In Conversations: Onyeka Nwelue talks to Obinwanne Okeke

In life, you will always meet some people who will make you readjust and think about your own life, no matter how successful you think you’ve become. This happens more when you are young. It happened with Obinwanne Okeke. Meeting him made me feel a lot energetic towards my career path. His zeal and courage can always make you emulate him. His scathing articles and essays on world politics have placed him somewhere above higher grounds for me. He has a very deep understanding of human predicament.

Currently studying for his post-graduate at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, Obinwanne just kicked off a campaign, unlike others, to gather books and send to children who can’t afford to buy, so they can read. And these books will be shipped to different parts of Africa. As you are reading this, there are boxes filled with books, already getting shipped to everywhere you might be: Angola, Nigeria, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Zimbabwe. He has so many dreams, but this one is that particular dream that he needs to really actualize.

For once, there is a young man who dreams to ‘save Africa’ in a very different way. This campaign is called, Literacy Africa International.

I am very age conscious. How old are you?
I am 24 years old. However I clock the golden 25 on the 9th of November.

What have you been doing with your life?
I have been living my life trying to impact my own “two cents” to the betterment of the world. But I will tell you now that most of it have been spent studying. Currently, I am studying towards obtaining my Masters Degrees and working with Make Poverty History Australia. In this 24 years of existence, I have opened and ran a lot of businesses. I am a Co-founder of Invictus Entertainment (Pty) which is a based in both Nigeria and South Africa. I also run a charity organisation called Literacy Africa International, Australia.

It is very interesting to know how passionate you are about entertainment and show business, having hosted some of the great musical talents of Nigeria in South Africa before moving to Australia. How did you get involved in entertainment? Tell us.
I lived in South Africa for 5 years as a student at Monash University and in those 5 years, the Nigerian student community grew and we knew what we were lacking. I served in the Student Council in my university and this was one of the key moments in getting involved in entertainment. I am also a sociable person and due to my ‘little’ knowledge of the Nigerian and South African entertainment industries, Invictus Entertainment (Pty) was formed in order to take care of the needs we foreign students lacked, and today everybody in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town are happy!

Recently, you moved to Australia. Would you continue promoting African music and whatnot in Australia as you did to Nigerian music in South Africa?
Yes, there is a possibility of this happening even though there are lesser Nigerian student population here but this time we are working to prompt African music in general as you will find mostly the Sudanese, Somali, Kenyan and Zimbabwe students more than other African students. So this time the key is Africa.

Many young people in Nigeria know nothing about what they want in life. I mean, how do you think they can discover themselves?
Onyeka this one is tricky, but I will give you an example. When I was much younger, I dream of becoming a medical doctor and so went into the Science stream, half way the birth of Internet and Computers in Nigeria and I was instantly convinced that I was the Bill Gates of Africa so I wanted to be a Computer Scientist even went to NIIT after secondary school but finally found out that I didn’t have passion for it. I went into Politics and Humanities because I discovered that I am a ‘peoples person’. So my advice is to lean towards your passion and while in that field you’ll discover yourself. I mean anybody can make a good living these days doing almost anything as far as you are passionate about it and do it well.

For some time now, I thought that university education elevates man to the highest order. I mean, I still find it appalling that many graduates haven’t even invented themselves and have nothing to do. What is your take on this?
Education for me isn’t what elevates you to the highest order as you call it, but I believe its the “learning” that does. And you can still be educated by life as far as you keep learning, you will be elevated of course. The idea of “education by force” is a societal norm as far as I am concerned, but I do value the impact of education in my life. Meanwhile it will interest you to know that my mother is a teacher…yes with her education is all that matters. Please don’t tell her I exposed her here.

Are you an emotional person?
Although not seeing myself as emotional, I am passionate about building capacity of young people and driving positive social change in my community and the world at large.

You are an entertainment guru at such a young age and you have also started work on a campaign, Literacy Africa International. Can you tell us about it?
Guru? Hmmmm. I have set up an entertainment and event organising company based in South Africa and Nigeria and we have come a long way in our own little way and contributed to the industries. I have been volunteering and donating to charity right from a very young age and as I grew older and studied African problems, I came to discover that the long term solution to most of the issues facing the African continent is based in literacy. Take for example: The first stage of a child’s development involves developing basic literacy skills, seeing this need myself and my awesome Australian friend who had been to African before came together and developed a project to collect children’s books to be sent to impoverished and disadvantaged African communities. You won’t believe how overwhelming the responses have been, and we are thankful for people like yourself, Adekunle Samuel Owolabi and many others who have contributed with advices one way or the other.

I may need to get personal with you. Are you in a relationship? If not, why? If yes, is it distracting?
Yes and not distractive enough.

I hate to ask people this, because it is very cliché. What advice do you have for young people who want to be like you?
Just work hard and believe. I say this because all I ever did was work hard and believe, it worked for me.

What is your take on the political system of Nigeria?
A joke. I say that because I still don’t think Nigeria as a country has a working structure in place to even practice democracy and it is ridiculous that they call the “mago mago” business in Nigeria.

Do you see yourself as a youth activist? Just like others?
Just like others? What do you mean by that? I am very passionate about changing so many things both in my local community and world wide and so far I have been championing many of these projects to bring positive social change. So if that is what you mean, yes I am a youth activist already.

You’ve travelled to so many countries and you’ve met different Nigerians. You’ve met quite interesting people. Do you agree that Nigerians should co-exist in one nation?
I will first of all like to say that the Nigeria of today is an amalgamation of different nations in one country. That being said I believe that there are positives to it. Will the co-existence continue further? Only God knows.

Who is your favourite Nigerian musician?
Dead: Fela
Alive: Tuface

How do you unwind?
I am very sociable Onyeka. I like to have a good time. Travelling is one of my hobbies too, I believe you and I are still meeting in Prague and touring Europe? Don’t bail on me oh!

No, I won’t. Thank you.

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