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CNN African Journalist of the Year: Finalist, Ogunlesi, shines in Lagos

RedSTRAT, organiser of The Future Nigeria Awards, decided to organise a reception to celebrate these milestones and foster interaction between him and other young Nigerians…

RedSTRAT, organiser of The Future Nigeria Awards, decided to organise a reception to celebrate these milestones and foster interaction between him and other young Nigerians – in a new event series called The Red Reception.   “It proves wrong those people who say young people will only go out for parties and clubs, and only if we are celebrating entertainment!”

One of the guests, music producer Alexander Yangs, said. “Look at the young people here – from singer Timi Dakolo to newscaster Lamide Akintobi – they will be at the listening parties and the album launches which is great, but when we also want to celebrate something substantial and inspiring, our generation proves that it will stand up for the right things.”

The event, anchored by radio presenter and event organiser, Shade Ladipo, held at the Swe Bar, Onikan, in Lagos. It began with the national anthem, after which there was comedy by new sensation, Emeka Smith, and a spoken word performance by Sage Hasson. Then the MC welcomed Tolu Ogunlesi to his front seat to a standing ovation from guests. RedSTRAT’s Creative Director, Chude Jideonwo, read from what he called a 5-year-old short story called Cloud 9, and then the MC invited a close friend of Tolu’s, Kola Osinowo, as well as his former boss and mentor, famed writer Toni Kan, joined him in front of the guests.

Writer and medical doctor, Peju Adeniran took the front seat next to read from Tolu’s novel, Conquest and Conviviality, and then she moderated a question and answer session with him. Questions ranged from why he resigned his job at telecoms major player Visafone, to how many rejections he received for his story. “I think it helps when you have no other talent but writing,” Tolu said to plenty of laughter, “Because it forces you to hone your craft, to keep at it, to never give up and to get better.” Speaking about Tolu, whom he has known for almost a decade, Toni Kan noted that he is constantly a positive challenge for older writers. “Sometimes you look at what he has done, for someone yet so young, you have to ask yourself, what am I doing?”

The event climaxed with Shade’s announcement that Nigeria’s hottest rap sensation, MI was performing. With the usual confidence and swagger, multiple award-winning MI held the guests on their feet for minutes, ending the show, so to speak, on a high note.

Explaining the purpose of the gathering, PR Director of RedSTRAT, Emilia Asim-Ita said. “People might say we already have the awards to celebrate young people, and that it is so popular that there is no doubt it is making impact, and indeed they are right. However, we don’t have the luxury of time in our generation. Every day, young people are assaulted with negative images in the magazines, and in the media. We all therefore have a duty to immediately, in real time, counter those negative images with continuous positive stories like Tolu’s. That kind of effort is not a once in a year thing, it’s an everyday thing. And it’s little drops like this that would support the ultimate goal of The Future Nigeria Awards and other such nation-building initiatives.”

“This is only a first in the series,” Asim-Ita further explained, “any time a young person makes us proud to be young Nigerians, and re-energises our hope in this national enterprise, we will be here to celebrate him or her, and to challenge our generation to do even more. It is also an opportunity to get young people who are Nigeria-centric to network and share ideas and experiences that will continue to move the engine of change. It’s all about the future of our country.”