Yesterday, the management of Okay Africa, arguably the largest entertainment platform focused on Africans on the continent and in the diaspora announced its CEO Abiola Oke was resigning effectively immediately. This language was to couch the fact that he was being fired after multiple accusations of sabotage, inappropriate business practices, misogyny, sexual harassment and even an anonymous account of sexual coercion was levelled against him. The accusations go back at least 4 years, and apparently had been raised multiple times in the past and was either ignored by Okay Africa’s white majority owners or drowned by Abiola Oke’s own alleged machinations.
A woman has come forward anonymously to share her story about current CEO @Abiolaoke of @OkayAfrica. Please amplify, and if anyone would like to share theirs, I’m here for you. Thank you for speaking up. Protect Black women. pic.twitter.com/smm8N30ea3
— Yagazie Emezi (@YagazieEmezi) June 24, 2020
However, 2020 is a year with an entirely different ethos and swift retribution for abusers who have previously managed to fly under the radar.
There are many things worrying about Abiola Oke’s leadership at Okay Africa. First, Oke was used as a figurehead to assauge African readers and consumers of Okay Africa’s content that the platform was black owned and committed to amplifying black stories. It largely achieved this mandate because of the dozens of black female staff who endured office gaslighting, poor working conditions and Oke’s harassment to make this a reality. Even as Okay Africa promoted African women with its annual women’s list, it subjugated women in its own offices. This is a recurring trend in many African media startups, who preach inclusion but use draconian tactics to get results from their employees. It is running joke in Nigerian media circles that there are few opportunities for growth in the industry, just a handful of gatekeepers looking to exploit.
The second, more worrying aspect of Oke’s leadership was how long it took for his misdeeds to surface and be addressed. According to reports, for as long as Oke has led Okay Africa, he has behaved in these questionable ways, abusing his power and position, denying employees benefits accruable and using the company as a vehicle to advance his personal agendas. The only way this happened for this long, despite complaints from employees, is that there were structural problems he could exploit and complicit co-owners who prioritized his ‘results’ over the welfare of the employees on whom these results were dependent. We see these kinds of business policies replicated across the industry and absolutely no protections for employees.
But if Abiola Oke’s ousting proves anything, it is that impunity cannot exist in perpetuity. Eventually the oppressed will rise up and a reckoning will take place. It would serve Nigerian media bosses to learn this lesson and learn it well.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.