From ‘Fire’ to ‘Fireworks’: The inside story of my 2016 journey (complete review)

How do you review the highs and lows of one entire year -365 days- in one single article?

Every year, for the past 3 years, I have written a comprehensive review of my year (2015, 2014, 2013). It serves the dual purpose of inspiring you to join me in touching lives, making a difference and smashing records while highlighting my thoughts/contributions to nation building and entrepreneurship.

From being selected as one of the top 50 emerging entrepreneurs in Nigeria to the emergence of Donald Trump as US President, here is the complete, fun-packed review of how my 2016 went from fire to fireworks.



It’s true what they say: movies move us.

I saw 51 movies in 2016 and I plan to increase it to 52 (one per week) in 2017. Here are the epic ones:



It chronicled the life of Mandela: an unusual African leader who was willing to die for what He believed in, and even when presented with an opportunity to strike back at whites who promoted apartheid, He chose forgiveness. Even if you don’t read the massive book, this movie will inspire you and bring you to tears.


Malcolm X

He was a very powerful orator, and even though a few of his convictions were messed up, He was a good man. He ended up being assassinated by the institution which made him, ‘the Nation of Islam’.



An inspirational movie about a Nigerian immigrant who discovered the link between Concussion in NFL and depression/suicide. Dr Omalu! I had never heard about him until I saw the movie. Will Smith starred as ‘Omalu’ and He delivered the goods.


Game of Thrones Season 6

It’s not the most pirated/downloaded/popular series for nothing. Episode 5: In a highly emotional twist, I learnt ‘HODOR’ means ‘Hold the Door’. HODOR died holding the door so BRAN could escape. John Snow was resurrected by the Red woman! IN Episode 7, sir Davos made ‘the pitch of life’ even though it only got the Stark’s 62 men to join Jon Snow’s army. Arya nearly got herself killed. Episode 9: The Battle of the Bastards was truly epic. As the popular saying goes, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’. Sansa stark fed Lord Bolton to his own dogs.


Empire Series 1-3

Terrence Howard (founder/CEO of Empire records) is a master psychologist. He knows how to convince, connive and inspire. He is always one step ahead. A strategic thinker.


Maze Runner

The movie was so full of lessons, I decided to pen them down.


Pele: Birth of a legend

A very inspirational movie that chronicled the humble beginnings of Pele as a kid raised by poor but honorable parents, a father who had naked love for the game and believed in his son even when He doubted himself, a legend forged in the fire of fiery trials, who overcome the loss of a friend, poverty, ridicule and self-doubt to become the youngest player to ever play at the world cup and the only player to have won 3 world cups.



The suspense was just too much! An annual seaside carnival turned bloody as Piranha fishes ran riot. Think Piranha, think killing machines! The story line was exciting and thrilling. Great movie. Great ending.



I read about 14 books (13 ebooks) in 2016. As you can imagine, I am angry with myself for not reading more and I have already committed to reading 2 books a month in 2017. Out of the 14, here are the books that shaped my thinking and improved my life in 2016.


Blue Ocean Strategy

It was so practical and so inspiring that by the time I completed it, I was convinced beyond every reasonable and unreasonable doubt that I was going to have a great year.


David & Goliath

I fell in love with Malcom Gladwell all over again. I went away with a totally different perspective of how David defeated Goliath and how to turn perceived weakness into strength.


Speed Wealth

Harv Eker nailed how to stop earning a living and start creating wealth in a massive way!


Multimillionaire Mindset

I rarely read books by Nigerian authors (don’t crucify me…) but Christian Wogu blew my mind. I found it very rich, inspiring, spiritually and locally relevant. Thanks to Tolu George for such a thoughtful gift.


Made to stick

I read it nonstop.  If you want to learn how to pitch with devastating impact or sell your ideas with mesmerizing swag, this is your go to guide. Terrific insight. Crazy page turner.

I also discovered I had been making a big mistake searching for ‘free pdf download’ instead of ‘free ebook download’. I got access to top NYT bestsellers by just tweaking my search terms.



To all our clients who patronized us for scintillating graphics, tantalizing websites & epic CV’s: thank you! We could not have done it without you. We Organized Multimedia Master Classes in Ibadan & Ife. Currently, we have rebranded our training and we are about to launch a second company.



Mum & Dad backed my dream even when it seemed crazy, I love you forever. Special thanks to Mr Olagunju & Mrs Victoria Ogunbowale for believing in my pursuits, a bigger you, I pray. Special shout out to my sister, Ovonlen Tomi for masterminding Mum’s 60th birthday and for hosting me in Lagos during BET6.



Mene Blessing

Let’s just say I have the best mentor ever. Mene Blessing was involved in a lot of my entrepreneurial efforts. He gave useful feedback and showed concern. He called in regularly to check in on my progress. He nominated me, endorsed me and even trusted me enough to represent him at an award ceremony in UI. I was more than happy to assist him with graphics on some of his projects. I’m lost for words to describe just how much you mean to me sir. God bless you!


Femi Iromini

In several of our long phone calls, He urged me to focus. He was selfless, even when I call to ask about him, He turns the table around and we start to talk about me. A very caring, supportive friend, He just launched a game changing startup, lead360.


Famurewa Olumide

Famurewa Olumide was highly dependable. The type that looks out for you. He is not afraid to share his dreams and He is ever ready to support yours. Thanks a million. Let’s do it again in 2017.


Bello Tosin

I met her at Multimedia Master Class Ife and we became good friends. 2 weeks later, I invited her to join me on a tour to schools. She was really warm, attentive and responsive. I remain a loyal fan and friend.



I made a couple of exciting media appearances and it all started with Tribune.



Mr Tunde Ogunesan of Tribune interviewed me at Tribune House, Ibadan. I shared on my impact filled, multiple award winning NYSC experience, shared some ideas for youth empowerment and for the government. According to the feedback I got, it was a very engaging, insightful and wonderful interview.


Orisun Fm, Ile-ife

Next, I was interviewed twice at Orisun Fm (the host wanted me to come every week!). It was a youth empowerment program and I inspired youths to stop waiting for government to make things happen and start to create the change they seek.


IBR 92.5fm, Ibadan

On my brother’s recommendation (Ogunbowale Oladayo, a news analyst at IBR), Eniola of IBR 92.5fm invited me as a special guest on the Tech show, Digitalk. We talked about Digital Branding. It was explosive. Not long after, IBR 92.5 fm invited me as a special guest on ‘WORLD SOCIAL MEDIA DAY’. I shared passionately on how youths could deploy the internet and leverage social media to grab opportunities and unleash impact. IBR was the classical ‘Oliver Twist’, and I was invited as one of 3 keynote speakers (I was the youngest) for the International Youth Day Conference: I spoke on harnessing the digital age.


SuluZulu, South Africa

And the shocker: South African media power house, SuluZulu sent me a mail requesting for an interview! Of course, I granted it, and it was probably my longest and most inspiring online interview for 2016.


Premium Times

While surfing the web one Sunday, I saw a premium times’ piece about interior minister Dambauzu who converted his SSS aide into his personal shoe shiner. I was very upset and I wrote an article: Premium times published it.



A facebook friend and blogger, Ifemidayo hosted me on his twitter show #ExpandCapacity). It was exciting.


Naija Bulletin

And finally, Naija Bulletin (Nigeria’s #1 trending online news portal) interviewed me. I was pretty explicit and shared some personal, exciting details about my life. You ought to read it.





33 Sixty

It all began with a Scottish acknowledgement: 33sixty selected me as one of the 100 most outstanding young persons in the world (out of 15,000 potential candidates).


Bank of Industry

Bank of Industry selected me among 1,200 youths for the very first edition of Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme (20,000 youths applied).



Diamond Bank in conjunction with Enterprise Development Center of Lagos Business School selected me as one of the 50 top emerging entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Part of the package is a certificate in entrepreneurship management training at Lagos Business School. I’m blessed to have Nigeria’s finest young entrepreneurs as classmates, and trust me, our classes have been phenomenal. My favorite classes so far: Mr Bayo Rotimi’s strategy class (I got the nickname ‘Blue Ocean’ in this class and He really got me thinking big) and Dr Joe’s Operational management class which taught me how to drive efficiency and scale business operations.


Nigerian Stock Exchange

I was selected as an ambassador for the Nigerian Stock Exchange Essay competition and I mobilized agents across the nation to conduct an awareness campaign round schools and drive participation. We consequently exceeded our target.



In 2016, I collaborated with other change agents to make a difference in the society.


Agents for Change

Based on the recommendation of an ex-kogi Corper (I met via NCCF), Tolu George called to request permission to profile me as an exceptional corps members for a project poised to tell inspiring stories of how corps members made a difference. Not content with sharing my story, I immediately jumped on board! Chinyere, Vivian, Tolu & I released the first edition of the book ‘Agents for Change’ on the 1st of October. If you’re yet to read this ebook, my advice is easy: get it now!


TEDX Isale General

I worked as the Multimedia Director. The curator, Emdee Tiamiyu did a terrific job coordinating the entire event. TEDX Isale General was very inspiring and very successful. Despite the LAUTECH strike, over 500 youths attended. 95% of the speakers came and all of them raised the roof.


Pacesetter leadership club

A fine young man by the name Gbenga Ashaolu conceived a vision to groom youths into leaders and persuasive speakers, and Pacesetter leadership club was born.  Since the inaugural meeting in Ibadan, we have grown in leaps and bounds. Sometime in December, the club got an offer to present a daily 5 min inspirational series all through 2017 on Lead City fm! Get set to be inspired by 6:25am daily by Gbenga Ashaolu, Ogunbowale Olugbenga and other veteran Pacesetters. To Gbenga Ashaolu, I say a big thank you for making my 2016 colorful, let’s do it bigger in 2017.


Spectator to Spectacular Conference

Since 2013, I have celebrated my birthday (September 8) by organizing free youth empowerment programs. This year, I organized the Spectator to Spectacular Conference at Ibadan. My mega super inspiring friends Iromini Femi, Emdee Tiamiyu and Ayomide Atitebi delivered keynote addresses. Mr Moshood and his Educare crew were very helpful. Thank you all for making it happen.


Spectacular Corper fellowship

As a winner of the 2015 NYSC Merit Award, it gives me great joy to mentor corps member on how to make a massive impact in their communities during their service year. When I could no longer cope with individual mentoring, I created the Spectacular Corper fellowship, an online mentoring class that trained not less than 50 corps members.



Within a few minutes of meeting me, you can tell I’m passionate about youth development and a new Nigeria. To deal with wide spread lack of purpose and unemployment, I decided to launch a blog to inspire Nigeria’s youth and PROJECT X was born. We now have nearly 5,000 followers! The amazing team, led by Editor-in-Chief, Toluwase Thomas, delivered inspiring articles, reports & interviews. One particularly exceptional interview was granted by Opeyemi Awoyemi of Jobberman. Project X crew, thanks for your support and professionalism, I love you, God bless you.


Activate Youth Camp

Activate Youth Camp is a 7-day residential program that helps teens develop personal, social and leadership skills to deal with current & future challenges. Activate Youth Camp hosts 250 teens yearly with dignitaries such as the first lady of Lagos state, Mrs Ambode in attendance. As a volunteer/facilitator, I taught 55 students Graphics, mentored 25 Students on Courageous leadership using case studies like Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai & Abraham Lincoln, coordinated projection, graphics design, Powerpoint design, Sound editing & Video Scribing for the event. I also anchored some general sessions. According to the teens, ‘it was an experience of a lifetime’.



‘December to Remember’ is a coalition of volunteers passionate about making the yuletide season a ‘December to Remember’ for orphans in our community. We mobilized resources from kind hearted donors and donated items such as food, provision, clothes and more (as requested by the orphanages). Our motto is simple: Give a gift. Touch a life. Make a difference.

On 31st December 2016, we reached nearly 300 orphans across 7 states (Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Osun, Calabar, Akwa-Ibom) with gifts and an inspirational message of love and hope. It was a very emotional moment for us all, seeing kids that had so much potential yet needed so much help. As the National coordinator, I am eternally grateful to all our volunteers and donors for making it happen. A full report is on its way.


Speaking gigs

I Spoke at Tunde Badmus’ birthday charity event in Ibadan (Hope to thrive again) on ‘Impossible is nothing’ to over 100 teens.

Agbabiaka Michael invited me to speak at his AIM project (Mowe, Ogun state) on ‘the Impact of ICT’.

I spoke at Anglican youth church, Akobo, Ibadan on ‘Reach for the skies’ to over 100 teens.

I spoke to fresh Christian students at Poly Ibadan on ‘How to become a spectacular student’. About 80 youths were in attendance.

I taught Entrepreneurship to secondary school students in BOWEN at Adeniran Faith’s project 300. I taught not less than 100 students.

I spoke at RCCG Shasha, Lagos to over 50 youths.

I spoke at RCCG Christ Ambassadors Palace, Lagos on ‘digital branding’ with some 40 youths in attendance.

I spoke about ‘All things are possible’ at RCCG Divine Grace, Ibadan to over 50 youths.

I spoke at RCCG Mushin on branding to about 90 youths.



50 push-ups

I did the 50 push-ups challenge and despite my slim frame and several friends urging me not to injure myself, I completed it!


Champions League

Real Madrid won the Champions league final: with a few mins left to play, Sergio Ramos scored and Athletico equalized, dragging the game into extra time, and then penalties. Ronaldo scored the winning penalty!


Trump wins!

On the 9th of November, against all predictions and polls, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States! The shock waves resonated across social media like a Tsunami.


Jazzy B’s house party

Attended Jazzy B’s epic house party on the 25th of December. The testimony of Fela’s former lead guitarist (now a pastor) who was once a notorious armed robber and drug dealer saved souls. The drama was hilarious. Comedian, Dr Fricks had us all laughing for over 1hr!



51 movies, 14 books, 8 social projects, 7 media appearances and 4 opportunities later, it has been the immense support from family & friends, exceptional patronage from several clients and God’s grace that made it all possible. I honestly believe that when you do what only you can, God will do what only He can.

I’ll end with my favorite quote, ‘Greatness is a choice, and record breaking is a lifestyle’.  If you’re yet to, the time to plan for 2017 is now. See you in 2018!


To learn more about Ogunbowale Olugbenga, click here

To learn more about Epower, Click here

Now, don’t be selfish, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this piece, especially how your 2016 went. Drop a comment!!!

Published by Ogunbowale Olugbenga

Ogunbowale Olugbenga is a multiple award winning social entrepreneur & digital skills expert. An alumnus of the Leadership in Business Institute of Kellogg School of Management (USA), He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria). Inspired by the plight of millions of unemployed youths, Olugbenga founded, a digital agency passionately growing businesses & accelerating the application of digital skills for economic prosperity across Africa. To help institutions prevent scandals & promote performance, Gbenga founded Polivoice.Work, an anonymous employee feedback tool that captures & analyses feedback anonymously in real time to detect, predict & improve work place conditions. A Mandela Washington Fellow, Tony Elumelu Fellow, Royal Common wealth society fellow, YALI star of business & YALI network influencer, Olugbenga is the founder of Africa’s biggest orphanage outreach, The Orphan Empowerment Society, with a 5,000 strong volunteer force and a presence in 19 African countries empowering thousands of orphans with free vocational skills, medical care, & food. He is also the co-founder of the communication & leadership organization, Pacesetters Leadership Club.

8 thoughts on “From ‘Fire’ to ‘Fireworks’: The inside story of my 2016 journey (complete review)

  1. What a great fellow with a pure soul. I am so excited we share the same dream, simply “being a source of inspiration to others” but I call you An implementor. You just don’t dream, you implement and execute. You had a wonderful year, you touched lives, you invested in yourself, you created good network, you had new names. We can only go as far as we can see. Keep soaring Gbenga of this world

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reading through your review for 2016. I am very motivated, not just by impact, but by the detail account of them and how they are relevant on the whole. Keep adding value and impacting lives.
    2017 is definitely a great year, keep soaring high. I look forward to connecting with you more in the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: