On a bitter Spring afternoon in the West Mall atrium, one lone candidate captivated students attending the election debates for the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) VP Student Life position. Standing among his competitors, he rapped along with the rhythmic claps of an audience enraptured. “You can vote for this,” candidate Kayode Fatoba recited, pointing to himself. “Or you can vote for that,” he chanted, gesturing to his opponents. Students chose the former.
But still, eight months later, “Who’s Kayode, what’s the motive?” still lingers. Over the past few years, Fatoba has been involved with myriad initiatives and groups on campus — the SFSS, I Vision One World (iVow), SFU Athletics, and The Peak, among others. Nevertheless, how Kayode defines himself both within and outside of these groups remains unclear.
“I don’t necessarily care if people don’t like me, because I didn’t start out having people like me.”
The Peak sat down with Kayode Fatoba — the African, the entrepreneur, the animal, and the man — to attempt to peer into the mind of one of SFU’s most eccentric and outspoken figures.
Fatoba was born in 1991 in Agege, a small suburb in the state of Lagos, Nigeria. Scanning through photos of the streets near his home, Fatoba commented, “It’s not a super high-end part of Nigeria.”
When he was six years old, Fatoba travelled with his mother and brother to Toronto, where they lived in a small apartment with several members of their extended family. After years of involvement with the local police department and a youth soccer program, Fatoba received the TD Scholarship for Community Leaders, which ultimately brought him to study at SFU.
A health sciences student, Fatoba explained that his father played a critical role in determining his academic career: “He picked what I would be doing at SFU, and culturally [. . .] I felt like I have to respect my elder. That’s how I grew up.”
He continues, “I’m in a degree not necessarily because I chose it, and I keep continuing in it not necessarily because I had a choice.”
As such, Fatoba was forced to explore his true passions through his extracurricular activities, inspiring him to pursue a balance between his academic demands and his entrepreneurial spirit.
When asked to describe his career goals, Kayode says, “my goal is to build a brand that people can eat off of and believe in.”
He explains his skepticism towards non-government organizations, saying “I don’t necessarily believe that [they] really empower a group of people to cater to themselves, to develop businesses, to feed their families, to have a livelihood, to feel confident as members of the society.”
As such, Fatoba founded SkyNation with the intention of developing a brand that empowers people — specifically, Africans.
He tells me the story of how he and his friend stumbled upon an article explaining how the South African government had spent millions of dollars on a new website that was reportedly only worth $40.
“We realized that it was important for us to make web development and online presence affordable and attainable to Africans,” Kayode says. “That’s when we started SkyNation.”
SkyNation aims to develop unique hosting platforms which make web development easy and affordable for all African households. Unlike sitebuilders like WordPress, it will accept alternative forms of currency in an attempt to make personal and professional websites accessible to those without credit cards.
“Our mission was to put Africa online,” says Fatoba. “At the core of SkyNation, we’re trying to be a valuable African company that [is] made out of the need to provide affordable software to aid in African development.”
But although he may be an up-and-coming businessman by day, a different, wilder side of Fatoba emerges behind the microphone.
Listing the organizations he has been involved with over the past few years, such as Alpha Kappa Psi, SFU Fashion Week, and African Students Association, Kayode mentioned An!mals, describing it as “like this random thing…” and trailing off.
But far from being just some random thing, the musical group An!mals is the brainchild of Fatoba and two of his friends, his chance to express himself the way he knows best — through rap. “I love music,” says Fatoba. “It’s part of everything that I do.”
A mix of EDM, hip-hop, and jungle fusion, An!mals, as Fatoba put it, “is just us making music and not giving a fuck.”
The group’s name originated from a discussion the three had about how everyone is, at their core, a political animal. Although the band is still in its nascent stages, Fatoba explained that the lyrics of their upcoming EP carry strong social and political messages.
The three also plan to wear masks while performing in order to provide audiences with the complete An!mals experience. Fatoba was hesitant to disclose more information about the group, including which mask he wears. Hopefully, he’ll let the cat out of the bag soon.
Despite his recent successes, Fatoba’s SFU career has not been without its challenges. In 2010, he came under fire after the Juno-winning performer K’Naan pulled out of performing as part of a World Peace Day celebration at SFU, mere hours before his scheduled appearance.
As president of iVow, the club that organized the concert, Fatoba took responsibility for the failure. He became the subject of much criticism, but he took it in stride — now he brushes off this past misstep, quipping that he’s “often hated, never replicated.”
While the scars of the past rest just beneath the surface, Fatoba has since emerged from the controversy with a fresh attitude, and a commitment to change SFU for the better.
“I don’t necessarily care if people don’t like me, because I didn’t start out having people like me,” Fatoba said. “I like doing things, and I do things. I fail, I keep doing things, and they’re slowly becoming successful. So I’ll keep doing it.”
Ultimately, Fatoba summed up his experience at SFU best: “It’s a long journey.” And while his journey is far from finished, one thing is for sure: few are able to guess just what Fatoba will do next.