “On June 18, 2019, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, United States came with the findings that the first 1000 days in pregnancy is the most important for potentials and for dangers in human beings. By the second birthday of a child, what the brain can do is fixed; all the damages and potentials are already there by two years. So, we now know that if we correct all these, human beings are going to be human beings.”
Giving insight into how the situation can be remedied, Ajayi explained, “It can be corrected if you know that you have to have the right micronutrient and nutrients before pregnancy and you maintain it through pregnancy and in the first two to three years of your child. Once you maintain the micronutrients and you prevent your children from having toxic stresses of diseases and illnesses, it’s finished; a human being will be a complete human being.”
He continued: “If we get someone in an executive position in Nigeria to now say that all pregnant women and all children up to the age of five will be taken care of in nutrients and micronutrients and in prevention of toxic illnesses from birth to age five, it’s finished. That’s all we need; it’s so simple and so elegant. From conception, we have to invest in the first 1000 days of every human being that comes into Nigeria. We can, we have the money; we have the resources and agricultural products. We might not have the technology, but we can employ it,” he said.
Though micronutrients come from fruits, vegetables and all greens, Ajayi explained that the cooking habit in Nigeria remains a major challenge to consuming the right nutrients and macronutrients.
“You know our food is totally different; we grill it, we boil it, we fry it, we cook is so many times. By so doing, we’ve removed all the micronutrients inside it; that’s how we’ve been eating from time immemorial. These things are available everywhere, we can plan more of it; we can even employ technology now to process it and make sure that we all can have it. But when we are concentrating on the first 1000 days, that’s a different thing. We want government to cooperate with private sector to improve the 1000 days in every child that comes into Nigeria; that’s what we are pressing for. We are not even asking for micronutrients for everybody, we are just asking for micronutrients for the first 1000 days for the next generation of human beings coming among us.”
Done with the launch, the next phase of the campaign will see Dr. Ajayi and his team visit different state governments in Nigeria to spread the message and get more Nigerians to key into it. Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing to get the buy-in of the Federal Ministry of Health to sustain the advocacy, especially in rural areas where the cases are prevalent.
Trained as a medical doctor at the prestigious University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Dr. Tosin Ajayi also holds a Masters of Science in Cardiology from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Imperial College, University of London.
Imbued with the strong belief that he had a mission to contribute to sustaining life’s most precious assets – health and development, he began his medical career at the popular General Hospital, Lagos where he rose to the position of Registrar in four years. He later moved to Kemta Hospital & Nursing Home, Lagos, which after leaving as Deputy Medical Director, he had helped develop into a multi-specialist general hospital with three major satellite units in less than four years.
In 1982, he decided to completely throw himself and resources into realising his desire to transform the healthcare landscape into an arena for truly serving its purpose – saving lives. This led him to establish the First Foundation Medical Centre, a modern, first grade multi-specialist healthcare institution which for over two decades was a reference point in the provision of excellent medical services in Nigeria. The motto of The First Foundation is, Changing the landscape of Healthcare in Africa.
He later established the First Foundation Medical Engineering Company Ltd., the vehicle by which high-end medical technology through Sonography and the Computed Tomography (CT) was introduced in Nigeria through The First Foundation Medical Centre and a Federal Government programme respectively. He has spent his time pioneering Information Technology, Health Reforms and Capacity building in Healthcare. It is also to his credit that Teleradiology was introduced in Nigeria in 2004.
A strong believer in the conscious development of the human mind, he has had about 35 years extensive post qualification academic and intellectual activities in major specialties of medicine. He also holds: Diploma in Internal Medicine, from the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, University of London (1997); Diploma in Neurology from the Queens Square Institute of Neurology, University of London (1998); Diploma in Cardiology from the Imperial College, London. He has also attended short courses, seminars, conferences and workshops in various areas of medicine particularly in Cardiology, Radiology, General Medicine, Clinical Research and Management locally and internationally.
Till date, Ajayi is still vigorously pursuing his lifelong objective of transforming Africa. For him, Africa the cradle of the human race, cannot, and should not be neglected in the development of the world. He believes that mankind now possesses the knowledge and tools required to transform Africa and bridge the developmental gap, which is the problem.
He has pioneered the advocacy for a paradigm shift in medicine and healthcare with particular emphasis on healthcare reforms, the business of medicine and healthcare, information technology in healthcare and the necessary capacity building for healthcare to flourish. He now preaches re-orientation and knowledge transformation of our collective mentality to meet the 21st century model of human performance.