What Ola of Lagos-Steve Varsona Drama Says about Nigerians

By Olayemi Olaniyi Jan 4, 2024
Ola of Lagos

A few days ago, a content creator popularly known as Ola of Lagos was unmasked as a charlatan by one Steve Varsona, who I got to know founded The Jet Business. Steve, a self-styled expert on jets and aviation reviewed a video of Ola of Lagos reviewing a jet. Steve had a couple of issues with Ola but mainly, he called him out for mentioning an outrageous $16 million as the price of the jet in review which, according to him does not cost more than $5 million. Nigerians being naturally sensitive to what foreigners say about them saw Steve’s comment as an indictment on the country. And as a response, a lot of them felt the need to distance themselves from Ola by denouncing him as a fraud. But there were many others who for sentimental reasons argued that Steve’s review, though unflattering, made Ola of Lagos go global and no amount of hate would bring him down. 

For the next few days, X, formerly Twitter, was filled with arguments and counterarguments for and against Ola of Lagos’ style of review. Prior to the Steve Varsona incident, I knew very little of Ola’s shtick as a content creator other than a few times I’d chance upon his videos on Instagram. I never thought much of him. I certainly never thought of him as a reviewer in the sense I would think of Supercar Blondie or Marques Brownlee. But his popularity (he currently has 2.4 million followers on Instagram) is not surprising knowing the psyche of the typical Nigerian millennial or Zoomer. 

So, I took the pain to watch a few of Ola’s videos to understand how he does his reviews. He code mixes standard English, Pidgin English, and Yoruba in his videos. He uses the catchphrase “It’s plenty”, a poor translation of the Yoruba phrase o por, which is used contextually to refer to something or someone enormous in size. You could extrapolate that to flatteringly refer to someone’s outstanding success or achievement. Burna Boy’s celebration-themed song titled It’s Plenty is perhaps the best example to understand what the phrase means. In any case, It’s plenty is actually a genius catchphrase when you think about the fact that Ola of Lagos’ shtick is to cater to the nouveau rich by essentially advertising luxury cars to them under the guise of reviews. 

Unlike say, Marques Brownlee who has a calm demeanour, Ola sensationalises and over-dramatises in his videos. While he may mention specifications here and there, the main goal of his videos is to highlight the fact that the car or house (yes, I got to know he does house videos too) he reviews is expensive. His Instagram bio reads The Luxury Guy and that tells you all you need to know about him. In reality, Ola of Lagos is not a reviewer. He showcases luxury by advertising for car dealerships and real estate firms. He has the numbers and he sure gets them visibility. 

In all fairness to him, social media rewards luxury. Hence, anyone who can showcase it is boosted by the algorithm. Celebrities undertsand this. Lifestyle vloggers undertsand this. Even fraudsters like Hushpuppi, and Woodberry and socialites with questionable wealth like Mompha understand this. Ola of Lagos exists to cater to that social media essence. He does not need detail or depth. He does not need to test a car for a week to give an informed review about it. All he needs to do is over-dramatise, call out an outrageous price, and say “it’s plenty”. He is the very quintessence of the I-must-be-rich sentiment pervasive among Nigerian millennials and Zoomers. 

Another appealing thing about Ola is his grass-to-grace arch. Today, through his social media success, he rolls with celebrities and VIPs. His success to the Nigerian mind is a testament to how God can turn a nobody into somebody. Hence, in the wake of the Steve Varsona video, his defenders were quick to say something along the lines of who God has blessed, no one can bring down. 

To prove Ola is not a reviewer but a luxury car advertiser at best, in his mea culpa video responding to the backlash, he admits that he only regurgitates the prices car dealers call for him. He reflects on how he started his content career by chasing after luxury cars and wanting to know more about them. He also would go to car dealerships and enquire about cars. He started knowing nothing about cars. While he acknowledges that everything is a process, he tells his haters God will never make him fall and instead of hearing any bad news about him, they will keep hearing of his international exploits. 

One would have thought he learned a lesson. But about three days after his mea culpa, he released a video where he reviewed a N1.3 billion Roll-Royce. He played right into the hands of his critics once again. This time, he said nothing about the specifications of the car. Someone asked why they would spend N1.3 billion on a car when the so-called reviewer has said nothing about its horsepower, speed, and other must-know specifications and functionalities.

One of the major takeaways from the backlash was how critics used Ola of Lagos’ success as proof that Nigerians are not interested in intelligence. Nigerians are more interested in shallow discourses and vibes (whatever that means)Honestly, I can’t say I disagree with that assumption. The facts are simply there to bear witness. Our top podcasts and social media conversations often focus on dating, luxury, and entertainment gossip. The entire Nigerian space lacks an appreciation for depth. This is true in politics. I once wrote about the lack of political ideology in Nigeria. This shallowness is also true in religion. I once complained about the lack of apologetics in the Nigerian church. The same thing is true also on our university campuses. Everyone who graduated from a Nigerian university knows just how shallow the curriculum and faculty staff are intellectually. Such a system only favours the likes of Ola of Lagos. My friend John and I often complain about this. In fact, it’s become our favourite pastime to complain about not winning the luck of the draw by being born in a society that does not appreciate the things we do.

John is interested in literature and publishing. He has made me understand how publishing is not at all a lucrative business in Nigeria. That is why the literary community sometimes has no choice but to seek the patronage of politicians to sponsor art and literary festivals not minding the conflict of interest between the pen and the crown. Nigeria is a country of over 200 million people. But sadly, publishers and writers don’t often make enough to keep their business afloat. In a society that rewards the likes of Ola of Lagos with fame, don’t be surprised why no one is interested in reading. Everyone wants to be a skit comedian or a dancer who sensualises their body for views. 

But in all fairness, this is a global trend. We live in the attention economy and the only way to stand out is through absurd dramatisation. Americans are complaining about TikTok being a den of idiocy. Joey B Toons, one of my favorite YouTubers documents social media idiocy satirically. Apathy towards intellectual discourses is a global trend. It’s safe to say we are living in what can fittingly be called the Algorithm of the Absurd. For Nigeria, this is far more dangerous given our dire need for growth and development. For a country that has the unenviable record of being the poverty capital of the world, we don’t have the luxury for luxury interests!

Ola of Lagos is not guilty of anything. He is only a product of a system that privileges people of his ilk and shtick. 

By Olayemi Olaniyi

Olayemi is the publisher of The Disaffected Magazine. He also hosts the Disaffected Nigerian Podcast. He enjoys everything from Evolutionary Psychology to the syncopations of Apala music to Fela's discography. He fancies himself as an Amala enthusiast. His dream is to be a travel writer someday. He can be reached on X @LukeOlaniyi.  

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One thought on “What Ola of Lagos-Steve Varsona Drama Says about Nigerians”
  1. This is a beautiful piece. The articulation is impeccable. Thank you for drawing away from the drab of blogging into exposition of essence with such silky aftertaste after every paragraph.

    A worthy read for a while now.

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