Five years ago, my first novel, The Abyssinian Boy was published by DADA Books. Today, I am 26 and a new book, Burnt, a narrative in verse comes out tomorrow.
It’s a book I didn’t plan to write, the one I planned and worked on continuously, channeling all my energy into them, was turned down by my agent after revisions and travelling far away to Uganda to complete it. I was demoralised. I didn’t lose hope. I started a new book. I’m 26 years old today. I am happy. I am sad. Mixed feelings, they call it. But I chose to celebrate these young people who have dared to dream and treaded where angels fear to tread. Sometimes, I feel like losing hope, but whenever I think of these young men and what they could do in this harsh environment called Nigeria, I get up, dust myself and move on.
This list is a personal list of people that I know. It will be out rightly rude for anyone to try to force his opinions of people I don’t know on me. These people I write about, are people I’ve seen what they are doing. Here and there. I will not write about the ones you want me to write. These are the true souls that have charmed my glorious heart.
I present to you, the “10 Young Nigerians You Should Look Up To in 2014”
1. Chude Jideonwo, 28
When he snaps his finger, the entire world gathers at his feet. This is no exaggeration. Some of us who are not happy with him, do so at their own peril. Chude Jideonwo looks like that bug that bites us because we don’t like him. And we don’t like him, because he is very courageous. What he does, we can actually pick few young people in the world who can do that. He has landed on Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs” list. Why he hasn’t made that list, I don’t know. Truth is that, he has been able to define his own world, he has captured our imaginations with the wonders he can perform. No matter how we want to summarise it, he has chosen to change his world and he has done that excellently. For his fear of failure, Chude has continued to blaze. At the moment, Chude is co-founder and Managing Partner of Red Media/The Future Project, ‘a full service media-content, communication and development company that has worked for several national and international brands. The firms also owns The Future Nigeria Awards, reputed as Nigeria’s biggest youth event.’ He became editor of Y!Naija in July, 2010.
2. Ishaya Bako, 27
After attending London Film School, Ishaya Bako went on to script and direct the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA)-winning Braids on a Bald Head. He won the Best Short Film Awards at the 8th Africa Movie Academy Awards. Wikipedia says ‘he is an emerging voice of his generation and a member of a select few Global Shapers, a collection of enterprising youths initiated by the World Economic Forum.’ His new film, Fuelling Poverty, a documentary on poverty and fuel subsidy in Nigeria, is narrated by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka. His films are politically and socially charged. His eyes are set on greater things and we know that just few young people dream the way he does. For the most part, we understand that his debut feature film is based on the true story of Queen Amina.
3. Adaora Mbelu, 28
She’s that particular lady everyone loves and says cool stuff about. Not one single soul has a sad story to tell after befriending her. She’s young Mother Teresa. It gets tiring at times. In her mind, she thinks she must help everyone and doesn’t realise that an entrepreneur should have strict principles to be able to reach some certain goals. But here she is, at number 3. She is Queen Adaora Mbelu, from Ogidi, Anambra State. She has been featured on MTN Meets MTV interviewing Ben Bruce and was a nominee for the Future Awards. She studied Economics and Entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University and graduated in 2008. She runs two companies – Innovative Factory and Green Line Services. The companies run as “vehicles for young creative minds. They are like a school where people can come, learn and translate their ideas into money.” She is a fucking incubator!
4. David Evans, 25
He’s not your ordinary 24 year old. His hands are completely occupied and he’s extremely smart. However, the same urban and afro-pop record producer, songwriter/rapper, multi-instrumentalist, A & R and music industry entrepreneur and President of Jungle Records, David Evans has a playful part of him that will make you begin to wonder where his pride lies. At the of 24, he is already instrumental to the success of many records across the globe including impressive digital sales of his very own debut single, Follow Me Go in the summer of 2009. Having honed his chops in music production, he is into ‘afro-pop,’ but continues to incorporate any other genre that he considers relevant too. His company, Jungle Records, distributes music from artistes like Ajebutter 22, Gina, Casey, Saeon, BabaFemi, Tee Mac and many others. It is obvious that he has steamed ahead to refreshingly capture the imagination and even the attention of the music world. His Popular Music and Media Production degree from the University of Northampton in the United Kingdom is of a great advantage to him, as his understanding of music is slightly different from most of the producers of his generation. Modest and honest about what he wants, David has been active in classical music (trumpet) since 2001 and has worked with acts like Authentiq, Rap’L, Saeon, Livvi Frank, Death Valley Sonata, K-Kay, Phizzle, Ajebutter22, Soyinka’s Afro, Izzie, Voax, Sean Alto, Mr. Rufino and a lot more.
5. Asa Asika, 24
Asa Asika, as I keep saying, is that artiste manager who is more popular than many artistes. He single-handedly transported our amazing superstar, Davido to stardom. He did it smartly, by conjuring up all the contacts he has built in the past. Today, his company, StarGaze is a whole lot of what he represents. His array of talents that he works, is a true picture of what we knew he will become. There is Naeto and there is BOJ and there is Ayo Jay. All these artistes are the products of his wild imagination. For someone so young, it takes lots of time and energy to cheerlead these talents, but this is something Asika does brilliantly well. His power is something that could be said to have come from the gods.
6. Osagie Osarenkhoe, 28
I care less about her age, but I know she is young. However, Osagie Osarenkhoe is that lady people love to hate, but me, I love her to bits. Whenever we meet, I try to blackmail her emotionally and say the Nigerian thing, ‘You have abandoned your boy.’ She goes ballistic emotional, but that is because I admire what she does. For 5 years, she worked on the WizKid brand and brought that chap into our bedrooms and cars. We couldn’t say no. Then, as the CEO of M.et.al Entertainment, she has worked and works with artistes like BlackMagic, Skales, Shaydee, Dammy Krane, Kel, Morelle, Sammy and Slim T. I don’t know if she has started picking her calls, but this lady remains one of the most hardworking people in Nigeria and once her mind is set on doing something, she does that incredibly well.
7. Richard Ali, 29
In a short time, everyone is talking about Parresia Publishers. They have published Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe, Molara Wood and some big names in the creative industry. In a country where it is hard to push a book, because marketability is a big issue, Richard Ali and his gang have done absolutely well. They have pushed beyond boundaries to show that the book business could also appeal to a larger audience. In years to come, we hope, that Parresia will be talked about as that publishing entity that lasted longer than others and doesn’t just disappear into oblivion.
8. David Onyedike, 27
David Onyedike studied Theatre Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Back then, he would have dreamed and fantasized about Genevieve Nnaji. Currently, he is a make up artist, working as Programme Head for MUD Cosmetics, owned by Ms Nnaji. He won the FAB Make-Up Artist of the Year in 2011. He has worked with Genevieve Magazine, TW Magazine, Exquisite Magazine, Bloke Magazine, Y!Magazine, Wedding Planner Magazine, Tiwa Savage, Goldie, Toolz, Waje, Niyola, MayD, Lynxx, WizKid, Nse Ikpe Etim and Miss World, Agbani Darego.
9. Gerald Konwea, 26
We met in Kampala, Uganda. He was on a business trip, I was travelling, writing for the Prince Claus Foundation. Friends had told me there was this Nigerian genius who was arriving the same day I had arrived and that it would be lovely to meet. There, I met Mister G. Born and raised in Warri, Delta State, Gerald Konwea is the founder of CLIQIT, an IT company registered in Nigeria. A graduate of Benson Idahosa University and Lincoln University of the Commonwealth of Pennysylvania, he founded CLIQIT with the sole aim of revolutionizing how the internet is used with a focus on Africa, but not limited to Africa. CLIQIT implements the www.mycliqit.com website as a convenient resource addressing the basic needs of consumers in a busy world. It has a vision to bridge demand and supply using the internet as a laser focused on making the internet a man’s best friend by the next decade. For many of us, we always wait for others to help achieve our dreams and aspirations. Gerald is way on his own in his own world, building his empire and dreaming of a G-Wagon that he would drive around the cities of Nigeria and also making it to Forbes.
10. Titus and Tobias Igwe, 28
I met them and I couldn’t tell who I’ve been chatting with via Facebook. Their smiles, clothes and footwear, na de same. So, I was confused and I told them. They laughed at me. When I think about them, I think of them as one. They run Speedmeals Mobile Kitchen, a food delivery services company in Nigeria. On Saturday October 24th, 2009, they lost their father, in a car accident. They were still undergraduates at University of Lagos (Distance Learning Institute). It was their responsibility to take care of their mother and seven siblings. They engaged in few menial jobs before they set out on this journey to build an empire that would be recognised by the world and appreciated. And yes, it happened. Challenges abound in their business, but they are doing amazingly well.