22 year-old award-winning Nigerian author of The Abyssinian Boy, Onyeka Nwelue thinks that young people under 20 are perfectly doing fine. He picks out ten creative minds who are leading the way.
1 Jon Ogah – 19
Right from the beginning, Jon Ogah impressed me. No one can fault the conclusion that he is the most important among all these young people under 20 who are shaping the future of Nigeria. There are people, younger people, who sing better than him, but Jon won Naija Sings last year when he was 18. He is our spooky tour guide through a world of fame at young age, as he became a household name and quickly moved to Arizona State University to study Medicine. Unconsciously, the $100,000 USD musical prodigy has become dear to our hearts. His debut single, Gbedu, in which he features female rapper, Sasha, topped charts and was widely viewed on YouTube. So, while in the country recently to promote his new single, Tonight, which has been favourably received by fans and critics alike, we met up to talk about his career and vision. His style in Tonight has been likened to that of Wande Coal and the tone of the rhythm mooring with Omawunmi’s Today na Today. But in all, Jon has taken us to an arena of bliss with his sonorous voice and good looks.
2 Wizkid Ayo Balogun – 18
Wizkid is like a virus and his influence is an unconscious effect. He is leading a generation of muscular stars with a unique style. Anyone would be forgiven for saying that so much attention is being paid to him, because of his ‘relationship’ with Banky W, which is not bad anyway, but the truth is, Wizkid has a life of his own. Infact, he is a big force to reckon with and he could be tagged the heavyweight champion of the new hip hop generation, punching at his age. Currently a student of Lead City University, Wizkid’s performance is electrifying and his vocals, amazing.
3 Chibundu Onuzo – 19
She is not a musician, she’s a writer. And she’s not only a writer. Her appearance on CNN introduced her to me and since then, she has charmed me. She has catapulted herself to fame for her first book, The Spider King’s Daughter, which has been bought by one of UK’s finest publishing houses, Faber. I hope I get charmed by this book that gets released by the Summer of 2011. For her tale has inspired a lot; Chibundu Onuzo grew up in Lagos. She’s the youngest of four children to doctor parents; she moved to the UK four years ago and is in her first year at King’s College London studying History.
4 Sheifunmi – 19
SheiFunmi is a one-off: an independent-minded blogger, who calls himself a ‘gossip-journalist’, but he really doesn’t gossip. Infact, he has gone on to promote Nigerian and US musical artistes on his website, through series of interviews with celebrities and entertainment gurus. He has forged a strong and happy working relationship with Hollywood, as he is based in the United States of America. However you may want to put it, online, he is more popular than his contemporaries. But one thing remains, most celebrities don’t like him; still he gets to interview them, which shows a lot of commitment, determination and strong-will.
5 MoCheddah – 20
This lousy ranking of MoCheddah as number 5, just goes to show that it’s quality, not quantity that counts. She is sexy and speaks softly like a child, but that is not all. Her single, If You Want Me stole my heart and is on replay on my laptop. Sometimes I don’t understand what she sings, but as music beats to the heart, MoCheddah is my sweetheart and that goes to show how much I see her as a recluse. I actually went to meet her in person, specifically to know her age, which she quickly replied to: “I’m 20.” She is a fabled figure indeed, having released a debut album, Franchise Celebrity which fans love and critics are waiting to tear apart. But then, she is the beauty of the new generation and she is the reason why I believe that young female musicians can hold our breaths.
6 Eromo Egbejule – 19
The most accomplished among all of them and one of the most respected young creative people today – by me. An introvert, a brilliant graphic designer and an engaging writer, Eromo Egbejule organized the “Nsukka Book Trek” in 2009 that preceded the 11th Lagos Book and Art Festival. His simplicity reflects in what he does, as he is a final year student of Bioresources Engineering at the University of Nigeria. He has done investigative journalism for the Guardian during the Nsukka Riot in January. His writings could be found online, as they are scathingly funny and straight from the heart.
7 Noble Ezeala – 19
Noble is the ‘gossip blogger.’ His criticism of the Nigerian entertainment industry is, at once, annoyingly harsh, and humourous. Infact, he has a very investigative eye which could be described as the best. Very nosy about what is happening in Nigeria, while a student at College Park, Baltimore in the US, Noble has the gift of the gods, as he has a compelling way of keeping the readers wanting more of what he has to ‘gossip’ about. Truth is, he doesn’t call himself a ‘gossip’, but we know it is what he does, as he has actually got annoyed with what Ini Edo wore to a party and wasn’t impressed with one of the videos of Wande Coal.
8 Adebayo Oke-Lawal- 19
One of the least well-known designers in Nigeria, maybe, because he’s young? Well, now that he’s the Creative Director of Onyx & Pearl, ‘Bayo, (this is what most people call him) can’t get onto the red carpet and you won’t notice him. Intelligent, focused, geeky as well and amazingly Bohemian in dressing, he has clothed fellow young celebrities, like Jon Ogah and MoCheddah and works at one of the city’s top artsy joints, LifeHouse. He doesn’t talk much, but he does much. He has his eyes set on conquering the world, as he has just graduated from university and is ready to break records with his designs. Still, a lot of people consider his designs as childish, but come to think of it, they are on their way to stardom, like LaQuan Smith was, a few years ago. So, it’s about time we embrace him and say to him, ‘Young man, you are great!’
9 Chizitere Ojiaka – 20
No one on this list travels more than she does. And no one can fault that conclusion too. From Paris to Frankfurt to Venice to New York to Maryland to Lagos to Nsukka and to where angels fear to tread, Chizitere Ojiaka is fearless. She has created a distinctive way of connecting with people. At 20, she is an artiste manager, publicist and final year student of economics at the University of Nigeria and has done investigative reports for newspapers and written for magazines, both at home and abroad. Her images of the Nsukka Riot made the front pages of the Guardian in January. She has been interviewed by Financial Times (London) by famous Kenyan writer, Parselelo Kantai and heads a media organization. Her book on war is already inducing shudders. But the thing is, can she for once sit down and finish it?
10 Mervis Ifeoma Emelife – 19
She is not just sexy, she is calm and reserved. A writer, poet and motivational speaker, she deserves to be known. She founded Young Visionaries Initiative of Nigeria (which is a youth based organization that focuses on changing the negative mindset that most young people have about their purpose in life, education, success and corruption). Sounds didactic, yes? Well, in 2008, a documentary of her life as a Nigerian teenager was aired by ChannelOne News in New York to about six million students in the US via 24/17 TV. Currently a student of Mass Communication at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, she is the editor of a magazine in Lagos. Earlier this year, she travelled to the ancient city of Addis Ababa to present a paper on ‘Young People and Stigmatization of People Living with HIV/AIDS’ at the 4th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights.
11 Aboyeji E. Iyinoluwa – 19
Those who know him very well, find it difficult to believe he got so polished and became this articulate so early. He is politically engaged, maybe thoughtfully and comment-wise. But he’s just 19 and is currently studying at University of Waterloo in Canada, where he heads a publishing firm. He has written articles on the fates of international students in Canada, highlighting their plights. He is very charismatic and persistent, which is why he made the list anyway, but he should set his mind on accomplishing goals that will engage the young Nigerian.
Onyeka Nwelue wrote The Abyssinian Boy (DADA Books, 2009) when he was 18, won the 2009 TM ALUKO Prize for First Book, 2nd runner-up, IBRAHIM TAHIR Prize for Fiction, nominated for the Future Awards 2010, lectured at NSS College, Ottapalam in Kerala, South India, appeared at The Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival alongside South African writer, Andre Brink and has interviewed Wole Soyinka for the Guardian. He is currently working on his debut film, The Distant Light and second novel.