Let us meet you, Sir.
I am Suraj Oyewale, 31 years-old, popularly known as Jarus in Nigeria’s Social Media space. I was born and bred in Kwara State, but now live and work in Lagos State of Nigeria. I am a ‘detribalized’ Yoruba, man.
I had my secondary education at Offa Grammar School in Kwara state, my first degree in Economics from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and currently run my MBA at Heriott-Watt University, Edinburgh , Scotland. I am also a Chartered Accountant, winning a couple of ICAN awards while writing the examinations.
You are considerably popular in Nigeria’s Social Media space, especially on *Nairaland; how do you juggle your Social Media activities with other engagements?
Mobile gadgets have made things easy. It may not take you up to one minute to make a post on the internet. So I can post from anywhere, even while studying or writing. On workdays, I try to restrict my internet engagements to lunch time or after close of work. I’m most active in the night and on weekends.
I also spend the better part of my evenings and weekends reading and writing. I have a number of things I engage in. I have some collaborative projects I supervise; I run a blog which readers expect me to update on daily basis; I have an 8-5 job I must contractually deliver on; I run an MBA; I have one or two other private concerns to deal with; and of course I am a family man; it’s crazy…but passion actually keeps me moving. Back to your question, I’m not sure I’m so popular in the Nigerian Social Media space. Jarus is hardly known beyond Nairaland, there are more influential guys on twitter, the ‘twitter elite’.
What’s the origin of the moniker ‘JARUS’, which many people know you as in online Nigeria?
It’s Suraj, my first name, spelt backward. I adopted it in 2009 when I asked Seun, Nairaland founder, to change my Nairaland username from the one I registered in 2007. It started from Nairaland, but later became my identity beyond Nairaland. All my concerns are now branded Jarus. I have a company registered as Goldman Jarus Limited; I have a consultancy as Jarus Associates, I have a blog named Jarushub, I also dubbed my recently opened country home, Jarus Court. I plan to make the brand ‘Jarus’ a national brand. It’s an identity I really like.
You are a public analyst, accountant and blogger, how do you combine these?
I am an accountant 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and a public analyst and blogger in the night and on weekends. I spend my weekends writing. A standard article takes at least 2 hours to write, although a blog post takes less. I have been a public analyst right from my university days. My first article was published in Punch newspaper in May 2003, and since then I have gone ahead to write more than 100 articles published in virtually all major Nigerian newspapers. I love writing, I love making my views known and admittedly, it has opened doors for me.
Why did you decide to blog on career, rather than on entertainment, which is the fad?
I can conveniently blog on politics and sports, especially Nigerian football, but I decided to settle for career because that’s the subject I’m most passionate about. I have always loved advising people, right from my university days when I became a godfather of sorts to juniors in my department through the free tutorials I used to give at MSSN (Muslim Students Society of Nigeria). I have always loved assisting people, and seeing my mentees excel. When I joined Nairaland during my service year in 2007 to kill boredom, I was most active in Politics, Education and Religion sections. When I started working (on a permanent basis) in 2008, I became quite active in the Career section too. At the risk of being immodest, I must say I was encouraged by the respect Nairaland readers gave to my opinion on career issues. Early this year, -2013- I decided to float a blog where I would have full control, since I don’t own Nairaland. Seun, the Nairaland owner, was cooperative and in fact gave me support when I started the blog.
What’s your vision for Jarushub?
I plan to make Jarushub a global brand, and at the least, Africa’s biggest career portal. I am looking ahead, and very positive. I have a couple of brilliant guys that write for me, and, again, at the risk of being immodest, I must add that very few blogs parade the array of brilliance of the guys that write for me. At the moment, I run Jarushub on part-time basis, but if I make just 70% of my monthly income from my full-time employment, I will resign to run the portal full-time.
It should also be noted that my activities today go beyond the internet. I organized the first edition of Jarushub Offline Career Conference at Lekki last September, and it had in attendance top executives from StanbicIBTC Bank, Accenture and Dragnet Solutions. I plan to make that a quarterly event.
What successes would you say you have achieved so far?
I don’t know whether you mean Suraj Oyewale’s accomplishments as a person, or Jarus’ success as a blogger, but let me take the two. Whenever I look back and see how far I have come, I think I feel some sense of happiness, although I know I have not been able to attain my potential and disappointed a couple of people that knew me from childhood and expected more from me.But in all situations we have to give glory to God almighty.
I have been able to build a decent network through my writing activities. Truth is, you never know who is watching you, just pursue your passion. I was surprised when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] Lamido Sanusi told me, when we first got in touch in 2011, that he knew me and had actually been reading my articles in newspapers for some time. I was also surprised when former Presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi, told me that the current spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati, contacted him on an interview I conducted on my blog with Professor Pius Adesanmi, a Canada-based Nigerian public intellectual. Now, that sounds like name-dropping, but it needs telling just to know how far what we do from the corners of our rooms can travel.
As for Jarushub, I think I am happy with the progress I have made within just 8 months of floating. The feedback from readers has been encouraging. We are really touching lives, and happy to do that. The quality of people that associate with the blog is also a thing of joy. I have exclusively interviewed a presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, for the blog, just as CEOs of top companies have also been featured.
I’m happy with the confidence these guys have in my activities, given the manner credible Nigerian personalities try to dissociate themselves from online activities that are not mainstream. Let me also mention that I recently got an invite from THE POLICY COUNCIL, a TV show on economy and politics, to feature as a guest in an edition of their programme. The interview session will be aired on Channels TV, LTV and Ben TV later in November. To tell you that, people are actually watching and recognizing our activities.
What are the challenges you face as a blogger and a key participant in web activities in Nigeria?
No major challenges, other than the general problems with Nigeria – productive time in traffic, power problem, problem with internet data service providers.
We are also interested in your financials…
Hmmm, I do a number of things, but I currently make 99% of my income from my job as an Accountant in an oil and gas company. I have worked in the energy sector for 5 years now, in two different companies. I have not made a dime from my blog yet. I see this as a period of investment. I have spent almost N50,000 (consultancy, purchasing premium themes, domain etc) on my blog, and I also expended over N200,000 for my last career conference, from my personal purse. I made the first edition free, subsequent editions will not be. In any venture in life you have to invest first.
There is a gestation period for investment, returns do not come immediately. But I am very positive that Jarushub is going to become a multi-million naira venture. I am also focused on social entrepreneurship, giving back to the society. That is why my model, at least for now, is not driven by the hunger to make money.
You mentioned earlier that you have been able to build a network of top ranking individuals… do they finance your enterprise?
No they don’t. Our relationship is purely that of mentor-mentee. Moreso, these people are not the ones to give you money. They give you more than money – in terms of golden advice, connecting you with people that matter, and adding credibility to your activities. It is a statement. I got CEO’s of top companies and editors of top newspapers to be present at my September career conference without paying them a dime as honorarium. They added credibility to the function. You can see that that is more valuable than money.
What is your opinion of blogging in Nigeria?
It is coming of age, and people are really appreciating it. We just need more bloggers in some niches. Entertainment appears to be ‘over-blogged’, but many fields are actually under-utilized. In the course of my research when I wanted to float my blog, I met an American blogger, and what does he blog on? Christian Personal Finance. A narrow niche you may say, but he is making it big in that field. So people need to look out for other areas that are not yet in focus in Nigeria. I chose career because that is my comfort zone.
In one sentence, can you inspire a young African?
Follow your passion with vigor; people are watching you.
*Nairaland: A Nigerian online forum