CEO Of OkayAfrica And OkayPlayer Resigns Amid Allegations Of Verbal Abuse, Inappropriate Behavior, Manipulation And Other Claims
Former Okayplayer writer Ivie Ani was one of the women who came forward with allegations.
“Effective immediately, we have severed all ties and accepted the resignation of Abiola Oke as CEO and Publisher of Okayplayer and OkayAfrica," Questlove stated. "We take the allegations that have surfaced very seriously, and we stand with the brave women who came forward.”
Questlove also addressed the next steps for the company.
"We have begun the process of engaging an outside advisor to review and investigate our current and past policies and practices," Questlove said. "We're committed to creating a work environment that's inclusive and respectful for all."
According to Variety, former Okayplayer writer Ivie Ani was one of the women who came forward with allegations this week. Ani and six other women who made allegations released a joint statement on Twitter to address the issues.
"From 2015 to 2020, several Black women working across Okayplayer and OkayAfrica were subject to a lack of support and resources, below market salaries, inadequate leadership, targeting and sabotage, slander, verbal abuse, inappropriate behavior, gaslighting, lack of empathy, manipulation, rationalizing poor or unethical conduct and wrongful termination,” the women stated.
The women said they came forward with their stories to show what it looks like to stand up for Black women and to demand that Oke be removed from the company.
"His management and leadership under the guise of pushing Black culture forward has been hindering, unproductive and destructive," the group said.
In addition to the statement, a woman spoke about her experience with Oke anonymously, telling her story to photojournalist Yagazie Emezi.
"A woman has come forward anonymously to share her story about current CEO @Abiolaoke of OkayAfrica," Emezi wrote on Twitter. "Please amplify, and if anyone would like to share theirs, I’m here for you. Thank you for speaking up. Protect Black women."
A woman has come forward anonymously to share her story about current CEO @Abiolaoke of @OkayAfrica. Please amplify, and if anyone would like to share theirs, I’m here for you. Thank you for speaking up. Protect Black women. pic.twitter.com/smm8N30ea3— Yagazie Emezi (@YagazieEmezi) June 24, 2020
According to Emezi's statement, Oke sexually harassed the woman and "continually and verbally abused her when she tried to make him stop."
"He gained access to her personal space and due to his behavior, she did not feel safe refusing him sex," the photojournalist said. "She explained to me how she felt her 'choice' to have sex with him and regret it would be better than being forcibly raped."
In a follow-up statement on Thursday, OkayMedia explained some changes that will be implemented at the company. One of those changes includes adding Black women to its board. The company also said it is "committed to appointing a Black woman to the role of publisher of Okayplayer and OkayAfrica."
In addition, OkayMedia is "engaging an outside consultant to conduct a full investigation into the company's culture."
"We are hiring a full-time in-house HR person," the company stated. "We are revamping our policies to include a more flexible work from home policy, staff equipment guarantees, and additional measures that will allow employees to have transparent communication with leadership about raises, opportunities for advancement, etc."
OkayMedia also plans to appoint an employee advocate to keep executives accountable for addressing employees' questions. In addition, the company announced plans to provide mental health services.
Oke addressed the allegations against himself in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.
"I have listened, digested, and reflected on the feedback Oyinkan Olojede, Hanan Osman, Winny Kassa, Ivie Ani, Antoinette Isama, and Olabisi Famakinwa gave regarding their experiences working under my leadership," the former CEO said.
Oke said he is holding himself accountable for his lack of awareness of the privilege he has "as a Black man being supported by Black women."
"I see how that ignorance created a space that made my Black women colleagues feel invisible and silenced," he stated. "I own my mistakes and have stepped down as CEO and publisher of OkayMedia."
Still, Oke denied the accusation of sexual assault.
"I have never sexually assaulted any woman nor have I made sexual advances to any woman in the company," he said. "I also understand that victim shaming is a rampant phenomenon, but as the person being falsely accused of such a serious offense, I would like to address this with the same vigor."
I have listened, digested, and reflected on the feedback Oyinkan Olojede, Hanan Osman, Winny Kassa, Ivie Ani, Antoinette Isama, and Olabisi Famakinwa gave regarding their experiences working under my leadership.— Abiola (@Abiolaoke) June 25, 2020
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According to Black Enterprise, Oke was 34 years old when he started working as CEO of OkayAfrica in 2015.
"I had a very diverse experience growing up. I spent the 80s in the Bronx and then in the 90s, I went back to Nigeria and spent my formidable high school years there," Oke said in a 2015 interview with Black Enterprise. "In the 2000s, I came back to the states. So I’ve had a unique experience with the American way of life, as well as the traditional Nigerian way of life. It’s something that’s made my network diverse, as well as [molding] how I think about the world and myself as a professional."