How Adesuwa Giwa-Osagie Is Steering Political and Historical Conversations Through Media

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In life, there are small, unassuming moments that shape what the rest of our lives will look like. The subtle details in our environment that spark an interest, when nurtured, bloom into a blazing passion, ultimately leading us to our true purpose. In Adesuwa Giwa-Osagie’s case—being surrounded by lawyers and people interested in politics, her interactions with history books, and her curiosity about Nigeria’s political climate—ignited a spark at a young age and motivated her interest in Nigeria’s history.

In 1993, a politically sensitive period that signified the failed transition into Nigeria’s ill-fated third republic, Giwa Osagie was born to a Benin-Dad and a Yoruba mum. Although her nuclear family unit consisted of just her parents and younger brother, she mentions being surrounded by her extended family. Her experiences synced the best of two unique Nigerian cultures—the beauty of which has helped her embrace Nigeria’s diversity in many ways. She notes “my parents come from very different backgrounds. My dad is Muslim, my mum grew up Catholic. So when I was little, people who grew up in similar religious settings used to call ourselves ChrisMus. We enjoyed the best of both worlds, celebrating Sallah (Eid-El-Kabir) and Christmas too.”

About two decades before her birth, General Yakubu Gowon established the National Youth Service Corps, a programme set up to foster national unity and encourage common ties among Nigerian youth—something obviously lacking after the civil war. The Nigerian Civil War of 1967–1970 strained relationships between regions of the country and has been a  contributing factor to why Nigeria remains such a low-trust society.

However, Giwa-Osagie didn’t have to wait till her NYSC year to understand the multiple cultural dynamics of living in a typical Nigerian society. Her family’s relationship reflected the ideal picture of Gowon’s inter-ethnic integration dream. It represents a society where Nigerians peacefully coexist with mutual respect, regardless of ethnicity and religion, embracing Nigeria’s diversity.

Belonging to a large but communal family helped her appreciate the power of communities pretty early and that has also slipped into how she defines and commits to her friendships. Growing up, she was intrigued by certain political events and their implications, often bombarding her parents with questions. While she believes that her interests in politics and history were originally sponsored by genuine curiosity, they were strongly encouraged by her parents. She recalls that “it was hard to miss what was happening around me. I kept asking my parents why we had to put leaves on our cars, why people were protesting, what was a riot, and so on. My parents never treated me like a child when it came to airing opinions. As a child, that was very affirming.” During this period , the Mayday protests and a couple of other demonstrations were ongoing to protest the high-handed, authoritarian style of the Abacha regime. Till his death in June 1998, the autocrat continued to rule in absolutism, without room for democracy.

After studying History and Political science at Duke University, she returned to Nigerian to take her bar exams. This strengthened her interest in the rich political history of Nigeria and how much of it had gone under-reported. The idea to create The Dirty Lie Podcast was born after her friends encouraged her to share her knowledge with a larger audience. “I used to send my friends long threads about history. They would wake up to loads of messages on the group chat about something that happened eons ago, and I just kept inundating them with information. So one day, my friend suggested that I start a podcast about history. At first, I was nervous and hesitant, but TMT convinced me, and that’s how we started.” Des—as she refers to herself—is the co-host of The Dirty Lie podcast, a Millennial/Gen Z-centric podcast that seeks to educate young Nigerians about fascinating events in world history. During the show, she mentions three facts, and her co-host is tasked with guessing what “fact” in world history is actually fictional; eventually discussing the historical events surrounding them. She hosts this alongside her longtime friend and Submarine and A Roach co-host, Temitayo Ayorinde (TMT).

 Living in Nigeria as a young woman, people often assume you have little to no interest and minimal knowledge of politics. This is not far-fetched, as there’s a long history of political apathy among Nigerian youth who feel a deep level of distrust in the political system. There are some countries that can afford some sort of political apathy, perhaps because of the effectiveness and stability of their systems. Nigeria is unfortunately not one of them, as it takes a level of intentionality to remove oneself from Nigeria’s political reality. About sixty-five episodes later, The Dirty Lie podcast is one of the top history podcasts in Nigeria. In January, a few weeks before the highly anticipated 2023 General Elections, she started sharing facts and information about the elections on  Instagram. “Of course, I was very interested. I was on a train one time reading President Tinubu’s policy document because that’s just something I would do, and the next thing, everyone was reposting it. I got a lot of DMs from people who found the content interesting, and that nudged me to start Untold Stories by Adesuwa. Next thing, I started reaching out to people I wanted to interview, and when I got a few Yeses, I shot a trailer.”

Untold Stories by Adesuwa addresses politics and other related matters from a behind-the-scenes perspective. On June 5, 2023, she released her first episode, and now she has over 1000 subscribers. A roll call of guests thus far: Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Former Senate President and Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, and the biggest get, President Obasanjo. Nigeria’s current political reality can feel precarious. Elections are still heavily influenced by corruption and violence, and there’s a huge gap in voter education and accountability. Giwa-Osagie posits that now, more than ever, there’s a strong need to bridge this gap in voter education. “There’s a need to understand the system. For example, someone can say their House of Representative candidate hasn’t fixed their road and is seeking re-election, but that’s not even their job. If we don’t understand the system, we can’t fix it.” 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that young people aged 18–34 constituted about 39.65% of the electorate during the 2023 elections, a remarkable improvement in turnout for registration amongst youths. However, there’s still a need for active involvement in the overall political landscape of Nigeria. “It was exciting to see young people get involved and participate in the electoral process. I think that was a good thing, but it also showed how ignorant we are of the system we’re trying to engage. Revolutionaries argue that you can’t use a master’s tools to take down his own house. On the other hand, some people believe that you can’t change a system if you’re outside of it. It’s tough to choose which side supersedes, but I believe it’s key to have the blueprints for the house you’re trying to take down. So it’s very important to understand the system we want to change.”

Like many other young people who have tried to engage the political system, people often ask if she is a political influencer or setting the stage for a political career.  To this she says, Politics is not a career, and it shouldn’t be. So, I can’t make a career out of it. It’s by making it a career that we’re here. Politics is a service. I don’t see myself becoming a politician. I can see myself working in a public sector role, maybe.”

 Adesuwa isn’t bothered by pedestals and expectations but is focused on her goal of documenting history through her platform. She simply doesn’t fantasize about the idea of political aspiration. However, she encourages other young Nigerians to get involved,  it is the only way to change the system. I can’t play party politics, but I believe more young people should become card-carrying members of parties and engage in more activities in the political system. We need more young people in the room, making decisions, and challenging the status quo.”

As Nigeria’s political landscape continues to evolve, so much keeps changing and it’s important that young people keep up, and get involved.  She’s staying committed to ensuring access to accurate education about the political system isn’t the biggest problem we have. “ I don’t even blame anyone for not knowing better. It takes so much for me to learn about how this system works, and how many young people have that time. There’s so much to learn, so much we don’t know about this system. Recently, I found out that pressure groups play a huge role in determining the bills that get passed and the ones that are rejected and I was so stunned. I spoke to Senator Abiodun Olujimi about it, and we explored the importance of these groups, and you’d be shocked at the unusual places power lies.

There’s so much information trapped in history that Nigeria cannot recover, but she is willing to try. Refusing to learn from past mistakes has had us as a people, going in circles, repeating the same mistakes. That’s something she’s hoping to change. “One of the hardest things to know about Nigeria’s history is what actually happened. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have enough recorded history. Everything just becomes beer-parlor gist —with multiple versions of a single story. That’s exactly what I’m hoping to change.”