The impasse in the negotiations between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Nigerian government, has forced millions of Nigerian University students out of school – add this to the 13.2 million young Nigerians denied access to education and you would understand why everyone not in government is decrying the state of education in Nigeria. All of these paints an unpromising image for the future of the Nigerian society.
The implications of ASUU strike that are often heard are: female student gets pregnant while staying idle at home; male student becomes a yahoo boy, buys Mercedes Benz. Stories like that of Tosin Ajibade, who started her journey to becoming a successful media entrepreneur are not commonly told – if they are, they are not told enough. The 31-year old founded one of the leading media outlets in the country – the OloriSupergal brand.
The idea of the influential brand was conceived as an afterthought of a decision “not to stay idle” and an ambition “not to be anyone’s burden.” It was birthed during the 4months-long ASUU strike of 2009. The first shot she got at getting employed, earned her a spot as a “Marketing Person” at Gbenga Adeyinka’s Laff Mattaz – even when she hadn’t completed her degree course; even when she couldn’t prepare a Curriculum Vitae (CV) without help. “It was the strike that made me go outside to look for something to do”, she said to me, during our chat at her office.
When the strike got called-off, she had to return to school to complete her course – to become a graduate and that meant leaving Laff Mattaz. It also meant chasing school administrators, parading offices, to get her results released. “School was taking my time – results delayed, papers delayed. A lot of things were just delayed for whatever reason”. Tosin confessed that she wasn’t a top-point student. “I was average in school”. She didn’t take professional courses (ICAN) like her colleagues were doing at the time. Eventually when she did, she didn’t make it, and so she dropped the whole idea of Accounting for her new interest: Media.
“With my experience at Gbenga’s – BlackHouse had some vacancies – I applied. I went for the job interview, spoke with the HR at length, then I was employed”, she narrated the story of how she became tasked with handling web content at Black House Media, and subsequently, The NetNg – two media brands with the same owner. This engagement exposed her to the evolving social media market, with Facebook being her first contact.
“I found out that like minds were connecting with my posts”, she told me – although, at the time, she posted for fun. She told me, “then, Facebook was my escape from reality”.
These words of Louis L’ Amour partly explains the creation of “Olori SuperGal”: “A great book begins with an idea; a great life, with determination”.
Tosin’s interest in media reached a point of maturity – social media, for her, became a thing to explore. This led to further explorations – she thought to herself: “I need an image I can own.” The idea of “RAYS” – a word coined from the letters of her names – appeared first; she later settled for “OloriSuperGal” – a merger of the native translation of royalty (an interpretation of her favourite colour – purple) and the feminine reconstruction of Superman – her favourite Superhero.
If you think the now popular brand name was mined in the ores of schmaltz, you are right. Interestingly, the name has been justified – after all, she created it for the purpose of distinction. This element of distinction is imbued in the workings of the brand – the premium placed on credibility, the focus on subjects relating to the rights of women, and the prioritisation of value creation. OloriSuperGal – the brand – now has offshoots, like The New Media Conference – an event setup to assemble different practitioners in the Nigerian new media industry, to allow the flow of ideas that could be transformed into individual and collective progress. Four editions in, and it has reached continental status, with last edition holding in Kenya.
To think that the story of one of the 2015 Most Influential Women in Nigeria started with what many would call an unfortunate strike, is to realise that some bad situations have some positives in them. OloriSuperGal didn’t exactly plan her success – at least not this way; and not in the very beginning. “Everything grew with time. I didn’t plan to become a blogger”, she said at a point during the interview. Another time she said, “It wasn’t something I saw that would become this big”. Remember, idleness was what she tried to avoid when she found interest in media. That interest is now the brand that caters to the needs of millions, employs tens and inspires many others.
For those holding their breath for ASUU to reach an agreement with the government, it is time to find that interest which would grow into a story worth telling.
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets