I have been asked, many times, what makes Connected Development (CODE) and Follow The Money (FTM) thrive so well. My answer has never been ambivalent; People. At the centre of our work, are the passionate people who drive the campaigns, coupled with the digital space. Simply put, the marriage of technology and people birthed the revolution and success of FollowTheMoney and CODE, I just happened to be in the middle of the dynamics.
Now that our mission has expanded beyond the shores of Nigeria, it is easy to see the fundamental role played by digital technologies in harnessing the vast potentials of young people across the world, as they commit their talents towards advancing their communities by holding governments to account. Hence, our line of work at CODE requires painstaking analysis and cross-border innovations. The ever-evolving social media space and highly volatile multimedia models are our allies. We depend on them to keep marching forward.
However, we rely more on key human talents to coordinate these efforts. These skilled humans of CODE, navigate through the morass of progress reports and present them in a way that portray development details and resonate with our teeming volunteers, partners and wider public. This is why our social media posts and monthly newsletters have never failed to evoke the tenacity of our vision and the gravity of our projects, in Africa and beyond.
It is therefore instructive to note that someone was behind the curtain, on the keyboards, pushing out our labors in words and pictures. A young man whose heart burnt with an unquenchable fire for societal change, followed us day and night, as we “Follow The Money”, so that the world could keep tabs on what we were doing at every turn of the road. A man who was creative, clear and concise in all our communication materials. A man who made it possible for CODE to maintain a resounding presence in the digital space, where it all began.
Dear partners, supporters, friends and citizens, with extreme sadness, I announce that the gentle man who manned our online presence, Alfred Anicho Oji, CODE’s digital media officer, passed away on Friday, 22nd October, 2021. This came as a rude shock to all of us at CODE.
Alfred was dedicated and committed to the work of advocating for improved public services in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. He was someone who, in every way possible, embodied CODE’s values and principles of justice, social accountability and empowering marginalized grassroots people. He was a committed development worker who held together our social media assets and consistently grew CODE and FTM’s online community simultaneously – showcasing our work and impact to local and international audiences.
Alfred was good-humored, friendly and, simply, a warm person to be around. His death was unimaginable and we will miss him sorely. We mourn this egregious loss of a fellow comrade in the fight for human rights and a fair world.
On a personal note, I can say that Alfred was not just a staff of CODE; he was a remarkable colleague, a trusted fellow and a perfect gentleman. He was dedicated to his job, and friendly to everyone. He was supportive, and vividly carried the vision of CODE. Indeed, I have lost a comrade in the struggle.
Alfred lived a full life. He gave himself completely to the cause he believed in. Thinking back now, it was as if he was in a hurry to finish his assignment before leaving. He was a hard worker. This was evident in his work etiquette. We saw that whenever the CODE team was on a field trip; he followed us virtually – in order to get the best stories for our digital platforms. In fact, his professional tenacity inspired everyone to be more productive.
Certainly, even to the last hour, there was a sense of urgency in his push for excellence and delivery. I remember that a day before he passed, Alfred shared his thoughts on the EndSARS protests anniversary. My personal photographer, Jide Ojediran, made the video. Jide said that he had wanted to make the recording the next Monday, but Alfred insisted that the video be made that Thursday. He was gone the next day. Thankfully, we now have Alfred’s three-minute perspective on police brutality in Nigeria. Obviously, here was a man that wanted to change the world, and make it a better place, with the little time he had.
A calm, content man who hardly got angry.
For Alfred, CODE was a family. He recently brought his fiancée whom he was just about to wed to the office; apparently to introduce her to his second home. I remember the warm moments I had with the promising couple. My heart now bleeds at the pain his fiancée is presently going through at losing such a wonderful soulmate.
I remember when we traveled to Osun for our colleague, Busayo Morankinyo’s traditional and white wedding, and how we played, joked and made fun of life. Alfred insisted he became my “orderly” for the occasion – opening doors for me, and calling me “Boss”. I never knew it was the last CODE-play to feature our indefatigable brotherly comrade, Alfred. Oh, what a life!
That fateful Friday was the darkest of days for me, when I received a call that Alfred was no more. Even more painful, when I was told that as the CEO, I was the one to make the call to his family. It was one of the toughest moments of my human existence. I had yet to adjust to the shock, and was told that I was to be the bearer of the same bad news.
In all, I am profoundly encouraged to have worked with a young man like Alfred. He embodied what the quintessential Nigerian youth should be: Hope for a New Nigeria, dedication to work, family and colleagues. The phrase “fierce dedication to what is right” defines the way Alfred lived his life. And I am proud that I was part of that short but glorious sojourn.
He certainly made the world a better place. And his memory means a lot to CODE. Although his physical presence is gone, the lessons he taught us will strengthen our lives and our digital space for many years to come.
Alfred, with your death, I have learnt more lessons about life. Our time here on earth is brief and what always counts and matters is how we lived – the lives we touched and the difference we made in our society. You were very brilliant and very selfless. You believed so much in Nigeria and your work is evident of how much good you wished for our dear country, and how much better you would have made her, if you had the time. Like our heroes’ past, may your death not be in vain. I will miss your tenacious dedication to service. Till we meet again, Adieu, my friend and brother!
Hamzat Lawal is an activist and leads various grassroots campaigns across Africa. He is the Founder of Connected Development [CODE] and Follow The Money.