Every year, YNaija makes it a tradition to trawl through the vastness of the internet and plug into Nigeria’s youth communities and subcultures, sieving out its brightest and most promising stars. We have found that to name a thing is to acknowledge its presence and give it power, and so we choose a list of young Nigerians at the cusp of greatness and present them to our readers as a final push off the edge of the nest, a final incentive to truly step into their potential and embrace greatness.
This year’s list is no different; from multi-disciplinary artists securing prestigious placements, self taught developers founding some of the web’s most celebrated platforms, entrepreneurs breaking barriers on social entrepreneurship and activists galvanising the globe into action, the New Establishment class 2018 has proven they have the mettle to take on the world.
Let us introduce you to them.
Eloghosa Osunde (Writer, Photographer)
Though Eloghosa Osunde had been writing and taking photographs, her participation in the 2015 Farafina Creative Writing Workshop hosted by Chimamanda Adichie was the spring board that really launched her career. Since the workshop Eloghosa Osunde has been raking up more achievements, widening her resume of creative work and cementing her place as one of the country’s most expressive young artists.
Between then and now, she was selected for the Young Contemporaries program at one of Lagos’ most dynamic young galleries. She has been shortlisted for one of the continent’s most popular writing prizes, the Writivism prize, she has released work which was selected then curated by the New York Times, and recently won the highly coveted Miles Morland writing scholarship for her debut novel in progress, as she studies screenwriting at the New York Film Academy. 2018 if, the previous years are to go by, will increase her acclaim and visibility in leaps.
Eromo Egbejule (Journalist)
The recipient of last year’s Future Award for journalism, Eromo is one of the few journalists of Nigerian origin resident in Nigeria, who have documented a consistent quality of diverse stories around the country and continent. In 2014, he received a Prince Klaus grant for culture and development, and also guest lectured at Malmö University, Sweden. He currently works as a correspondent for The Guardian International, and The Africa Report. He has been published by Forbes, Quartz, The Washington Post and a few others. Last year, he was selected for the BudgIT Media fellowship, a six-month grant that funded young journalists seeking to cover stories around the continent. Eromo is currently working on a nonfiction book and has recorded several podcasts he intends to release. More wind to him in 2018.
Mustapha Garba Ahmed (Manager, Andela)
Mustapha Garba Ahmed has come a long way from his time at the Department of Computer Science at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. At the time the university’s lecturers were working with outdated technology and syllabi and students seemed frustrated by the bureaucracy and refusal to move with the times. A move abroad and a reorientation allowed Ahmed reconnect with software engineering and technology, which in turn, made him one of the biggest champions for young Northerners interested in technology. His passion has led him to the very heart of the Lagos tech ecosystem, paving way for others like him, disillusioned by an educational system that seeks to stifle them.
Mustapha began as a self-taught software developer with a degree in Computer Science and he currently holds the position of technical success manager at Andela, one of Nigeria’s most buzzworthy technology organisations. In his position, he manages and mentors software engineering teams innovating for startups across the continent. In addition to his work at Andela, he is an active board member of ForLoop, Africa’s fastest growing network of software developer communities. Mustapha represents the increasing number of tech-savvy, intelligent and driven Nigerian millennials, determined to create development opportunities through technology and enable Africa compete viably on the world stage.
Byenyan Jessica Bitrus (former Publicity and Communications Officer, Ake Festival)
Working as a right hand to one of Africa’s most influential figures in the literary scene is not a small accomplishment. For the last four years, Jessica Byenyan Bitrus has worked directly with Mrs. Lola Shoneyin, convener of the Ake Book and Arts Festival and festival director of the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, personally coordinating the festivals logistics, liaising with its guests and ensuring its visitors have the smoothest, most enjoying experience at each festival.
Working with Shoneyin for years, through the launch of two literary festivals, the biggest in Nigeria, and West Africa has opened to Ms. Bitrus a network of the most interesting literary figures across the globe and made her one of the most valuable festival managers in the country. In her position, Jessica has become one of the hidden champions of contemporary African literature through her work in Ake Festival and KABA Festival. When she is not seeing to publicity and logistics, she takes time working as a muse to photographer, Eloghosa Osunde, whose series Woman in Bloom and, Color This Brain, she features in. Bitrus recently parted ways with Book Buzz, and we are excited to see where she goes in the new year.
Sesan Salami (Music Producer)
It is quite hard to break through the din of music creators and producers that flood the Nigerian music industry each year, but Sesan Salami isn’t just any producer.
Between 2015 and now, a respectable number of Nigerian songs have included the phrase “Sess The problem kid.” With remarkable panache and an ear for the unconventional, the producer made a small explosion as one of 2017’s breakout producers of Nigerian extraction, creating beats that simply had to be acknowledged and lauded for their originality. Oluwasesan Abbas Salami is mostly known for his working and personal relationship with Falz The Bahd Guy. Arguably both had the biggest breakouts of their careers beginning in 2015 with Soldier, and they only seem to keep achieving more prominence. Outside Falz, he has produced for Ajebutter22, Terry Apala, Olamide, Davido. Sesan was called to the bar in 2012, and intends to use his degree in the area of intellectual property law.
Surreal16 (Independent Film Collective)
In the short time it has been formed, the Surreall16 collective formed by Abba T. Makama, CJ ‘Fiery’ Obasi and Michael Omonua has already received awards, and has been selected for screening at film festivals across Africa, and most recently has had their solo project selected for screening at the 2017 International Film Festival Rotterdam. The trio, already pretty established in their own rights (Makama made the Toronto International Film Festival, screened ‘Green White Green’ and CJ Obasi is adapting Nnedi Okorafor’s critically acclaimed short story ‘Hello Moto’), teamed up to create short films that challenge the limitations of Nigerian filmmaking and focus more on auteurism than profitability.
Their debut project, VISIONS, a trilogy of experimental short stories announced the intentions of the group, to directly proffer and promote alternative film genres within Nollywood. Influenced by the Dogme65 movement in Europe, 2018 is set to be a bigger year, not only for the collective, but for its founding members, who are set to release film adaptations and are in various stages of their independent film productions.
Adetoye Sokunbi (Editor, The Native)
In December 2016, The Native magazine launched with a music festival ‘Nativeland’. Bringing international artists to headline the Nativeland stage seemed a precursor of the kind of quality the new alternative youth magazine seemed intent on bringing to young millennials and quite the tall order in a scene that was notorious for its refusal to accept journalists into its fold. However, under the inspired direction of Toye Sokunbi, Native Magazine quickly became the de-facto authority in music and entertainment for the Gen-Z, drawing comparisons with Fader and Stereogum.
Sokunbi started his career with Redux Nigeria, cutting his teeth at Sounds.Ng, their music vertical. He had a brief stint in music management before returning to journalism to edit the Native Magazine. In its very short time, it has established itself as the source for all things relevant and intelligent concerning alternative music and lifestyle. Through its insightful profiles, its reviews, its interviews, and its yearly Nativeland concert.
The magazine has also since expanded into social commentary, and explorations of millennial lifestyles and mindsets in Nigeria. All of it is headed by Toye Sokunbi, the editor, and head of African operations. Toye has steadily managed the daily operations of the magazine within the country, and steered it into one of the most respected publications in the music industry, mainstream and alternative. Next year will see the release of more print issues and the maintenance of its increasing influence in the music sphere.
Koye Kekere-Ekun (Comedian)
Today it might be a challenge for any internet addicted young Nigerian not to know who Koye Kekere Ekun is, or at least have come in contact with his online persona, the cerebral but socially awkward commentator K10. The law school graduate, MC, and comedian is known for his hosting gigs at the 355 lounge and club, and recently made the jump to the small screen as the star of the RED TV webseries Inspector K, a comedy/crime procedural created around Kekere-Ekun’s K10 Instagram persona.
Kekere-Ekun has come a long way from creating 16-second videos on Keek and his early forays into scripted comedy on Instagram by uploading videos of himself making humorous, and intelligent comments on the state of affairs of all Nigerians, at home and abroad. Koye still uploads those videos and maintains a regular Twitter presence, in the midst of his growing fanbase. 2018 will only be bigger.
Kadara Enyeasi (Photographer)
In 2017, Kadara Enyeasi was far more visible for his fantastic work as a curator-in-training, working with the team at the African Arts Foundation to help set up a stellar instalment of the annual Lagos Photo Festival, the most prominent event in the West African arts calendar that supports and celebrates photography as a legitimate art form. Enyeasi who has been hailed as a prodigy ever since he started exhibiting his work in 2014, showed he was just as deft in the drawing room as he was in front of a camera or an easel.
Photographer and curator Kadara personifies the new wave movement in the Nigerian cultural scene. A graduate of architecture, the photographer has been exhibited across Nigeria, and Europe (Lagosphoto, UNSEEN, FOAM). In 2017, he co-organised and co-curated the biggest photo festival in West Africa. Known for his interest in the human form, his work revolves around performance, stereotypes and politics. He was nominated for the Edwin George Prize for Photography at the 2017 Future Awards. It is a reasonable assumption that Kadara’s work in the future will make for good aesthetic, cultural and investment pieces.
Mayowa Nicholas (Model)
Since winning the Elite model search in 2014, Mayowa Nicholas has steadily improved on her portfolio and through a series of very prominent fashion editorials and advertising campaigns positioned herself as the biggest modelling export from Nigeria since Oluchi Onweagba.
As the biggest Nigerian name in high fashion now, Nicholas has long deserved an overdue mention on our annual New Establishment list. In addition to making quite a few top breakthrough lists and receiving new face accolades from Vogue US and UK, Models Dot and Elle US, Nicholas has become a designer darling, fronting campaigns for Marc Jacobs beauty and Calvin Klein underwear, the latter easily the biggest sign of mainstream acceptance for a model of colour. She has walked runways in Paris, London, Milan and New York for Chanel, Balmain, Miu Miu, Prada, among many more. She would have cinched her run with her own pair of Victoria Secret wings, save for some visa challenges, but here is to watching her make another run for it in 2018.
Jola Ayeye (Online Personality)
Over the last decade, we have seen so many people harness the power of the internet and the connectivity of social media to build themselves vibrant media careers, but very few are content to turn this power for social good.
Known by her more popular online moniker, Jollz, Jolaoluwa Ayeye ennobles the merits that an independent platform like social media can provide. With her views, part comedic, part rooted in the pains of growing up in the Nigerian environment, Jollz continues to dominate the feeds with her comments, providing an unvarnished look into the mindsets of young Nigerians. She has parlayed this unique voice and her audience into a contributor position at the humour site, Zikoko, and more recently an independently run podcast called ‘I Said What I Said’ which she runs with fellow social media commentator and funny woman Fk Abudu. In the last few months, Ayeye’s digital persona has adopted a more political stance, modelling an informal activism that relies on crowdsourced action to harangue the Nigerian government to implement reforms that will reduce the exorbitant salaries that come with political and public service office, and failures to attend to some of the country’s most pertinent problems. This year will only enlarge her widespread and accessible voice.
Basit Jamiu (Editor)
Within many of the cultural avenues within Nigeria, and to a larger extent Africa, there exists the gap between talent and management. Writing in particular seemingly produces more writers than those who provide editorial feedback. Basit Jamiu, continues to prove his dedication to improving the process of literary craft within Nigeria and Africa. After last year’s efforts, sourcing, compiling and editing, he will be releasing an anthology of creative nonfiction through the literary and community magazine, Brittle Paper this year. He also recently joined the ranks of the young, but seriously acclaimed literary magazine, Enkare Review, as a fiction editor, a magazine which has already published the likes of David Remnick, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Junot Diaz.
Fatima Ganduje (Founder, Let’s Talk Humanity)
After graduating with first-class honours from one of the continent’s best universities, Fatima had the option of settling into a cushy development gig, given her credentials and contacts. The young woman instead focused her efforts on launching the not-for-profit, Let’s Talk Humanity, an organisation which has directly impacted tens of thousands. Its projects includes providing special aids for the hearing impaired, providing relief materials for displaced persons, empowering female entrepreneurs in rural Northern Nigeria and providing water for 1,000 children and their families.
Ganduje is championing a new model of grassroots activism and development that respects the beliefs and customs of the people on ground and in tandem with Western education, seeks to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged in these regions. It is a model we can all learn from.
Maryam Laushi (Communications)
Northern Nigeria is a precarious place to be a vocal woman. Religious and cultural expectations are set up to force women to remain hidden behind veils and more figurative barriers, their opinions and perspectives often filtered through and distorted by the men who are appointed their guardians. Maryam Laushi always knew she wanted her voice heard and uncensored by no one and she began to work towards this as soon as she was able. She started the Amba Imprint, her very own independently run news and information website, uncluttered and unrestrained.
Her vocal advocacy and her willingness to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised has made her a household name and attracted the attention of the presidency. This was confirmed when Laushi was selected as one of the young Nigerian media ambassadors for a meeting with the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, no small task when you consider how saturated the industry Laushi operates in. But this is only a small fraction of Maryam’s achievements. Her website, where she explores social and gender-based issues through interviews with young influential Nigerians, already has a wide following. She also volunteers for the nonprofit YIAGA (Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement). She is also actively involved in the #NotToYoungToTun movement which empowers youth to participate in the political process by running for office.
Lindsey Abudei (Musician)
Not many musicians can tell you it took them a year to record an album, let alone five. This is some measure of the perfectionism that is both the asset and hindrance to Ms. Abudei and has come to define her career as a musician. Since Abudei released her debut LP ‘And the Bass is Queen’ she has joined the ranks of the country’s best vocalists and has garnered a dedicated following who actively support her sound.
It would be hard to find any alternative music lover in Nigeria, who is not a fan of Lindsey Abudei. The singer who first came to attention as one of the early contestants of Project Fame West Africa has finally come into her own with international acclaim and a hero’s welcome at home. Factoring that with playback across multiple web series and a slew of concerts across Lagos, and a residency in New York City, Lindsey’s plate is only about to get fuller in 2018.
Amiola Aguda (Media Personality)
The internet has been instrumental in helping a new generation of young Nigerians forge new careers in fields otherwise considered frivolous at the worst and unprofitable at best. It has also helped them sift through the clutter of traditional media, appealing directly to their fanbases and audiences without the interference of gatekeepers. Amiola Aguda embodies the best of this new generation of media personality.
Amiola in every of her persona is the quintessential personality. Beautiful, lively and engaging. Her Instagram displays an envious resume of hosting jobs, television stints and her favourite hobby, serving as a muse to some of the country’s talented photographers. She also is a reality star as it gets in Nigeria, headlining RED TV’s often navel-gazing post-millennial travel reality show, The adventures of TASA, and Ebony Life’s Moving Up The Squad.
Deola Adebiyi (Fashion and Beauty Blogger)
When Deola Adebiyi started her fashion and beauty website in January 2012, as part of the requirements for her application to graduate school, she could have scarcely predicted that it would become her full-time job six years later, and that she would be nominated by the respected Nigerian women’s magazine Exquisite magazine as one of their bloggers of the year for 2017. Adebiyi has become one of the most recognised bloggers within the Nigerian creators’ space and is championing a new, more inclusive community that appreciates the craft it requires to become a blogger.
A graduate of the prestigious journalism program at New York’s Syracuse University, Deola Adebiyi, aka Omoge Mura spent the next few years, developing her grad school project into a full-bodied and enviable blogging platform. It evolved from fashion and lifestyle to more beauty based fare. She has worked with global brands like Guerlain, Marc Jacobs and Maybelline New York. Catch her tutorials, product reviews and recounts of life experiences on her YouTube channel, Omoge Mura.
Nonso Amadi (Musician)
2017 marked a watershed moment in the integration of alternative Nigerian music into public consciousness, particularly among the millennial generation. One of the movement’s forerunners is Nonso Amadi, who provided the hits, “Tonight”, and “Radio.” Amadi was subtle but measured, relying on a preternatural understanding of the millennial experience and the right tools to condense that experience into three-minute sonic experiences so immersive that his audience could scarcely turn away. He parlayed that hold on our collective psyches into streaming success, becoming one of the first independent Nigerian artists to cross the 1 million streams landmark on streaming service Spotify and draw the attention of international labels.
So successful was his 2017, that at the year’s end, he returned to Nigeria to headline his first solo concert, Homecoming. Along with releasing accompanying visuals to his songs, a promised album on the way, Nigeria isn’t ready for the havoc Nonso Amadi is about to wreak in 2018.
Blessing Douglas (Founder, Kintsukuroi foundation.)
The discussions surrounding mental health have expanded, with the use of social media platforms, and an increase in on the ground advocacy. With the passion to continue expanding on the work on ground, Blessing Douglas launched the Kintsukuroi Foundation for Mental Mealth where she states “as a platform where people, especially college students, can be trained by psychologists and counsellors from around the world.” A victim of severe depression herself, and having witnessed firsthand, the effects of the Boko Haram insurgency on Northern Nigeria’s mental health, she continues through this foundation to provide counselling as she travels across Nigeria to educate school-age children on mental health awareness. She is currently taking an executive course in the United States of America, which she plans on using to take her foundation to new heights.
Obafemi Owochei (Animator)
As more people make use of the vast educational resource that is Youtube, we are seeing more young Nigerians branch into professions and fields that a lack of formal education and inadequate access to proper funding and infrastructure would have formerly precluded them from. This is especially true of the self-styled ‘The Grand Vezir’ of Nigerian tech blogging. Working primarily through Youtube, Femi originally built a following of tech inclined, geek community that followed his commentary on rare geek fandom related toys and merchandise and stayed for the product reviews, stop-motion videos, unboxing products, geek paraphernalia and much more.
In late 2016, Femi transitioned into stop-motion animation, quickly producing a number of quirky shorts that were grounded in general geek culture but had narratives that appealed specifically to the subculture’s Nigerian community. His videos have become a beacon for what is possible through self-actualisation and with the number of projects the blogger and animator has hinted that this year, we might see him fo fully commercial. One hundred percent authentic Nigerian made and distributed content. Subscribe to his page sometime.
Eri Umusu, Nurudeen Momodu (Animators)
Animation within the Nigerian cultural landscape has not been as explored or promoted as well as other forms of video production. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t any innovators in the field. Eri Umusu and Nurudeen Momodu are a writing and directing animator duo who came out of relative obscurity in 2017 and set conceptions ablaze when they suddenly released their viral short, Plaything, that took typical superhero conventions and subverted them through a Nigerian lens.
Later in 2017, the duo got to work on a full-time animated children’s series, Lola and Chuchu, in partnership with Peak Milk, premiered on Youtube to rave reviews. Working under the banner of Anthill production, which houses one of West Africa’s biggest animation studios, the duo are working on multiple projects to be released later in the year.
Uche Louis Okocha (Film Producer)
Flying under the radar for a while, the producer for the independent studio, TRINO has been racking up increasing acclaim for their short films. They include the AMVCA and AFRIFF award-winning short, The Encounter and the glitzy Las Gidi Vice. Uche has demonstrated an eye for sourcing quality and entertaining scripts which appeal to strong and relatable Nigerian sensibilities. Later this year, the studio will be releasing their future debut, a speculative romantic Nigerian tale which Uche will be helming. It will be his proper introduction to the industry.
Arinze Ifeakandu (Writer)
Last year, Arinze broke barriers as the youngest ever nominee to be nominated for one of Africa’s most prestigious writing prizes, the Caine Prize for African Writing. As a platform that has launched some of the continent’s best and most diverse writers, but is known to favour more established writers, Ifeakandu’s nomination seemed to signal a chance in the old guard and the arrival of a newer more adventurous literati.
His story, on a blossoming homosexual love affair between two young friends set against a Nigerian university campus, was lauded for its gentleness and skill despite the writer’s young age. This year, more is expected from Arinze as he continues to traverse the literary landscape.
Ayo Thompson (On air personality)
Ayo Thompson spreads joy with her vocals, as much as her physical presence. Balancing a radio show with a television show, and hosting live events is not easy to accomplish in Lagos. Her efforts were recognised with a 2016 Future Awards as one of the ambassadors of Nigeria’s evolving media scene. 2018 should bring more visibility and acclaim.
Jude Feranmi (Youth leader, politician)
Politics is the unwitting hobby of every Nigerian. Writing about it, talking and posting about it on social media. Politics has become so important to our daily lives as millennial Nigerians that it influences all our conversations, formal or not. There are a select few who aren’t content with just conversation, who wade into the eye of the storm and centre themselves in the conversation. Jude Feranmi is one of those fearless few.
Not long after the #NotTooYoungToRun bill passed, Feranmi took advantage of the new opportunities the recently passed bill offered and began to actively campaign to contest in his ward’s forthcoming elections. As a child of the 1990’s, he recorded a campaign video that went viral on social media and introduced him to the Nigerian electorate at large. Though his career has already suffered some controversy, Feranmi’s resolve remains unshaken and his ambition, unswayed. As the National Youth Leader of KOWA party, Jude advocates for his constituents with calm and passion. However, the elections turn out, he is a rising political star to watch.
Duro Arts (Visual artist)
It wasn’t all that long ago that even established art was considered a fool’s errand, let alone contemporary caricaturing as a legitimate art form. But times have changed, and sensibilities with them, and as millennial youth culture exalts self-awareness and self-deprecation, artists like Durotimi Bolaji Idowu have stepped into the niche and fully inhabited it, creating a cult-like status for themselves.
Idowu’s story reads like a Drake hook, started from the bottom now we’re here. From doodling on the internet and creating a caricatured version of himself called Bun X Belly that often found itself in compromising situations with celebrities and held the fascination of social media audiences, Idowu began to make in-ways into the music industry, creating exaggerated artwork for artists like Davido and Olamide. But it was Idowu’s long-term collaborations with Davido, Mr Eazi and British based Juls that truly exhibited the range of his talents and introduced him to the world. These days, whether stirring controversy for his depictions of females or lobbying accusations at plagiarism of his work, it is clear from his client list that this caricature artist is not slowing down anytime soon.
Tobi Ayeni (Tech Blogger)
Tobi Ayeni is not here for your boundaries. She is a force of nature and an inspiration to thousands of young Nigerian women who have been discouraged by the misogyny that is rife in the Nigerian geek subcultures and tech industries, a literal example of women who are crashing into formerly male-owned spaces and taking them over, no excuses offered. Tobi Ayeni is one of the country’s most well-known tech bloggers and easily the country’s premier female tech blogger. Her blog MissTechy is ranked very highly in the worldwide Alexa ranking and her perspective on new tech, industry developments and general tech subculture is greatly respected thanks to her tangential ideas and her unvarnished approach to engaging technology.
Ayeni’s rise through the tech ranks is even more impressive when you consider that she juggles her hugely popular website with a full-time job and several other obligations, including digital strategy. Ayeni is never hesitant to speak openly about the overt and subtle misogyny she has faced from tech entrepreneurs and bloggers and uses her platform to also challenge the misogyny she has seen others experience. She is expanding what our preconceptions of how technology should be approached and shattering glass ceilings while she is at it.
Not bad for a girl who got into tech by competing with her brothers to see who could master software first.
Fresh VDM (Music Producer)
Far too many producers languish in the shadows, creating beats for musicians and having to watch while they enjoy all the acclaim and wealth that comes with making a killer hit. But the new generation of producers are acutely aware of this and positioning themselves to be just as relevant and just as visible as the artists with whom they collaborate. No one seems better at this than emerging producer Fresh VDM.
Bello Emmanuel Adeshina was responsible for not one but two of 2017’s biggest hits, the Davido single, “Fia” and DJ ECool’s “Ada”. The producer reportedly made the beats of the song within the confines of his room, and 2018 is set to explode for the breakthrough talent, who has spent some time on the up and coming list. To his credit are collaborations with Mayorkun, Burna Boy, Ycee and Olamide. 2018 is set to be abuzz with the lines of “very disturbing music.”
Afoma Umesi (Blogger)
The Nigerian literature scene is finally gaining much-needed momentum, drawing new readers and connecting writers of Nigerian extraction to new audiences. At the very forefront of this literary renaissance are young literary enthusiasts themselves, pursuing their obsession with literature and transforming it into bonafide side hustles. However, no book blogger has amassed as much clout in such a short time as doctor and poet Afoma Umesi.
Anyone interested in African literature has probably come across, or had Book’d recommended to them. Afoma, a blogger took her strong interest in literature and built with time and consistency a blog gaining increasing respect in and out of the literary community. In it, she interviews writers, publishers, editors, blogs about upcoming books, and generally provides joy to any book fan.
Odun Eweniyi (Founder, PushCV)
Odunayo Eweniyi is the future of technology, a developer and innovator, not bogged down by the ego and self-importance that hinders the archetypal tech entrepreneur from creating products that his potential users actually need. Eweniyi is unashamed to be a woman in tech and allows her endeavours in the field be heavily influenced by empathy for others.
Eweniyi is best known for her pop culture commentary, first on Zikoko and now on Konbini NG. She is also a seasoned administrator, co-founding multiple platforms, demonstrating a rare ability to find a balance between creative and technical capacities. She is also resourceful and resilient. The mind behind PushCV, a platform that emerged from her frustrations with job seeking in the employment market. Odun’s career paths clears the lines between technology, social development and culture. Here’s to a bigger 2018.
Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi (Founder, Modern Democratic Party)
Bukunyi is a few years from thirty, but he has already begun taking steps to define his legacy. After years on the board of The Future Awards Africa where he was instrumental in helping shape the awards new streamlined brand, he is expanding his reach from philanthropy to politics.
At only 27, he has officially registered a political party, the Modern Democratic Party, a step taken after the passing of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. In addition, he manages his time as Chairman of the Central Working Committee for The Future Awards Africa. This he somehow balances with being engaged to Nigerian style influencer and singer, Mo Cheddah. Bukunyi is truly living the dream.
Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi (Founder, Stand To End Rape)
Because of Oluwaseun’s determination and efforts, a larger number of rape victims in the country can be assured some safety and comfort after trauma. The founder who was sexually assaulted and had to endure the consequent trauma of seeking justice against her attacker and rebuilding her life in a society that seems only interested in punishing the victim, decided there had to be a better way to ensure that victims of assault were treated with respect and their attackers were brought to justice, especially when financial and societal constraints would otherwise leave these victims helpless.
Owosobi through her non-profit and partnerships with the Lagos government has worked tirelessly to meet and correct the lack of resources available to victims, and shred the veil of silence surrounding such incidents. The organisation continues to build up resources, and support with a widening volunteer pool, as more Nigerians begin to comprehend the necessity for such organisations. Already, the organization is backed by established Nigerians like Kate Henshaw and Femi Kuti.
Olamide Bada (Manager, Jumia Food)
Despite the common misconception of identifying her as a man, because of her name, Olamide Bada’s accomplishments transcend any gender barriers. As the manager of the rebranded Hello Food to Jumia Food, Olamide is the logistical, and creative head behind satisfying the lunch cravings of many working-class young Nigerians. Bada’s expertise as a manager and her creativity has allowed her transform the foodservice from a fledgling experiment to a successful franchise.
With an increasing roster of diverse restaurants to choose from, and delivery times within the hour, Bada has been able to maximise the reach and accessibility of the internet as a tool for marketing, logistics and customer retention and increased the profitability of the participating restaurants and food services. Jumia Foods under Bada proves creativity and innovation is not the exclusive preserve of art inclined creatives.
Father Merry (Aikomo Onaopemipo)
There are many opportunities that full stack designing has offered Aikomo Onaopemipo, the opportunity to travel across the world and experience new cultures, the chance to be at the very forefront of groundbreaking technological innovation in the country, the privilege to look back at all these opportunities and understand that are simply tools that allow him become a better more actualised designer and person. This mix of self-awareness and career brilliance is why Onaopemipop has become somewhat of a legend in the Nigerian design community.
Full stack designer and writer, Aikomo is known better for his online moniker, Father Merry. Co-designing the hit online payment platform, Paystack. He mixes this with travel and a fair bit of writing detailing his opinions on the technology landscape and his hilarious and sometimes dangerous experiences travelling. See some of his work on sites like Lost in Lagos and Loopy Music.
ForLOOP (African Technology Collective)
Tech has become the defining merits of the African millennial generation. Providing a path through systemic challenges in the country, technology has helped the continent bypass many development milestones to shoot Africa into competitive positions with the globe. ForLoop was born with the idea to connect tech fans and practitioners alike into a uniform community.
Soji Maurice-Diya (Founder, Amore.NG)
After years working in real estate management, and securing an MBA from Yale University, Soji decided to pack his things and move home. The result is Amore, which in less than a year has built a traction for its quality of content. Hosting its own radio channel, video programming and blogging, the site is set to only draw bigger crowds this year, with its balance of alternative and mainstream sensibilities.
Cassie Daves (Blogger)
Cassie Daves had a busy 2017. She finally returned to modelling after taking a year-long hiatus to finish medical school and transition into full-time medical practice. Daves went on to book a spot modelling at the strongly coveted Guaranty Bank Fashion Weekend and scoring an editorial shot by veteran photographer, Kelechi-Amadi Obi while she juggled entrepreneurship by releasing her own line of day planners and running her beloved eponymous blog.
Daves is easily the country’s most instantly recognisable blogger with an organic following, a following she built through an interesting mix of girl next door awkwardness and high fashion glamour puss aesthetic. The woman makes juggling a hectic career in medicine with blogging easy. With her accessible personality, great smile and envious but affordable wardrobe, and a newly minted Youtube account she is only poised to acquire more dominance in the web space.
Seni Saraki (Founder, The Native)
One would think graduating from a top university with a degree in international relations, and managing a local football club would be enough to occupy his times. However, Seni Saraki, founder and chief executive officer of The Native saw a cultural gap in his home country and decided to do something about it. Saraki amassed a team of the youngest and most interesting creative talent in the country and set them to the task of creating a community that is both active online and offline and is in touch with the cognoscenti of their day.
Today, The Native magazine is the go-to source for all things top notch regarding the blooming alternative culture and lifestyle scene in Nigeria and hosts NATIVELAND; the premier Youth-oriented music and entertainment festival in the country. Looking for more evidence? Copies of the magazine have already sold out in bookstores abroad.
Jemimah Osunde (Actress)
Jemimah Osunde has been acting in Nollywood for a while now, but 2017 was the year she actually allowed to flex her acting chops and establish herself as an artist to watch. First, with her stellar performance as Ranti, the conniving mistress in the otherwise forgettable Ndani TV show Rumor Has It, and her unforgettable turn in the beloved youth series, MTV Shuga.
A resemblance to icon Genevieve Nnaji is scarcely the only noticeable thing about this young actress. Since her breakout role in MTV’s Shuga series, Jemimah has continued to outperform herself, including a role in her lookalike’s directorial debut, Lionheart. All of this she combines with getting a medical degree at the university. In 2018, Osunde is going to have to prove herself as a commercial success as she helms the new Tope Oshin comedy ‘New Money’. We hope she ka-chings all the way to the box office.
Idris King (Artist, Manager)
It is undoubtedly rare for a young name to inspire such vivid brand awareness, but Idris King has done it with 90’s Baby. King returned from Paris with one mission, to create a revival around the 90’s and build a media empire while he is at it. He has created 90’s Baby, a collective of musicians, visual artists, filmmakers and influencers who are all connected by their love for the era and their ability to embody that era in their craft.
King was able to get his motley crew to some of the biggest festivals and showcases across the country, including the highly rated Gidiculture festival and the NATIVELAND festival. He has also successfully curated the 90’s Baby Kick Back, a monthly mosh festival/artist showcase that has drawn a steady crowd since its inception. Through songs, podcasts, shows, clothing and events, the artists and producers make us crave to be a part of his squad. And it is possible, through patronage and support. 2018 looks bright for this talent.
Odunsi the Engine (Musician)
In 2016, Odunsi the Engines’s debut mixtape ‘The Time of Our Lives’ seemed to spread like a wildfire through the underground music scene with the speed of a bullet train. Odunsi at the time was anonymous but his music crooned with the confidence an artist much older and shot through with strains of despair, longing and need seemed to cut through the detritus of nonsensical pop and beeline straight for the heart. The singer quickly gained a cult following, came out of hiding and became the avatar for what is sometimes maliciously referred to as the ‘New Age’ movement.
Odunsi has since then, remained in the conversation through a series of music videos and single releases reinventing himself as the producer and artist du jour to work with. With mainstream hits like Desire, and alternative ones, almost too many to count. His mellow style and technical skills, alongside fascinating videos, only prove this young maestro is set to dominate over and over. He recently signed a record deal with Universal Music Group Africa and will begin work on his debut album.
Tinya Alonge (Culture Custodian)
Tinya Alonge’s Culture Custodian is synonymous with pioneering critical writing and culture coverage before others stepped in its wake. The writer, vlog host and all around culture head continue to take his platform and establish its importance even in times when the competition continues to increase. This is due to his signature wit and sentence flourishes. As music out of Nigeria continues to gain more diversity, more people will be drawn to writers that have been a part of the journey from conception.
But where Alonge has really shown up and showed out is as a manager. He is responsible for the stellar rise of pop singer pretty boy D-O and single-handedly orchestrated the singer’s rise from obscurity into mainstream relevance, even scoring a solo concert for the singer last December, capitalising on the success of the singer’s song ‘Footwork’. It will be interesting to see where Alonge takes D-O and Culture Custodian in the new year.
Tomisin Akinwunmi (Media startup)
When Tomisin Akinwunmi decided to start Lucid Lemons, an all-around culture based website, it was out of personal frustration. There simply weren’t any platforms by Nigerians dedicated to documenting the Nigerian Millennial experience, especially in ways that weren’t condescending or demeaning. With a background in graphic design and a fearlessness that belies her age, Akinwunmi jumped head first into the world of publishing, gathering a motley crew of explorers who could map this brave new world of art, fashion, culture and music kids her generation were creating.
While the quirky name and spot-on branding should have been enough to find her an audience, Akinwunmi simply wasn’t satisfied. She understood that until an online platform can make the quantum leap into offline spaces, it really hasn’t achieved its potential. So she started planning the Lemon Curd, an offline concert extravaganza that holds annual at the Muri Okunola Park and draws enthusiasts, emerging artists and industry heavyweights. With major sponsorship, a highly coveted set list of artists and the respect of her peers and mentors, Tomisin Akinwunmi has already proved herself. But she doesn’t mind reminding us every single year.
Fisayo Fosudo (Tech blogger)
A few days ago, just after YouTube announced it was revamping its algorithm to exclude users with small audiences from its paid partnership program, Fola Fosudo joined the campaign to help other newer bloggers find audiences here and meet YouTube’s new demands. If there is anyone who understands the science behind this new move, it is Fosudo, a technology blogger who has grown an audience of 5000 loyal subscribers and several thousand views.
Fosudo is many things, his website will attest to that. The combination of these skills and interests make a diverse contribution to the tech industry. While many of his projects are not as accessible, his fans and anyone interested in technology can find him on YouTube where his channel makes a case for addictive viewing. He covers product reviews, hot topics in technology, news updates, etc.
- Habeeb Andu (Artist)
There are few greater compliments for an emerging artist than for your work to be compared to African American art maestro Jean Michel-Basquiat. Basquiat is best known for his refusal to the conventional art and his unconventional approach to visual arts and painting. Andu first came into the spotlight in 2017 when his art was shortlisted for the second edition of the Art X Prize for emerging artists, an art prize that harnesses the power of social media and the scrutiny of seasoned artists to discover new artists. It was a prize Andu won easily for his large-scale abstractions of space and time called ‘Black Light’. Winning the Art X Prize bought the influence of West Africa’s premier art fair and the attention of international curators and collector’s to Andu’s art and set him on the path to greatness.
Since ‘Black Light’ and the Art X Prize, Andu has shown his first cohesive body of work as part of the 2018 Rele Gallery Young Contemporaries programme and is currently projected to become a phenomenon all on its own. Andu is a true artistic genius and the auguries portend success.
Richard Ogundiya (Techpreneur)
In these times of ride sharing, flat sharing, carpooling, it only makes sense that Richard Ogundiya, and his partner Tolu Yusuff would come up with their own iteration of ideas that meet needs they considere relevant to the Nigerian user space. Jangilova, their premier product was created to outsource and crowd source television screens for millennials who want to watch events with a company or even just on a bigger screen without having to go buy one themselves. On it, hosts open their apartments and screens to prospective guests who convene to watch epic screen feats, like football matches or reality competitions.
But what Richard is really known for is his work with the startup Baroque Age, a smattering of entertainment, tech and fashion startups started in partnership with Adedayo Laketu. With several dozen creatives across art, fashion, tech and music, Ogundiya is in a prime position to influence the culture of a new generation of post-millennial thought shapers. Pretty impressive considering Ogundiya is only 20.
Kimani Moore (Business)
Olukorede Ogunyonade aka Kimani Moore as she is known is a mini-mogul, culture fiend and is shaping up to become one of the most influential women in the Nigerian music business. Her innate understanding of the economic side of the creative music industry has made her a legend of sorts in the underground music scene and a sage helping relatively unknown artists market their music to waiting audiences.
Known for managing most famously Odunsi the Engine, the young strategist has remarked on the importance of working in silence and ensuring that her clients built a strong sustainable brand that can withstand cultural zeitgeists. She has successfully steered her premier client Odunsi The Engine into the holy grail of doing underground music anywhere in the world; a deal with a major record company. Her behind the scenes moves are clearly paying off on behalf of her clients, and her roster predictably will acquire more influence and diversity in the coming years.
Isabella Agbaje (Curator/Photographer)
2017 was a very important year for the new crop of young Nigerian artists seeking to make a name for themselves in the industry and provide themselves some much-needed visibility. For many of them, this meant taking matters into their own hands and abandoning the traditional and often inadequate traditional art scene in lieu of independent events. And at the heart of 2017’s indie art movement was Isabella Agbaje. A photographer herself, Isabella Agbaje decided to pursue her interest in the curatorial side of contemporary art first by educating herself and then marshalling other young enterprising artists under an informal collective.
It is through this informal collective that Agbaje was able to successfully organise her first art exhibition of 2017, Afrikultur, held at the Freedom Park in Lagos Island and exhibiting the works of over 20 artists including local favourites Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu, Kiitan Carew and Agbaje herself. She went on to organise the Forestation Exhibition at the Workstation in V.I., Carpe Diem at Freedom Park and the phantasmagorical Synthwave rave and exhibition that combined 80’s pop sensibilities with complex light installations and millennial art.
If there is anyone on the pulse of what is young and hip in Nigeria, it’s Isabella.
49. Ezegozie Eze (Administrative head)
With the big news of Universal Music group launching in Nigeria, came more celebration. Ezegozie Eze will be heading the entirety of the Nigerian based operation for the largest music label in the world. He will be spearheading the music giant’s tentative explorations of music publishing in Nigeria, and has already waded into the talent management pool, signing Tay Iwar and Odunsi The Engine, two of the biggest stars in West Africa today.
As a music business insider and the man charged with proving that conventional music promotion models can work in Nigeria’s volatile ecosystem, Eze’s successes and failures will be closely scrutinised and will ultimately affect how we do the music business in Nigeria. Looking forward to big steps next year for the Nigerian industry, and new standards of quality under Mr Eze’s management.
Not Bella Rose (Comedian)
Bella Rose Okojie describes herself as an aspiring actress who began her career in comedy to satisfy her need in the meantime to bring joy to the face of her thousands of subscribers. But in reality, she represents so much more. She is the first of a new wave of Nigerian comediennes (alongside Maraji) who have harnessed the power of the internet to subvert comedy tropes and circumvent the conventions of the boy’s club that is the Nigerian comedy industry right now. Bella Rose’s comedy is often cutting and humourous, armed with the power of filters offered by social media apps like Snapchat, she transforms herself into microcosms of the Nigerian experience filtered for its humour.
Tagged one of the ten funniest Instagram comedians of 2017, she is parlaying an impressive digital media following on to the big screen as part of the cast of the new Ebony Life legal drama “Castle and Castle”. Bella Rose’s relatable comedy is just what you need. Subscribe and lose some well spent time on her humour.
Alithnayn Abdulkareem is a writer between Lagos and Abuja. She writes literary fiction and nonfiction covering memoir, art, film, and development issues. She is a 2015 Farafina alumns, and is longlisted for the 2018 Short Story Day Africa prize. She has been published by Transitions, Nataal, Africa Is A Country, The Africa Report, Saraba, Kalahari Review, etc.