Friday, July 03, 2009


What does it mean to be young and Nigerian? Does it mean putting one’s energy into internet fraud a.k.a yahooyahoo and dancing all day to Olu Maintain's "Yahoozee" or Kelly Handsome's "Maga don pay" to validate our efforts or relevance? Does it mean gaining admission into the University and as a result of peer pressure succumb to the bandwagon of aristocracy by becoming an assorted prostitute under the daring umbrella of "aristo"? Does it mean doing drugs and engaging in other unprintable acts?

Tolu Ogunlesi defiles that norm to redefine what it means to be young and Nigerian. As described by Kola Oshinowo, He has got passion, he is driven by purpose, and he is making progress, thus embraced by a world of possibilities. Being young and Nigerian is what Tolu represents and is celebrated for globally and locally. Well, ignore the fact that he just quit his day-job in the middle of an economic recession, while many are clinging on to theirs so religiously no matter how unsatisfactory, to focus on the talent life has handed him.

Although he studied Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan , today he is a writer, not just a writer but a celebrated achiever. He was a guest fellow, Nordic Africa Institute, Cadbury Visiting fellow and a finalist- 2009 CNN African Journalist of the year! How did he do it? "Hard work" said Tolu. Well, his hard work sure paid off. In the words of his Mentor , Toni Kan, "Tolu is the most published Nigerian on the internet". Talking about mentor, what is the importance of mentorship in achieving one's dream? Tolu says "The best way to see far is to stand on the shoulder of giants...there is no way you can be successful without learning from those who have gone ahead of you." So being young and Nigerian also means learning from mentors, their mistakes and their success.

On his advice to young people out there, struggling with the veracity of being Nigerian, Tolu says "This is the best time to be young and African. There are many opportunities out there, we need to keep our eyes and ears open...Sometimes I see a kind of a small mindedness in young people...we should aspire to compete on global level and stop being ghetto kings."

Tolu Ogunlesi is no ghetto King, he is respected and admired. It is no wonder the Future Award's Redstrat triplet (Emilia, Debola and Chude) on Wednesday organized a Red Reception for him at Swe Bar, to showcase an outstanding peer Role Model for this generation. The young man who breathes passion, purpose, progress and possibilities is now an icon in the Journalism profession (more than he is in the medical field?) and he is committed to keep blazing the trail.

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