In Conversations: Onyeka Nwelue talks to Chika and Chidi Nwaogu

Just like Siamese twins, they have this ‘You are me. I am you’ feeling all the time. And they are the Nwaogu Twins. They just know how to find their ways around things. They are smarter than your average 22 year old and they are always working on something, trying to be very innovative. 

I met them on the pages of a magazine and I was intrigued. They have a lot to share with the world and I became more interested in meeting them. We became friends on Facebook, then, we finally met. I spoke to them and they answered like One.

Nwaogutwins

I am very age conscious. How old are you?

We’re 22.

What have you been doing with your life?

We’ve been learning different languages. Not spoken languages, but
written computer languages. We write in over 10 computer languages,
which includes PHP and our favorite Javascript.

It is very interesting how passionate you guys are about technology
and you are becoming well known in Africa! How did you get to where
you are today? What is the voodoo?

Passionate is the word. We love spending loads and loads of money on
expensive gadgets. We love technology, and enjoy exploring it. Our
love for technology trace back to 1998 when we became fascinated about
the technology behind computer games. When people played computer
games, they enjoy it, but we don’t. Rather we ponder. We ask ourselves
questions like, “How is this possible? Why do we get different
experience and results each time we play? How’re these computer games
so intelligent and sensitive to controls?” We stayed up overnight with
such perplexing questions running through our brain process without
ceasing.

At the age of 12, we came across a book that introduced us to HTML.
That same year, we created our first offline and online webpages. The
excitement was overwhelming, and we wanted more and more. So, we
started a knowledge hunt on the Internet. We learnt CSS the following
year. Before the age of 17, we could write in GML (an advanced form of
BASIC) that is used to develop computer games for Windows. The
following year, we created our first computer game “Save The Admiral”,
and uploaded it online for free download, and play.

At the age of 18, we could write Javascript, PHP, Ajax, C++, Rugby,
and a lot more. Simultaneously, we developed interest for Cosmology
and Astronomy. In 2007, we received a letter from a publishing company
in the United States to publish our manuscript on the nature of Dark
Energy and Cosmic Acceleration, but we didn’t send our manuscript
either. Our interest to create a social gaming network crushed our
cosmological dreams. At that moment, we were studying for a degree in
Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the Imo State University,
and we knew we had to return to Lagos if we wanted to succeed in our
social gaming project.

We applied to the University of Lagos, and got an offer to study for a
Physics degree. We took it and returned to Lagos. During our first
semester at the University of Lagos we started an online dating
utility with a roommate. The project wasn’t a straight success, and
crashed few days after launch. Now, it was time to launch our social
gaming network. Eventually, we created an exclusive social network for
students of the University of Lagos instead. We called the new social
network LAGbook.

LAGbook was created primarily to find out which faculty a girl my twin
(Chidi) and I saw on campus. My twin said she’s not a science student,
while I believed she was a science student. After eight weeks of run,
the girl signed up for a LAGbook account becoming our 3,053th student
to register. We identified her with her profile picture, and she was a
science student. I was right after-all.

Loads and loads of bounces came from visitors who weren’t students of
the University of Lagos, and wanted a LAGbook account. So, we decided
to expand after two months of inception. We expanded to the entire
Nigerian population. This took our daily signups from 50 to 100. After
a year of run, we could boast of a 20,000 registered members. While
being a Nigerian social network, we noticed an appreciable amount of
bounces from Non-Nigerian visitors, so we opened up registration to
the 21 African English speaking countries which includes Nigeria,
Ghana, and South Africa. Our daily registration doubled. We rose from
100 to 200, and after two years on the world wide web, we had over
70,000 registered members.

We expanded our reach to the youth demographic (18-30) and
registration peaked. We took the fancy of Wikipedia, and signed an
overly-publicized ad deal with Research In Motion (Blackberry)
Nigeria. The funds we received from Blackberry shot our daily signups
to 4,000. Everybody at LAGbook was so excited to be part of the team
that is building Africa’s largest social networking website. We
appeared on TechCrunch, Yahoo! News, and twice on Vanguard and
National Mirror.

Now, we have over 800,000 registered members, and statistics show that
before we turn 3 in the social business, we should have crossed the
1,000,000 member-mark. Each day, we’re getting popular across the
African continent and beyond.

Recently, you were in Ghana. Tell us about it. I mean. if you can give
us details.

We got an invitation to speak on the role of social media and mobile
in developing countries at the 2012 IT Leaders West Africa Summit. The
summit held on the 28-29 November, 2012, at Movernpick Ambassador
Hotel in Accra-Ghana. My twin and I spoke for 30minutes on the 29th.
We spoke on the importance of Internet and Social Media in developing
countries. We also spoke on the Egyptian Revolution, social media and
national economy, news delivery, self-empowerment, politics, and
national security. We pointed the challenges of social media, and the
increasing threat established social media platforms receive from the
government of a growing number of countries including Pakistan, China,
Syria, Bangladesh, Iran and Uzbekistan. I’m proud to say that my twin
and I created some intellectual damage [laughs] on that day.

We have also been invited to speak at AIESEC Ghana’s Youth to Business
Forum to hold at the University of Ghana Business School on the 9th of
February, 2013. AIESEC is the largest student-run organization that
promotes success and excellence amongst students.

Many young people in Nigeria know nothing about what they want in
life. I mean, how do you think they can discover themselves?

It’s simple. Find out what makes you curious. Find out what brings out
the creativity in you. For us, it was computers. To others, it’s
music. To some, it’s dancing. Explore it. Don’t be driven by the zeal
to make money, but the zeal to make a difference. People who embark on
projects for money, run out of fuel before reaching the “prominent”
line. Avoid running on money because it is extremely limited, except
you’ve got hundreds of gold bar underneath your bed. Run yourself on
ideas. Ideas are limitless. They know no bound. They’re infinite as
far as you make your mind run wild. No one pays to dream. It’s free,
so dream on and on, and more and more.

My advice to every dreamer is, “Dream like a beast, and chase your
dream like a possessed demon. When you meet an obstacle, if you cannot
break it, bend around it. Just make sure you’re always on the move.”

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?

I have a very crazy take on university education. My beliefs are very
radical that most people consider them unsuitable for public
consumption, but I care little or nothing about what people think of
my beliefs so I will share some of them with you.

The major reason why most graduates tend to succeed more than
university dropouts, is because of the term “self-esteem”. Most
graduates believe they deserve more from life because they spent four
years cramming loads and loads of textbook pages. On the extreme hand,
university dropouts or those who never attended it believe they
deserve less from life since they don’t have a printed paper that
tells the world they are qualified.

This is very similar to why Nigerians in diaspora tend to succeed more
than Nigerians in Nigeria. This’s because once a Nigerian flies
oversea for greener pasture, they work twice as hard to measure up to
what their friends, family and loved ones expect of them. They begin
to outwork themselves in order to return to Nigeria as rich and
successful as people in Nigeria expects them to.

Everyone is as good as their dream and their confidence in their
ability. For me, university education is just four years of complete
waste of time, money and mental effort. In fact university education
discourages creativity and innovation. It promotes heavy dependency on
printed words rather than exploration and intelligent findings.

Many people do not agree with me, but then every man is subject to his
philosophy.

Are you an emotional person?

My twin and I were raised military. We attended the Nigerian Navy
Secondary School were we were taught that emotion signifies weakness.
But I am a very romantic and emotional person. At the moment, I’m
writing my first novel with aid from my twin brother. It’s a romantic
novel titled “Thando”, which is about a young Nigerian boy who fell in
love with a fairly-educated bartender during his brief visit to South
Africa. “Thando” means “love” in Zulu.

Nigerian technology has a long way to go. The market is not that
healthy as we find more people in the entertainment industry. How do
you make yourself unique as a technology entrepreneur?

In Nigeria, entertainment was once in a turbulent state just as
technology is today. So I believe things will get better for
technology entrepreneurs and enthusiasts like myself. The reason why
technology in Nigeria is “unhealthy” is because, little or no one
supports it. For example, there’re little or no venture capitalists to
fuel the growth of technology startups. Many multinational companies
in Nigeria sponsor entertainment projects. Etisalat is the major
sponsor to Nigerian Idol. Glo is the sponsor to Naija Sings. Peak has
a talent show. Same goes to MTN. These companies promote
entertainment. No one wants to promote a technology startup or
project. How can technology grow in such an environment?

The Nigerian technology eco-system is fluctuating and needs a maximum
rethink and subsequent but complete change.


I may need to get personal with you. Are you in a relationship? if
not, why? if yes, is it distracting?

My twin and I used to be in a relationship, but at the moment we are
not. We spend most of the hours of the day writing codes, plotting
marketing patterns, and executing feasible plans. We often don’t have
time for our girlfriends, and we broke it off after they rebelled. At
the moment, we’re not in any relationship, and we want it to remain so
for a very-very long time. Relationship at the moment is a mighty
distraction and an inhibitor to our growth.

I hate to ask people this, because it is very cliche. What advice do
you have for young people who want to be like you?

Be like me? Nobody should want to be like me because the road was and
is still rough and tough. Try to be yourself, and make mistakes your
own way.

My advice is, “Work hard and smart, then advertise. Nobody will
patronize what they don’t know, would they? Don’t spend forever
creating something nobody will use”.

What is your take on the political system of Nigeria?

It’s a competition. It’s a challenging ecosystem. Everybody wants to
win at all cost, and when they get in, they want to loot. They want
return for their investment. Since they spend millions of Naira to get
in power, they’re ready to steal billions of Naira as profit. It’s
more like business, but with bullshit written all over it.

Do you see yourself as a youth activist? Just like others?

We’re, but not like others. We’re radicals.

You’ve met quite interesting people. Do you agree that Nigerians
should co-exist in one nation?

We live in a very-very crazy country. Super crazy. We’re bunch of
tribalist, religious extremists, and narrow-minded individuals. If
division is the answer, what are we waiting for? Call for a split!

Who is your favorite Nigerian musician?

I can answer that in my sleep. Wizkid is my favorite Nigerian
musician. He’s multitalented. He’s the future of Nigerian music.

How do you unwind?

We’re shopaholics. We shop a lot!
We love music. We’re found always singing to music in our head.
We are anti-social. We celebrate with ourselves and nobody else.

 

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