Interview: “Campus Journalism Has Been a Breeding Ground For My Development” – William Owoeye speaks


In this exclusive interview, former Indypress member and now a finalist, William Owoeye, speaks to Victor Ogunyemi and Sonaike Peter about his personal life. 

William Owoeye, popularly called Dawillty, responded to questions on matters like student politics, education, his journey into campus journalism, his experience as a Digital Marketer, among other diverse issues.  

To begin, who is William Owoeye?

My name is William Owoeye. I am a 500-level student in the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Science, University of Ibadan. Besides academics, I am also big on marketing and PR. I had the privilege, and I say privilege because not all final-year students will have the time and the luxury to kickstart a business. I have had the privilege to start two of them with my friends. One of them is doing well; the other one is not so good. You win some and you lose some, right? I belong to the Asido Network, a mental health organization. So, yes, that’s about that. Or else if you want to delve into my personal details now, then I would say I am the last child of my mother. We are six, and I am the 24th of my father, because we are 26. So, yeah, I am from a polygamous family. I think that is very much more than I would normally share.

So, from the introduction, you have made it known that you work with Asido Network, a mental health organization. If I may ask, what does it mean to be mentally balanced?

The thing with mental health is that there is nobody who has it 100%, but then, like my boss Dr. Abdul Malik used to say, there is always a threshold. I would say 50 is the pass mark. If you are above the threshold, then I would say you are in a safe zone, but if you are below, you are out of the safe zone. It essentially means you have that capacity to function optimally in your society and manage to cope with day-to-day stress. Stress comes daily and you face different challenges, so your ability to cope with day-to-day stress and live a meaningful life as an individual is a testament to being mentally healthy. 

Okay, from your introduction again, you also said that you are a digital marketer. So if I may ask, in this time and age, what does it entail for any business to thrive?

It is hard to really put a general perspective on it because businesses are diverse – depending on that business. What should be considered while running a business includes the products, your price, the special value of your product, the pricing that you are giving, and your target audience – the people that you really want to sell your product to. How do you reach out to those people? online or physically? Some people are used to online marketing; of course, online can help, but there are some businesses whose strength is really physical. Where can you reach those audiences? Where do they normally hang? So, for example, if I want to start a shawarma business in Idia, I’ll probably start targeting the cafeteria because that’s where I can find them, and if there is a social event, I’ll go and attend and make my brand known. That is where I can get my target audience. So it is totally different when I’m selling a digital product, for example, a course, and I don’t need to see the person physically. The bottom line is that, as a business owner, you consider the people, the place, and the price. 

Can you explain how you gauge your improvements in your work as a digital marketer?

There are usually metrics; they are like indicators of whatever you are trying to do. Now they are divided into two categories: some you can easily measure with some digital tools, and some you cannot measure per se. Starting with the one you can measure, let’s say, for example, you have a product you want to publicize, maybe on social media, you can always tell if you are doing well by looking at the number of followers you are gaining, the number of likes you are getting in each post, the number of people that are seeing it, the reach, and the impressions you are getting on social media, so you can easily use that to gauge. 

There are also tools that help you measure if you say you are using a link. For example, now you can always count how many people clicked on that link, so you’re seeing five yesterday and you are seeing six today. That’s an improvement, right? So if it is a website, for example, the traffic on it last week was like one thousand people visited, this week you are seeing two thousand people visited. Now to the metrics that you cannot really quantify, this is about stuff like the opinions of people about the brand. You can always see if it is high or low or if it is good or bad, but that is just the quality; you cannot really put a particular number to it. You can always do sentiment analysis and do some research to see what people are saying about the brand; are they saying something good or are they saying something bad?

Why did you choose to be a campus journalist and not a student politician, considering the opportunities attached to student politics?

It started before I gained admission; really, when I was in secondary school, I thought my essay was much better than that of an average student; it gave me the confidence to also write more. When I left secondary school, I would just be at home and try to figure out what’s the next step to take with your life, especially for some of us that do not have anything planned for you. You will be the one to decide for the next move forward. I started writing on Facebook and all of that. But fast forward: when I came for my post UTME in UI , I saw the press board. I want to believe it is Indy, but it could have also been Zik because they are very similar, and I could not tell the difference back then, but I saw the press board, and the stuff I saw there was very captivating. When I gained admission, me and my friends did come around to the quadrangle, and then we would read articles. When I gained admission, me and my friends did come around to the quadrangle, and then we would read articles. So one of those days we were reading, we saw the call for recruitment for Indy Press. We were meant to send a text.The Editor-in-Chief then was Olopade Oluwasegun, so that was how I sent the text and all of that. I can’t really say I was well grounded at that point, but I just know that I want to write and I needed a platform to do so. 

Which piece of your writing do you feel you could have done more on if given the opportunity?

I think it would be this story about a particular symbol in UCH. The symbol is a bit odd and seems out of place. If you know the sign that is on the flag of Israel, it looks something like that, like a pentagon; like three different triangles or something like that. It’s a very odd symbol, and I tried to dig down to find out what could have been behind having that symbol there. We know that the building is probably a medical building and was probably built by the colonial people when they were still alive; it doesn’t have any connection to anything in Nigerian architecture or design. So trying to research this story took me through the lane, and a number of secret societies came up while I was trying to build up on the story, but I could not really find the answer, and there are still a number of questions that are still unanswered about what it really represents. 

What opportunity would you say campus journalism has fetched you? 

A lot of opportunities. Campus journalism is a big foundation. So when I joined the press there and then, I started developing in terms of chasing deadlines and trying to think of story ideas, and all of that will kind of refine your skills. It also afforded us the opportunity to start monetizing our writing skills. Some people actually pay you for writing and pay per word. For each word we write, we get paid. So I think that’s how I ventured into freelancing, and of course I was also in a circle of people who were doing stuff like that. For my Editors-in-chief, Theophilus Alawonde and Chidera Anushiem, if these guys saw an opportunity, they would recommend it to me. The press was also like a foundation. When you talk about public speaking, it is also because I have been able to improve my confidence in the press. You know you have to interview people, and you have to think of what questions you can ask. It also cuts across different skills when it comes to administration, communication with my team, and superiors. It’s like a breeding ground for my development.

Taking you back to the memory lane, when you were an Indypress member, you did make use of the press room for regular studying. If I may ask, why the press room and not the reading room or KDL? 

Okay, in school, you get a lot of advice about what you should do, what works, and what doesn’t. But as a person, you have to figure it out by yourself. For KDL, I tried it once, and I realized that it did not work for me as I slept. When I am reading, I also do research to get grounded in what I am reading. I don’t know how to cram. I went there (KDL), I could not do that, and it made learning boring for me, which is why I canceled the KDL. As for the reading room, the issue with the reading room is that it can get very rowdy. You have people that are going to the reading room, and they are doing group studying. Sometimes, I see myself cautioning them while I am supposed to be reading. The same thing applied to my room. But as for the press room, it gives you a personal space to do your reading. It is a conducive place; there is no distraction; there is a fan, and this has kept me focused on achieving what I intend to study. 

Describe Indy Press in a word?


We’ve been discussing work; what do you do in your leisure time? 

My leisure time — I hardly get one these days. Actually, I’m always doing one thing or another, but when I really get to snatch one from one of my obligations, music is like a constant thing. Aside from that, I also watch movies, especially ones that are non-fiction or documentaries.

Still in your leisure time, a war movie or a romantic movie?

I will go for a war movie.

Why war? 

While in my leisure time, I would go for a war movie that is based on a documentary, like World War I or World War II, because I feel that by doing so, I am going to learn some historical facts and information about that. But as for romance, I think I don’t want to raise the vulnerability that comes with love and romance. Of course, I can watch it. I am not against it, but if I were to choose between the two, I would probably go for the war movie.

Moving on to politics, how do you make sense of the relevance of student politics to mainstream politics? 

What is very common in the political space in school is that the university is the microcosm of the outside world. It is like having a caricature of the actual things outside there. If you are very observant of politics in school, it is less likely that you have to force anything. As we have it in mainstream politics, where politicians are not accountable to the people, so is the way we have it in student politics. The way you have students not holding leaders accountable is also the way outside there. A lot of opinions and ideologies are also formed. The things you practice outside are a result of what you have practiced in school. 

As for student politicians, they can try a number of initiatives in school; they are free to explore and experiment, but the question still remains: How do you become a proper leader and not someone who is ruling? How do you lead people? What are the attributes needed to carry people along? Put them under a single umbrella to achieve a purpose. 

As a student, you can develop those skills without complexity in terms of number, diversity of ideology, and people who will oppose your idea because you are dealing with students of the same age range. Compared to the outside world, where you are a counselor on your street, for example, where you have 70- to 25-year-old people, these people are from different backgrounds, for example, literate and illiterate people. You have to deal with all these people. The school is a breeding ground. 

Looking at our reading culture in Nigeria, which is very poor, what can be done to help improve it among the students? 

We have to look at the reasons why people are reading less. If you are the kind of person who is not fed well, it will be very difficult for you to carry one book to read. I think the economic situation is a great contributor to what we have today in the sense that everybody is just trying to work, hustle, and do something. Using myself as a case study, I used to read a lot before, but now I do not read as much as before because I have many things I am doing. I feel I have to do these things to ensure that I keep improving myself. I am into business; I work as a freelancer, and I also do some research because I don’t want to lose that opportunity to make an income. So at the end of the day, I am doing so much that I don’t have the time or opportunity to actually read as I should. I think these are major contributors. 

Another reason for the poor reading culture is that there is more poor content on the internet that people consume. So, it is a social-economic thing. If we want to fix it, we have to improve the welfare of our people. Take, for example, abroad, you don’t really have to work before you live; you have access to free wifi, to public libraries, to places where you can actually get food, and all of that. If our economy is good, people will feel safe knowing that they are not wasting time when they actually read. When you have that economic safety, be assured that at least my three-square meal is guaranteed without going extra, and the pressure will reduce. We can address it through policies that encourage it. 

What would you say is the role of parents when it comes to helping their children achieve academic excellence? 

Of course, they play a very huge role because our parents are the very first role models that we have, right? Growing up, you see them every day. You would see the kids trying to drive the toy cars because that is what they have seen their parents do over time. My definition of a role model is to provide you with a template to follow and replicate in your own life. Depending on the way your parents approach education, it is going to influence your own life. 

Using my personal story as an example,I lost my father at a very tender age, when I was two. So my mother did not get much education, but she is someone who does not joke with education. She ensured that I had all my primary and secondary school education in private schools. Not just private schools, but the best private schools in my community. Looking at the state I came from, I am from Ekiti State, that can make a huge difference in the quality of education I received. If not for this opportunity, my perspective on the world would have been different. Because I went to private schools and had access to a number of teachers who made me realize, Oh! You should strive to gain admission into schools like UI and not just settle for the schools that are easy; strive to participate in competition; strive to gain public speaking skills; strive to take part in a number of activities; and all of that. 

If my mother had not made that decision, I would not have been in the position to be exposed to all these influences. If she had been lackadaisical about education, maybe I would have left at the secondary level, just like the number of people I have seen. So the role of the parents is big because when you finish secondary school and they are telling you there is no money to further your education, if you are the kind of person who is not tenacious enough to get the money for yourself, you will probably end your education at the secondary school level.

Considering the poor state of our economy caused by inflation, for students who are not working, how much allowance do you think they should get from home to ensure they are primarily focused more on their academics? 

I would like to do some quick math now. If you want to eat to your satisfaction, I will spend at least #1000 on a single meal, meaning that in a day you spend #3000 on meals. 

You are going to take a minimum of #500 if you are not going around too much. You will also spend on data — let’s say #1,000 per week—with other miscellaneous activities such as cutting your hair. 

You have had #3000 daily, that is 3×7, that is #21000 per week. #1000 for data, and #2000 for miscellaneous, which is #24000. If you calculate this together, what you get is #84000. Ideally, I think that is what students should be taking from home, but how many parents can afford that? Just few. 

Who is your role model? 

I am not really a role model person, because for you to pick a role model, you must have seen the person living a similar life as you aspire to live. You try to follow that person, and you mirror your life around him. I have not found that person that I actually say, Oh, this person lives a similar life to what I aspire to live. But if you are talking about people who have influenced me, I have a number of people like that. People who do what I like. I would love to pick up that aspect of their lives and incorporate it into mine. They are from friends, family, and a number of popular figures. 

As for the role model, it is very difficult for me because when you are picking a role model, you pick the one that does not have many flaws. I would say I have some influencers that inspire me. For example, Victor Asimota, a big influencer in the tech space. What I really like about him is that he is real and authentic. Then when you talk of journalism, I would pick Kunle Adebajo because he is down to earth. When I look at him,although he is kind of someone people think  he is doing too much, to him, he still feels he is not doing that much yet, and that comes from a sense of humility in downplaying his value. I also like the doggedness of Fisayo Soyombo. I get a very strong conviction from hearing the things he has done. He is very strict with his goals. I also like the soft-life journalism that Mayowa Tijani tends to pursue. Not to say that his work is simple, but he makes it look too easy. He does not have a combat style like Fisayo Sayombo, but he is making his own impact in his own way without having to go and do an investigation or go to an IDP camp like Kunle Adebanjo. He has been involved in many serious projects, like in-depth journalism and fact-checking. Yeah, I think that is another figure that I also look up to. 

What keeps you going when you are faced with challenges? 

I am a solution-oriented person. In any situation I find myself in, I also think of how I can solve this problem. When I encounter challenges, I feel like this is another problem to be solved. Another thing is that when I have my mindset on a particular task, I don’t rest until I really achieve it. It is satisfying for me when I start something and finish it. I don’t do stuff because I want people to like it or want to be seen or recognized; I do it because I love doing it and for the gratification I get from doing it. If I stop doing something because of challenges, that means I will rob myself of the gratification of completing that particular task. And in everything I do, I ensure that I do it very well. And when I look at what I have done and see that it is okay, I feel fulfilled. 

If you are choosing between personal interest and other people’s interest, which will you choose? 

I will most likely go for the people’s interests. 

Can you give instances where you went for people’s interests in preference to personal interests? 

I belong to a number of organizations and also have duties and obligations that I am going to fulfill. For example, I am here (in the press room today) to conduct interviews for people who want to be recruited into my department’s press. That is people’s interest because, at that expense, I have someone who has reached out to me for a job he wanted to pay me for. And I left work for the interview, although I will get back to the person. So I am doing this because I think it is best for the department and the faculty. Because when the press is working, political consciousness improves. I will be graduating this year and may not even benefit from that. I feel I need to build that foundation for others to build on, and that means placing people’s interests above your personality. 

Book recommendations for our readers? 

One book I feel everyone should read is ‘Winning’ by Jack Welch. Also, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. 

Lastly, what is your charge to students at the University of Ibadan? 

My charge to them is to realize that their most prized asset is not in the lecture room or in the slides they read, but in the people that are in the school. It is in their lecturers; it is in the students; it is in your classmates and senior colleagues. These are the people who can cause that paradigm shift in your life. Why do I mean that? Because when you look at your environment, you will see people with big goals and vision. You cannot be among these people and not find value. Every random person you meet on campus actually has something to offer. You don’t just go for the lecture, sit through the class, and go to the library without getting to interact with people, without joining organizations, without engaging in extracurricular activities. You are wasting that privilege. You have to connect with students. After you gain admission, the lottery you won is the people. So try and maximize human resources.  

Mr. Owoeye I must really appreciate you for your time. 

You are welcome. 




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