EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NIGERIAN SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR AND OPEN SOURCE ADVOCATE OLUSHOLA OLANIYAN

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Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.

 

Nigerian Social entrepreneur and open source advocate Olushola  Ishola Olaniyan for years has worked passionately to promote open knowledge with a focus on Nigerian related content on Wikipedia. Wikimedia User Group Nigeria, The foundation which started  with three members years ago is now all over 15 states in Nigeria.

 

Olushola is the co-producer of Wiki Women Radio program, a weekly program run in partnership with WFM91.7 poised to promote Nigerian women within an in Diaspora. He co-directed, Wikipedia Campaign in Nigeria for the year 2017, the campaign featured the blend of old and young Nigerian artists such as Peter Edochie-Okwonkwo and Emmanuela. After three months of release of the video it was viewed by over 17 millions viewers on Youtube and various social media platforms across the globe. Later in the year 2018, the video was nominated as the best video for the year 2018 by African Excellence Award, Dublin, Republic of Ireland. 

 

In an Exclusive interview with Zivang online team, Olushola talks about his passion, career, challenges and future plans.

 

Read interview below.

 

 

Can you formally introduce yourself sir?

My name is Olaniyan Ishola Olushola, I am a social entrepreneur, open-source, and women advocate.

 

 

 

How was your growing up as a Nigerian child?

 

Growing up as a child in Lagos during my time was quite challenging and fun full as well. I was born in Mushin, a suburb  of Lagos. The city was notorious for breeding miscreants, thugs, and a haven of hooliganism, though, as they say… the taste of the pudding is in the eating. I held a different perception of the city. Mushin has produced great musicians, professionals, technocrats, and many successful businessmen.  I am also a product of “Mushin”. Those were the people’s perception about some of us that came out of this area. We have fought tooth and nails to correct the impression.

This is the type of environment I was born, so, no one gave us a chance of making it in life. My basic education; primary and secondary school were through public schools.  Contrary to happenings now, public education in the 80s was well funded, so, there was no rivalry with the private education entrepreneurs.  It was the cheapest and best you could get.  I remembered starting primary one at age 7 after I was rejected many times because my hands couldn’t touch my ear. In those days to join public school, you need to show that your right or left hand when bend across your head can touch either your left or right ears. That was the litmus test that determines if you could be enrolled or not into the primary school, then. Many of us were of requisite age for the program because we failed the test and we have to come back for another year to try our luck, so, I missed out on several occasions.  I also see myself as a Peripatetic person, I like walking long distances. I covered a journey of over 10 kilometers to and from school without berthing an eyelid. We derived joy converting our transport allowance to something else, while we do the long-distance with our school mates and friends, eating junks and gossiping along the way. They were all fun.

During our time, many of the prevailing social vices ruling in the air now such as kidnapping, raping, and the likes were not known to us. I leave in Mushin and I trek to Oshodi to play football on a routine basis as a child of 10 years, except for the few cases of “Gbomogbomo” which normally happen whenever the government is planning a change in currency. The belief then was that people engaging in money ritual need to revalidate their power so they need to kidnap children for this purpose.  A holiday job is another peculiar feature of our growing time. Most times during the public holiday, I spent 80% of my holiday period working to earn some stipend to cater to my social and frivolous needs like cloth, shoes, wristwatch,  just to show-off.

 

 

 

 

 

Did any of these experiences have a positive influence on you are today?

 

Yes, my life as a child,  born and grew up in an environment described above demands absolute discipline and determination to succeed in Life.  So, I had failed in many business ventures, yet, I remain resolute that tomorrow will be better. I am a goal getter and I don’t  take no for an answer, especially when I believe in such a course. Sincerely, I never wanted most of the things that I passed through in my early life to be carried forward to my future. Therefore, I have to work extra hard than many of my contemporary to be sure that I stay afloat of life circumstances.

 

 

How did your career journey start with Wikimedia Nigeria?

 

I am a co-founder of Wikimedia User group Nigeria. It is a group of volunteers that came together to promote open knowledge with a focus on Nigerian related content on Wikipedia. As a user group, we lack legal status and so it was difficult sealing good partnerships with many established organizations in the county. That was what led to the reason the group metamorphosed to a registered Foundation by the Corporate Affairs Commission ( CAC) called Wikimedia Nigeria Foundation Inc.  We started with just three members but today we are in over 15 states across Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

You’ve worked with reputable organizations, What motivates you as a social entrepreneur?

 

I don’t know about other climes, Social entrepreneurship in Nigeria is not a child play.  I am mostly motivated by the lack of visibility of Nigerian women. Most times women are doing great and amazing works and it seems men are the ones reaping the fruit.  Our lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, and system of Government in Africa reflect patriarchy.  So I could see a dragon that must be stopped or it ends up stopping us. Hence, I decided that this narrative must be changed.

A lot of organizations are doing quite a lot in this space.  Our Foundation started it’s  first visibility project in partnership with Wiki Loves Women. The project tends to increase the number of content about Nigerian women on the internet. We collaborated with over 35 content partners in Nigeria to profile over 100 Wikipedia articles for notable Nigerian women. Unlike the private sector in the support of this initiative, the Nigerian government has not been supportive in our fight to tell the story of our women by Nigerian. Surprisingly, the Swedish embassy in Nigeria has played a key role to close the gender gap existing on the internet about Nigerian women. Through the support of the embassy, we have organized three WikiGap to promote the visibility of Nigerian women. Due to the effect of  COVID19, this year we organized WikiGap Online Challenge. Contrary to our thought about the success of the contest, we recorded over 500 articles in over 10 international languages ( excluding Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa).

 

Mr Olushola with the former Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria

 

 

Did you know you were going to be a social entrepreneur or it just happened by chance?

 

Sincerely, it happened by chance. I was trained as an accountant but I have flair for learning new things. I worked in a paid job for over 15years before setting up my personal business and here I am today. My journey into the world of Wikipedia started in 2014 when I travelled to Johannesburg for the first Wikidada in Africa,  It changed my experience as regards  the social entrepreneurship spirit about me.

 

 

 

 

What does it take to participate in Wikipedia training, Is it for free or paid training?

Wikipedia training is absolutely free, you are expected to come to the venue with your laptop or your working devices for the training. We provide internet and refreshment for participants. Most of our trainings are grants from Wikimedia Foundation Inc, in San Francisco, United States of America.

 

At Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

 

What is the difference between Wikipedia and Wikimedia?

Wikipedia is an online free-content encyclopedia project that aims to help create a world in which everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. As of today, over 9.3 billion visitors access the site monthly.  While Wikimedia represents the foundation that finances the project( Wikipedia).

 

 

 

 

 

WikimediaNG has been creating awareness for the digitization of contents how have WikimediaNG encouraged Nigerian students to plug into this digital space?

 

We have a project called Wiki Fan Club that fosters the need of Nigerian students in contributing to Wikipedia. We feel if Microsoft, Mozilla, and other software giants can be introduced to Nigerian students, We can as well do the same. So, we introduce this initiative to bring Nigerian students under a shelter to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia. The project is driving by students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. At the moment, we have established the club in many tertiary institutions, like the University of Ibadan, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos State University, Ekiti State University, University of Ilorin, University of Nigeria, and the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta.

 

 

Is this training open to both private and public institutions?

Yes, it is.

 

 

 

In line with this year 2020 International women’s month theme, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights “ how has WikimediaNG created a platform to train more female Wikipedia writers in Nigeria?

 

As earlier mentioned, with all due respect to the Federal Government  of Nigeria, they seem to have neglected the essence of digital presence for our women and so it is playing back negatively on them. Estimation wise, there are over 100 million women in Nigeria. Less than 5% of this population enjoyed significant coverage on the internet. This is quite painful and it’s a good sign of systemic bias against our women. Through the support of the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria, we have organized consecutively 3 Wikigap events from 2018 to date. It is usually hosted to commemorate the International women’s Day in Nigeria. This year’s event was larger than previous ones because other gender-focused organizations like African Women in Media, Exquisite Magazine, and WikiinAfrica were on the ground to support the event.

 

 

What were their responses so far?

 

Nigerians are known for our craving for knowledge. So, you shouldn’t expect less from Nigerian writers. Sincerely, the response was overwhelming.

 

Let’s talk about the Wikitongue project, how have this initiative help to promote different Nigerian Languages?

Unfortunately, we are yet to get a financial partner for this project. Primarily, this project was meant to digitally preserve some of our indigenous Language at the edge of extinction.  Initially, we plan to work with Lagos State University but we were stopped by the COVID19 pandemics saga.

 

Over the years, you’ve trained a lot of people how do you follow up with them after the training? 

Indeed, we have trained uncountable numbers of people and tracking has always been an issue. Recently, we created a WhatsApp group for ease of communication among our members. Also, we have our official mailing list and various social media handles like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What are the happiest moments you’ve had as a social entrepreneur?

Well, I tailored my life to breeding happiness. So, it is difficult to ascribe “my happiest moment” to a particular day.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wikipedia organized free virtual pieces of training for Wikipedia writers, How were you able to achieve that?

 

Yes, we organized two virtual training in the middle of the lockdown. The first one was the WikiGap Online Challenge; we trained and organized training for interested Nigerians in partnership with the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria, African Women in Media, and WikiinAfrica. The second event took place in July; it involved training, mentoring, and writing competition and our focus was female journalists from East Africa, courtesy of African Women in Media, and the United Nations. Over 600 stories about African women were profiled on Wikipedia with the help of the two events. The two projects are now our benchmark of success because the results were quite appealing.

What should we expect from WikimediaNG in the remaining part of the year 2020?

 

Starting from September; we will start “Decolonize the Internet” a project supported by Goethe Institut to promote gender neutrality on the internet and also encourages more  Africans to start writing about African, a move that will stop the eurocentric approach about many African contents on the internet. Also, we are also expecting a go-ahead on the second edition of the Visibility project tagged: Labour Migration in Africa with a focus on African Women in the Workforce in the Diaspora.

 

What have you Learnt that is not taught in Books?

As they say, life is a classroom and we will continue to learn until the time of death.  Experience!!!. I have learned a lot from my friends, associates, business partners, nuclear and extended family members to mention but a few.  Just like we have good and bad situations, there are good and bad experiences as well. I have burnt my fingers in business ventures with a friend and i have learned my lesson(s) from it.

 

 

Have you had challenging times when you thought of quitting?

 

There a lot of times i have thought of quitting, you know, God has a way of sending his angels’ ones way. As a Nigerian businessman, your challenging time is every day,  because you need to continue doing business both in bad and good times.  You can’t afford to stop even in a very hard time because you won’t know when you can hit the Jackpot.

 

Your favorite quotes?

I can do everything, through Christ that strengthens me.

 

 

What do you first thing in the morning?

Prayer

 

 

Three things you can’t do without on a daily basis?

I drink a glass of water, morning devotion, and a morning workout.

 

 

With your busy schedule, how do you balance work and family?

I am a family person, aside from regular trips, whenever i am at home I am always indoor with my family.

 

 

 

Aside from work, how do you relax?

Reading and workout.

 

Your advice to upcoming social entrepreneurs?

 

Nurse your passion and feed it with great imagination so that it can give you the fruit your desire.

 

Photo Credit: @kaizenphotography

 

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