The name Temi-Tope Ogbeni-Awe certainly rings a bell in the circles of journalism in Nigeria, particularly in the niche of travel writing and reporting. In the more recent 25 years of his life, the man popularly called “Ogbeni,” a Yoruba word which translates to “Mister” devoted his time to creating a niche in the public relations world in the area of destination marketing after over three decades career in journalism spanning ‘Vanguard’, ‘The Punch’, ‘BusinessDay’ newspapers and more.
On Thursday, April 1, Ogbeni attained 66 years in an ongoing (yet to retire) illustrious career and personal life that have influenced many personalities and brands across the world. In the nineties and through the new millennium, Ogbeni practically introduced travel journalism into mainstream media reporting in Nigeria by publishing his many travel destination experiences including trips Togo, Gambia, South Africa, Ghana and more.
Many Nigerian journalists owe their very first and other international all-expense paid travels to the actions of Ogbeni who through his establishment of TOPCOMM PR Concept and Events, represents global travel brands in Nigeria including South African Tourism, South African Airways, Delta Airlines and many more hospitality and tourism brands. In fact, the mention of the stories of South African Tourism, South African Airways and Delta Airlines in Nigeria is incomplete without the name Temi-Tope Ogbeni-Awe.
Today, travel and tourism reporting and publications are blossoming in Nigeria through the solid foundation laid and continuously supported by Ogbeni, who is credited as a pioneering leader of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET). In 2010 after my National Youth Service (NYSC) in Lagos, I was opportune to work for Ogbeni.
Experience that span through a decade that will shape and define my future. I was serving as an NYSC volunteer at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos during the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. It was the semi-final match between Nigeria and Spain which Nigeria eventually won by three goals to one.
A conversation ensued between me and Elohor Ovadje, Managing Editor of ‘Welcome To Nigeria’ magazine, who was covering the match. She referred me to Ogbeni and after a little while, I summoned the courage to visit Ogbeni in his office somewhere in Palmgrove area of Lagos. As I entered the sprawling office I met a poised and calm looking man, Ogbeni, who asked a few questions and gave me an assignment to write about my road experience that is newsworthy while commuting to the office. Eventually that incident marked the beginning of my 10 years sojourn with Ogbeni, who is the founder and owner of TOPCOMM PR Concept and Events.
While working for Ogbeni, I had the privilege of not only learning the art and science of public relations from one of the very best, but practically witnessed professionalism, open-door leadership, emotional support and impeccable reward for hard-work being demonstrated daily by Ogbeni at the workplace.
In terms of professionalism, Ogbeni is very strict with his job and the delivery, always catering and advocating for nothing but the best for TOPCOMM’s clients, some of whom have stuck with the company for over a decade. Ogbeni is at least 30 minutes early for any appointment, selects media representatives for assignments based on performance for the company’s numerous all-expense paid travels to South Africa, United States of America and other countries.
Olivia Cullis, Director, Corporate Communications, Delta Airlines, spoke in glowing terms of Ogbeni while paying a tribute to him: “Under Ogbeni- Awe’s leadership, TOPCOMM has represented Delta Airlines in Nigeria since 2006. TOPCOMM has been an outstanding PR agency to work with delivering quality results and ensuring the Delta story gets told.
‘‘Ogbeni has excellent media contacts and I have always been impressed how is able to position news as much as use his skill and influence to protect Delta’s reputation in the marketplace. A team player with a real can-do attitude, Ogbeni does tremendous work and it is an honour to work with him and his agency.”
As a consummate leader in his chosen industry, Ogbeni exhibited extreme open-door leadership qualities by being accessible to all and sundry without any form of barrier. In the office, astonishingly, all the staff calls him Ogbeni, a far cry from what is obtainable in many corporate organisations in this part of the world. Interestingly, on many occasions where the team has projects outside Lagos, Ogbeni will approve for all other staff members to fly to and from the project locations, while he simply commutes via road because of his phobia for local flights.
Incredibly, a 500-page book may not be enough to describe the emotional support rendered by Ogbeni to the numerous persons who crossed his path. In late 2012 I planned to get married in early 2013 and two tragic events struck at the time. I had an appendicitis operation and all my life savings, about N400, 000 paid for a new apartment I was prospecting at the time unknown to me was to a fraudulent developer, who posed as the agent. Ogbeni came to my rescue by paying for the operation and writing me a cheque to pay for another apartment, this time to a genuine agent. During his 60th birthday celebration in the office, his personal driver while eulogising Ogbeni said he is always excited because Ogbeni literally gives him money daily.
In fact, all the security personnel of the building where TOPCOMM is located unanimously mentioned Ogbeni as the simplest, friendliest and most charitable boss in the building. Ogbeni only reaffirms Nelson Mandela’s ideals that a nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. Unlike other bosses who simply hijack the reward opportunities and leave the staff with the work aspect only, Ogbeni fondly says: “You guys are doing the work, so you are also entitled to the enjoyment that comes with it.”
In my 10 years working at Ogbeni’s TOPCOMM, I embarked on over 40 ‘official’ all-expense paid international travels across the world in which everything to make the sojourn memorable have been provided, but still Ogbeni made it a point of duty to give me extra foreign currencies which I absolutely have no use for in my travels other than to save them. What manner of a boss would send his staff to all manner of ‘enjoyment’ (trips) abroad including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Dubai and Mauritius to mention but a few and sit back in Nigeria hale and hearty doing nothing? My boss, Ogbeni, is a rare breed! For Ogbeni, rewarding hard work simply exceeds monetary compensation.
Mutual respect and continuous motivational words are key ingredients of encouraging employees and subordinates to repeat success. In simple terms, Ogbeni will acknowledge his hardworking staff by saying or writing “thank you” to a staff member who accomplished any task including sending emails to clients. Happy 66th birthday to a detribalised Nigerian, a trailblazer and doyen of travel and tourism journalism, in Nigeria.
Abdullahi, a former staff of TOPCOMM, writes in from Lagos