At the beginning of January, after the release of my new book, Hip-Hop is Only for Children, I spent a month in Nigeria, just before Nigerians voted in a new President, meeting and interviewing young Nigerians.
They live in different parts of Nigeria. Some of them, are permanently resident in Nigeria. Some are not. Some just returned. Some are split between where to live. What they all share in common is that they are struggling in a society that has no structure and a system that barely exists.
These young innovators and achievers are basically working with no electricity, living in harsh weather conditions, hoping that some day they would be a part of the change that everyone is clamouring for.
They are hoping, relentlessly, that the system will be formed and everything will become great and the works of their hands will be appreciated after all.
They are making waves in properties, music, education, literature, health, social entrepreneurship and food:
1. Obinwanne Okeke, 28
I flew into Abuja on a sunny day, to meet Mr. Obinwanne Okeke, he was there with his co-founder, Mr. John Jonathan. Office located in Gwarimpa, I took a taxi with my driver and we found ourselves in an office, still under construction, almost done, but things are being set in order, but then, there was no electricity. Great interior decoration and well arranged table setting.
Messrs Okeke and John Jonathan returned from Australia and South Africa respectively, where they travel back to, sometimes, to cool off their heads, to set up this great venture.
Mr. Okeke’s modesty isn’t false. As the co-founder and CEO of Invictus, he remains completely approachable. According to their website, he ‘has been extensive involved in sourcing, structuring, implementing and monitoring various private equity investments in African and Australian markets and has over 10 years of investment experience.’
Prior to co-founding INVICTUS, he had helped in founding and running other entrepreneurial establishments. He is currently a director and also sits on the Board of various companies.
He holds a BA degree from Monash University, South Africa., having majored in International Studies and Forensic Criminology. He received a Master’s degree (MA) in International Relations and Counter Terrorism (cum laude) from Monash University, Australia and has received several leadership honorary awards from local as well as international organizations. He is passionate about people and strongly believes in giving back.
Over the last decade he has inspired both businesses and individuals in the private sector to invest in the less privileged and uneducated in countries across the world. He enjoys reading and writing in his spare time, he has written and continues to write articles for Young People in International Affairs (YPIA).
2. Oluwatosin Alade, 27
I see him as one of the finest guitarists ever! Once ‘Tosin is on stage, he captures your love and imagination. He becomes a beast. He turns into something else. I have seen him play on stages in Paris, Munich, Amsterdam and Budapest. He’s never the same. He tries different things at different times.
He has been on the ‘My Fairy Tales’ Tour with Nneka, travelling through the cities of Europe. Tosin has played for top musicians like Keziah Jones and Nneka.
He has also studied with neo-alternative soul artiste, Orliam at Peter Kings Music School. His resume is one that would intimidate young people who feel inadequate.
3. Bobby Onyeocha (Bobby Combz), 22
He is just very young, but he has worked with Nigeria’s biggest DJ, Jimmy Jatt. He has also worked with producers and artistes like Leriq, General Pype, Sheyi Shay, Pucado and Skales.
Mr. Onyeocha has waltzed slowly from that obscure teenager at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to becoming one of the most sought after producers in Nigeria, transcending from House Music to Soft Raggae. He is currently in the studio, working with the BLK JKS, described by The Rolling Stone magazine as ‘Africa’s finest band.’
4. Ibrahim Magaji, 24
Ibrahim Magaji is a young and dedicated technology expert with varying knowledge and experience ranging from web development to multimedia and network solutions.
He is a creative who, through our conversations, I have figured that he enjoys working in teams as well as alone. Magaji studied at Middlesex University, London, specializing in Information Technology and Business Information Systems.
5. Diekoye Oyeyinka, 28
Diekoye Oyeyinka is a writer and brand manager. His ethos of beauty and efficiency are apparent in his writing style often described as lyrical and concise.
Having been brought up on three continents his influences are numerous and interests eclectic. He spent his first fifteen years in Nigeria, and the next ten years between Europe and the USA. He obtained a B.A. degree in Economics from Georgetown University and then a Masters degree in Urbanization and Development at the London School of Economics.
He then completed a six-month internship at the United Nations ILO in Ethiopia, and cut short another with UN Habitat to start his first novel. The novel, Stillborn, was published in Kenya in 2014 by East African Educational Publishers Ltd as part of the Peak Series – an honor reserved historically for only the continent’s strongest writers.
Despite having published short stories in the Guardian by the age of 20, he refuses to pursue that art form until he has a firmer grasp of the medium. Oyeyinka is signed to Pontas Literary & Film Agency – a premier global agency, based in Barcelona. He currently lives in Lagos working in brand management for LVMH after a stint with Heineken.
6. Aboyeji Iyinoluwa, 23
Aboyeji Iyinoluwa is a Nigerian serial entrepreneur with several years of experience running social ventures in education technology and publishing.
At age 18, he interned for the World Youth Alliance in the United Nations Headquarters. He went on to run one of Canada’s largest student-owned publishing houses, Imprint publications as President of the Board.
Iyinoluwa helped found and run Bookneto Inc, a social e-learning platform. Bookneto Inc. was acquired in 2013. In 2014, Iyinoluwa co-founded Andela to find the brightest young people in Africa, train them to be world-class developers, and connect them with employers around the world looking for top technical talent. In 2014, Andela was named by CNN as one of top 10 African startups of 2014.
Iyinoluwa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Iyinoluwa is a recipient of several awards and honors including the John C Holland Award for Youth Leadership (awarded by JC Holland Foundation in 2010), Nigeria’s top 20 under 20 (awarded by Ynaija! in 2011), World Economic Forum Global Shaper in 2012, and Forbes 30 under 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2015.
7. Ajibade Oluwatosin, 28
Ajibade Oluwatosin is a young woman, popularly known as Olorisupergal.
She grew up in Lagos and still lives there, working as a social media marketer.
She runs Olorisupergal.com. A graduate of Accounting, I met Oluwatosin for the first time in Bayelsa during the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and somewhat, fell in love with her and what she aspires for.
She has a resilient spirit and one of the most incredibly diligent women I have met.
8. Olushola Ajose, 26
Olushola Ajose, better known by his stage name Afrikan Boy is that artiste you can’t just leave his concert, without trying so hard to go to his next. As described by Wikipedia, he is a grime MC from Woolwich,London, England, but originally from Nigeria.
He made a guest appearance on the track “Hussel” from the M.I.A. album Kala, and is one of the initial artists M.I.A. wanted signed to her label in 2007, then titled Zig-Zag.
A remix of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” was uploaded onto her MySpace featuring Afrikan Boy and fellow tour mate Rye Rye. Afrikan Boy has never appeared on pirate radio, a performance opportunity common in the grime genre.
He is currently studying for a Psychology degree at Brunel University.
Touring in support of M.I.A. on her 2007 KALA Tour and 2008 People Vs. Money Tour as well as headlining his own shows, Afrikan Boy has appeared at the Splash! festival. On 26 June 2011, Afrikan Boy finally released his mixtape named “What Took You So Long” on his website for free.
9. David Nnaji, 29
David Nnaji is a Nigerian actor, thinker, historian, journalist and writer. He was born in Akiodu, in the Ojodu area of Lagos state.
He attended foundation Day Nursery and Primary School and Akinsemoyin Primary School, both in Surulere axis of Lagos state Nigeria. His secondary education was at Government College Eric Moore, Surulere and Noel College of Arts and Science along Badagry Expressway, Lagos. He proceeded to the University of Lagos, Akoka (UNILAG), to study for a degree in History and Strategic Studies.
He’s done over one thousand episodes of television in the past fourteen years in Africa and these works include the award winning Dear Mother TV series. Two editions of Super Story TV Drama, Family Affairs, Edge of Paradise, THE MAZE TV Serial, Bent Arrows; an adaptation of Isan Awah’s book with the same title directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, The Assasin’s Practice a film written and directed by British Nigerian filmmaker, Andrew Ukoko.
His most recent works are Zik Zulu Okafor’s Oasis, Trampled Petals, a film written and directed by Ego Aghedo and Bedlam a movie produced and directed by David Nnaji.
He has published several articles on the internet and the print media.
David Nnaji is working on making another film while putting finishing touches on his debut novel which will be released before the last quarter of 2015.
He runs D.U.N Entertainment Company, a the premiere entertainment company based in Lagos Nigeria with business interest spanning Film making, A Record Label, Distribution and Talent Management.
10. Gimba Kakanda, 28
Gimba Kakanda is that name you might have heard somewhere or somewhere.
He is an author, a poet and a political essayist. He has generated more controversies than you would have imagined. He is one of the brightest young people in Nigeria.
Every article by Kakanda is scathing and generates debate.
11. Chiaka Orjiakor, 24
Born in Nigeria, raised in Ethiopia and Kenya, Chiaka Orjiako is a multi-talented media enthusiast with a flair for business news reporting, events, entertainment and marketing.
A jack of all trades willing to master all, Chiaka has worked as a production assistant in one of Africa’s biggest Talk-shows, Mnet’s ‘The Patricia Show’, published and edited 9 issues of Film Biz Africa magazine, ran a media firm called Film Biz Africa for 4 years, hosted the Weekly Top 5 Musical Countdown on NTA Abuja and served as a business news reporter with Africa’s biggest TV station -Nigeria Television Authority, Abuja.
She is currently lives in Abuja with her siblings and family and works as a magazine editor with Montage Africa Media Limited.
12. Sandra Ikeji, 29
Sandra Ikeji is the CEO of BlackDove Model Management, a commercial modeling agency located in Lagos.
She is from Imo State and attended the University of Lagos where she graduated with a degree in Geography and holds an MSc in Regional Planning. She also studied at the International School of Hospitality (TISOH) in Nevada, Vegas in the US, where she studied Conference Management and Events Planning.
Her passion for helping and seeing people happy, led her into the modeling and events business. She started her company at the age of 18 years in 2004, eventually becoming one of the most powerful young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
13. Gerald Konwea, 28
Gerald Konwea was born and raised in Warri, Delta State.
He is the founder of CLIQIT an IT company registered in Nigeria. A graduate of Benson Idahosa University and Lincoln University of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 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 mycliqit.com website as a convenient resource addressing the basic needs of consumers in a busyworld. It has a vision to bridge demand and supply using the internet as a laser focused on making the internet man’s best friend by the next decade.
14. Nasir Yammama, 25
Nasir Yammama, an indigene of Katsina State and did his postgraduate studies at Middlesex University, United Kingdom and emerged first place winner in the British Council’s Enterprise Challenge competition out of over 2,000 contestants, with his invention of a farming support application that can help farmers with information about weather and how to take care of their farmlands.
On July 1, he had a mentoring session with renowned entrepreneur and chairman of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, as part of the reward for the competition. He was also to attend entrepreneurship training at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
At the moment, he is in Nigeria.
15. Lorenzo Menakaya, 28
Lorenzo Menakaya is popular amongst students in the eastern part of Nigeria and that is not where it ends. He is a significant figure in the entertainment scenery in that region.
A complete showman, he is a radio presenter and an accomplished musicologist with five-star performances all over the region. His consistent stellar performance and powerful vocal presence earned him nomination for the On-Air Personality (OAP) of the year in The Future Awards (TFA) in 2011, a feat that portrays his proficiency and hard-work.
16. Ifeanyi Orazulike, 30
Ifeanyi Orazulike is a human rights activist and one of the loudest voices for the LGBT community.
He studied at the University of Columbia in the City of New York. He has been at the forefront for the rights of the minority groups is currently working on his book.
He has also spoken at conferences in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and South Africa.
17. Moses Ebite, 28
Moses Ebite is well-known as Moashy and gradually becoming a force in the creative industry.
A strange encounter that happened a few years ago, I kept my eyes on him and realized he is courageously fighting his way up to the top without waiting for anyone to blow his trumpet for him. He is quite known as a stylist and Head of Moashy Styling.
He has styled Nigerian artistes like Seyi Shay, MBGN Tourism 2014, MBGN 2013 Anna Ebiere and many other celebrities.
18. Chigozie Obioma, 28
Chigozie Obioma is a Nigerian writer, who was born in 1986 in Akure, Nigeria.
His short stories have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review and New Madrid.
He was a fall 2012 Omi Fellow at Ledig House, New York. Obioma has lived in Nigeria, Cyprus and Turkey, and currently resides in the United States, where he has completed an MFA in creative writing at the University of Michigan.
When asked at what point in his life he knew he’d become a storyteller, Chigozie Obioma tells the story about his father giving him a copy of Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard. This eclectic introduction to storytelling may have prepared Obioma to write his beautifully quirky debut novel titled The Fishermen.
19. Ifeanyi Nwune, 20
Ifeanyi Nwune is apparently, the youngest on this list. One of Africa’s youngest fashion designers, he recently presented his Spring/Summer 2015 collection featuring models Peter Fin and Ndani TV presenter, Onos O.
20. Jon Ogah, 24
Jon Ogah is popular, so people already know him. He was that young face that won the first edition of NaijaSings and since then, he has grown. There are a lot of things he’s free to do now since he’s an adult – drink, smoke and have sex without the supervision of his parents.
Now, he lives in the city of Grenoble in France. I went to visit him after the release of his debut album, Uncle Suru. He will be opening the night at Nollywood Week Paris on the 4th of June as he goes on tour of Europe.
Onyeka Nwelue is a visiting professor of African Studies and Literature at University of Manipur in India. His new book, Hip-Hop is Only for Children is available in bookshops across the world.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.