When the African story is told the right way, the world will see us as such. Femi Tunde Okunlola is his name and his passion is to provide voice for the voiceless. Meeting up with him at Lagos, Nigeria, there was always something special and passionate in his voice anytime discussions on the suffering of the African continent came up. He does more than journalism and the likes of him in Nigeria gives hope for the coming generation in Africa’s most populous country.
This week, Tunde, as he is affectionately called is our guest on Game Changers and he will tell us how he got to where he is now and the obstacles he encountered on his way up. Lets get over to the conversation.
Wundengba: So who is Femi Tunde Okunlola?
Tunde: Femi Tunde Okunlola is a Multi media Development Journalist/ Enthusiast and Writer from Nigeria, covering Africa, with a focus on Governance, security and Environment. I hail from Oyo state Nigeria, My Dad is a retired Civil servant, Management consultant, and community developer in my hometown, Mum; business woman until she retired (both are in their 70’s and 60’s respectively), I had my Nursery and primary education in Early life Nursery and Primary School Festac Town Lagos, I attended Olivet Baptist High School Oyo state for the first half of my seconday education, then moved back to Early life secondary school for my Junior WAEC, and then moved to Model Secondary School Maitama Abuja, where I graduated as Head Boy in 2004. In 2009 I graduated from the Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago Iwoye from the Department of English winning the prestigious Face Of English of the graduating set (2008/2009). In 2014/2015 I obtained a Masters in Peace and Development from the University of Ilorin Kwara State, Nigeria.
Presently, I work as a Multi-media development Journalist using multi-media tools to bring important conversations to the fore and getting the stakeholders to act. I am a single man, but in a committed relationship. I am also an Obama YALI Fellow, as well as an RNTC Netherlands Alumnus.
Wundengba: What did you want to be in the future when you were a child and why?
Tunde: I grew up like most normal kids with a dream of just being famous (chuckling). I loved anything that had to do with speech (I guess I got fascinated by the power of words and how important they were in molding the world. I remember applying for Law and Mass communication. I didn’t get that, so I decided on English being the closest option and as well as for the love of the arts and literature. I loved it and stuck with it during my undergraduate days.
Shortly after graduating and while serving, the fascination with Media as a tool for transforming lives and telling the stories that matter. I remember always thinking, how can one person have so much control and knowledge. I wanted to be the one to explain the complicated stuff and watch some one say “I didn’t know that, but now I do”. I had a voice and a flare for radio, learning the technique was hard work but easy, I’ve stuck with it ever since, while also writing and telling stories through pictures.
Wundengba: What are you currently doing to help your community?
Tunde: As a Multi-media development Journalist/Enthusiast creating and developing multimedia content, I started Converse Africa, to tell powerful stories and campaigns that get audiences to think, build bridges and effect changes in their communities and on the continent in the areas of Environment, security, and Governance. Founding Converse Africa as well as creating content with multi-media tools helps me contribute in shaping opinions and triggering conversations that matter and affecting lives especially in the area of development, be it through content creation, to seminars to molding opinions and triggering civil actions that aid development by Africans and for Africans.
I run my own company Dazzle Media Creations and Concepts Ltd which successfully produced 12 episodes of a transparency, accountability project for the Kwara State Government, which played a great role in electoral participation during the 2015 general elections. The organization also trains young and aspiring media- prenueurs.
My work has garnered me nominations in the National Category of the Nigerian Broadcasters Merit Awards Best Community Access Radio Programme (2013, 2014, 2015), and Best Newscaster National Category of the NBMA (2013, 2014, 2015)
I was a Member of the 5 man panel on the 2015 pre-election gubernatorial debate organized by the NUC/TUC Kwara state Nigeria for all fifteen gubernatorial candidates during the elections.
I also work as Content head of Royal FM 95.1 Ilorin where I worked as a part of the pioneer team which helped develop content for the first private radio in Ilorin; we were able to achieve the highest listener-ship in our area of coverage which spans over 80 communities with different ethnic groups across 8 states. The station has since gone on to win in major categories at the Nigerian Broadcasters Merit Awards as well as in major nominations.
In 2016, I produced 8 episodes of “Through My Eyes”, a programme targeted at under-reported issues in the community through storytelling.
In February 2017, I was selected as a Fellow of the Obama YALI (RLC) programme shortlisted amongst thousands and won the Special prize for Presentation skills amongst other awards)
Wundengba: What motivated you to start doing what you are doing?
Tunde: Converseafrica.com was birthed from the strong belief that for Africa to grow and for its young peope to get a seat at a table on the global stage, we have to grow in knowledge, and the people come to a place of self-realization. Blacks both on the continent will never get the respect it deserves until we solve the challenge of leadership on the continent, and build a successful black nation or nations, one that Africans; both of the soil, and of the blood can look up to. We solve this problem by raising ethical leaders and bringing the continent to Accountability. This is why I chose media. To me, media remains a tool for sensitizing people and starting conversations that matter. ConverseAfrica.com helps bring development to the fore.
Wundengba: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Tunde: I see myself as one of the voices at the forefront of credible media on the continent. I also see Converse Africa and Dazzle Media Creations and Concepts ltd being at the fore of Development conversations on the continent and a force to reckon with in the area of Development on all spheres, with mega Conferences, in various parts of the continent as well as a media institute facilitating trainings in various parts of the continent.
Wundengba: Was there a time you thought you could no more continue in life. your lowest point in life?
Tunde: The lowest point of my life was during a period of grieving in 2003. I lost a brother and a sister (Fisayo and Abiola Okunlola) in an accident. It shook everything I believed in. It was a trying time for my family and for a teenager. I spent weeks praying and I guess God got us through that. Only a God above could have done that.
Wundengba: Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
Tunde: Next to God, that would be my Father. My father lost his sight to glaucoma suddenly in 2005. I have never seen anyone fight for life, the way he did. Friends left, he also had to leave the civil service at the peak as a deputy director, but he fought. Despite losing his sight, he continues to consult for the government and is an active contributor to his community. There is a zest that I have to life in the face of all odds that I think I got from him. He teaches me continuously, that it isn’t life itself that matters but the courage with which we live it. Oh, my parents’ marriage as well. (laughs). They really are courageous people who continue to stay together despite all odds.
Wundengba: If you had the chance to change one decision you made in your life, what would it
Tunde: I honestly have no regrets. Life is too short for regrets. The mistakes don’t define us. I have learnt that forgiving ones self is key in life. So I forgive myself in the face of errors and strive to do better. The past is written, the future is not. We can only do better.
Wundengba: What is your advice for people who wish to become like you?
Tunde: When you leave this world, you’ll leave memories. Make sure it’s a life of service.