In Conversations: Onyeka Nwelue talks to Samuel Dogini

Samuel Dogini and I met through a very close friend and since then, we have kept in touch, brainstormed and rubbed minds together. He is as intelligent as he sounds in this conversation with me. More so, he is very articulate and understands the society he lives in more than most people do. 

For a while now, we have had people who are into prints and designs and barely know what their market is, but as we must know, Samuel is about to explore the European market in November, so I decided to talk to him about what he is doing.

I am very age conscious. How old are you?
I am 25years old.

What have you been doing with your life?
I do a lot. Making a difference is what I like to call it. I have been the CEO and Founder of Tees Afrique since 2009, got a degree in Engineering technology, and got two years to get a degree in Civil Engineering, and I’m working a regular 9-5 with a dream of graduating from Harvard Business School someday.  To me, the biggest thing I can get out of life is constantly educating myself, redefining my beliefs, updating my skill set and remaining dynamic in this ever changing world. I am presently working on all of my dreams in order to to be a force of my generation.

You moved to the US years ago, but at the moment, you have established yourself as a very hardworking and out-of-the-box entrepreneur, owing Tees Afrique. How did you get to where you are today? What is the voodoo? Can you also tell us about Tees Afrique?
Hmm, like they say Rome wasn’t built in a day. It has been a very interesting journey from when this was all a crazy idea. It took a whole lot to get to this point with Tees Afrique, but most importantly, I would say hard work, determination, belief, research and innovation has taken me this far. There is no voodoo involved, it all boils down to the drive, determination and pride I have in what I do. Tees Afrique is very close to my heart, through the ups & downs, the naysaying and negativity I have never faltered. I shot at the target before aiming, now I’m just moving the bullet through the perfect route to hit the target in due time.

Most of designs or shirts have prints alluding to pro-Africanism. Why? Is this a conscious way of creating a style?
Yes, you can say that. This has been part of the mission of TeesAfrique from day one. I left Nigeria at the end of 2005 to study in Malaysia, after which I transferred to the US in summer 2007. I experienced racism towards myself and the people that looked like me in Malaysia and thought it was going to be different in America, of which I was wrong. It didn’t matter if they were Kenyan, Nigerian or from Somalia we were all viewed as the same. The funny thing was that we among ourselves never saw it that way; we were always quick to point how we differed and how we were better than the other.

Africans like to argue about their country being better than the next man’s, Tees Afrique wants to celebrate the diversities we have and make us a lot more proud of who we are, not what the divisions from colonization have made us become.I wanted to create something we can all agree on, we are Africans and that’s what the world sees. This developed into a style of its own over the years, which now incorporates a whole lot more. I like to see it as conscious fashion with an aim to challenge thought conventions by highlighting and promoting all the positive aspects of Africa and Africans. It’s pro-African patriotism, activism and a wish to build unity and strengthen the pride and belief in our rich cultural heritage as well as support for the advancement of the common African through educational outreaches and partnering with NGO’s.

Many young people in Nigeria know nothing about what they want in life. I mean, how do you think they can discover themselves?
Stop blaming the situation and start thinking critically. To develop a nation of young thinkers, we need people that ask questions rather than do as told, who are not afraid to oppose certain perceived norms with the change in time. This attitude if developed will trickle down to upcoming generations and will certainly make a difference.

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?
University education is always good, as it broadens your world view and educates you on certain things you otherwise wouldn’t have known and eventually it also reinvents some people. Personally, university education is plan B for me. I think it’s more important for people to educate themselves, acquire the necessary knowledge first about life and the various systems created by fellow man to entrap the weak minded.Creating something tangible is always better than helping someone else profit off what they already created.

I think students leaving secondary school and graduates should all develop the “self-starter, go getter” mentality. You don’t necessarily have to start a business or create something right after you graduate but at least have it engraved in the back of your mind that whatever you are doing that is not yours is not going to last as long you want it to.

Are you an emotional person?
I would say I am, but I try not to show a lot of emotions unless I am trying to drive a message home.

Nigerian entrepreneurs are doing well for themselves now. How do you think one can make him himself totally unique and different?
To make yourself unique and different, you need to first of all be your biggest supporter, your biggest fan and your biggest investor. When you combine drive, passion, integrity, accountability and a superior customer service you have no option but to get noticed. I think this is key in standing out as an entrepreneur.

I may need to get personal with you. Are you in a relationship? If not, why? If yes, is it distracting?
I am in a relationship, and it is not distracting. We share a lot in common, believe in the same goals and always work together to better each other. It’s like fitting in the perfect puzzle piece the way we complement each other.

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?
My advice for young people will be for them to follow their heart, go for what they believe in and are passionate about, work hard, persevere and believe in your ability to succeed.Stay focused!

What is your take on the political system of Nigeria?
The Nigerian political system is a mess. I feel like we take two steps forward as people and then the system take us four steps backward. The flaws in Nigeria’s political system are too many to mention, but I think the idea of gaining power based on a zone, ethnic group, religion or nepotism is a major setback. Everything should be open to the people, so that the best candidate gets the job.

Do you see yourself as a youth activist? Just like others?
Yes, I see myself as a youth activist. I’m not sure if I’m like others, but I always will strive to make a difference in the world whether it is socially, economically, has to do with equal rights and justice or the emancipation of the common man. Mentoring, motivating and advocating for young people is something I am very passionate about.

You’ve travelled to so many places and you’ve met different Nigerians. You’ve met quite interesting people. Do you agree that Nigerians should co-exist in one nation?
The beauty of Nigeria is in its diversity. All things being equal I would like for Nigerians to co-exist as one nation.

Who is your favorite Nigerian musician?

How do you unwind?
Hit the gym, listen to music, check out the social scene every now and again