Every year, Y!/YNaija.com, the online newspaper for young Nigerians “scouts the breadth of the country to uncover the freshest young people who are blossoming in spite of the odds that appear to be stacked against them”.
The editorial board on Monday, announced ‘The New Establishment’ – an annual list of young Nigerians making defining moves towards shaping the future – for 2017.
This year’s pool features a mix group of young people wielding influence, pulling strings and setting agenda in the often intersecting worlds of media, technology, sports, entertainment, politics, and beyond.
Among the fifty innovative changemakers on the 2017 list are Mr. Eazi, a music sensation with fan base spread across West Africa; Chidera Muoka, Editor of Guardian Life; Arese Ugwu, author of best-selling book, The Smart Money Woman; and Kelechi Iheanacho, the forward who plays for English Premiership side, Manchester City FC.
See the full list and profiles below:
- Sylvia & Olivia Enekwe (Fashion)
As Gozel Green, Sylvia and Olivia Enekwe inform the conversation on what is innovative Nigerian fashion. The sisters, with ten years of experience in Fashion only gained national prominence when they were chosen for the Lagos Fashion and Design Week fashion programme, and what a revelation it was. The Enekwe sisters have created a distinctive, enviable style that we saw mimicked across the board at the 2016 Lagos Fashion and Design Week. With their first atelier opened in late 2016 and a client base that includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
- Derenle Sonariwo (Art)
With a master’s degree in Art Derenle Sonariwo understands the complicated underbelly of the art scene and just how hard it is for emerging artists to get much needed visibility and patronage. This is why she started Re.Le, an art gallery almost exclusively dedicated to the promotion of young artists. With a series of successful events and staging first exhibitions for artists like Yadichinma Kalu Ukoha and Dipo Doherty. Sonariwo has become a important voice in the art scene and a champion for new talent.
- Isioma Osaje (Film)
Isioma Osaje and Ifeanyi Dike Jr. go way back and it is kismet that they make the New Establishment list in the same year. As medical students fascinated with the Nigerian entertainment industry, Osaje and Dike Jr. walked a tight rope of balancing medicine’s punishing schedule with the demands of entertainment careers. Osaje decided to go behind the scenes, growing her network of contacts and partners. After graduation, Osaje launched her talent management agency ‘Agency 106’ taking on awarding winning actor and actress Blossom Chukwujekwu and Adesua Etomi. In 2016 her roster grew to include veteran Ireti Lola-Doyle and Osaje has seen her talents celebrated across the continent. Not bad for a doctor.
- Mr. Eazi (Music)
Life really is Eazi if you’re Oluwatosin Ajibade, the biggest musical revelation of 2016. As Mr. Eazi, Ajibade has conquered English-speaking West Africa, doing what many have tried and failed to do; musically unite Nigeria and its cousin Ghana.
After three years an independent artist honing his craft in Ghanaian highlife and its attendant iterations as hip-life following two years as part of music group Code Red, Ajibade finally caught the practiced eye of hit making genius Wizkid, and together Ghanaian songstress Efya, became the first signings to Wizkid’s Star Boy Records. Using the elevated platform Wizkid’s fame provided, Eazi quickly proved himself, gaining a rabid fanbase with hits like ‘Hol’up’ and ‘Skin tight’ and headlining shows in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and the UK.
He is set to release his ‘Lagos to Accra ‘Life is Eazi” EP in December, promoting it with a concert in December, just in time to compete properly for the 2016 Headies where he has nominated in the Next Rated category alongside contemporaries Tekno, Aramde, YCee and Humblesmith.
- Machiavela (Art)
Standing beside Sir Bruce Onobrakpreya while he praised her work is one of Biodun Salako’s highlights of her year, a year that has seen her years honing her craft as a self taught artist whose primary mediums of expression was paper, canvas and a tumblr account amount to being chosen among the brightest young artists on the continent to show at Art X Lagos, West Africa’s first and biggest art fair. Salako’s explorations of self, gender and identity through her pseudonym Machiavela Nolstnme have become a legitimate voice for young non-conforming female artists. She is badass.
- Kah-lo (music)
Nothing says new establishment like ending the year with an unexpected Grammy nomination in a category rarely dominated by black women of colour. Farida Seriki, the daughter of Former Defence Minister General Seriki, teamed up with British producer Ritton to create what she calls ‘Monosyllabic Dance Rap’, a contrasting sound to the high octane beats of contemporary electronic dance movement. With two new singles being promoted and grammy nomination already behind her, Seriki is bound to do great things.
- Dami Elebe (Television)
Damilola Elebe was a fairly successful On Air Presenter, that is, until she was tapped by Ndani TV to adapt Skinny Girl In Transit, the rumoured story of a fellow OAP, into television. Elebe’s work on Skinny Girl in Transit, a humorous pastiche of Nigerian social and romantic stereotypes and Rumour Has It a drama heavy web show that some argue references media giants Toke Makinwa and Linda Ikeji, has launched her into the stratosphere of Nigerian media has given her a whole new audience. Already in its third season, Skinny Girl in Transit has become Elebe’s opus, but with rumours that she is already working on her first feature film script, she might out do herself.
8. Titi Belo (Fashion)
As part of the class of 2014 of the Lagos Fashion and Design Week’s incubator programme, Fashion Focus, eponymous label Titi Belo announced itself as one to watch, winning the instituto Maragoni education grant, an opportunity the label’s creative director took to better craft. Come the 2016 Lagos Fashion and Design Week, Belo’s triumphant return to Nigerian runways, elevated her from a rising talent to a bonafide brand, in touch with the tastes and aspirations of young Nigerian women. What a way to make a statement.
9. Tunde Kara (Media)
It is one thing to make a media brand influential and other entirely to make it commercially viable. This is where Tunde Kara excels, as the business brains behind Swiss owned Nigerian media brand Pulse.ng, Kara finds ways to keep the brand in the black without compromising its message or diluting its voice. In 2016 his diligence was rewarded with more influence, the group announcing him as the Director of their business and sales division. In the coming year, many will study and try to replicate Kara’s strategies and policies.
- Osa Seven (Art)
Inspired by British activist and graffiti artist Banksy, Osa Okunpolor, has challenged the status quo, bringing much acclaim to graffiti art in Nigeria and turning it mainstream. In mid-2016 he challenged the often sterile art exhibition structure, re-purposing the Kia showroom in Lagos into a living exhibition, displaying a range of art all done in his preferred medium. He is firmly in the conversation of what Nigerian art will become in the coming decade.
But he understands that graffiti is ultimately about reclamation of public spaces and he gives back to those who’d ordinarily not have access to his work through non-profit art projects, ART FOR A CAUSE, repainting and creating graffiti murals in Lagos’s public schools. An unconventional medium, an incontrovertible message, years of experience; Osa Seven has all the tools to become a legend.
- Frank Aghuno (Fashion)
Design prodigy, Frank Aghuno was winning fashion competitions long before he was done with university. As part of a team, he won the second Fayrouz l’original fashion competition, a year after he was chosen as part of the 2014 class of the Lagos Fashion and Design Week incubator programme, after which he was chosen for the Instituto Maragoni education grant. Aghuno has really come into his own in 2016, distinguishing his brand as defiantly feminist and finding a loyal following among many of Nigeria’s most influential women. He can only get better from here.
- Okhai Aigbe (Illustration)
Okhai Aigbe has been illustrating long before social media made fashion illustration all the rave. But in 2016, Aigbe’s illustrations came to define Nigerian fashion and entertainment the way Papa Oppong’s has defined Ghana’s. Working with the Lagos Fashion and Design Week and the GTB Fashion Weekend, Nigeria’s biggest fashion platforms and working commissions for many of the country’s biggest brands, it’s taken far too long, but we are pleased that finally, Nigerian fashion is acknowledging Aigbe’s talent, consistency and influence.
- Yadichinma Kalu Ukoha (art)
Yadichinma Kalu-Ukoha is at first glance, a manic pixie dream girl. An art prodigy whose work remains impeccable as her style mutates to accommodate her growing influences, Ukoha’s dreaminess has led to quite a few people underestimating her talent as an artist. But no one underestimates Ukoha’s work. Not Re.Le gallery who chose her as one of the next generation of artists that will shape Nigeria’s culture, not the White Space Creative Agency that champions her work and not the team behind Art X Lagos that gave her work pride of place at their recently concluded art fair. Neither should you.
14. Tunde Alara (Art)
Art found its enfant terrible in Tunde Alara, a self taught artist who after being frustrated by the somewhat nepotic nature of the Nigerian emergent art scene, chose to separate himself and forge his own path as an art. Using graffiti as his primary medium, Alara reclaims public spaces, challenges the status quo and promotes tangential artists finding their own niches. With a successful self organized exhibition in late 2016 and a prestigious residency at the Radisson Blu Art Clip gallery and another in December, Alara’s message is finding purchase in the unlikeliest of places.
15. Tai Ibitola (Film)
Tai Ibitola’s art is visceral, melancholic and often ephemeral. As a performance artist and visual media manipulator, Ibitola has slowly structured her performances into a narrative around the conventions of womanhood in Nigeria; first embracing, then questioning and finally challenging them. She started 2016 with an exhibtion at Art 21, and over the course of the year held several performances and installations, engaging her audience, and challenging their world views. Ibitola’s embrace of a medium often dominated by men is revolutionary.
16. Ifeanyi Dike Jr (film)
Ifeanyi Dike will tell you he used to skip medical school and hop buses to come shoot Tinsel in Lagos, because he believed equally in both his dreams to study medicine and grow as an actor. With sheer force of will he graduated in 2014 giving him full time to focus on his career as an actor. In 2015, he was tipped by Abba Makama to lead his feature satirical film Green White Green and Dike put his all. And Dike’s all was rewarded with an admission to UCLA’s prestigious school of the arts and a win as best actor at the 2016 African International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
- Simi (Music)
Nigeria’s first garage band artist is a title many will not associate with Simisola Ogunleye, but that is exactly what she is. Simi joins a movement of young female musicians taking charge of every aspect of their craft, especially the male-dominated sound engineering and production fields. With mixing credits on Adekunle Gold’s album and credit for crafting Falz The Bad Guy’s biggest hit ‘Soldier’ and several hits of her own off the Chemistry collaborative EP, Simi’s mapping her own trajectory as a career musician and breaking glass ceilings as she goes.
- Abba Makama (Film)
As a film maker, Abba Makama has always leaned towards satire and humor as tools to pass across messages. With a handful of short films on Youtube and a burning urge to do more, in late 2014 Makama found the perfect script for his next project, a coming of age film about three young Nigerians stuck in the purgatory that is the phase between secondary school and university. Using entirely new talent and challenging all the conventions around Nollywood, Makama’s film became the little that could, gaining international attention as part of the Nigerian contingent to the Toronto International Film Festival and opening at Nigerian festivals to rave reviews.
Makama is also an established multimedia artist whose work influences his film and vice versa. His first art installation Hypnogogia, shown at the IAMISIGO showroom in late 2015 was inspired by the idea of insomnia as a monster and Makama has hinted that it might resurface in its future work.
- David Akinola (Art)
David Akinola got his break like many 21st century artists, not through a conservatorship or a patron, but through social media sharing site Instagram. Akinola’s pen art, layered as it is studious, speaks to an intensity that is hard to fake. His subjects, often charismatic, find new expression on his canvas. And that diligence paid off, as he just finished his first public exhibition as one of the first artists in residence at the Silverbird revolving art incubator. His art can only get greater from here.
- Olumuyiwa Logo (Photography)
As part of Olumuyiwa Logo’s Monochrome Lagos, documented by socia media site Tumblr, a side of Lagos many rarely see was carefully documented and treated with reverence. Fast forward 2016, Logo has exhibited in London and released his first photography book based on the Monochrome Lagos project, crowd sourcing poetry and prose from many emerging literary writers to express sentiments hidden in the pictures. Logo’s work continues to gain traction internationally and we can only see him grow from here.
- Falana (Music)
Falana doesn’t fit into any of boxes that we’ve carefully constructed around female recording artists in Nigeria. She sings in Spanish, plays the cajon and has natural hair, usually pinned into a wild fro-hawk. But Falana, like Asa before her, has soul, and it is that soul distilled through succinct composition and a voice that draws and hold your attention long after the first note that found her an audience here. Through a series of savvy unplugged sessions scattered in unconventional venues across Lagos, Falana asserted herself as an alternative voice, one that resonates after the last staccato note echoes away.
- Niyi Okeowo (Photography)
Niyi Okeowo’s professional portfolio is padded to the nines, most recently with his stellar photography for lifestyle magazine Guardian Life. But Okeowo’s passion is in documentary and artistic photography, and with photoshop tools, he skewers the world to match his wild andwell-referencedd imagination. Okeowo uses his work to educate on causes like mental health and depression and he is unafraid to bare himself to reach his audience. This kind of honesty is rare in photography and even more precious because Okeowo still finds honesty behind the camera instead of in front of it.
- Sanusi Ismaila (Tech)
While Sanusi Ismaila is the face of TechSuplex, a more sublime tech commentary service and peer to the flashy Tech Cabal, his reach as a startup entrepreneur extends far beyond tech, part of the network he manages include popular food blog KitchenButterfly.com and literary site, Stories.ng, Delphino Entertainment and Precog Media. But in 2016, he moved ship from the bustling Lagos to quieter Kaduna and set up the state’s first co-working space Co-Lab Kd, opening it up for free to female tech enthusiasts and providing a communal space for Kaduna’s budding tech scene. It’s a gamble, but one we know will succeed.
- Timilehin Ajiboye (Tech)
Timilehin made his six figures from coding in his first year of university. Many would have quit, but he stuck it out, honing his skills as a self-taught programmer while he slugged it out in Nigeria’s oft foreboding university system. In that time he became an authority in the Nigerian tech scene, gaining personal recognition from international tech superstars and local start-up entrepreneurs. This year he won with his team LeVRn, the first Nigerian VR Hackathon and started several tutorial journals documenting his explorations of automated home systems, virtual reality and programming.
- Aniete Brendan (Animation)
A lot of people first found out about Aniete Brendan through his work used as part of the promotional work for singer Adekunle Gold’s debut album. But to assume that an artist is all Brendan is would be doing him and ourselves a great disservice. Brendan is an innovator and entrepreneur, splicing technology and art in interesting ways. The most recent of which is his forays into animation through his startup animation studio Carbon Animation.
With an impressive portfolio and interesting ideas for 2017, Brendan’s Carbon Animation just might become the fuel to bringing Nigerian story telling dreams to life.
- Osarumen Osamuyi (Tech)
If we had to describe Osarumen’s 2016 in one word, we’d use ‘Vocal’. On Medium and Tech Cabal, Radar and Twitter Osamuyi has spoken, argued, discussed and documented his forays in tech, media, and publishing. Osarumen Osamuyi is important because he understands and is trying to solve a problem that has dogged the growing Nigerian tech industry; an inability to properly communicate with and engage the people that consume the products they create. Osamuyi continues to demystify tech, first with Tech Cabal and Zikoko and now with Virtual Reality through VR Hack group LeVRn.
27. Prosper Otemuyiwa (Tech)
You might first come across Prosper ‘Fire’ Otemuyiwa on Twitter where he enthusiastically comments on everything from food to Space X, but follow him long enough and you’ll find out that his first love is technology, software engineering to be specific. And Otemuyiwa is more qualified than most to speak on tech in Nigeria, he is a Google Developer Expert, a title given only on merit and only to a handful of African programmers. He is also a legend on crowd sourced, software development website Github where he ranks globally. Otemuyiwa is devoted to the Nigerian tech scene and fostering a community that collaborates. He is always dispensing his knowledge, fostering communication and collaboration and pushing for international interest in Nigerian startups. ‘Fire’ is the kind of tech guy we want to emulate, a real team player.
- Sola Akinlade (Tech)
In 2016, technology in Nigeria became what sports was in the 90’s and entertainment was in the oughts, a platform for young Nigerians with more than a university degree and insatiable drive to better themselves through self-education to distinguish themselves. And few have become as distinguished as Shola Akinlade. Akinlade’s enthusiasm for financed based technology is the latest incarnation of his decade-long attempts to resolve Nigeria’s problems with tech-based solutions and Paystack, which he helped found and currently runs is his biggest achievement thus far.
An online payments company facilitating commerce in Africa by enabling frictionless payments, Paystack is an answer to the question of how to move Nigeria’s businesses and economy to a more cost-efficient cashless system. And the global tech industry seems to agree; the startup, only a year old, is the first Nigerian company to be accepted into Y Combinator, the prestigious Silicon Valley accelerator. But Akinlade hasn’t always been so cash oriented, he helped create Precurio during his time at software company Klein Devort, an open-source collaboration platform downloaded over 150 thousand times and available in 6 languages.
- Aminu Bakori (Tech)
To be a unicorn in an already niche tech community is a precarious thing but wunderkind Aminu Bakori weathers even the most invasive intrusions into his life and work with ease. The 20-year-old programmer is Muslim and Hausa, a combination we rarely see when we talk tech in Nigeria and he has earned himself a seat at the table with Cloudiora, a web-based potentially crowd-sourced Operating System he created over the course of a year, spurred by the realities of growing up in Northern Nigeria.
With Payant, a service to help small businesses streamline their operations and other private projects, Bakori might be the arrow head of a movement that will bring the North properly into the tech age.
- Ire Aderinokun (Tech)
As Nigeria’s only Google Expert in Web technology, Ire Aderinokun is in a league all her own. She literally a legend on the crowd sourced programming website Github, making a staggering 1643 contributions to its code library. Her work has allowed her travel the country and the world speaking on technology and networking with the world’s growing community of female coders and developers. But really Ire’s impact is best felt here, where through personal and professional work she inspires other young women to actively embrace technology in general and programming in particular.
She proves the future of programming in Nigeria is rich and it is female.
- Efeturi Money (tech)
Many people first found out about Efeturi Money when along with his team he pitched at the SpiceTV x Tech Cabal’s Fashion meets Tech pitch event for Haute an app that allows consumers design their own clothing and find tailors to help bring their designs to life. But as a developer he has a long and storied history with stints in corporate Nigeria working for PHCN and private equity working for Hotels.ng and Digitouch. But what makes Efeturi so unconventional is that he is proficient in back-end programmer and front end user interface design. Even more impressive when you consider he taught himself how to program from YouTube videos.
With a new challenge at one of Nigeria’s biggest e-commerce sites and several personal projects in development, Money is definitely someone to watch in 2017.
- Kenneth Okwor (Law)
First class honours from the Nigerian Law School, council of Legal education star prize, honors for Best student in Corporate law practice, best overall performance and student of the year all awarded to one person; Kenneth Okwor is exactly that guy that your mother swears has two heads. And now, he is putting those two heads to good use as an adjunct lecturer of Corporate Law and Practice at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus and an Associate at Templars.
Not just any Templars by the way, the premier Nigerian law practice. Okwor is such a maven at corporate law, he has advised on issues relating to banking and different financing structures, capital markets, corporate insolvency, winding up, mergers and acquisitions, projects and infrastructure, real estate, divestments and foreign direct investments. Others include legal due diligence, regulatory compliance, dispute resolution, business development and general corporate and commercial matters. In 2016, he joined the Nigerian Law School academia by becoming an assistant lecturer, impressive considering he’s only 24.
- Daniel Orubo (Humanities)
With quiet persistence that belies his age, Daniel Orubo was thesingle-handedd force behind the new wave of relatable content that has gone mainstream in Nigerian media. First as anonymous contributor on Tech Cabal’s Zikoko, Daniel Orubo’s quirky take on the minutiae of being a young Nigerian resonated across demographics and drew thousands of eyes. Before long, his work had found a persistent and loyal fanbase and Orubo leveraging on that fan base, moved to French owned multinational media group Konbini, using their platform to champion cinema, television and popular, fields he has almost encyclopaedic knowledge of. Orubo’s perspective is one that will stay relevant for a long time.
- Justin Irabor (Humanities)
Justin Irabor has done everything. And we mean everything. He has sold shirts, worked as a writer, a social media manager, an editor. But in 2015, Irabor stumbled on marketing and found a passion he could truly follow. In the intervening year and under the helm of mercurial tech giant Mark Essien, Irabor became one of the country’s leading voices in digital marketing, helping cement Hotels.ng’s presence as the premier hotel booking portal in the country and gaining thousands of followers. Irabor’s incisive posts about his forays into marketing and his guides have become legendary. But Justin is also known for Obaranda.com, a comic site he started after years doodling and dabbling in comic art. Obaranda has become a succinct but effective satirical channel for Irabor’s darker thoughts and will host his first graphic novel in early 2017. It’s hard not to be in awe of that.
- Chidera Muoka (Publishing)
In 2015, Chidera Muoka was hired by private management firm Anozim, recently tipped by the management at Nigerian media brand Guardian to help them launch a vibrant digital presence. Before long, Muoka began to handle editorial duties for the Guardian online platforms, including the Guardian Life website. A schism at Anozim and a chance at leadership to Ventra Media, was a change that served Chidera well.
She was officially announced the editor of Guardian Life, a lifestyle pullout that Media Group had struggled to find a voice for. Under Muoka’s helm, Guardian Life in six months became a guiding light in print media, giving young photographers, stylists, designers and makeup artists the platform to make career-defining work, and telling courageous stories. Muoka is the first of a new generation of magazine editors, uncompromising on vision, open to innovation, heralding new talent.
- Haneefa Adam (Culture)
In 2015, few have extensively expanded our perceptions and challenged our stereotypes when it comes to Muslimah women quite like Haneefa Adam. Haneefa who began photographing her experiments with food in 2014 is best known for her unconventional food art that has seen her collaborate with many of Nigeria’s biggest food and beverage brands. She is also a kick ass photographer and an accomplished designer, channeling her faith and her interest in fashion into an unexpected medium; Hijarbie. By making Muslim friendly one of a kind outfits for the world famous doll Barbie and showing there are conventional ways for Muslim women to be fashionable and modest, she offers visibility for young Muslim girls looking for role models. Adam truly came into her own in 2016 with collaborations with global giant Nestle and international media features for Hijarbie and her Star Wars related food art.
- Fu’ad Lawal (Journalism)
Fu’ad Lawal is always looking for a challenge, this more than anything has colored his career in content creation and journalism. Starting as an associate at Ringier’s Pulse.NG, Fu’ad’s wit and skewed viewpoint helped separate him from the horde of young Nigerians churning out a staggering amount of digital content on to the internet. This viewpoint was striking enough that he was head-hunted to lead the team at PartyJollof.com, then a new media platform aimed specifically at young Nigerians.
In nine months, Fu’ad and his team took PartyJollof from relative unknown to one of the most relevant voices in Nigerian youth culture, tackling issues like tribalism, bigotry and sexism. Lawal is back to familiar grounds, returning to Ringier and Pulse as associate editor of their communities. His work on Boko Haram and the reclamation efforts by the Nigerian army has earned him critical reviews and we’re excited to see what he gets up to in 2017.
- Olutimehin Adegbeye (Activism)
Many would describe Timehin Adegbeye as a feminist. While that is true, it is also somewhat reductive, because Adegbeye is far more than the sum of her parts. So much so, she is only one the youngest African feminist writers invited to speak at the 2016 AWID organized Black Feminisms Forum in Bahia, Brazil, a global forum created to promote intersectional feminism and educate on the peculiar plight of African women of colour. However Timehin’s true influence comes from how candidly and how often she speaks of her personal experiences as a ‘woke’ Nigerian, unmarried mother, navigating a heritage of loss, trauma and unrealistic societal expectations. Timehin is an avatar for young women seeking their place in a world that asks them to limit themselves, and she encourages and admonishes through personal posts, commissioned long-form articles and her profile on Microblogging site, twitter.
Not many women Timehin Adegbeye’s age get repeat invites to come speak at the Africa’s most important feminist fora.
- Dami Odufuwa (Culture)
Steering the conversation around and about youth is something Damilola Odufuwa has always been actively involved in. From her days as a global insight intern at Universal Music, Odufuwa has been plugged into the causes that interest young people, and used that information judiciously. She’s dabbled in music promotion and was a part of the British underground rave culture before returning to Nigeria seeking new challenges.
She found two: Tech Cabal’s brand new vertical Zikoko, and the insanely popular MTV series, Shuga. Odufuwa helped create the distinctive voice that Zikoko has become known for, proving herself one of Nigeria’s most insightful editors. She also helped shape the conversation around Shuga’s fourth cycle. Now she’s replicating this at French media firm Konbini and striking out with @2Girls1GuyTV
- Akwaeke Emezi (Literature)
Getting publicly praised by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the highlights of Akwaeke Emezi’s career, but it is praise well deserved. Few Nigerian writers have been as prolific as Emezi in 2016, from being represented by one of the world’s best publishing agents, winning the Miles Morland Fellowship grant, finding a publisher for her first novel Fresh Water and publishing a series of cutting non-fiction essays. Akwaeke’s explorations of race, gender, mental health and identity continue to push conversations in for young Nigerian women and inspire them.
- Seun Sangoleye (Nutrition)
When you think of high rollers, you don’t necessarily think of baby food, but Seun Sangoleye is a woman with many tangential ideas and the drive to turn them into viable successes. A self actualized nutritionist, Sangoleye ditched her computer science degree to potter in agronomic and horticultural fields, indulging her green finger and her interest in harnessing locally produced grains and vegetables. Her research narrowed to one often overlooked need, locally sourced nutrition for infants and children.
Her passion for agriculture and child nutrition intersect in a number of interesting ways, including Naija Baby Food TV, a campaign that teaches through easy to follow YouTube tutorials how to prepare healthy, locally sourced meals for infants to dissuade force feeding and infant starvation. Not one to tell and not show, Sangoleye also started Baby Grubz Nigeria, that packages meal services for children aged 0 – 5. With two accompanying e-books on child nutrition and an online mentoring service that reaches 40,000 Nigerian mothers, Sangoleye shares her passions with Nigeria’s mothers, creating a safer, healthier world for our children. A real superhero.
- Affiong Williams (Nutrition)
Through her start up Reel Fruit, Affiong Williams has positioned herself as an independent alternative to the multi-national food and beverage start-ups that have choked out indigenous cottage industries. Williams’ is primarily interested in the processing and export of dried fruits, indigenously sourcing her raw materials and employing local labour in the production process. She has recently launched two new products in the industry and is seeking financing to situate a manufacturing plant in the country.
Her work has been recognized locally and internationally with honours from the Inaugural IDB Business plan competition where she placed among the top ten finalists and wins at the 2013 Creative Focus Africa SME Competition and the Netherlands based Bid Network Women in Business Challenge.
- Seye Ogunlewe (Athletics)
With Africa haemorrhaging talented sportsmen to Europe and the Middle East for political and socio-economic reasons, it takes a takes patriotism to step forward and take the mantle for your country. And there are few patriots as inspirational as Nigeria’s Fastest Man Seye Ogunlewe. A title hard earned as Ogunlewe’s, Law and Politics graduate from the University of Essex and professional sprinter, won back to back 100 m wins at the Nigerian Championships in 2015 and 2016 to successfully defend his national title. With personal best of 10.12 seconds, Ogunlewe led fellow sprinters Divine Odurudu and Ogho-ghene Egwero to the 2016 Olympics.
Ogunlewe’s truly won our admiration through this outspoken criticism of the Nigerian government and it’s negligence as regards the welfare and care of Nigerian athletes to the Olympics at the risk of discipline and retribution by the country’s often mercurial sports authorities. He showed patriotism requires a willingness to serve as well as a need to speak out against misused authority, and kept our athletes in high spirits even when everything seemed bleak. If that isn’t leadership, we don’t know what is.
- Kelechi Promise Iheanacho (Football)
With a name like Promise Kelechi Iheanacho, it would be criminal to not expect great things. And Iheanacho, a Premier League club Manchester City striker and Nigerian National team regular always delivers. Winning the Golden Ball award for his six goals and seven assists at the 2013 FIFA U-17 tournament was how Iheanacho announced himself to the world. And Manchester City took notice, signing him officially in 2015. He quickly racked up an outstanding fifteen goals and thirty five assists in his first season, ending the season as the league’s third highest goal scorer and part of an elite league of premier league players who have scored ten goals before turning 20.
For his efforts, In October 2016 Iheanacho was nominated for the FIFA Golden Boy award, one of the most prestigious awards in football as whole. To think he’s only 20.
- Odion Ighalo (Football)
Nigerians love their English Premier League, and adore their footballers. Nigerian national and Watford striker Odion Ighalo is both and a home grown talent that gone on bring glory to Nigeria on an international stage. Starting his career as junior league player with Nigerian side Prime F.C. and a senior league player at Lagos’s Julius Berger F.C, Ighalo was scouted at game by an international agent and whisked to Lyn F.C in Norway. That led to a stint at Italian side Udinese and a publicized signing at Watford. Eight years after his professional debut, Ighalo received the country’s highest sports honour, a number on the Super Eagles’ line up for its 2015 international campaigns.
Ighalo’s international profile continues to rise, with him winning Player of the Month in the English Premier League in December 2015 and earning seven caps and three goals in country colours, Ighalo represents a new epoch of Nigerian footballers.
- Ezeakor Chinenye (Humanities)
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related courses are something of a boy’s club in Nigeria and women who have shown interest in these fields have either been directly forced to switch or subtly bullied, ignored or fetishized to the point where they become disillusioned and leave. Chinenye Ezeakor Chinenye is fighting the stigma around girls in STEM with her non-profit African Sisters in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (A-SISTEM).
Through direct reach activities like hands-on outreach programs for teenage girls that focus on highly contested fields such as energy, ICT and physical sciences, she builds confidence and connects young women to mentorship and opportunities. Ezeakor also organizes workshops and training for semi-literate women looking for access to vocational skill in STEM related fields.
A-SISTEM also assists in exposing young African girls to female STEM professional mentors, Ezeakor has been able to reach and mentor 500 girls in Port Harcourt and Abuja. She was recently selected by The DO School Social Entrepreneurship organization in Germany to participate in organizing a roll out structure called Experiment to for secondary schools in Africa.
- Arese Ugwu (Finance)
In 2016, Arese made the leap from board room to screen as she joined Tunji Andrews to discuss financial issues on Analyse This, an Ndani TV web series. She also hosted the 8-episode series: Your Life, Your Money sponsored by Zenith Bank Aspire. This was the culmination of years building a lifestyle that promotes fiscal responsibility and good financial habits her financial start up, Smart Money Africa. S.M.A provides content, advice and action tools tailored to help Africans understand financial matters, finding unconventional but accessible ways to translate complex economic principles and policies through contemporary storytelling and visual illustrations.
She is the author of the best selling personal finance book, Smart Money Woman launched in late 2016. Arese has read to audiences across Nigeria and beyond, breaking the mold for what is considered a ‘self help’ book in Nigeria.
An alumna of the of the Lagos Business School, INSEAD Abu Dhabi and The London School of Business executive education programs, Arese sits on the boards of Partnership Securities Ltd and House of Tara International Ltd as a non-executive director. She is an associate member of WIMBIZ.
- Shola Ladoja (Agriculture)
Not many people will see the correlation between an artisanal juice company that caters to Lagos and Abuja upper middle class and agriculture, and that’s fine, it’s not easy being Shola Ladoja. Under the umbrella company of Simply Green Limited, Ladoja has created an agricultural collective that employers it’s workers and gives them a way to grow vegetable products that fall outside the conventional staples and are usually considered commercially unviable. One of the ways that Ladoja does this is through Simply Green Juices, a simply green subsidiary that combines unusual vegetable and fruit combinations to make cold pressed juices that are eco-friendly, healthy and ethical.
Sustainability is a big part of Ladoja’s creed, and Simply Green honours sustainability through collaborative partnerships with local farmers and local sourcing of materials.
Shola started Simply Green in May 2014 after falling in love with the versatility, freedom and flexibility of agriculture. His first brush with farm came when he took over his father’s cassava business. He also runs Real Livestock, a company focused on the commercial cultivation of grains and meat production.
- Imrana Alhaji Buba (Citizenship)
Violent conflict might be on the decline in Nigeria, but with disgruntled pressure groups in the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt, rampaging Herdsmen, the resurgence of militancy and Boko Haram and a government is quietly militarizing paramilitary parastatals, the need for peace advocacy has never been more urgent. Never has the work that Imrana Alhaji Buba has dedicated his life to been more important.
Through the Youth Coalition against Terrorism (YOCAT), a volunteer-based youth-led organization that he founded in 2010, Buba has recruited volunteers to help unite Nigerian youth against violent extremism in north-eastern Nigeria, uniting 600 students, lawyers, health care professionals, educators, development workers under the single cause of ending terrorism and religious extremism in north-eastern Nigeria, through education and peer to peer advocacy.
In 2016, Imrana was honoured with an award by the Queen of England.
- Uche Ikejimba Halloway (Television)
The new era of television content championed by Mo Abudu has seen a lot of successes and some misses but one thing it has done is allow young women like Uche Ikejimba Halloway take charge of big projects like Africa Magic’s new original series ‘Hustle’. As executive producer, Ikejimba has steered the show into success, affirming her abilities as a leader and proving yet again that women are just as gifted behind the camera as they are in front of it. Hustle is only in its first season, there is so much more for Ikejimba to do, so much to prove. She definitely seems up to the task.