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INTERVIEW: Victory Ashaka, the young poet lending his voice to climate change

INTERVIEW: Victory Ashaka, the young poet lending his voice to climate change
April 23
13:54 2023

Annually, April 22 is set aside by the United Nations (UN) to commemorate International Mother Earth Day. The global event raises awareness of the importance of protecting our planet and its natural resources.

This year’s Mother Earth Day, themed “Invest in Our Planet”, encourages people to engage in activities that conserve the environment. In this interview with TheCable’s DEBORAH BODUNDE, Victory Ashaka shares his journey as a climate activist, how he invests in the planet through his work and how others can be encouraged to contribute to the good of the earth. 


TheCable: Please tell us about your journey to becoming a climate activist.

Ashaka: I’m a spoken word artiste, a climate activist and a Lagos state youth ambassador. I was born in Namibia to Nigerian parents and at the age of two, I returned to Nigeria with my family. I’m a recent graduate of English Literature from Lagos State University (LASU).

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Growing up, I found interest in poetry and arts. The age of 12 was the defining moment in my life when I applied for a literary art competition and I won. It gave me the opportunity and courage to go into social impact and change-making. That experience transformed my trajectory and gave me new perspectives.

Also, when our parents see that we are really passionate about something and we have the confidence to see it through and they see results, they would give their support. In 2020, the global crisis (COVID-19) shocked the world and caused a number of deaths. In fact, as deadly as the pandemic was, I thought the effects of climate change could even be worse.

So, I got engaged with an organisation whereby we had to depict different artworks on climate change, to create climate solutions. That was my first exposure to climate activism. I did different artwork. I wrote a poem on climate change and we had the UN’s deputy secretary general join us in the project. That was how I started as a climate activist and a spoken-word poet.

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Ashaka

Last year, I also had the opportunity to do that in Italy at the FAO world food forum where I did a performance on ‘healthy diet, a healthy planet and heal the world’.

My experiences and participation in various projects have reaffirmed to me that greatness comes from the most unlikely places and that anybody can rise when the opportunity is right. I’m grateful for that and I hope that I also become a beacon of hope for other people to find their path.

TheCable: How have you invested in the planet through the work that you do and how can others do the same?

Ashaka: Personally, through my actions. I invest in the planet by doing things that are eco-friendly. For example, I don’t waste water. I don’t dispose waste inappropriately, and I do my best to conserve energy. I also tell other people to do this and keep the environment clean. I ensure that I enlighten other people about climate change.

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I also create awareness for those who do not believe that the impact of climate change can be catastrophic and I inspire them to do better in their actions. I believe everybody needs to be educated and so in my immediate community, with my network, I ensure that people get the message of sustainability. I let people know the right things to do because our actions and inactions definitely affect the planet.

We need to conserve energy by reducing our carbon footprint and planting more trees. Also, I carried out a tree-planting exercise with my team of other ambassadors. We reach out to different schools and local governments in Lagos to plant trees. I also believe that every little action counts and even more, people’s contributions are needed for our planet’s sustainability. 

Ashaka during a tree-planting exercise

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TheCable: What do you think is the most pressing issue related to climate change right now? 

Ashaka: I think that would be the pollution of the environment. The atmosphere is just being polluted. Globally, the burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions are major pollutants of the environment. People are not breathing fresh air any longer. There has also been an extreme change in weather conditions. People just cut down trees without proper knowledge of the need for planting trees that could give us oxygen and could sequester carbon emissions in the atmosphere. 

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TheCable: What role do you think governments and businesses can play in investing in our planet?

Ashaka: The government is there to create and enforce policies. The role of the government should be to develop climate policies and climate resolution. Governments should enforce rules that would guide people’s actions in relation to the environment. Environmental pollution of any kind should be a criminal offence.

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Governments should also invest in climate finance. They should provide funding for projects and people’s enlightenment programmes. In Nigeria, the government can build more train stations to accommodate more people so that the number of vehicles on our roads can significantly reduce. The generation and use of solar power in our homes and offices should also be encouraged.

Ashaka on climate advocacy

TheCable: What has been your most memorable campaign?

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Ashaka: The one that was held in 2020 with the Solution 17 global community that had the UN deputy secretary general in attendance. Four other colleagues and I created 17 artworks on the SDGs relating to climate change. We developed a concept note for the paintings and we spoke about them.

Another remarkable one was last year in November while COP27 was ongoing. My team and I decided to embark on a project tagged “Plant a Tree for Life” in schools and some LGAs in Lagos. I think that was a huge one because of the reception. We were able to enlighten young people, children, teachers and people in the local areas.

TheCable: What do you hope to see accomplished in terms of climate action in the next five to 10 years?

Ashaka: I hope to see our environment develop itself so well in such a way that we grow sustainably. Improved transport systems, significant reduction of carbon emissions, use of solar systems and other renewable energy sources.

I hope to see that our daily activities are eco-friendly and not hazardous to our health. In years to come, I hope to see transformation in our transportation systems, our electrical systems as well as our food systems. I hope to see more people actively participating in the good of the planet because we all have an important role to play. All of humankind has a role to play in climate change. There are actions to be taken to combat climate change effects and to also ensure that we are safe on our planet.

I also believe that governments can intervene by creating and enforcing policies to ensure that we are all actively involved in the good of our environment.

TheCable: What advice would you give to young people who want to get involved in climate activism but don’t know where to start?

Ashaka: Be the change that you want to see; it starts with you. Become the person that understands what climate change means and how to live sustainably. Don’t dump refuse on the floor, dispose your plastic waste appropriately so that it can be recycled.  Understand that our environment is ours to protect by being eco-friendly.

Also, you don’t have to spend too much time in the shower because you’re wasting water and there are communities that do not even have water to drink.  When you visit the supermarket, ensure you reuse the paper bag you go with as many times as possible. When people see what you do, they will also be encouraged to reuse, recycle and repurpose. Reuse water bottles to reduce plastic waste.

If your destination is not long distance, walking or riding a bicycle is a better transportation alternative. Volunteer at organisations and be actively involved in projects. There are many opportunities online shared by media platforms that people can apply to attend like international climate programmes and conferences. 



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