Kunle Afolayan


Popularly known as Niyola, Eniola Akinbo is famous for her unique voice and stage presence. With a music career spanning over 20 years, the former EME artiste has paid her dues in the entertainment industry.

Niyola’s late father first noticed her talent when she was 8 years old. In 2000, she took part in a talent show and emerged as the first runner up, which marked the beginning of her journey in the music industry. Aside from singing, she has also done soundtracks for movies.

While her journey has not been a walk in the park, with determination, Eniola has managed to stay relevant for over 20 years. She recently made her acting debut in Kunle Afolayan’s movie Swallow, where she played ‘Tolani.’ She shares her inspiring journey, goals, challenges as an entertainer, and how she’s been able to stay grounded in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

I grew up in a large family where it was literally always like a movie set; different characters, different age groups. Incidentally, my dad was one involved in each of his children’s day-to-day lives; he noticed things even my mother didn’t. He was the one who discovered and really helped me nurture my talent. He had incentive parties every year where whoever came top of their class would be awarded a prize. We would come up with acts for the day of the event; singing, action drama and other fun stuff.

Most importantly, he made me write songs for morning devotion and took me to my first concert at age 8 or 9; it was a Funmi Adams concert. So, there are different things in my childhood that prepared me for where I am now.

Why I Pitched My Tent In The Music Industry

I stumbled on the Nigerian music industry at an early age through a talent hunt I did, and I just somehow found myself delving deeper and becoming more grounded. I had the likes of Sound Sultan, Faze, Paul play and many more encouraging me to forge ahead

Staying Relevant Since 2000

It’s a tricky one, but I honestly think that the fact that we are doing this interview in 2021 is an answer in itself. I think I have somehow managed to; I don’t know how, but I am grateful to God.

My Acting Debut In Kunle Afolayan’s Movie Swallow

It’s one of those experiences that will forever be a milestone. It’s new; it’s different, and a learning curve, which I am so intrigued by. I have always been a fan of Kunle Afolayan; I never dreamt that I would one day star as a lead in one of his works. It’s particularly interesting and significant for me because everything about Swallow is authentically Nigerian! The writer, Sefi Atta, wrote the story.

It’s the perfect film for anyone to find out what Lagos and Nigeria truly were like in the 80s, and that could explain a lot about certain belief systems and behavioural patterns in our society today
Playing ‘Tolani’ In The Movie

Too many to mention, but it’s the age-old ‘To thyself be true.’ At the end of it all, it’s important to know oneself and always do what works for oneself and not bow to peer pressure, because the grass seems greener on the other side.

Plans for the Movie Industry

Anything is possible. I am open to exploring anything that helps me express myself, so, I am open to it. Yes!

My Music Career And The Next Phase

I have been working on music mostly for film and other artists, so you will probably find music I have performed on like King Of Boys and Swallow. Two others are coming soon, which I am not sure I am allowed to mention

I will be releasing Niyola’s music at some point. I wish I could say when, but I honestly can’t for now, as I am not quite there yet; I am working on it though

Challenges As An Entertainer

Hmmm, I think about having so many ideas and choosing the ones that best express what I am feeling and intend to share in that moment. Sometimes, how you felt months ago when you wrote a song or four isn’t the same as when you’re done with it. Most times, it’s important for me to share what I feel, so I move to what I am feeling and it could be an endless cycle.

That’s why we have teams that help us because we can’t separate our emotions from it. Also, the fact that everyone has an opinion about what’s best for you or feels that you’re made of stone and don’t have feelings; it’s hilarious and can be frustrating.

Three Women Who Inspire Me To Be Better And Why

Too many, but I will try to narrow it down and bring it home.

The first person is Chimamanda Adichie; She is so intelligent and unapologetically herself. She inspires me to wear my Africaness

Secondly, Kemi Adetiba is a good friend of mine and that woman is forever trying to do the impossible, and it’s all so selfless because it’s never for herself. She’s also not afraid to be vulnerable and I think that’s a huge strength in itself; that’s inspiring for me.

Finally, Sarah Jakes Roberts; I love anyone who loves God. She wears it boldly and she shows that knowing and serving doesn’t make you any less cool, it’s a superpower. She inspires me to draw closer to God

Being A Woman Of Rubies

Being a woman at all, and getting where I am, despite the odds stacked against women in Nigeria and in the industry I work in.

Other Projects And Activities Aside From Movies And Music

There’s more of me that I would like to share in due time, Until then, please watch Swallow, stream the music and thank you so much for your continued unwavering support; I do not take it for granted.

First Ladies of various states and their respective Foundations have joined hands to form an alliance called First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC) to create awareness and tackle the deadly scourge. This is in commemoration of the global Breast Cancer Awareness Month (Pink October).

The ceremony which witnessed the unveiling of the FLAC logo also had the breast cancer awareness movie, Diamonds in the Sky, produced by filmmaker and actor, Femi Adebayo for Leah Foundation screened. Health officials from different foundations also held practical demonstrations on self-examination and advised women on the importance of early detection and treatment to individual life.

The First Ladies present include the wife of Ondo State Governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu; Dr. Ibironke Sanwoolu of Lagos State; Erelu Bisi Fayemi of Ekiti State; Deaconess Omolewa Ahmed, former First lady of Kwara State; Dr. Mrs. Linda Ayade,Cross Rivers state; Dr. Zainab Bagudu, Kebbi State; Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, Enugu State; Mrs Abimbola Fashola, former First Lady of Lagos State and her Ogun State counterpart, Mrs. Olufunsho Amosun.

Other guests who attended include Joke Silva, Toyin Abraham, Binta Ayo Mogaji, Omowunmi Dada, Desmond Elliot, the Director of the movie, Kunle Afolayan, Producer, Femi Adebayo and Pastor (Mrs) Iluyomade.

In her remarks, the chief host, the wife of Lagos State Governor, Dr. Ibironke Sanwoolu said that cancer is responsible for over 72 per cent of deaths every year, thus the need to step up intervention drive. Hence, FLAC was conceived to scale up advocacy against cancer.

Leading her colleagues to unveil the FLAC logo, wife of Ondo State Governor, Mrs. Anyawu-Akeredolu said: “Women most especially need to understand how cancer progresses over time and all hands must be on deck to spread the gospel that cancer no longer kills. According to her, women no longer need to die needlessly from the disease as awareness about screening can make it possible for a woman to detect it early.

In her comments, the First Lady of Niger State, Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello, noted that FLAC was conceived in 2017 to give voice to the cause, noting that part of its goal is to get government and individuals’ attention to fund cancer treatment.

African Women in the Media 2018 Conference, which has ‘Visibility’ as theme will host female journalists delegates from around the world at University of Ibadan Conference Centre from June 21 through 22, 2018. The event is organised by award-winning Nigerian journalist based in Birmingham, U.K., Dr. Yemisi Akinbobola. It promises to empower delegates through panels, workshops and networking.

Delegates will experience keynote presentations, industry panels with leading names like Eugenia Abu, Lola Shoneyin, Funke Osae-Brown, Ijeoma Onyeator, Ayobami Ojebode, Yinka Ibukun, Funke-Treasure Durodola, Stephanie Busari, Aisha Mwilu, Gabriela Torres, Hannah Ojo, Kunle Afolayan and much more, as well as academic panels and numerous training workshops.
“There are three tracks running simultaneously at any one time during the conference,” saidAkinbobola. “We don’t want to just talk about the issues, but through the workshops, pitch zone and networking opportunities, we are putting actions into place to empower attendees.”

The African Women in the Media group aims to impact positively the way media functions in relation to women, both in the industry and media’s representation of gender issues.

“Action is key here and we are so grateful to all our sponsors for their support,” adds Akinbobola. “We are particularly excited to launch the AWIM/NRGI Award, which comes with a $1,000 cash prize.”Among AWIM18 Conference highlights include CNN’s Nima Elbagir as keynote speaker, Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy as academic keynote speaker, three industry panels – Gender, Security and Election Coverage, Women in Media Leadership, and Role of Fictional Content on Society’s Perspective of Women in Leadership. Three academic panels: Break the Silence: Health, Violence and Media, Women Behind and In-Front of Camera, Women in Media: Participation, Advocacy and Youth. Ten training workshops: Data Journalism, Digital Marketing, Reporting in Conflict Zones, Newsroom Leadership, Vlogging for Change, Oil and Gas Reporting, PR, Rethinking Content, Self-editing, and How to listen, engage and tell stories on social media to grow female audiences.
The pitch Zone, hosted by BBC and the Natural Resource Governance Institute which is funding the AWIM/NRGI Award, where delegates can win £1,000 to produce their gender-focused natural resources story. Dinner parties and networking on both nights and roundtable discussions with speakers.

African Women in the Media (AWiM) is a Facebook group that convenes annually. The first convening event took place in Birmingham, U.K. with panels from both academia and industry. The AWiM17 keynote speaker was Minna Salami. The group wants to challenge the way media functions in relation to African women, and seeks to inspire, support and empower its members.
Conference convener, Akinbobola, is an award-winning journalist, academic, and media entrepreneur. A Nigerian living in the U.K., her work is Africa-focused, covering stories from rape culture in Nigeria, to an investigative and data story on the trafficking of young West African football hopefuls by fake agents. The latter won the CNN African Journalist Award 2016 (Sports Reporting). Yemisi holds a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies from Birmingham City University where she is the Course Director for MA Global Media Management, and her research interest is in digital journalism and African feminism.

She is the founder of Stringers Africa, which connects freelance journalists in African countries with newsrooms worldwide, and she runs the African Women in the Media group. Founder also of IQ4News, a multimedia production company, she has freelanced for publications, including UN Africa Renewal magazine. Akinbobola she has several years’ experience in communication management for charities.

As the year 2017 says goodbye to January, Faithia BALOGUN has a lot to celebrate already, in addition to her birthday tomorrow the fifth of February.

The Nollywood icon revealed that she was embarking on projects different from what we are used to. In a statement today, she said ” I’m redefining my brand to also accommodate other scripts outside of the Yoruba movies plethora, I have the pleasure of working with brands like Kunle Afolayan in the new movie with Kate Henshaw and I’m excited for you guys to see projects like that. I’m also interested in empowering young girls through a series of projects I’m working on (details coming) with some great people so 2017 is looking fantastic already”.

When we asked if we are going to see any productions from her this year, she told us to just watch the space and to that we say, bring it on….