In 2017, when Jeminat Olumegbon, an events manager in Lagos, set up the Female Bikers initiative (FBi) with her friend, Nnenna Samuila, the objective for the organisation was to facilitate some form of education for Nigerian women. “A bunch of us, bike riders, came together because we knew when we ride we draw attention to ourselves so we used that as a form of communication starter, especially in rural areas,” Olumegbon, code-named Speed Diva, tells OkayAfrica via a phone call. In the three years since the initiative has been in operation, it has started a number of programs aimed at confronting socio-cultural barriers set against women in Nigeria but none is more resonant than the group’s campaign against breast and cervical cancer.
“We found out that a lot of women die of breast and cervical cancer in Nigeria and they shouldn’t be dying because there are preventive measures but lack of knowledge is what is really killing us,” Olumegbon says. According to Nigeria’s Cancer Control Plan, breast and cervical cancer are the most prevalent forms of cancer in Nigeria, disproportionately affecting women. And the Female Bikers initiative, a scion of D’Angels Motorcycle Club, Nigeria’s first all-female bikers club, is working hard to get women tested early.
Photo courtesy of Darey.
“We take advantage of concerts and parties. For example, we have an event at Muri Okunola Park and we’d set up a mobile clinic there; with all the music and dancing we were able to get women more since it is free. And if you do it and there’s nothing wrong, all you have to do is do it in three years’ time again. It takes an average of fifteen years before the cancer becomes full-blown,” Olumegbon says.
The video for “Jojo,” the latest single by Nigerian Afro&B artist Darey and Patoranking places riders from the Female Bikers initiative at the forefront of its creative effort, looping in scenes of the bikers riding along with Darey in a post-pandemic world.
The prior work of the group had been an attraction for the singer, especially his wife, Deola Art Alade, who is very passionate about empowering women. This made their work flow in sync. “There are many things about me that people don’t know. I am an avid biker and one of the early bikers in Nigeria’s history. Reaching out to them, we found that they had a cause they were passionate about under their umbrella group, Female Bikers initiative,” Darey explained over a phone call. “They spread cancer awareness, especially to other women and it’s something we’re passionate about in so many ways. Not just the cancer awareness, we’re also passionate about women empowerment.”
Darey – Jojo ft. Patoranking (Official Music Video)
The riders’ pioneering work affirms Darey’s beliefs that society needs to work out a way for women to take up key positions: “We need to encourage women to be bold and assertive.”
Read our conversations with Jeminat Olumegbon and Darey, edited for context and clarity, below.
How long have you been involved with the Female Bikers initiative, and what inspired the formation of the organisation?
We started the Female Bikers initiative in August 2017. So, it’s three years now. Female Bikers initiative is about educating the average Nigerian woman, although our long-term goal is to take that education to all of west Africa. We found out that a lot of women die of breast and cervical cancer in Nigeria and they shouldn’t be dying because there are preventive measures but lack of knowledge is what is really killing us. A bunch of us, bike riders, came together because we knew when we ride we draw attention to ourselves so we used that as a form of communication starter, especially in rural areas. When women come out, we try and educate them. Then we took it one step further to solicit funds and pay doctors and nurses. We also set up a clinic in these rural areas so women could come out and partake in the screening. It’s best done every three years, so if there are any issues it’s caught on time and it’s treated. It’s usually treatable but the women we meet don’t know about it until it gets to stage four cancer which is the end.
What are typically the responses you get when you go for cancer awareness rides?
Two things: A lot of people still frown at the fact that we have bikers in Nigeria, not to talk of female bikers. I have a couple of friends who cannot take their bike home because of their wives then you now talk about women whose role in Nigeria is supposedly to get married and cook for their family. So, it’s like who are these women who just ride bikes? And everybody thinks they are radicals or rebels and I tell them that once I’m done riding, I’m a mom, I’m into catering, and I have a life outside biking. A lot of people frown at it, especially from the womenfolk. Then there are those who love us and listen to what we have to say and our message. We keep growing and haven’t stopped. If not for COVID-19, we’d have had one of our biggest parties at Muri Okunola Park and we typically screen over 250 women on that day because there are doctors, nurses, beds, and everything.
Photo courtesy of Darey.
You’ve never featured in a music video, why did you choose to work with Darey?
I like his music and his style. I’m very particular about the people I associate with. Already, I’m a biker with people perceiving us as gangsters, so I try to be particular about the image I put out there. And I felt associating with Darey was not going to be of any danger to my person or give us a bad name. As I said, I like his style of music and he came across as a gentleman and that’s why I was willing to work with him.
What was that experience like?
I have massive respect for musicians from that day. I told myself that I’ll never tease anybody on MTV again even if they’re singing crap. It’s a lot of work. When we left there on the day of the shoot, they were still performing with Patoranking and I was asking myself what time they’d get home. We were so tired and we were not even the ones performing.
But overall, for you, was it a positive thing to be part of?
Absolutely. I’m a creative person and my side business is creating concepts for events. I help to come up with themes for birthdays or weddings. I don’t like doing the average thing of coming to weddings, eating jollof, and going home. I want to do something different and I saw some things that I’d not seen before on the day of the shoot. I never knew how much work went into the make-up or the outfits. When we were given our outfits, we started laughing because we thought we’d look like Teletubbies but when they showed us the pictures and videos of what we looked like, we were wowed. I can’t wait for the video to come out, it’s never been done (female bikers in any Nigerian music video). I’ve been riding for over 13 years in Nigeria and I’ve never agreed to do a music video so it’s going to get a buzz. I’m sure my phone will not stop ringing.
Photo courtesy of Darey.
Darey talked about collaborating more in the future, what would that conceivably look like beyond bringing attention to the issues you’re passionate about through the video?
He has his followership and there’s no better way to use the opportunity God has given each of us to make a difference. The girls and I plan to ride to Europe, it’s pretty easy once you have a good bike. We don’t mind riding to France, carrying our campaign and educating women as we go on, and taking his brand along with me. I’m sure that’s something he’ll want his brand tied to, sponsoring or being part of a campaign of women making an impact. I look forward to sitting with him and his wife, Deola Art Alade to talk about it.
The video for “Jojo” features the Female Bikers initiative, how did you get to know about them?
Between my wife and I, we decided to do something different, we wanted a scene of bike riders waiting outside when it was announced that the pandemic was over; and my wife was like what if they are all females. I thought it was a dope idea and said we should do it. It meant us looking for female bikers. We went all out, we found one person and needed to find more people. We wanted people who could ride, not just posing with it or being affiliated with someone who rode. And in our style of doing things differently, this is the first Nigerian music video that has an all-female biking crew at its center. Reaching out to them, we found that they had a cause they were passionate about under their umbrella group, Female Bikers initiative.
Photo courtesy of Darey.
They spread cancer awareness, especially to other women and it’s something we’re passionate about in so many ways. Not just the cancer awareness, we’re also passionate about women empowerment. My wife, my crew, and I, especially at my company, Livespot 360, we try to incorporate these into our work environment. We have more women than men because we believe that society needs to open up its ideas about providing platforms for women and having a truly egalitarian society where things are equal. So, for the video, we really just wanted to position women in that prominent role.
How important is it for us as a community to create platforms where we are able to see women in such prominent roles in artistic depictions?
I think it’s very important. We need to encourage women to be bold and assertive. I have a daughter and I don’t want to bring her up in a community that will make her feel that she is less than she is. The way I raise her is to believe in herself and know she has the support of her parents and knows that she can become anything that she wants to become. We need to encourage that in society, telling women to take any position they want. Positions of authority. Of power. Of passion. Of pleasure. Anything. Men and people around them should be able to encourage them and respect them while supporting them because doing this gives a unified society.
Is there going to be a further collaboration with them beyond the video?
In any way possible. It’s still early days but we are trying to find out what their goals are in terms of cancer awareness and other programs. And with Livespot 360 being a creative agency across advertising, production, experiential marketing, digital and tech, we are prepared to offer our support in any capacity that will be needed. We want to be there with them every step of the way.