Oloruntobi Osinlalu is a student of Nasarawa State University where she is studying business administration for her second degree.
Her family has seen it rough in a little over a year, from the coronavirus pandemic which impacted on families the world over, to the loss of her father last June; and in April the death of her only brother Feso Osinlalu who was a student of Greenfield University, Kaduna.
Feso was in his 300 level studying international relations when gunmen stormed his school on April 20, 2021. He and 21 others were taken as hostages. On April 23, three of the students were found dead. Three days later, Feso and another student were also found dead. The gunmen threatened to kill the remaining students if N100 million and ten motorcycles were not provided as ransom for their freedom. They had initially demanded N800 million.
Two days before Feso’s school was attacked, Oloruntobi got into Empire VIP House on Wheels reality TV show, a show in its first season which promotes entrepreneurship. The contestants, known as busmates, are kept in a location and are sometimes taken out on the streets via a bus to showcase their entrepreneurial skills.
Twenty-five contestants began the show on April 18. Eleven have been evicted. Four will leave on Sunday, May 9, paving the way for 10 to make it to the grand finale on May 16 where the winner of the show will take home N5 million worth of prizes, a car and endorsement deals.
Nollywood actor Chinedu Ikedieze and actress Moyo Lawal have both paid the busmates a visit while actress Grace-Charis Bassey (formerly Belinda Effah) and Vincent Opurum are the show’s hosts.
Oloruntobi alias Ispark with the code EM3608 started on a shaky note when she failed her first test.
“I felt I didn’t do more. I didn’t push further. I wasn’t happy with the fact that I didn’t make it to the top five,” she said.
Oloruntobi bounced back to become the first female head of house or king as is called on the show.
News of her brother’s death on April 26 nearly forced her to quit the show. However, she was encouraged to continue with the hope that “winning will make her brother proud.”
“She wanted to leave (the show) when she heard of (her brother’s death) but we actually told her to stay because my brother was looking forward to the show,” her sister Gbemisola Osinlalu told Qed.ng on Friday.
“My brother was more of a spiritual person. He told her she would be selected and she was. So we told her that if she quits the show, it would not bring the dead back. We told her to win it for him.”
Friends and family have taken to social media to solicit votes from the public.
In a Facebook post on May 5, her relative Lara Wise wrote: “Dear friends, a relative’s daughter entered for the EMPIRE AFRICA entrepreneurial reality show. A few weeks into the competition, her younger (and only brother) was abducted by bandits from the Greenfield University. Two weeks ago, he was killed.
“Their father had passed on June last year and as it were, they were still mourning him before this tragedy. Expectedly, she was ready to exit the competition but everybody urged her on.”
With the show climaxing on May 16 at Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, and each vote costing N50, Lara called for support to help Oloruntobi win for her brother’s memory.
“Winning will make her brother proud. Quitting will make his killers win. I’m here soliciting for votes on her behalf,” she added.