The path to becoming a creative in Nigeria isn’t easy. There are many factors that prevent young people from being their authentic selves; the biggest of all being our straitjacketed society. But what happens when one breaks free and begins to live life on their own terms? Being you is a huge feat; a fact Jameson Irish Whiskey aims to bring to the fore by celebrating the freedom to be you.
We spoke to Sheye Banks of Soundcity and Mobola Awe of FOMO Lagos about how they found their voices and gained their independence to become who they are today.
How did you get started as an On-Air Personality?
It started off with me being very angry — angry about the government, human rights abuses, and the general state of things in Nigeria. I just wanted to make a difference. Along the way, I found my purpose in being a radio presenter.
I took a break from school and went to the UK for a gap year. I went to visit a relative in the hospital one day and stumbled on a radio station. I heard the hosts of the show talking and I just fell in love with it. Immediately after I came back to Nigeria, I joined my school’s radio station, UNILAG FM.
Was it smooth or did you face some challenges along the way?
Oh, I did. My parents weren’t on board in the beginning. They were confused about why I wanted to become an OAP after spending so much money on my education studying Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Lagos, even after I spent more years in school than I should have.
After University, I joined a radio station in Abuja but was getting paid peanuts, even after 6 years on the job. And my parents hated this.
It was at the point I had to put my foot down and find my independence I insisted that this was what I wanted to do with my life, and they had no choice but to respect my decision. After my time at the radio station in Abuja, I came back to Lagos and that’s where my career really began to kick off.
I also had to have hard conversations with myself. I knew that even though I was doing radio, I needed to do other things on the side before it took off. Now, aside from being an OAP, I’m a hype man, music executive, A & R, a multimedia entrepreneur, and many other things. All of this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t decide to make independent decisions and remain in the radio industry.
That’s inspiring. It seems like you were determined from the start.
Yes, but like everyone, I had my doubts when things weren’t going well. I went from wanting to be an aeronautical engineer to studying mathematics and statistics. At some point, I even wanted to be a motivational speaker because I spoke in church as a child. But radio was where I found my independence and my purpose. It was the first time I decided what I wanted for myself and went for it. I wasn’t doing it for the money. I was just very passionate about it, which I stuck with even when I wasn’t getting paid.
Do you have any words for younger people trying to live their most authentic lives and going after what they want?
The most important thing is to be yourself. We’re called On-Air Personalities for a reason – because your personality and your true self is the most important thing. It is crucial to be yourself in a way you can be proud of. Express yourself knowing you have a purpose and vision. Work towards greatness, and above all, be free. The sky’s the limit so don’t let anybody put you in a box. Consistency is far better than speed. When it’s time, it’ll pay off. This is why I identify with Jameson because I’m all for living authentically.
How did you get started with FOMO Lagos?
When I moved back to Lagos in 2013 after uni, I figured there were a lot of activities to do in Lagos, but people seemed stuck on dining and clubbing. So, I went out of my way to find something different I could do in Lagos. My friends knew I was the go-to person when they wanted to do something different and that’s how I started FOMO Lagos, a page where I curate fun activities people can do while in the city. In a few months, the page developed a large following.
Was this what you always planned to do?
Nah! I studied civil engineering and practised it for two years, but my soul wasn’t in it.
Did you face any difficulties with your decision to start FOMO Lagos?
My parents were not pleased that I was focusing my efforts on FOMO Lagos, which led to my dad not speaking to me for a long time. But I knew I just had to break free and do this for me because it was what I wanted. I wanted to live my truth. Since I was little, I’ve always been a rebel. I chase whatever I want with my full strength so when they saw how passionate I was about it, they came around.
That’s admirable. What do you do for fun?
I enjoy listening to music and painting. I even wanted to be a DJ at some point, but for now, I’ll stick to making playlists, LMAO! I always tell young people that the fear that you’re not on the right path will always be there, but you have to learn to live with it. That’s no reason to stop. Also, just do what your gut tells you because that’s the real you.