A broadcast journalist who studied English and Literary Studies at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ayo’ Emmanuel-Ojo is popular for his radio programme and podcast, People, Places and Culture, which interrogates global tourism and cultural systems by looking at the happenings that define tourism in Africa. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, Emmanuel-Ojo, a golden star award recipient from a youth-based organisation in Houston Texas, United States, talks about his experience as an OAP, running Greenspirit Media and hosting one of the most listened-to shows on tourism and cultural programmes in the Diaspora.
How difficult do you consider being able to carve a niche for oneself as an OAP based on your own experience?
This is a big question. To the glory of God, I have worked on both radio and television. Although I am fully on radio now.
Carving a niche for yourself is not easy, knowing full well that everyone wants to do entertainment but passion is the key. I grew up in an art family. My dad took me round and showed me places.
This, to a very large extent, made me develop a strong passion for art, culture, tourism and politics. With this, I find my strength in art, lifestyle and politics. Although as a young broadcaster, you have to be very versatile but knowing your area of strength is key. With this in mind, getting a stand in the industry was not difficult at all.
What is your journey like and why did you choose to be an OAP?
This is a very long story.
The love for broadcasting/journalism started when I was in primary school. I remember my primary school, ATMA-D Nursery and Primary School, now known as West Prime Model School in Bodija area of Ibadan, took us to Radio Nigeria, Ibadan, for an excursion. Stepping into that premises then, something clicked and I just love the profession.
At that level, I had the privilege of meeting the Voice-Over actor of Living Spring Chapel then in the studio. He spoke to me as a child and his words are still clear in my head even though I cannot remember his name now.
Growing up, things just fell in place. I later discovered my talent in voice acting and content creation, interestingly, radio embraced me before TV. I am a graduate of English and Literary studies from the prestigious Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. I have worked as a script writer, voice actor, a content producer, an event compere, a lover of children and a serial entrepreneur and currently work with Wellsradio, Nigeria’s fastest growing online radio.
Could you still cast you mind back to some of the challenges you faced in the process of becoming an OAP? Challenges are everywhere and I must say mine aren’t an exception. I started out as an intern, which really helped me.
But I must also mention that access to the microphone was the challenge initially. I later realised that it is one of those things you have to face to get to the top. How were you able to overcome this? One of the greatest gifts of God to me are my parents. Growing up, my dad used to tell me not to despise the days of little beginnings.
I didn’t stop pushing, even when the opportunities were not forthcoming, I kept on reading and retraining myself, aside from that, I had mentors in the industry who I look up to. Their stories inspire me a lot and with these in mind, together with my drive and passion, it was always a matter of time.
If you had your mind set on broadcasting since primary school, why did you choose to study English and not Mass-communication?
In fact, I wanted to study Law and not English Language. Although I have always loved the media.
For your information, I had my first shot at radio right after secondary school. So, I know that the media has something for me but still I had my eyes on studying law.
As God would have it, I was offered English Language at the Olabisi Onabanjo University but having had my first shot on radio just after secondary school meant I had senior colleagues to talk to.
They mentored me and gave me the best counsel I needed at that time.
Are there experiences you have had as an OAP that are not so good?
I have had memorable moments but I do not see them as bad, rather; I learn from them and move on. Trust me, such moments made me who I am today.
What would be your advice to people who desire to work as an OAP?
Passion, training/education and consistency are the most important ingredients they have to keep in mind all the time.
Since your passion developed through a national broadcaster, do you wish to work in any Federal broadcasting commission?
Absolutely, but of course it would have to be as a full staff this time.
That is because I had a short time with Bronze FM in the Aduwawa area of Benin City and I loved it.
Which other course could you have studied apart from Law or English/Mass Communication?
There was no other course that would allow me exhibit my love and passion. Law might have to a certain extent but I do not regret studying English language at all. Trust me when I say that I cannot imagine myself studying something else.
Although I still have my eyes on the legal profession.
So can we then say that is a future goal, which others do you have?
The future is now and I have started living it. Watch out for my talk show on YouTube and directto- home TV. It is going to be a big project, there are other productions coming up but for some reasons, I cannot let them out yet. You just have to watch out via my social media platforms.
What would you say you have contributed to the industry and on which you hope to do more?
Sound Character is one of my core values. I tell people the media has a lot to do in this area. One of these contributions is through my talk show programs: Stigma2Stardom with Ayo and Gender World on Wellsradio.
With these platforms, my contributions are not just for the industry but for the society at large.
Amebo, Garuba, Okoro, others to celebrate Villag e Headmaster at 50 –Prince Dag bolu
Mr. Dan Imoudu popularly known as Prince Dagbolu in the rested NTA’s foremost longest drama series Village Headmaster (VHM). He told FLORA ONWUDIWE that NTA, the mother that brought the people together in the late 60s would be celebrating the surviving legends of the TV drama series in October
We learnt that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) would be celebrating Village Headmaster at 50, how prepared are you for the anniversary?
The anniversary is starting on the October 8, with a talk show, and we are inviting well known veterans in the industries to discuss past, present and the future, because that is what the Village Headmaster is all about. And there will be a live stage performance of the surviving cast of VHM and there will be a Gala nite, in which funds will be raised to launch a foundation.
The cast of the Village Headmaster Family (VHMF) will launch a foundation that will take care of the old ones in the entertainment industry. The VHM was said to have started in October 1968, why is the celebration coming now, when it ought to have taken place last year? Yes, the VHM is a household name.
We intended celebrating it last year but for forces beyond our control, we could not get it done, we felt that it has to be celebrated, so the change of one year, I think there is nothing bad, the most important thing is that we are celebrating Village Headmaster.
You are one of the surviving legends of VHM, what does the celebration mean to the surviving cast?
It means a lot because VHM is unlike other programmes.
It is a family and we had so much rapport and we had so many things we were doing for one another, apart from acting together and we were all there for ourselves.
We discovered that the VHM was unique itself, because everybody rose from the root to ranks to where he or she rose to at that time. Could you believe that somebody like Chief Eleyimi( the late Oba Funso Adeolu of Ode Remo) was once a carpenter in Oja Community, so everybody has to go through different steps .
Like I started with a minor (waka pass) next was crowd , I also became a policeman, the palmwine tapper before I was given the role of Prince Dagbolu, that people later came to identify me with, so it was more or less like a training school.
We‘ve had other drama series that hit the nation’s airwaves; and there has not been so much a noise, is it really worth celebrating, what makes VHM so special ?
It’s being celebrated because of the year’s it lasted, it was over 25 years. If it were to be in other countries, there should have been repeat broadcast of the programme.
VHM has its own cultural teachings, which is not reflected in most of the dramas on the airwaves. I will cite an instance; the Amebo’s Bar was more or less like a gossip centre. In a normal a village setting, you will find out that many of our children of this generation have not seen Calabash nor seen a local bar.
So these are things that make it unique, we felt all these things should be there, before we now, go back to our roots, most of the programmes that our children watched on the TV are only imitating the foreigners, there is no way you can play an English drama like an English man, it is not possible, you can’t do an African drama like a normal African man.
We learnt that the management of NTA is partnering with the cast and crew for the anniversary, what are we expecting from them?
The celebration was first mooted by the living cast, but we felt because NTA was the mother body that brought us together then we had to go to NTA to get the station informed. Surprisingly, they bought the idea and they are playing the principal partners and since they are major partners they fully prepared, right now they are taking most of the responsibilities and everything we are doing, we have agreed on so many things concerning the celebration and NTA is fully prepared to celebrate the cast and crew.
We are aware that the majority of the cast had died; could you name some of the surviving cast that your fans would be meeting during the events? The fans will meet Mrs Ibidun Allison(Amebo), Dan Imoudu(Chief Dagbolu), Jimi Johnson(Okoro), Eleyemi’s wife (Mrs. Dupe Onabanjo-Obazee, Melville Obriangho (Oghene), Asuquo Ukwak (Boniface), Dele Osawe(Teacher Fadele), amongst o thers.
We discovered that most drama series that had hit the airwaves do not take cognizance of the Cultural values, could you tell us if VHM portrays some of these values?
Yes, it was in that direction but at a time, the programme deviated from the original concept, it was getting us what was going on in the country thereby losing the cultural values, perhaps, it could have been part of it; the scripts were not as strong as it were before, it deviated from the original concept. So what led to its losing its original focus? A lot of politics were involved in it, and NTA cannot exonerate itself from some of problems we were having them.
The New Village headmaster was political. After this golden Jubilee, are we expecting the programme to come back on the airwaves?
Well, that depends on NTA, we are just celebrating ourselves. So, if NTA wants to bring it back, it is left for the station.
It was reported that at the early stage of the drama series, the characters were from different tribes across the country and it reflected in their roles, that was a signal of a united nation.
Now, if NTA brings it back, are we going to expect that unity especially now that the country is going berserk?
If it retains the original concept, yes,it will promote the unity of this country, because the characters come from different tribes, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and other tribes, you discovered that the characteristics of these characters are being portrayed in this programme, of course they will know that if the cast can exist together in that Oja Village, there is no reason why they cannot exist together outside the drama.
It can be integrated into the larger society. Some things happen in the society and when we interprete them in the script, the viewers will know. In one of the series in The New Village headmaster, the headmaster’s wife comes from the North and headmaster is not an Hausa, so it means that inter-tribal marriage can be encouraged and we can live in harmony.
You said that it could bring us together but sometimes it lampoons on some institutions in the society, how do you explain that? That makes it a complete programme, it tells us you what is happening in the society, it criticises some of the things that have to be criticised and it promotes what should be promoted.
Like there are some burning issues, like the RUGA settlement and kidnapping, the VHM will portray it in a dramatic form and how it will be resolved. Why is Village Headmaster family launching a foundation? The family is launching a foundation because this was a programme that started 50 years ago and some of us were on it for over 25 years, some of the cast are between the ages of 50-above and some are getting close to 80years. Again, some of the cast died in a pitiable state and nobody was there to help them.
The government cannot do everything, so the idea is that we should be our brother’s keeper and one of the greatest things in the Bible is that, “Love your neighbour as thy self” if you cannot love your neigbour why do you pray to God? For instance, somebody like Joe Layode(Teacher Garuba), he died wretchedly. It was very annoying, And some of the cast are ill now, and we have to assist them. Are you saying that the Foundation would not be strictly for the cast of VHM or the gestures will be extended to other people? The foundation is not to cater for the cast of VHM alone and other colleagues in the entertainment industry. Some of the patrons are well known in the society and accountability is the key word.
Every kobo spent would be accounted for. With God on our side, we will get there,The Village headmaster gave birth to Nollywood, whether, we like it or not. Yes, no matter small at least we will give them our widow’s mite. Some groups had established foundations and ended up stealing the money meant for the project, how will this foundation be different from such foundations? This is where I said the issue of accountability comes in.
Would you say somebody like Amebo and Bayo Awala one of the producers/directors of VHM, now a Reverend, that are involved will allow such thing to happen?
They are above money, these are the people that are involved in it, so there must be accountability, it is going to have a full fledge office with its own staff. Every year, we will publish our accounts. You said that the choice is NTA, if the programme must come back, how would the characters that played roles that pleased their fans, how would you get people to play the exact roles that made some fans became addicted to the programme? Along the line, there were people growing with us.
Such people are now being trained for each role, so that if a particular character does not come, someone else will step in to play the role. So look at the years now, some of those actors that were there are overdue for chieftaincy titles to be in the palace. Someone like Doyin (Lara Akinsola) had three children for Teacher Garuba) so we must see Doyin with those kids now, it is a moving story. Part of the cast will be embedded with the old cast.
GOING BACK TO BARIGA AFTER 30 YEARS WAS EMOTIONALLY DRAINING
‘I want Germans to see us as educated people, not scammers, prostitutes’
Mrs. Mary Bamigbe Bruder, a Nigerian based in Berlin, Germany and president of Bruderhilfe (Brotherly Help) Social Development Initiative Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Germany, with a mandate to transform lives and communities around Nigeria, is quietly traversing the nation bringing succour to the neglected and ‘wretched of the earth.’ ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA spoke with the mother of two, who is determined to rewrite the sordid narratives of Nigerians living in Germany and other parts of Europe, on her life’s trajectory
With about 30 years in Germany, where she has been exposed to the best that life has to offer, Mrs. Mary Bamigbe Bruder, is the most unlikely person to be seen with the underpriviledged, exposing herself and even those around her to the dangers and mudslinging that come with such a territory, but for her avowed passion to add value to peoples’ lives and her world. Raised in Ilaje, Bariga area of Lagos State, one of the backwaters and vices infested communities in the state, she rose from the ashes of deprivation to attend Gbagada Girls Secondary School and University of Lagos, Akoka, a neighbouring community, where she bagged a Bachelor degree in Political Science.
Shortly after her graduation, she decided she has had enough of her father’s land and departed for Berlin, Germany, in 1989, to start afresh. While at it, she went through all sorts, including abuse and physical torture, but she was not deterred as she stayed on course and today she has risen from the ashes to become a successful businesswoman and a philanthropist extraordinary.
She is actually a household name in Berlin and most parts of Germany and Europe as no one encounters her without having a good impression of her, this writer inconclusive. Bruder is actively involved with the Nigerian Organisation in Diaspora (NIDO) Germany and is currently the treasurer of the body, where she has made valuable contributions. Her humanity and devotion to the welfare of people that come in contact with her even when it is not convenient and safe to do so is inspiring.
Extending a helping hand is second nature to her
Extending a helping hand to people that come across her, is almost second to nature to her, she says as she opens a window to her world: ‘‘I have been in Germany now for about 30 years and I am into business, shipping, logistics and procurement. I am the managing director of PPSS International GmbH, a shipping, procurement and logistics company in Berlin, Germany.
‘‘My business has been very successful, all my years in Germany have been devoted to charity work,’’ she says, stressing that: ‘‘I was not actually ready to make it an official preoccupation by registering an NGO I created for that purpose because I was not emotionally ready to go into it full time. The road to formalising her charity work, she discloses started about two years ago when she took steps to put a structure and a name to it.
‘‘But I started in June 2017 as I then decided that I was ready emotionally, and financially to register it. It was then that I decided to register it in Nigeria.’’
Inspiration for setting up the NGO
‘‘What inspired me was my life story and that of my family as we all came out of charity. A family charity of some sort,’’ she says as she goes on to narrate her dramatic life story, which today she speaks openly about unashamedly in order to inspire children and youths that have become part of her world. Her parents, siblings and herself where pepped up in life by the singular act of devotion to family creed by her father’s elder brother who threw a life line to the father when he brought him to Lagos and started him off.
She picks up the narration: ‘‘He brought him to Lagos and empowered him to start a business. He also gave him a plot of land in Ilaje, Bariga. Not only giving him a plot of land but he helped him to design a three – bedroom flat. So from childhood, we lived in Ilaje, Bariga, a poor neighourhood.
‘‘Because of that singular act we were able to live well and get education even though my parents were uneducated, all my siblings are graduates. But then I didn’t quite appreciate what my uncle did for us but growing up I began to appreciate what he did and also questioned myself if I could be able to replicate such an act.’’
Having drank from the milk of kindness of her uncle, it wasn’t difficult for her to also give back as she tells you that: ‘‘All my life in Germany, I have always been of help to Nigerians and other nationals. My office is like a refuge for them, I love my country, I love to help people and I love to promote my country. ‘‘Anybody that is looking for accommodation, work, welfare or whatever it is, my office is opened to them. Even those that are in distress and at the point of committing suicide, I come to their aid and once they see me they open up to me and I counsel them.
‘‘Immediately, I take them home, clothe them, give them food and a place to stay. The females live with me in my apartment while the males live in my office. All of them are success stories today and most of them are German citizens now. ‘‘I tell them my story for them to know that I started from zero level just like most of them and getting to the place I am today is only by the grace of God.
‘‘I know that I have a divine calling or mandate to help people because when someone in need comes to me I don’t have peace of mind until I am able to render assistance to such a person. I don’t know how I am able to do that but that is just me because I will never have peace until I am able to solve your problem. ‘‘This is my kind of life and now I decided to take it further by formalising it. It is this that gave birth to the NGO that I am now running.
Suffered from bad relationship and abuse
Life for her, has not been all sunshine, as she confesses to have suffered all sorts of pains, including abuse and bad relationship: ‘‘I have also suffered bad relationship, abuse and so many negative things, but God helped me out of them. So I can talk about life and I believe that I have a lot of experiences to share with people.
Areas of influence
The basic focus of her NGO is in the areas of education, health, empowerment and water aid. She has traversed different communities within Nigeria, setting up outreaches in such places as Ilaje, Bariga, Badagry, Agege and Ajegunle in Mile 12 area of Lagos where she runs a community centre in a property owned by her and she plans to adopt the community as a model community.
Also, her imprints are in Ife, Osun State and Abeokuta, Ogun State, among others. Just recently she added Borno State to her unending list of beneficiaries when she donated over 100 wheelchairs to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps through the state emergency agency in collaboration with the Nigerian embassy in Germany. She also has a volunteer group, which is made of youths under her watch in different communities. This crop of volunteers forms the vanguard for her outreaches to different communities in the country. Part of her commitment is to expose Nigerians to educational opportunities Germany. To this end, she has offered scholarship to two indigents Nigerian students who are studying in German universities, with plan being concluded for the third student to join the duo anytime soon.
I am a success story from Ilaje, Bariga
Speaking with her, you get a sense of unalloyed devotion to her community, Ilaje, Bariga, which she is helping to transform into a better and improved enclave. She sees your background as not being a hindrance to you becoming a success in life, using herself as a preachment to her community because by her admission, she is a success story from the deprived community ‘‘I am a success story from Ilaje, Bariga and I tell them that they don’t have any choice not to do well in life. Your background is not an excuse. I don’t your children to continue like this, let stop now and plan for our future generations.
‘‘We love this community, this is my community, my Ilaje, Bariga, I am so proud that I am a success story from this community and I want other youths and children to also be a success story from their communities. ‘‘We want to empower youths, we want to enlighten them, we want to discuss with them one on one, and we want them to see that better things are in stock for them. ‘‘Because I am coming from that background I can relate with them and talk authoritatively to them. They can understand and relate to my story because some of the people knew me in the area when I was growing up. ‘
‘We want to empower the women, organise them into smaller groups, offer them loans for their businesses. I am working with the office of the vice president (Yemi Osinbajo) on this. I am targeting the Tradermoni.
Visiting Ilaje, Bariga was emotional for me
Going back to her beloved Ilaje, Bariga, was not an easy decision for her as it took the intervention of her siblings and others to get her to engage with her people in the backwaters community that is infamous for its high rate of vices. Looking back, she confesses that it was the most emotionally unnerving moment for her: ‘‘In fact, since I started my NGO visiting Ilaje, Bariga, was the most emotionally troubling for me. Everybody knows me and I told them that I couldn’t come to this area all this while because of it notoriety and the fact that they were not organsied.’’
It is energy sapping
Coming this far, she says has been energy sapping as she never imagined that it was going to be this consuming: ‘‘But it sapped a lot of my energy, it is actually now that I know what NGO really is because before I thought it was child’s play. In fact, sometimes when I get back am so tired and even fall sick.
As a true humanist and philanthropist that she is, her NGO’s a c – tivities, which in the last two y e a r s that she started has run into millions of naira, are self-funded and sustained by her. ‘‘I am not funded by anybody, no media and all what not. My idea of an NGO is to see what you can do first before you call on others.
‘‘I want to work, I want to show that this is what I can do. So that when you give me money I will not put it in my pocket. I work with volunteers, youths, after I train them I bring them in. So it is not just me alone. ‘‘I don’t want red tape and because I am using my private funds I am able to make a lot of impact in the lives of the people and communities that we work with.
We are building a crop of responsible Nigerians ‘‘Educating them, changing people’s mentality; it is not all about giving. We want to breed Nigerians that will not only think about themselves but others too. Until people realise that people are really suffering in this country this may not happen. So, we want Nigerians that will grow up with a sense of responsibility and helping others.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to help others
“If you are rich and have criminals all around you will not have peace. But when everyone is catered for, then the society will be safe. That is the kind of NGO that we are creating. I want to show Nigerians that you don’t have to be a millionaire before you can render help, I just want people to see that one single individual can bring about change. I am not a millionaire, but I just want to do it so that people can see us and join us.’’
Making a model community out of Ajegunle As part of her long term plan, she has adopted Ajegunle community, where she presently owns a community centre. She discloses that she plans to attract a German organisation to install solar power in the centre and the entire community.
Besides, ‘‘I want a community carved out of the place, I am really working on the children now since they have confidence in us that we care for them. ‘‘I really want to build a model community there that the government and other organisations can emulate or replicate elsewhere. We have adopted the community because we want to transform it. We want to educate the children and empower the women.’’
When I go to a community and see people exhibiting selfish tendencies, just one family carting away everything meant for the people or the leader of the community insisting that the materials should be brought to him. That is very disappointing, I experienced that in Ilaje, Bariga and one other place where only one person wanted to take everything for himself.
Some of the community leaders have been cooperative while others are not, feeling threatened that we are coming to expose their communities and their shortfalls. This too is very disappointing because I expect them to come to us and embrace what we are doing because of its positive influence on their people and communities. But we would not allow such attitude and behaviour to discourage us because the people are really cooperative and most times they will even tell us that their leaders would not come and that we should just go ahead with our activities.
I want more Nigerians to access German education
I want to see more Nigerians access German education because nationals from other African countries are taking advantage of it and benefiting from it because they understand how the system works but Nigerians don’t.
I want to change the narrative of Nigerians in Germany
I want an organsied Nigerian community in Germany. I want to change the story of Nigerians in Germany, I want the Germans to see our next generation of Nigerians as people of great potential, educated and exposed and not scammers or prostitutes. I am collating all Nigerian experts and scholars in different fields in Germany who are well respected by the German government and working for the government. I want to create a link between them and Nigerian government because these are people that can use their influence and wealth of experience to assist Nigeria. I have discussed this with the Nigerian ambassador in Germany and the vice president too and they are both very excited about it. So, I am working assiduously to execute this project.
I know most of these people and they respect me because they know that I have passion for education and for Nigeria. But the problem that some of them are running away from is the protocol in accessing the Nigerian government and they don’t want that because here they have free access to the German government and are well respected by the government and consulted. I have discussed with most of them to let them know that their country, Nigeria, needs them. They listen to me when I discuss some of these issues with them and are willing to really buy into the project and be part of it.
Sani Muazu: I enjoy bad guy roles because they’re opposite my personality
Fresh from his roles in two of the biggest Nollywood movies in recent times, Lion Heart and King Of Boys, Sani Mu’azu, an actor, producer and director, raised the stakes further with his impressive role as a politician in Ishaya Bako’s recently-premiered 4th Republic. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, the graduate of Mass Communication and leading light in Kannywood, spoke about Nollywood potential separating fiction from reality regarding leadership roles for women among others.
Which would you refer to as milestones for MOPPAN that you have been involved in as a former president of the association?
I am fulfilled as a former president of MOPPAN because I have raised the bar very high. I organised nothing less than 13 training programmes in partnership with credit worthy organizations such as the British Council, Goethe Institut, American Embassy and the Audio Visual department of the French Embassy. Hundreds of people gained skills in acting, cinematography, sound engineering and design, editing and scriptwriting. I was also successful in exposing filmmakers from the northern part of Nigeria to integrate into the larger industry by participation in festivals and awards. I was responsible for getting MOPPAN registered with the CAC and as a member of its board of trustees, I am really glad that there is continuity from where we stopped.
So what are some of the dreams you have for the movie industry as a whole and how best do you think some of the fiercest challenges can be overcomed?
Dreams? Well, African stories are gradually taking center stage, as we have seen with Black Panther. The world wants to see and appreciate the hidden stories that have not been told, but nobody can capture and give the authentic African narrative other than the African storyteller. I see the Nigerian movie industry playing a leading role in this. I see it as a viable industry that will attract serious investment based on its viability. I see the rise and rise of African pride and confidence from the stories being told by our movies.
There are lots of challenges alright such as funding, standards and piracy but, for once, let us not dwell on these. Let us be optimistic. The government has a great role to play for an enabling environment and I pray that the President will live up to his words and commitment to the development of the industry. He recently gave the Central Bank of Nigeria a matching order to assist with single digit facilities but it remains to be seen if this directive is not merely politicking.
Having been a part of the industry over the decades; do you feel that the industry has evolved enough over the years?
The Nigerian film industry is still in a transformation phase. It is far from where it should be but with the level of investments that are coming and the creative and technical skills that are evolving, we are definitely moving towards the right direction.
What memories does the experience of acting in 4th Republic and especially playing the villain leave you with?
It was fun working in the production, working with a team of professionals most of whom I had worked with or whose works I had admired in the past. It was a reunion of sorts with friends like Bimbo Manuel, Kate Henshaw, Linda Ejiofor, Enyinnaya and my kid brother, Yakubu Mohammed.
It was also an opportunity to get to know Ishaya (Bako), the director, a little closer and understand his work methods. I met new people too, like Ummi the Executive producer.
Given Nigeria’s setting in terms of politics, was it a bit awkward playing the role of a crooked politician?
It is always fun when I play the role of the bad guy. I enjoyed it because it is diametrically opposite my real self. I am a peace and development worker playing the role of a reckless politician who can go to any length to hang on to power.
Given the storyline and your role also, do you feel that Nigeria is ready for a female governor or president?
My role may be fictitious but Nigeria is real. It is a fast changing nation with a lot of people coming to terms with the abilities of women. There are cultures in Nigeria that look down on women okay, but it is also a nation where great women like Dora Akunyili, Okonjo Iweala, Aisha Alhassan, Kemi Adeosun and Hadiza Bala are lately making a statement and a lot of differences. Women and several civil society and NGOs are enshrining gender balance in public spaces now. It is just a matter of time before women take the lead at state and national levels.
As a man, do you feel a woman’s role is limited to certain places and not in politics?
No, I believe intrinsically in the abilities of women. I have met some women that impacted me deeply. I respect them, and my wife, who is my best friend, plays a role beyond my imagination. She has capabilities and she is an equal partner in running our home.
Part of playing the villain is that people would keep comparing your character with reality, what would you say that is different from your character and your reality?
In reality, I don’t act with people. You can easily read me even from my facial countenance, and you can say if I like something or if I don’t. I am easy going, simple and not too forward, but I can be very blunt on issues. On the other hand, the role I played is that of a double-faced politician who will be responsible for killing some people and yet appear on TV condemning the act and paying condolences to the victims’ families. That is far from me as a person.
Would you encourage a little girl to have an ambition to become the next president in Nigeria?
Of course I can encourage a competent young girl to become the next president of Nigeria. I am a proponent of the no- too-young-to-rule movement. Young people are taking over as leaders in so many countries around the world and they are doing a great job of it. It is a job, so the keyword is competence and capability, not just sentiment.
Do you consider Nigeria ready for a female president?
It is a process and I believe that Nigeria is coming to terms with change. Moving to the next level is not just a mantra, it is our new reality. Sooner than we thought.
What would prevent a woman from becoming a president in this country?
Culture and traditions. Nigeria is made up of many cultures that relegated the position of women far below that of men but these beliefs are giving way fast.
Which other projects are you involved in at the moment?
I am always busy, working. Apart from 4th Republic, there are a number of movies such as Make Room and TV serials such as Kwana Casa’in and Bilkisu that are about to make a debut. I am also a media consultant with high level organizations such as WHO which makes me travel a lot to produce documentary films. I am also trying to expand my frontiers beyond production to exhibition. When the rains come, I also do a little bit of farming.
WHAT TUFACE, EBENEZER OBEY, OLAMIDE OTHER MUSIC STARS CHARGE TO SING AT PARTIES
As a sequel to the list of some of Nigeria’s highest paid music stars published by Saturday Telegraph a few weeks ago, here’s yet another roll-call of some music superstars and a glimpse into how much it would cost to have them perform at your party. LANRE ODUKOYA reports.
One of the most revered singers of the old bloc, Evangelist Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi, is a highly philosophical singer of Juju music with over 40 years of experience. With signature numbers for most of his major patrons of old, Ebenezer Obey’s name readily comes to mind when plans are in top gear for weddings, birthdays, housewarmings, anniversaries and funerals. Chief Commander, as he’s also called, went on semi-retirement to heed a spiritual call for some years. However, he’s back on the grind now catering to the needs of his fans whom he charges between N3m-N7m to perform at select shows. Ebenezer Obey like his industry friend and rival, KSA, has a long list of acolytes doing his style of Juju music, which is known as Miliki now generally spiced with gospel.
Chinedu Okoli also known as Flavour Nabania is a super talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has made significant impact everywhere he has performed around the world. The 37-year-old entertainer sings Igbo highlife, R&B and hip hop. He charges between N5m-N10m to perform at shows in Nigeria. But he’s abundantly loved across Africa where he is mostly engaged. Flavour charges about 120,000USD for shows across the continent which have been massive successes with venues filled to maximum capacity.
43-year-old multiple award-winning singer, Innocent Idibia, also famously referred to as 2Baba or Tuface, is an iconic singer whose music has been widely accepted across the globe. The ‘African Queen’ singer crooned the song to worldwide acclaim in 2004 as a track off his Face to Face debut album. He followed up with Grass to Grace as the sophomore and since then has been on a phenomenal rise. Tuface has no category of award yet to win in Africa, understandably so, he charges between N4m-N8m to perform at gigs in Nigeria. For concerts, he charges between N7m-N12m and between 80,000USD- 120,000USD to perform abroad.
33-year-old Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike better known by his stage name Phyno, is a rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor. Phyno is like rain that never drizzled. He took the industry by storm at a time there was never quality Igbo rap in the mix. He became to the Igbos what Olamide is to the Yoruba fans of indigenous rap. He staged one of the most attended concerts in 2016 in Igboland after attaining fame from his debut studio album, No Guts No Glory, which was released in 2014. Some of his famous singles include, Ghost Mode, Man of the Year, Parcel, Fada Fada and O Set”. He charges between N3m-N6m to perform at parties and events while his fees for concerts range between N5m to N8m.
Rapper and hip-hop singer, Olamide Adedeji a.k.a. Baddo or Baddo Sneh, prides himself as the voice of the street. His 2010 debut single, Eni Duro, was his claim to fame while still signed to Coded Tunes. He went on to found YBNL records where he released his sophomore and has been signing on artistes. With his friend and colleague, Phyno, he staged the famous concert dubbed 2Kings in 2015. Olamide’s fee is put between N3m-N6m depending on where the show is taking place. He charges a little less than 100,000USD for shows across the border. He’s also a successful record label owner whose office has produced Adekunle Gold, Lil Kesh, Young John and Pheelz.
30-year-old stage rocker, Yemi Eberechi Alade, is one artiste with intimidating stage presence whose music has impacted both Anglophone and Francophone countries of Africa. She became famous after winning Peak Talent Show in 2009 and ever since, the Johnny singer has remained the toast of R&B and Afro-pop lovers. Yemi Alade is widely travelled and she’s a holder of many awards from home and abroad. Like Flavour Nabania, Yemi Alade gets more engagement outside Nigeria and charges as high as 90,000USD. She charges between N3m-N6m to perform at shows in Nigeria.
26-year-old Augustine Miles Kelechi popularly known by his stage name, Tekno, is a singer-songwriter, producer, performer and dancer. The Pana singer, Tekno, was first signed under K-Money Entertainment. His first single titled Holiday was released under the imprint. With featured vocals from Davido, Holiday was positively accepted and gained massive airplay.
In 2012 while in Abuja, Tekno Miles was spotted by renowned Nigerian comedian Julius Agwu at an event after Tekno Miles received a standing ovation following the performance of a song titled Onye Ne Kwu, his remix of Ice Prince’s “Oleku”. It was at the same event he met Iyanya and Ubi Franklyn, the manager of Made Men Music Group wwith whom he became friends. Ubi and Iyanya eventually encouraged Tekno Miles to move to Lagos to further his music career. Though he’s currently observing a break after a medical condition that adversely affected his vocal cord, Tekno, charges between N3m-N5m to perform at shows staged in Nigeria. The vastly talented guy also charges between 80,000USD to 100,000USD to perform abroad. He overran Iyanya who was the king at Made Men Music group to become the chief cornerstone.
With the song titled Woju, Oluwatobiloba Daniel Anidugbe, formerly known as Kiss Daniel, now “Kizz Daniel” spoke and Nigeria listened. Kizz Daniel is a recording artiste, performer and entertainer best known for his chart-topping single Woju and his critically acclaimed song, Laye. Formally signed to G-Worldwide Entertainment in 2013, he left the company in November 2017 to create his own record label, Fly Boy Inc. in a very rancorous circumstance. His velvet voice, physical charm and pink lips are his endearing features. Kizz Daniel loves to perform live music to prove his mastery of the art. He believes that he can do music successfully without seeking collaboration from other artistes to remain famous. He charges between N3m- N5m to play at local gigs and charges between 70,000USD and 100,000USD to perform abroad.
TENI THE ENTERTAINER
Teniola Apata also known as Teni the Entertainer is one of the most spontaneous and real artistes this generation has discovered. Signed to Magic Fingers’ Records, since her discovery in 2016, Teni has shocked cynics by topping the charts with songs like Fargin, Case, Uyo Meyo and Askamaya. A passionately restless act in her early 20s, Teni is currently on a UK tour which she hopes to conclude in a few days. During the last Yuletide, she was so busy that sometimes she had more than five shows a day. There was no concert worth its salt that did not have Teni on its roll call of artistes. Teni currently charges between N3m-N6m to perform, her fee on international engagements is yet modestly put at between 50,000USD and 80,000USD.
Damini Ogulu, 27, known professionally as Burna Boy, is an Afro-fusion singer and songwriter who some love to call the ‘Good Bad Boy’. He rose to prominence in 2012 after releasing the lead single “Like to Party” from his debut studio album, L.I.F.E. On October 7, 2018, Burna Boy performed before a sold-out crowd at London’s O2 Academy Brixton. A day prior to the show, he held a pop-up event at Red by Little Farm and sold limited boxes of his Space Puffs cereal, as well as custom notepads, lighters and graphic tee-shirts. On October 9, the same year, Burna Boy was announced as one of Spotify’s New Afro Hub Takeover Artistes. The announcement coincided with him being named YouTube’s Artiste on the Rise for 3 months.
On January 3, 2019, he was announced alongside Mr. Eazi, as one of the artistes performing at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He won four awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival, including African Artiste of the Year, Listener’s Choice and Best Male MVP. Two months ago, Burna Boy released a collaborative 4-track EP with Los Angeles-based electronic duo DJDS, titled Steel & Copper. He’s currently a Star Lager Beer ambassador. He charges between N3m-N5m to perform in Nigeria where his fan base is on steady rise. His international fee is put between 60,000USD-80,000USD.
LightYear Entertainment unveils Indo African Peace Festival to honour iconic Gandhi
As the United Nations and the Government of India celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, an arts oriented outfit, LightYear Entertainment, in partnership with the High Commission of India in Nigeria, is staging an Indo African Peace Festival in Lagos and Abuja. The peace festival, according to organsiers, is geared towards extolling the virtues and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, the global icon of peace and non-violent demonstration.
Speaking at a media parley in Lagos recently, Mr Ovosa Precious Oroye, chairman of Indo African Peace Festival Committee, described the Indo-African Peace Festival as an artistic but timely initiative for peace and non-violence.
Planned as a six-month festival, the event will feature screening of Gandhi: The Musical billed for August 9, Game of Peace concert, Indo African Fashion Week, Peace Exhibition, Peace March and Peace Symposium at multiple venues across Lagos.
“The festival is a major call for value reorientation in all strata of society and also to raise awareness in peace building activities and non-violence in tackling violent extremism, mental health issues, youth restiveness, drug abuse , police brutality, religious feuds , tribalism. The Ghandi musical and fashion week will engage with talented youths and the 50,000 plus Indians in Nigeria that will promote Indo-African fashion values, sculpture and paintings,” Oroye said.
An artistic performance by the LightYear Entertainment Troupe which had five artistes geared in attires depicting Fela Kuti, Moremi, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi with the ideals of each icon depicted by an inscription was rolled out from a tissue paper as they danced to the rhythm of music, was served at the briefing.
Mr Sanjay Srivastava, president of Afro Asian Initiative For Community Development, stated that the initiative was laudable and had the strong backing of High Commission of India.
“The world has been celebrating Mahatma Gandhi as we look at his lifestyle and selflessness. Gandhi influences every sector including fashion of the Indians as his indigenous clothing proverbially weaved people into action, equal rights and non violence as a powerful means of conflict resolution. This peace festival will further preach his message as we aim to quell violence and promote peace in the society,” Sanjay stated.
Organsiers said the #IAPF seeks both technical and financial support from well-meaning Nigerians who believe in Gandhi’s ideals as Mr Azeez Oluwakayode, a board member and media director stated that the festival is being led by youths who are young professionals in their respective fields and have a serious concern for societal issues.
I like Kim Kardashian’s style – Makanjuola
Funke Makanjuola is the CEO of FunFash Haven and the pioneer of ankara shoes/bag. In this interview with Deborah Ocheni, the highly innovative fashion designer whose passion for fashion is a function of her family background spoke about her fashion philosophy, the gap she hopes to fill in fashion industry and sundry issues.
What do you think of ankara shoes and bag?
They are super cool. I’m a fan and I must say a pioneer of ankara bags and shoes. I started making them as a kid in 1999 before I ever saw it anywhere. My neighbour was getting married and my elder sisters didn’t get the asoebi, so I took some pieces from the tailor close to my house where some of the neighbours took their clothes to and stuck them to some old shoes of my sisters and also used super glue then, to cover some purses with the fabric and I covered some earrings and bracelets. And that was how the journey began.
Would you say fashion business is lucrative enough?
Yes it is. You just need to understand the market and know how the system works.
Are you satisfied with your choice of business?
Yes I am. For me, fashion is innate and I believe it is my calling and also, where I can add the most value to the world around me.
What inspired you into fashion business?
My grandmother did. I remember as a child of about five years old, on a Sunday morning, we were about to go to church and my grandmother wore this elegant white dress but it was too plain. She knew there was something wrong and she wasn’t really feeling her outfit so I decided to help out by adding an umph to the dress. I cut out some roses from my dress and I sewed them into the neck of her dress (with her help of course). The drastic change was unbelievable. The dress came alive and the smile on my grandmother’s face was priceless. I’ll never forget how that made me feel. From then, I made up my mind to make people feel good by making them look good because “When you look good, you feel good.” The world is filled with depression, pain, and all sorts of ills. I just want to change the world in my own little way by making people look good and invariably making them feel good. The ripple effect of that is you ultimately do well. That was my inspiration into fashion.
What is your personal style?
I’d love to say I apply the minimalist theory. Less is best. I am elegant in simplicity. But I can go a little overboard and very loud sometimes, as occasion warrants.
How do you source for your fabrics?
I travel to get them myself, networking and sometimes online.
Are clients sensitive to this?
Do you have any specific research process when you start new collections?
Yes, I do a lot of research
Was there anyone in your family who made you develop interest in fashion business?
Yes. My grandmother who saw and appreciated what I was doing as a child.
Who inspires you the most in fashion industry?
I have a lot but let’s go with Mai Atafo
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I see myself in Vogue and Forbes respectively and also owning a great fashion conglomerate
Are you a fan of ankara prints?
What is your take on African traditional wears?
They are super cool
Do you consider any fashion item indispensable?
How easily do you get your fashion items in Nigeria?
It’s quite easy because I have my supply links
While shopping, which fashion item catches your fancy?
Zips and pearls
Which fashion accessories do you live for?
Rings and sunshades
Do you conform to trends?
Not really. I set my own trend.
How comfortable do you feel in jeans and T-shirt?
I feel super comfy. But I love to be sassier and a little more edgy most times.
What makes a woman well dressed?
Whose celebrity style do you like most?
Fashion wise, do you have a role model?
I have quite a number
Is there anything you are unlikely to be caught wearing?
Baggy jeans, big shirts, flared skirts, just anything oversized
What is your ready to go outfits?
Bodycon dresses and heels or boots
When it comes to fashion, would you say your physique works to your advantage?
Which outfits take up most space in your wardrobe?
What is your costliest fashion possession? How much did you get it?
A custom made dress at N395,000 (I didn’t pay for it though)
How do you love your shoes?
To die for
What determines what you wear?
My mood, weather and occasion
What do you think of modern designers?
Awesome. Daring I must say
Who is your best designer?
I love Versace
Do you have a signature perfume?
Yes. Intimately Beckham and Avon’s little black dress
Do you have any fashion obsession? Sunshades
How did you come up with your brand name and what is the message behind it?
Me brand name was coined from my name Funke(Fun) and it connotes FUN literally, Fashion (Fash). It simply means having fun with fashion. There’s no hard and fast rule to fashion. Just own it, look good and have fun. There’s so much drama with tailors and most clients get fed up and are just looking for that one place that will cater to their fashion needs without stress. Hence, the name Haven which means a place of refuge or rest. So we decided to come up with a name to depict what we are all about, elegance, fun and ease. It’s fashion with a touch of fun and a place of fashion refuge. Where you can come to, and have solutions to your fashion needs
Fashion market seems saturated, how do you intend to keep afloat?
Our products are absolutely unique, quality driven, artistically inclined which makes them fun to wear, innovative and inventive. With originality and creativity being our core, we pay attention to details which gives our products that perfect finishing everyone craves. Our products are based on vogue, style and most importantly, quality. A lot of designers feel quality is highly overrated and go for quantity and profit. This makes our products outstanding because to us, quality can never be over emphasized. We are people-oriented and business-inclined therefore we give our customers value for their money. FUNFASH products reflect quality, originality, and creativity. Therefore, when a markup is placed on our products, customers are willing to pay the premium and pick our products rather than other products because of the perceived value and quality guarantee that comes with our products. In this line of business, competition is unavoidable but our market is vast, cutting across the globe with a population of over 7 billion, there’s always a market for our high value products.
Does your background influence who you are now?
To a large extent, yes. I come from a family with a long pedigree of fashion prowess. My grandmother was a fashionista and a tailor. Likewise my mother and so many other family members
I want to build Africa’s Happiest Place in Nigeria
- Private partnership, solution to Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit
Biola Lawal, the C.E.O. Ashton & Dave travels and holidays limited, a holiday and Logistics services organization, is a dyed-in-the-wool professional with experience of over 25 years traversing oil and gas, hospitality and tourism. His retail travel company, FlyBoku, was recently rated Best in Nigeria by the Institute of Export and International Trade, United Kingdom. The tourism enthusiast spoke to LANRE ODUKOYA about his professional endeavours, mega plans to curate the Happiest Place on the continent while addressing tourism deficits in Africa and how to turn unsung African treasures to goldmine
Congratulations for the honour done your company, FlyBoku, as the market leader (Best in Nigeria) by the Institute of Export and International Trade, United Kingdom, how does that feel?
Thank you. It feels good and we’re thankful to God. Ultimately, it’s about having a vison guided by global standard after spending 25 years in the US working for some of the best Fortune 500 Companies. These are mostly American and European companies, from Disney, Coca Cola, British Petroleum to Nike, Marriott, Delta Airline among others where I’d worked in different capacities.
In what capacities did you work with these companies?
The last job I did as an employee was as a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of an oil and gas company. Hospitality and tourism are a passion for me. I started my career in the United States working for Sky West Delta Airline which is a regional airline in the US before going for my master’s degree. I worked for Disney, a leading name in hospitality which is one of the drivers for me when talking about having Badagry as a tourism hub.
I think it’s important. I’d done management consultancy and what do you have there? You actually build strategies, review processes, create opportunities for companies to be better in what they’re doing and how they do it- it’s people, process and technology. It’s that technology that took me to SAP, a global technology company where I work in strategy and transformation unit, again working for some of the biggest companies in the world to help transform their companies in terms of strategy, process and technology.
So, I gathered a lot of experiences around the world. So, by way of background I came back to Nigeria to become the Chief Strategy Officer for Oando to help them drive a new strategy around a diversified oil and gas conglomerate, an indigenous one for Nigeria. And I think we did so great there. We listed in Nigeria and Johannesburg and we created a lot of value including moving upstream. I also helped to put technology across the operating entities.
There’s a technology called Oracle which is basic application and database that we used to streamline and make the company efficient. I was essentially both the Chief Strategy Officer and the Chief Information Officer for Oando for four years.
Before you left the shores of Nigeria for studies and work abroad, what was your earliest dream and what was the first course you studied?
I studied Economics and Finance at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State and I served in Makurdi, Benue State before I travelled out of the country. First, I spent a short period in Canada in Banking before I proceeded to California in the US, part of which I shared with you earlier when I talked about working with an airline.
From Economics and Finance you later found a fresh passion in travel and tourism, at what point did this additional vocation become part of your journey?
My mother is a princess from Badagry and it’s a tourism town. I lived with my grandmother until I was 10 years old before she passed away. So, if you go to Badagry you’d know it’s a hospitality and tourism place. So, tourism is in the blood and I wasn’t quite conscious of it when I was younger. When I got to the United States, in my first job with the Delta Skyways Airlines I got exposed to aviation and tourism there taking pictures and watching different exciting things. After that, MBA, I worked for Disney, a home of tourism and Disneyland is considered the World’s Happiest Place where families can go and experience fun. Here I’m talking of the original Disney where Disney actually started. Most people assume that Disney is all about what they see in Florida or Orlando, no, that’s the secondary Disney. The first Disneyland is in a place called Anaheim in California. It’s in an orange county.
Is it as large as the one in Florida?
It’s a bit smaller because that was the site where they started from. Disney World came from the concept that one man wanted to build the World’s Happiest Place and the whole pace was just a useless orange grove of trees and he went to conceptualise it and said, why can’t I build the world a happiest place about 70 years ago? Why can’t we build around a vision like that? So, I’m inspired by a great vision and much more that vision, I’m much more impressed by strategy and the ability to execute. In my case, when I worked for Disney, I left that industry and for like 15 years I worked for the oil and Gas industry.
I finished a pretty good career because I ended up as the CFO of the first Nigerian listed company on New York Stock Exchange, CAMAC which later became Erin Energy. I got it listed public as a CFO, I then came back to Nigeria. But because the passion for tourism has always been there, I wanted to continue with the passion, so we made some significant investment in FlyBoku.
The concept of FlyBoku is tourism and travel helping people to create an experience. If you want to go somewhere whether it’s domestic or international, let’s have a platform that can give you a reliable, accessible and affordable product that’s also fun. Mr. Boku is like the travel doctor that helps you do that, it’s a digital idea. So that’s the reason we created the slogan, “Mr. Boku will take you there and must bring you back.” The idea is if you have Expedia in the US and have OPODO in the UK, we should have something that cuts across sentiments, language and tribe. So, I wanted a Pan-African brand that we can develop give to the rest of the world. That’s what my vision is about.
Is FlyBoku a product from ASHTON and DAVE Travel and Hospitality Company?
That’s correct. Ashton and Dale was primarily to create an outsource travel and logistics company for corporate bodies. And we started that in 2007 and even while I was away in the US, the company was running here. We then saw over the last five years the impacts of technology and how it’s creating opportunities for individuals to be able to consume services. So, just as you’re able to buy physical things online, you have to be able to buy tourism and travel products. So, FlyBoku was then created as an offshoot of Ashton and Dave Travel and Hospitality Company. They’re separate companies but complementary in terms of offerings.
Fly- Boku is offering experiential travel and tourism. So, we have something called Discover Africa- I think Africa is under-explored in terms of tourism experience and if we don’t sell Africa who is going to sell it for us? We prefer to go to the US and the UK, it’s okay but we must be able to attract the rest of the world to see what we also have in Africa.
We cannot start waiting for a perfect time when everything is fixed to start. We must start looking at what is unique to us and we then curate and create tourism products unique to us in Africa around our culture, fashion, food, music and so on. We have some tourism assets already, let’s also create a physical infrastructure, our roads, airports, visa process must all work together to make it easier for people to want to come and experience Nigeria. I was in Kaduna recently, Nigeria is vastly blessed and many must know that so much is in Nigeria and it’s not just about Lagos. I went to a resort centre which had a stable of horses where you can actually go and enjoy what I call ‘staycation’.
You could have similar experiences you would get when you go to certain parts of the Caribbean. With the right services, if you want to ride a horse, use the pool, chalets are there and you could have similar experience but we create infrastructure to make it easy for people to get there and experience 5-star, 4-star service as you would find in any part of the world. We need partnerships to be able to achieve this because we cannot wait on the government to do everything. Government should focus on creating an enabling environment, security, basic infrastructure but let the private sector drive tourism products and assets.
How much of partnerships and consolidation have you done to ensure that the proposed multibil- lion dollar Badagry tourism centre comes to fruition and doesn’t end in paper works?
Well, those who know me know that we try to focus on execution. In other to execute, you must identify the key building blocks of what you’re trying to do particularly when you’re trying to do something big. I’d tell you we’re in the project planning phase with the partners and it’s premature to discuss a lot of details for obvious reasons. I’m an indigene of Lagos State from Badagry and I am very optimistic that we can create a cornerstone of tourism that not just Nigeria, but the West Coast of Africa and even beyond can come and enjoy as a tourism destination. We’re in very deep conversation with the partners already but the idea is also to ensure that the local community is part of the project early enough.
So, that was why we went to meet with the Akran of Badagry. That was a strategic movement to ensure that the communities have a stake in the project because tourism generates a lot of job, income and there’s multiplier effect. One of the things we’re trying to do there is to ensure there’s a cultural centre that will highlight the cultural history of Badagry but beyond, I’m not ready to divulge all in details but there’s a lot we’re working on with the partners on the table. The key thing is ensure that the support is there and in executing, there are no too many roadblocks on our way.
Are there legislations from the government likely to impede the success of the planned project?
Well, we will cross that bridge when we get there. We will approach the government in due course and tell them this is the project and this is what we need to get support. I don’t like condemning broadly the challenges we have in our society or the government agencies. Many times we have to focus on what the end goal is. When Walt Disney started Disneyland, he started with nothing. It was not about the government but about the conceptualization of ideas and he began to bring partners together. Financing partners, constructing partners, content partners and so on. I’ve worked in that environment and I’m very clear about what we need to do and who to attract to make this a successful project.
You’ve been privileged to have worked for different blue chip companies and you own your companies now. In all honesty, which is more financially rewarding between the salary-paying jobs and being an entrepreneur that you have become?
I started working for different companies and 25 years later I’m my own boss. I don’t think I can have all the experience I have to float my company and be doing well as I am today if I had not worked for some of the companies in Fortune 500, they’re of global standard you know. What is important is not all about how it rewards in monetary terms but how much fulfillment you find in giving wings to your own dreams. I’m very passionate about youths, I have a youth academy called Boku Academy where I train youths in the nexus of technology, travel and tourism. I try to make them self-employed, so I give them the infrastructure, computers and so on and make them work. So, they’re like their franchise of FlyBoku but they’re working for themselves.
SUKHM PANNU: I Heard Things About Nigeria But I Need To Have My Own ExperienceS
Ms. Sukhm Pannu is a marketing specialist, currently the marketing manager of Lush Hair, a growing hair brand in Nigeria. She told FLORA ONWUDIWE her experiences in Nigeria, Indian cultural beliefs and much more. Excerpts…
How long have you been in Nigeria?
I have been here for 18 months but have been working with Lush Hair for six months now.
I hail from India and I moved to Nigeria after my MBA. Prior to that I had worked in different sectors across various locations.
What does it take to be marketing manager of a new product like Lush in Nigeria?
My focus has always been in the idea industry, I specialized in Marketing in my MBA programme. It is a lot of responsibility and that is what makes it very exciting, makes it challenging. It gives young people like me an opportunity to learn and broaden our knowledge and skill set. It has given me an opportunity to understand the consumer and to interact with people on a daily basis to understand consumer needs and then work towards providing them with the best quality leading to their satisfaction and happiness.
Women are in love with imported natural and synthetic hair. But what makes Lush Hair different from other brands?
I think the key to any successful marketing strategy is understanding the consumer. So the more time one spends with the consumer, the more time one knows what the consumer expectations are from the products. Once you have that understanding, then you strive to make sure that your brand meets the consumers’ needs and aspirations. Lush Hair is different from other products in several ways. It comes with a promise to fulfil every woman’s desire for beauty by providing the most exotic, fashionable, smooth and glossy hair extension. Lush Hair is of very high quality and women prefer it because it is shiny, light in weight with good texture. So, we incorporate the consumers’ expectations while developing the brand. We know that hair is the most beautiful asset of any woman and Lush comes with the promise of enhancing that beauty. That is why response towards the brand has been very great among Nigerian women and girls.
What are the major challenges you experienced while moving from food-based brand (Indomie Noodle) to hair-based brand?
I believe the major challenge was moving to a new industry. It required me to start from scratch to understand the consumer and target audience as it was very different from the previous industry. However that is what made it more exciting; to be able to interact and understand an industry and a market that is one of the largest industries in Nigeria.
How do you get the raw materials in producing Lush?
It is a mix of local products and imports.
Your best food?
I am a foody; I like to try different cuisines. I’ve tasted a lot of Nigerian dishes and I would say pepper soup and moimoi are my favourites.
Your best designer?
I don’t follow designers. I like to experiment and would go with what I feel would look good on me.
What’s the role of Indian government in the girl-child education? Is it something that would improve in the future or you feel that they have done so well in educating girl-child?
Women’s education has been an integral part of the Indian Society. During the British Era we had various reformers who were proponents of female literacy. The Indian government has taken various measures to promote and support education for women as a result of which the literacy rate for women has grown sizably. From the Right to Education, which provides free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years to measures focused on female literacy and development like Sakshar Bharat Mission; measures have been put in place to support girl-child education. There are also programmes which give incentives to parents who facilitate education for their daughters.
What was your growing up like?
I had a very simply childhood just like any other child. There was a lot of focus on self-development and focus on education. I was a serious child; I spent my time mostly reading, studying and I also took up dancing, painting and swimming as hobbies.
Who has influenced your life the most?
My parents have been the most influential people in my life. They have been there as friends and guides. They have guided and supported me through the paths I needed to take and shaped me to be the person I have become. They gave me wings, allowing me to experiment, make mistakes and thus realise my potential and live my dreams.
Many women in India have been protesting against the plights of raped young girls. How is the issue of rape being handled in India?
Despite the fact that rape is regarded as heinous and criminal in nature, the number and the level of inhumanity of this crime has been on a rise. Rape is regarded as a heinous crime, yet the number of rape cases has been increasing. The anti-rape laws in India were strengthened post 2012, which resulted in higher reporting of rape and sexual assault incidents, yet a lot of work needs to be done in the enforcement of these laws and provision of support services to the victims. Rape is still construed as women’s shame and there are so many social barriers for women to talk about it. Thus, it is extremely important to strengthen the implementation of anti-rape laws, make support services for victims available and reduce barriers to their access to justice and healthcare. I also feel that a better understanding of the motivation behind rape might help us to undertake some measures to prevent it.
How do you unwind?
I practice Pilates and Yoga, which help me relieve stress and relax. I also like to read and paint. Over the weekends I catch up with friends.
When someone dies in India, the remains are often cremated?
What happens after cremation and why cremation? It is again a case of customs and traditions. People belonging to different religions, tribes and regions have their own cultures and traditions and hence different practices when it comes to cremation. We are a country with a diversity of cultures and hence diversity of practices.
What did you hear about Nigeria before finally taking up the appointment in the country?
Well, nothing different from what most expatriates are told. That there are safety issues, kidnappings etc. But I feel each place has its own issues and problems. One needs to build their own experiences.
What is your advice for young women out there looking up to you?
Fear is one of the biggest reasons women don’t go ahead and try new challenges. We need to believe in ourselves and challenge the pre-established order. Women need to support other women and thus open doors for all of us. Be yourself, be confident, and listen to your heart. You are very powerful and nobody has the ability to take that away from you.
NANSY MRSHUSTLE: I dropped my law gown as it didn’t help me to express myself
Nansy MrsHustle is a lawyer who abandoned her law degree and relocated to Nigeria to get job satisfaction in the entertainment industry. She told FLORA ONWUDIWE that the entertainment industry is not vibrant in Greece as it is in Nigeria. Excerpts…
How would you describe yourself?
Nansy MrsHustle is my nickname and a brand name; it means I am married to MrsHustle. I am a Greek based in Lagos. I had the brand name during my university days in Greece. I am in the entertainment industry; I run my own entertainment website. I do online promotions and management. I am an actress and a model.
What do you mean when you said you are married to MrsHustle?
Yes, MrsHustle is a nickname that has been following me from my University years in Greece because I was always working due to the fact that I wanted to be independent. I always wanted to make my own money which means, like I said before, I am married to MrsHustle.
What is your surname?
I don’t like to mention my surname; this is how I have been known – MrsHustle.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was very lovely because we had a city house in a country where I spent a lot of time close to nature. I come from a family of four, it was really lovely and I have a very fond memories.
How did your journey into acting begin?
I started with modelling but veered into acting about two years ago here in Nigeria. I had some working experience back home in Greece but acting actually started here in Nigeria, and so far I am doing very well. It is something that I love. And all the things I do are things that I love. I think I am blessed.
What did you know about Nigeria before coming here?
I grew up with Nigerians living in Greece and I heard a lot about Nigerians. What intrigued me in the first place was to get to know the country, the culture; so I was very well informed about the country before I came here.
How did your parents react to your coming to Nigeria?
Yes, they were concerned because I am a woman and it is not easy for a woman to make it anywhere in the world not to talk of Nigeria or Africa in general. However, it was not a big issue because they trust me and agreed.
But Nigerian Youths are looking for opportunities to leave their own country…
So many people asked me how come a white lady like me came here. I came down to make a living and to help people as well. Sometimes I don’t really know what to tell them, because they also ask me why Nigeria and not other African countries? I think my best response is, it is just destiny. What I really like about the country is its culture and people.
Why did you choose to go into acting when you had a very good career as a lawyer?
Yes, I hold two degrees. My first degree is in Law specialising in Criminal Justice; the second one is Socio Administration and Socio- Policy. It took me time to acquire both of them. When I went for the second one I strictly did it for myself. I was proving things for myself didn’t really care what the rest of the world would say. Anything I do, I make sure I try to improve on myself. In fact, while I was in Law School I was already working in the Nigerian entertainment industry, so by the time I finished from Law school, I was already working and making money in Nigeria. So the entertainment wanted me and I am always trying new things on my website and with my promotions. If I really feel good about something I will go for it and make sure I keep getting better every day. I am not afraid of trying new things
Was it because of job satisfaction that you abandoned law?
No, it was not about that. I had always been an actress even when I was in the university. I was always getting high grades. Law chased me out, that is the best way I can describe it. I don’t think it is that creative; it does not give you the opportunity to express yourself as a person. During my undergraduate days I went into it and I made sure I did what I liked. Maybe sometime in the future I will go back to it.
As a lawyer did you ever practice or defend a case in the court room?
Yes, I practiced in Greece and I had a case that was a civil one which I defended and won; that was the first and last in Greece.
How did you blend so easily with the people who are not of the same race, culture in the industry?
I think diversity is very necessary in all occupations, same with acting; it is very interesting working with people of different colour and having people of different races come together to do something beautiful. And so far it has been a wonderful experience. I don’t really see myself as a white lady, I see myself as a Nigerian in white skin.
Has any producers in Nigeria tried to take advantage because you are a white woman and demand sex before casting you in their Movies?
I have not seen such a thing because I am a well-known person in the entertainment industry from way back even before I started acting and modelling like I said before. I have been into music and promotion for so long especially the music aspect where so many people got to know me. I am not the kind of person they will try such a thing with because I don’t give them space for such a thing.
Could you share the craziest roles you ever acted in?
I have not really acted in any crazy roles yet, but I am hoping to try new things. I think the craziest things so far that I have done are just my Instagram comedy videos.
Could you recall any roles you played that were so challenging and memorable?
I think the roles I have acted so far are lovely; but I am still looking forward to that role that is so challenging as a person more than as an actress.
How vibrant is entertainment industry in Greece?
Is it as vibrant as Nollywood?
I think Nigeria has more vibrant entertainment scene than Greece. Any field is beside entertainment it is not easy to make it, you have to really believe in yourself, pull all the means that you have and just do your best every day.
What do you call entertainment industry in Greece?
There is no specific name for the industry. Of course they do have their own entertainment industry, but they run their own in their own way.
What is the role of Greece government?
Has it really helped the industry? I think it is more of a private sector thing; the government is not supporting the industry. I think it is the same way in Nigeria, all the productions are 95 percent produced by them, except it is a documentary; they are referred as movement.
As a pretty woman, how do you handle men when they make advances to you?
I think generally it should not bother women when men approach them but I am the type of woman that really focuses on protecting myself from the crowd. So, I don’t really have time for such. I am really interested in business; if you have business for me good, anything else I am cool towards it.
Now if any young Nigerian man asks for your hand in marriage, would you wholeheartedly accept him?
If I happen to meet that special man and he happens to be a Nigerian why not? I don’t have a problem and he can also be from anywhere in the world.
Before you consider a script, what do you really look out for?
What is really important to me is who is directing the movie because he is responsible for everything. He is the one making things happen in the industry, a good director must be good at his job and I have featured in the three movies so far.
Are you fashion freak as a person?
I worked as a fashion stylist for years but in Greece, I don’t like following trends.I like having my own style in everything I do.
What’s your favourite food?
I have some foods that I like; I like vegetable soup, yam and plantain.
You are one of the plus size women making statements for other women who are not bold to express themselves and flaunt their plus size shape. How do you enlighten them they are wonderfully made?
The choice of everyone differs. As a person, I have my principle, you cannot please everyone that is the truth, and different people out there have their standards of likes and dislikes. So I can’t really bother myself, I think it is very important for a woman whatever size she is, to feel comfortable in her own skin. If you approach a woman on the plus size, her response has always been a disappointment. I have not been a plus size all my life. I think these women in Nigeria they really need a voice and be represented. I am proud to be one of these women that can speak for them and as a plus size model myself I really want to talk and analyse so m a n y i s s u e s that the plus size w o m a n is facing in the Nigeria Society not to talk of in fashion and beauty. I think it is not right to define a person or value them by their size. Plus size is not a disease, just make sure that you look good and you feel good, whatever size just make sure you live a healthy life. Because we have big women that are healthy just the same way we have skinny women that are not healthy.
The disadvantage that the plus size women have is that men don’t easily get attracted to them…
I think in all the size that I have been, men have been attracted to me. Some of the negative comments I get sometimes and I think also that is very funny and ironic for a Nigerian man to claim he likes a skinny girl when his own wife, sisters, relations, ex-girlfriends, mother are junkies, because in Nigeria and Africa there are junky women. But when he goes out he makes comments about plus size women. I feel that is unacceptable to me because at the end of the day it is not what he really he wants. Every woman out there she should feel what it takes to go out and represent women and I don’t support only plus size community, I support every size. You should go out there as a woman and bring out your best so far and go for what you really want and get it.
Your advice to the Nigerian youth?
You should know what is best for you, feel your passion, and when you realise it, go for it. Let no one stop you because it is really important to believe in yourself because if you do not believe nobody is going to do it for you .
ABI MATESUN: My Emmy awards has raised Nollywood’s standards
Abi (Abiola) Matesun is a professional photographer, cinematographer and a creative director with Malekfoto Films, which is based in Dallas, Texas, United States. Recently, he won two Emmy Awards from the three nominations his works received, making him the first Nigerian and African ever to be so recognised and honoured with such a prestigious award. Aside from being the highest honour in television production in America, he also has two America’s Telly Awards to his name. He recently worked as the creative directive on a short documentary for Canon with the likes of TY Bello on cast. Matesun, who is in Nigeria to celebrate and share the honour with his fellow Nigerians, spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA of his sojourn, describing the awards as “awards for us because it is about the proudly Nigerian movement”.
Matesun, the third of four children to Mrs. and Mr. Matesun, was born in Lagos in 1974. He had his early education at Fountain School in Surulere and Nigerian Navy Primary School while his secondary education was at Nigerian Navy Secondary School.
He got admitted to Yaba College of Technology to study Quantity Survey but somehow the Nigerian society conspired to deny him that education with lecturers in higher institutions constantly on strikes at the time.
A situation which had a telling effect on the education system to such extent that almost four years after Matesun was yet to conclude his Ordinary Diploma course that ought to last for 18 months.
It was love that took me to the US
Although he could had decided to go to London like many young boys and girls of his age did way back then but instead he chose to remain in the country.
Somehow, it was fortuitous that he has to relocate to the U.S. when he did in 1997 to begin life all over again. His high school girlfriend, who today is his wife, with whom he has two children, Zion and Judea, had moved to the US after her secondary school education for the golden fleece and visits during the Christmas period.
It was during one of such visits that she informed Matesun of her graduation ceremony holding in the month of May the next year.
Speaking, he said: “She said I am graduating in May and I said wow! I haven’t finished OND and it is almost four years. Then I said, no, I can’t do this. I can’t stay here again. This needs to move forward.
“That was the first time that I considered travelling out. I have been to London for a few times but I said this place is too cold, it is not for me.
“So, I considered the US and we started talking about it.” The Emmy Awards winner puts a ring to that narration thus: ‘‘It was love that took me to the US.”
He knew he would need more than love to survive America, and so, he enrolled at the University of Texas in Dallas, where he obtained a degree in Management and Information Systems, while also working to keep his family that he has started.
Foray into the world of photography
Matesun has always described himself as an artist right from his growing up days, as he tells you that “I have always been an artist.” However, he has never taken a practical step towards the realisation of that innate artistic gift in him until 2000 when someone presented him with a Canon camera.
He became fascinated with the camera and started experimenting with it taking shots of different objects and sceneries. His work was always commended when he took them to be printed and it was that commendation that spurred him into becoming a professional photographer.
It was this search for self – discovery that gave birth to Malekfoto in 2004 as he reveals that: “I started pursuing avenues to do that and I became a fashion photographer.”
But years after, he became dissatisfied with that mode of creativity as he speaks of his frustration with photography.
He added: “But the issue that I had with photography was that it is a still image, something happened before the image and something happened after the image and I was unable to translate that in the work and that was frustrating for me.
“I said to myself, fine, I love this medium of communication but it is not communicating everything that I want to communicate.”
Stepping into the world of cinematography
This led him to discovering the power of video and he didn’t just stop there but toyed with the idea of doing it at a bigger level and not just as secondary to photograph.
“So, I pondered on it and in fact, I tried to get someone to do it with me in such a way that they are handling
video and I am handling photography for the business but it didn’t just work out.
“I was forced to now do it by myself and I got into it and realised that it takes a village. You have to have a team; a team that trust your vision, a team that listens to your direction.
“Because being a creative director you are the one that has the vision of where you are going. You are the car driver. So putting up the team together from the beginning I told them where I want us to be.
“That we are not going to be doing mediocre stuff because there a lot of people that do that and I wanted us to be separated from the crowd. For you to be able to do that you have to put in the work and that it is going to be a lot of work.”
It was that vision and commitment from his team that gave birth to Malekfoto Films in 2011. “We started grinding,” he says of the foray into the world of cinematography with focus on wedding films, which also led to the creation of Malekfoto Wedding two years later.
“What we do actually is that we create contents for growing companies for marketing and branding because content is king,” he says of the line of business engaged in by his various outfits, and of course, shooting of films and documentary are integer part of it.
Matesun and his Malekfoto Films were doing quite well and enjoying a level of patronage from the corporate world and individuals who required their services but in 2016, his works got the attention of many with the shooting of Jessica and Hilary’s wedding, which went viral, recording one million views.
“It went really crazy and that brought us a lot of attention. But the conversation that I had with my team was that you should realise that for most people now this would look like a fluke if we can’t replicate it.
“Then we shot another wedding of regular people and that video went mega viral because it got about 60 or 70 million views. There were other videos in between, one, two or three million views and then a lot of angle was on the kind of work that we do.
Sights on conquering the world
But the creative director with a restless spirit and passion to excel and conquer the world was not contented with just accolades and attention that his works were receiving, rather he dreamt of a lofty height.
“I told the team that we shoot weddings and that is great but that is not our final destination. We need to work on projects that will give us some kind of light because, you see, views don’t translate into money.”
The team buckled up to work and in one of their brainstorming sessions, his editor, according to him, related to them the story of one of his friends, a boxer, who was preparing for a fight but confronted with trying situations.
This led to the creation of a short film; a documentary of about 10 minutes, called ‘Inner Conflict’. According to Matesun, “it told the story of this boxer that at the point of the greatest fight of his life his mum had cancer and passed on and his girlfriend was pregnant with a baby. There is a conflict there because this is the greatest box fight of my life, this is my mum dying and this is another one being born.
“So, a lot of inner conflicts and we decided to do what we do best, which is to tell a compelling story. It got us three nominations at the National Academics of Television, Arts and Sciences (Emmy Awards).
“We got nominated for directing, cinematography and editing.” On Saturday November 10, Matesun was celebrated on the stage of Emmy, with two awards in the categories of editor and cinematography.
That was not the first time of his winning world acclaim for his works as in June this year, he also won two Telly Awards, with Fire and Ice, a love story ﬁlmed in Iceland.
What was the feeling like for you stepping on the world stage to receive the two awards?
It was serene and even right now it feels like a dream. For me, why this is so important is because as Nigerians we are dreamers. The whole economic situation forces us to close our eyes to dream of a better Nigeria.
So, for me, no matter your background, from Navy Secondary School to Kirikiri town to Dallas, Texas to the Emmy stage, that timeline doesn’t make sense. But it is the reality, which means that whatever dream that you have as a child or an adult it is possible.
That is the summary for me. That no matter the dream you can make it. It is a possibility. It is a dream come true because it all started in a dream form.
What is your view of Nollywood?
Nollywood is one of the fastest growing film industries in the world. We produce an unseen amount of movies on a monthly basis. I think we should now start focusing on the quality of the production versus the quantity.
We have amazing stories and we all know that. We grew up on those stories from even tales by moonlight. We have stories, it is just be able to tell them in a way that is most appealing to the world at large than just our market.
The reason why most Nigerians accept these low quality productions is because they have not be introduced to better quality and you are now seeing better quality.
A lot of companies have stepped it up but we can stepped it up some more. We’ve seen a lot of improvements but the next step now is to create contents that can win us major awards. We’ve done it and so we know that it can be done.
Any interest in working in Nollywood?
I am interested, majorly interested in Nollywood because you see, our Nigerian story, our African story, nobody can tell the story for us.
Whatever we want to project to the world has to been done by us. That is my focus, that is my goal and that is what I want. To be able to tell a unique Nigerian story in form of documentaries or films.
Yes, I would love to if I get an invitation to do that and I would absolutely embrace it.
Now that you are home on visit, anything in the offing for you?
I am thinking about stuffs and reviewing options out here. Like I said, it is an award for us because it is about the proudly Nigerian movement. So, the award is for us.
We would get together and we would do things. I am confident of it. Because to be honest with you I am not interested in Hollywood but I am interested in Nollywood.
I am interested in using my talent here in pushing our industry to the next level. Hollywood is established, they don’t need me there but in a growing economy like this, in a growing society like this where we have much work to do is where the skills are needed and not in Hollywood. That is what I am trying to say.
How would you describe your journey so far?
It has been amazing as God has been gracious and kind. I am living my dream. When I think about it, it brings me to tears. I lost my mum when I was 17 and I wished she was here to see this.
I wished my wife’s parents were here as well. It took a village to get me here because a lot of people have played different roles in my growth.
It is only the beginning, we would do great things, we would get African content on the world stage. I believe it because we have amazing stories that have not even been heard yet.
Are you fulfilled?
I am pretty fulfilled. I am happy that this is a win for us because a lot times when you hear about us it is negative news.
How have you been able to cope with the American system?
Before I even left this country I made up my mind that if I have to work twice as hard, three times as hard, I will have to do it. With this new age after some time your colour makes no difference, it is what you produce, the talent.
When we submitted our works, they didn’t know the colour, it was just the works that they were looking at. Yes, there are racial stuff here and there but when you make up your mind to give your best, you don’t have to be the best.
And the best is relative but your best is not relative and when you make up your mind to give your best on everything that you do it is only a matter of time, you will shine.
Who are your role models in Nigeria and America?
I love what Mo Abudu has done. I am looking forward to meeting her. I am looking forward to working with her. She is a very powerful role model to the industry here.
In America, I am looking at the kind of stuffs that Steve Spielberg has done because there are some creators that everything that they do look the same, which is not because it is like a signature.
That is what Spielberg has been able to do and I find it fascinating. It is needed for the kind of terrain that we have and the kind of stories that we have because you hear an Igbo story that is different from a Fulani story and that is different from a Hausa story. So, you have to be almost like a Camelon to adapt to that situation and tell that story without it overlapping.
No regrets. You see, if you look at the car, the windscreen is big but the rear view mirror is only to be glanced at every now and then. We are moving forward. No regrets at all.
How do you relax?
My major relaxation is sitting on the bed with plenty of food in the house and flipping through the television channels. Getting a good massage and just staying at home and eating. I am an excellent cook. I cook anything, from Nigerian to continent.
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