Seyi, son of the late former chairman of African Newspapers Limited, Oluwole Awolowo, speaks to MOBOLA SADIQ about his career, family and other issues
Tell me about your childhood and educational background as Awolowo.
My childhood was a good one. I grew up in a large family. We were 10 children and 20 grandchildren. Because I am the last child and grandchild, I learnt a lot from my 19 siblings. I had a strict background as awolowo, because we were guided by firm principles. My family was also conservative.
For my secondary education, I attended Federal Government College, Odogbolu, (Ogun State), and I proceeded to the Olabisi Onabanjo University, also in Ogun State. However, I left OOU in my final year and moved to the Houdegbe North American University, Cotonou, Benin Republic, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
Asides from being Awolowo’s grandson, what other things set you apart?
I don’t think people know that I’m trying to be more prosperous than my grandfather. I’m an actor, content creator and voice-over artist. A lot of people don’t know that I don’t get pocket money from being an Awolowo. I’m a young man on the street also looking for money.
I sell lands and cars when I need to. I’m a principled person and I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not to please anybody. I’m also a rebel towards tyrants and oppressors. As a kid, I was taught that everyone matters. I’m also a soft person who has cried because a lady broke his heart. I’ve just tried to live my life as best as I can.
In one of your Instagram posts, you said you’ve felt the pain of being down. What happened?
I have been down a few times but thankfully, I have been able to overcome. Some years back, I was building something but I lost it all because of the mistake of a jealous party. As a child, I was trying to ‘feel among’ and stole a very expensive gold wristwatch from my father.
But, he caught me and disciplined me so much that I almost committed suicide out of stupidity and shame. Those incidents taught me how to value life. I have gone down at different times but thankfully, I’ve always been able to rise back.
It is believed that children from well-to-do homes like the Awolowo’s don’t have to look for jobs. Was that the case with you?
No. I have looked for jobs and I didn’t get them. Being an Awolowo doesn’t give me an edge at all. Sometimes, when one knocks on some doors, some people wouldn’t like the sound of one’s name and they would tell one to look elsewhere.
I have been turned down a couple of times because I probably didn’t merit the position. Some people may also not like my family or me. At those times, I say it’s not my fault that I was born into the Awolowo family, so I move on. I was brought up to believe in earning my way to the top. Things that one doesn’t earn doesn’t last.
Multiple reports have claimed that you’re a doctor. Is that true?
I have also heard those claims but they are not true. The medical profession is a noble one that one can’t lie about. However, I’m not a doctor, although I would have loved to be one. I have tried to correct the misconception a couple of times.
Growing in a famous family, what were the things that were expected of you?
My family gave me the proper tools to map out my life. My family made sure that my moral compass was intact, hence I quickly knew the difference between good and evil. My family knew what I was going to become and they really had high hopes for what I was planning to be. I’ll love to surpass my grandfather, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
I know it’s a feat and I haven’t done a quarter (of what Obafemi Awolowo did) yet but that doesn’t mean I won’t make it.
I believe I’m preparing myself for this challenge, though my uncles and aunts have forewarned me that Chief Awolowo’s shoes are a big one to fit into because the whole world is watching. They advised and encouraged me to try my best to surpass Awolowo and even be a better person. I desire to operate on the magnitude of Awolowo’s greatness.
What plans have you put in place to surpass Chief Awolowo?
I’m aiming for the top. It’s a journey and I’m already on the path. I don’t mind going into politics, and I’d like my kids to grow up in Nigeria.
Why did you decide to partake in the Big Brother Naija reality show?
I went into the reality show because I needed a wave to ride on. I wanted to define my character away from the Awolowo legacy. People only saw me as Awolowo’s grandson and it was looking like that was all I was.
I felt that if I could define myself on a level playing field with others, then people would be able to take me seriously. Big Brother Naija is an amazing platform to expose oneself to the public and let the world recognize one’s gifts and talents.
How did your family react when you told them of your intention to go on the show?
My mum was the closest person to me at that time and she was not up for it. She didn’t see me in that light but I had to follow my dreams. If my dad was alive, I believe he would have been rooting for me seriously.
Did the BBN show serve the purpose you wanted it to?
Yes, it did to a certain degree. The BBN show made a lot of things come easier and faster to me and I’ve met a lot of people via the platform that have been encouraging and mentoring me to be a better person. At least I’m getting a little bit of what I’m looking for and I appreciate that.
What were you doing before you went on Big Brother Naija?
I started modelling when I was 16 and the first deal I signed was a two-year contract which ended when I was 18 years old. It pays well, so I’ve been doing it for a long time. I also work with my brother and do different hustles.
I have never done a 9am – 5am, though I sincerely looked for that kind of job but I never got it. I’m an actor though I have only featured in a few movies. I’m looking forward to being mentored by some of Nigeria’s best hands.
Why did you stay faithful to your girlfriend while in the Big Brother Naija house?
I was disciplined in the house because I have a great lady and I didn’t intend to throw it away. This is something I have built over time. She was part of my growth till I got into the house and I didn’t think it was fair to have sidelined her. Also, I’m seriously in love with her.
How have you been handling fans and fame since you left BBN?
It does feel good to have large and good followers. Above all, I’m thankful for the lessons that were instilled in me growing up. Now, fame can’t easily get to me because I’m a content person and I know how to put a balance to things.
It is not a do-or-die affair for me and I know that everything takes time. Rome was not built in a day, so I have to be calm about things. I can’t claim to be who I’m not because I want to please fans.
If I get depressed or sad, it would be all on me. If I do anything wrong, I would get blamed for it. Allow me to make my mistakes myself and learn from it. I’m all about influencing and inspiring my fan base to get positive reactions.
What’s your take on die-hard fans fighting over housemates?
My girlfriend also got death threats from faceless people. People believe they can say or do anything, and it’s sad that we couldn’t get them. It’s appalling that anyone would want to pitch two people against each other because they don’t like them.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the entertainment industry?
Entertainment is a large market and a lot of people contend with one another. There are a lot of talented people but the sky is big enough for everyone to soar. Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed a lot of things down.
I hope we can get back to our normal way of life, where we can have the aspirations to host shows, be at corporate events and have opportunities to make money. I’ll like to do things with the movers and shakers of Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, and penetrate every movie market on the planet.
What is the fondest memory you have of your grandparents?
I didn’t meet my grandfather. He died a year before I was born. My grandmother, on the other hand, was very sweet. She had a soft spot for me, so she used to spoil me and had a way of pacifying me. The advice that my father would give me in a stern tone, my grandmother would find a nice way to say it.
She had a way with words and I remember her kindness. She didn’t tell me so much about my grandfather because I was very young. But books, journals and other materials were there to find out a lot about him. My late father told me that my grandfather was dedicated, passionate, loyal, and stood by his decisions. He said my grandfather was a man that was just and could not be bought.
What are some of the privileges you’ve enjoyed?
We’re treated like every other person. Some people give us more respect as an Awolowo but some don’t also like us. In school, lecturers expected more from me and I didn’t have a low-key life as I would have wanted. But it was not something I couldn’t handle because I’m used to it.
Have you ever suffered depression?
I was almost there but I never got to that point because I had a fantastic support system― great friends and loved ones that have always been there to inspire me when I’m feeling down.
Who and what inspires you?
I’ll love to say my grandfather but I’ll also say myself too. I want to be a better version of myself every day and I already have a piece of my grandfather in me which is why I have the drive to be greater than him. I haven’t got to my potential with him inside of me. There are also a lot of African leaders that inspire me.
What’s your favourite food?
I am a food (laughs), so I don’t have a favourite food. I eat everything that is nice and spicy.
What are the things you can’t do without?
I can do without my phone. I tried it for three months. But, I can’t do without peace of mind.