Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Is THIS Toyosi Akerele a Fraud?

Warning: I know certain people might read this piece and conclude I was jealous/envious of Toyosi Akerele. It only means one thing to me- you are new here. 

It all began one night as I was watching the Teju BabyFace show. For those who have no idea of the show, Teju BabyFace show was a Nigerian talk show that adopted the same format as Tonight Show with Jay Leno. If you don’t know Jay Leno ---> Google. 
Back to that night, he had a female guest on the show and her name was “Oluwamitoyosirise [of the most high]” or Toyosi Akerele. Before the interview, a short clip was aired to summarise her achievement. There was a clip with her in front of a podium and a banner behind her. I recognised the banner; in fact, I watched that event live on TV. It was the launch of “My Friend and I” infamous for a statement made by the Minister of Information, Labara Maku, where he thanked President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for “bringing Facebook to Nigeria”. That clip made me aware who she was but a vague idea of her speech. There was also a picture of her with Michelle Obama, the wife of the President of United States of America, and an edited clip where she made a statement about being inspired by Toyosi. That clip impressed the host, Teju Babyface, and his first question went like “Who are you to have your name mentioned by Michelle Obama?” The context of 
the question was for her to talk about achievement that earned such recognition. Toyosi’s response had religious element, something like “if you are blessed by the most high doors would open” [something like that]. 

She talked briefly about her childhood, voice, and made a statement that made me change the channel to Bloomberg. The statement went like “if you are 25 years old and live with your parents, SHAME on you. If you are 18 and still go to uncles and aunties for pocket money/allowances, SHAME on you” [same idea but not exact words]. 
I heard that and thought ‘who is this Toyosi Akerele?’ that believed she was different from average Nigerians in such situation. What made her bold enough to make such statement? I devoted time from checking girls on Facebook to know more about her. 

I learnt she was the Founder/CEO or an organisation, RISE, which meant “Reputation + Impact + Style + Expression”. “She conceptualized and designed effective programs to deepen the links and learning opportunities for Young people in knowledge acquisition, Enterprise and Nation Building”. On her website ‘’, you could read all about her personal achievement and those of the organisation. I also read transcript of interviews she had granted and all extolled her contribution into youth empowerment. I also accessed the full transcript of Michelle Obama’s televised address where are name was mentioned “”. She said, “We’ll be looking to women like Toyosi, she’s a 28 year old from Nigeria, who every year, assembles 50,000 people for the largest youth conference in the country…” 

Something sounded false in that statement. If the General Manager of Nigeria Breweries had claimed the company assembled 50,000 youths during Star Trek I won’t object, but Toyosi Akerele? 50,000 annually? I know even organisers usually inflate the number of turn out for events and this was one of it. I assumed an online article would bring it to light but no. I read a 2009 article by Adeola Ojedokun about RISE Interactive Youth Forum in Lagos with the theme “Our Time Is Now”( ). It had guest speakers including Prof. Dora Akinluyi and then Managing Director of First Bank, Dr. Lamido Sanusi. It was claimed the event hosted about 10,000 youths, which was believable considering high profiled speakers until you read the venue was the New Gymnasium Hall of the National Stadium, Surulere. How did they fit 10,000 people into that space and have in mind the University of 
Lagos Multipurpose Hall had a 5000-seat-capacity. 

I realised articles about Toyosi Akerele ONLY focused on the fact Michelle Obama recognised her existence and not the claim made. The claim that got the recognition. From what I gathered, the U.S Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the White House organised a forum with female participants. 76 young African women leaders [45 from South Africa and 31 from 24 other African countries] were selected to explore the themes of leadership and community service during workshop sessions. Toyosi was the only Nigerian participant. Michelle Obama was scheduled to visit South Africa and Botswana during that period. She made an appearance at the forum and that was where Toyosi got her handshake. If I’m correct that was the first and only time they encountered. The video clip where Michelle claimed to be inspired by Toyosi was recorded a week before that handshake. In the full length video Toyosi 
name wasn't the only one mentioned. The other female was an 18-year-old South African, Annah Tseko. 

I wondered what would have made Michelle Obama think Toyosi Akerele did such, what made her feel Toyosi was selfless, until I saw Toyosi’s recorded video on ‘’.’’ and that explained it. 

I read more interviews Toyosi granted and noticed inconsistencies about her past OR probably lies. One image consistent was she tried to portray a strong willed woman that made it from scratch- from nothing to something. Take for instance an interview on (2011) 

The interviewer, Olatoye Adekoya, asked “Tell us about transforming RISE from a magazine to a group?” There was a line in her response that got my attention, “On Saturday, I hired the Sales Executive Manager of Globacom, and he is resuming with me next week. If you want to grow to be at the level of Mobil or MTN, you’ve got to know the things they do...”. 
I checked if Globacom lost any staff to RISE and couldn’t find any. I checked the RISE website and no member of the team had previous work experience with Globacom. In fact, I felt stupid for checking. Why would anyone resign from Globacom to work for RISE considering the state they were/are? If I was right, why did she say it? 

When asked “what inspired [her] to go into business at a tender age?”, the following statement was included in her response: “I made my first one million naira in 2006 when I was 23; first ten million naira at 24, and first forty million naira 25. I got a job in Oando and I resigned after three weeks when I realized that a job brings you comfort and convenience. The other one brings you real significance, and I love the joy of being the one providing the service” (Federal Inland Revenue Service please take note for tax fraud). I checked Toyosi’s account where she claimed to have worked at Oando from July to August 2007 as a Communications Executive which was consistent with her claim. 

Her income claim seems impressive on paper but are they true? 
Toyosi graduated from the University of Jos in 2007 ( at age 24 but made her first million in 2006 when she was 23. That means she graduated a millionaire. So at age 24 in 2007, the same year she became a law graduate, made her first ten million Naira, organised first RISE youth conference, and worked with Oando for 3 months as a Communications Executive. The year 2007 must have been fulfilling for her BUT how did she pull it off? NOTE: Numbers based on her claim. 

I urge you to correct me if I’m wrong, that job title “Communications Executive” doesn’t exist in Oando. So what was her position there if she did work there? Also, why would Oando employ an (under)graduate without NYSC certificate as a full staff? 

Toyosi also claimed to have made ₦40,000,000 by age 25 and that made me ask, did she not participate in the mandatory NYSC programme? She was supposed to be serving during that period instead she was raking millions, there was also no RISE youth forum on record that year to rake in the millions. Probably her NYSC allowance was different because she was special. I wonder where she served. Come to think of it, she never talked about her youth service during any of her interviews. For someone who claimed to be into youth empowerment, she must have had remarkable contributions during her service year but she’s hiding that information. Unless she was yet to serve. 

If she didn’t serve there were two reasons I thought of. One, she lied about her age to the public and was over 30 years when she graduated so was not eligible to participate. Two, she attended University of Jos but did not graduate. I believe it was the first though. 

On Teju Babyface show she talked about shame on whoever over 18 begged for money/allowances from family/relatives. On Linkedin she stated her university admission was in 2002, she must have been 18. Another question, did she sponsor herself? 

I decided not to focus on who she was but what she did or claimed to by checking RISE website once more. I realised anyone could become a volunteer. I read paragraphs on the importance of volunteerism with the last being “Please support RISE in every way you can by:” 

• Becoming a Pilot Volunteer in different Cities of the Country where our Youth Programs hold. 

• Referring at least one youth to use the RISE Library a day. 

• Tell as many people as you know to purchase and benefit from the new RISE book; STRATETRICKS. 

• Donate Business, Leadership and Management Books to the RISE Study Library. 

• Sponsor any of our training programs. 

• Assist or support our Youth Volunteers. 

I assumed the content site developer put this in error because it read more like a marketing job than volunteering. Take for instance, “referring at least on youth to use the RISE library a day and donating books”. The RISE library isn’t free to use. In 2010, 3 hours access cost ₦500 [I don’t know the present cost]. Why should I donate books to a study library that the less privileged cannot access free and the CEO was a multi-millionaire? Toyosi said it several times, RISE was a business venture and her dream was to make it a public quoted company by year 2020. So it’s quite stupid and manipulative to encourage people volunteer. The manipulative idea was worst than insurance companies, making new recruits work their ass off free. By the way, the STATETRICKS book cost ₦1000 and to attend a RISE youth forum was not free. I saw the poster of the one held in 2010, despite having MTN, Verve, NBC, and Redbull as sponsors, ₦500 was still 
charged as gate fee for 'regular'. 

My opinion of Toyosi Akerele, based on what I’ve learnt was an individual riding high on cheap publicity. This wasn’t to diss her, it was a talent. She could talk her way into making things happen even if they were lies. It works well because an average Nigerian is gullible judging from false broadcast messages the spread without verification.

I was certain people close to her were very much aware. If you were to ask any one that read about Toyosi or paid to attend the conference would probably associate her with the youth BUT get this. On the website,, users could write about their skills and expertise while people linked to the individual (Facebook version of friends) could endorse the skill most associated to the user. Below is a list of her skills and expertise ranked from most endorsed. The number in the bracket represents the number of people that endorsed such skill in her. 

Public Speaking (35) 

Strategic Planning (17) 

Business Strategy (13) 

Marketing Communications (9) 

Project Planning (6) 

Product Development (6) 

Digital Marketing, Project Portfolio Management (4) 

Non-profits (3) 

Youth Engagement, Youth Empowerment, Innovation Management, 

Entrepreneurship (2) 
Coaching, Social Media, Creative 

Direction, Business Intelligence, 

Leadership (1) 

Educational Technology, Instructor-led Training, Public Sector (0) 

A quick look at the hierarchy, isn’t it ironic the relationship what she claims to do with what people close to her associate with her. She claims to be enterprising and convener of the “largest youth conference in Nigeria” with youth development as it’s core. Yet, see where they were on the list. At the top was “public speaking” which supports my claim she just talks. In fact, what she talked about the most was what people least endorsed her for. Imagine the CEO of www.passnownow.comwas not endorsed for ‘Educational Technology’. Aunty Toyosi, please shut down the website. 

Regardless, I’ll say Toyosi Akerele was like anyone. Look at her Twitter handle (@toyosirise) and you’ll see. Sure, she tweets positivity but that was only to support her persona, which projects to the public. 

However, check what she follows to have an idea of her interest. You’ll find Olamide (@Olamide_YBNL) which shows first of all...she likes to go down low. @theMarriageBed and @GoodWivesGuide, which shows she wants to get married, clock is ticking. @sheCravesTheD, if you don’t know what that handle tweets here’s the bio 
“*OFFICIAL D PAGE* She’s following this page because she wants the D”. 
In case you are too slow to grab, ‘D’ means ‘Dick’ as in penis. Their tweets goes like, 
“If she text you saying ‘I’m home alone’ she wants the D”. 
Unmarried Toyosi wants the D, how “more normal” could she be? She also follows @RailaOdinga [not the computer virus]. @HHShkMohd ß-- OIL MONEY. Toyosi quotes bible verses to make points so I surprised to discover she followed the handle @Anti_Church which...I mean, the handle name is self explanatory. 
You know, it’s quite possible I was wrong about Toyosi Akerele BUT I did my homework. If anyone knows or opportuned to interview her, get answers to the following questions: 

• Real age? 

• Name and location of her secondary school? 

• Did she graduate (or finished school) and where did she perform her NYSC programme? 

• What’s her real financial worth? 

• How badly does she want the D? 

No doubt Toyosi Akerele might have influenced and motivatied people BUT was it by her actions or words. Remember, we can only lie with words. Sure she had won few awards and recognition BUT what's the value if they were "earned" through deception and lies. 

READ: What They Won't Tell You: "Logical Truth"

Twitter: @adebsrk

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