The best decision I took in 2016

The kids enjoyed every minute of our first family trip together

The best decision I took in 2016.

 

So I took my first family vacation.
We were to travel with our friends, the Babaekos in December of 2015, but, as usual, I chickened out.

You see, I’ve been working since I was 18, afraid of failure and too ambitious for my own good. I do get to travel often, around Nigeria and overseas. But it’s usually brief. Usually for trainings and meetings and even more trainings. If you are the CEO of a young, growing business, it’s easy to think there’s no time to take time off.

So I never took time off.

But in 2016, my body started telling my brain to have some sense. I would listen to their conversations and shake my head.

It was during one of such sessions, while I did my best to not meddle in those body-brain arguments, that the Babaekos offered again; asked actually, if we’d love to come with them to their home in Kabba, in Kogi state, for a family vacation.

It’s one of those offers you accept before thinking of the implications. In fact, I think my body put a gun to my brain’s head and screamed YES, as if it was an answer to a marriage proposal.

It’s the best decision I took in 2016.

So at the peak of work in December, I shut down, drove 10 hours to Kabba, in Kogi state, and remained there, for all of 10 days.

I was born in Aiyetoro-Gbede, about 15 minutes from Kabba. And I had not been in that area since the burial ceremony for my grandparents in 1996.

So you’ll understand when I say this was more than a vacation. It was a spiritual excursion, a trip into my past; my beginning, as I prepare for the next phase of my life.

From visiting the street I suspect I was conceived, to combing over 150 plots of farmland, attending the Obangogo carnival where I failed to get to the top of the hill; to pounding yam with Steve, Dotun and Yetunde, playing tennis at St. Augustine’s, and drinking palmwine like it’s going out of vogue, I spent the period between December 23 2016 and January 2, 2017 chopping the life of my head in company of the most important people in the world, in one of the most important towns in my life.

 

The kids made new friends, played football, spent time swimming, threw fireworks, and fought over what to watch on TV. It’s the longest time I’ve spent with them, without having to rush off to work, or to one of those endless meetings. Actually, it’s the longest I’ve stayed without rushing anywhere, or doing any serious work, since 1995. For the first time in years, I found no use for my computer; no use for social media.

 

If you live in the city, rushing to and fro work from Monday to Sunday, working day and night for a take home pay that can’t take you anywhere, you’re likely to look at those living in villages with contempt. If you live in a place like Lagos, barely taking vacations and ‘hustling’ your days away, it’s easy for you to be deceived into thinking you’re living the life.

 

Spending 10 days in a village taught me one lesson: the most important things we need in life are food, shelter and basic healthcare. And these people have all three. It may not be luxurious buffets and Banana Island town houses. But they eat fresh, organic food, live in decent homes, with the basic facilities needed to exist. It’s actually likely they eat better food than we do. They don’t have to deal with traffic and noise pollution. And they actually have standard educational facilities. St. Augustine’s, where we played tennis, is as good as they come.

 

I don’t expect all of us to suddenly move back to the village, and I’m not saying there are no opportunities here for those living in places like Ayetoro Gbede, Kajola, and Odobata. But as we take frequent trips to London and New York, as we visit Kenya and South Africa and Dubai, we need to take a look at our backyard and return to our roots. As recession bites and the nightmare of foreign exchange continues, we need to consider tourist trips and spiritual excursions to our ancestral homes; places where we don’t have to spend dollar and pounds; where there are even no shopping malls!

 

And what’s more, I was convinced the government of the state had no clue of the opportunity for tourism and foreign exchange sitting untapped in this place – an actual goldmine waiting to be discovered and explored. I was enthralled by the picturesque landscape; the delicately balanced rocks seating precariously atop one another; the fiery dust sprinkled generously on everything, everywhere. Kogi only recently increased its monthly IGR from N350m to 600m; nothing to write home about when compared to Lagos which generates around N30 billion per month. The amazing Obangogo hills alone, with no clear access roads, maps, facilities and guide, is a waiting contributor to the state’s IGR, if the government would see the opportunities and put the right things in place. Instead of opening just once in a year, Obangogo should be a tourist destination available to host visitors 24/7 – with good revenue from ticketing, food and beverages, tolls, photography, games, etc.

 

I for one will plan to take more vacations, alone and with my family. And it won’t be just to London and Glasgow. I’ve already pencilled my home town, Oka Akoko, in Ondo State, where both my parents are buried, for my 2017 vacation.

The Babaekos gave us the vacation of a lifetime; and opened our minds and eyes to a world we – especially my kids – didn’t know existed. Then heading back into Lagos, we spent the night in Akure, visiting Dotun’s younger sister, her mom and grandmother. When we settled down with mama in her living room, and I brought out my phone to photograph four generations of Nigerian women, I knew the trip was definitely not a good decision. It was the best.

 

What a way to start a new year!

 

 

 

 

My Favourite websites right now and why you should check them out

Ayenithegreat.ng

It was the New York Times obituary of Elie Wiesel that got me thinking, last week, about the importance of that one final piece of writing that seeks to sum up a person’s entire life and essence.

I read a lot of NYT obituaries (well, I read a lot of NYT!) and was thinking aloud on Twitter, about how one should hope to live long, and accomplish enough, to deserve an NYT obituary, when Tolu Ogunlesi mentions that, actually, only The Economist’s obituaries are ‘to die for’.

So I went and registered on The Economist and began the process of reading myself to stupor.

If you love biographies but rarely find time to read full books, I recommend the obituary sections of NYT and Economist. One of the best ways to know and learn, I have found, is by taking a glimpse into the lives of thinkers and doers, and finding things you never expected to find.

But I’m not always reading profiles and obituaries.

Take a look at Zikoko.com , the interesting website from Big Cabal media.  Yes, I know a certain OMG is trying to position itself as the Buzzfeed of Africa. Good PR move. But the only buzz on the ground here, is from Zikoko. If you’ve been complaining about lazy, unimaginative journalism, about plagiarism and anywhere-belle-face reporting, I suggest you open your (Facebook or Twitter) window and ask your neighbours ‘what is Zikoko’? You’re guaranteed to be converted.

PartyJollof.com , from Red Media, is also going where many failed to go. Young Nigerians are bored and impatient and excitable. They’re increasingly attracted to platforms like Snapchat and Instagram because they’re fun and easy to use. PJ is using this understanding to deliver the kind of content that’ll make even Buzzfeed.com jealous.

If I were to invest my dollars in any websites right now, Zikoko and PartyJollof will definitely be getting that call.

Add Newsroom.ng  to that list. (Disclosure: Newsroom is a BHM website). I rarely visit Nigerian websites for business or political news. Apart from The Punch, I find most human interest journalism here gross and click-baity, so I generally stay away. But I read the pieces on Newsroom, and I see journalism that grips, that seeks to provoke emotions and action; that understands me and the challenges of living in 2016 Nigeria; that seeks to help me and my government know and understand what’s happening, I think of Newsroom and I jump for joy.

The only thing that comes close is The Cable. I’ve liked Simon Kolawole’s style since I was a columnist at THISDAY. You can see, through the investigative journalism, the profiles, the news angles and the decency on The Cable that Simon understands what works. You can tell that, unlike other websites I may not be naming today, there’s likely no hidden agenda behind their journalism. If THISDAY were to even take digital journalism seriously, The Cable would be an amazing teacher.

I hate to admit it. But I spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter. I may not say much, but I’m there. Scrolling through news feeds and trying to see the world through the eyes of ‘friends’ I may not speak with for months. Because my life is on-the-go, I find both websites useful for staying informed. Brexit? FB and Twitter told me where to get all the gist. Theresa May and South Sudan and Skye Bank? I found all my leads on FB and Twitter. BlackLivesMatter? Twitter and FB. Also importantly, I’m only able to keep in touch with industry news from PR, advertising, media and entertainment because I have learnt to follow relevant people and set notifications where necessary.

Speaking of PR – the CIPR website is a good place to spend a lot of time. I mean A LOT  OF TIME. It’s what Nigeria’s NIPR should be like when she grows up. IF.

And FT.com is what Nigeria’s Businessday should and could be. Business Day is one of my favourite newspapers here. But I struggle with the (now paywalled) website. FT on the other hand, has been giving me orgasm for years. I may cheat regularly with WSJ.com, I may even browse Bloomberg and elsewhere, but it is not for lack of satisfaction from FT. It is I who cannot keep my kini in one place.

Of course you know of QZ and Vice and HBR? Fantastic!

Whatsapp is not a website so I’ll not be listing it here. But if Zikoko and Newsroom and Facebook and Twitter were to know how much time I spend on Whatsapp, they’ll likely be setting fire to the app’s servers. I dumped BBM for Whatsapp nearly three years ago and it’s the best relationship decision I’ve taken in a while. I hear there are still many of you on BBM, that’s fine. Please stay there before you come and join those people calling Whatsapp ‘wosup’. Sigh.

Can I say Orin, Sabinews, Thenetng and TNS also belong on this list without anyone accusing me of shameless plug? I can’t? Oh, I can? Are you saying I can add them? Or the T in your can’t is just silent? What-ever!

 

 

Steve Babaeko: 20 YEARS OF INSPIRATION

Ayeni Adekunle, Ayo Animashaun & Steve Babaeko

Spent Monday evening at the BHM Lounge, in company of some of the brightest minds around, as we gathered to celebrate the founder of X3M Group Steve Babaeko.

SB had announced last week that September 1 made it 20 years since he ventured into advertising.

As we shared hot amala and orisirisi; with canapés and cognac and cocktails, everyone spoke about the power of Steve’s imagination;  about the determination and drive that got him here. Everyone agreed this gentleman that arrived in Lagos broke and hopeless changed his life and his story by doing the work- from artiste management to equipment leasing, to copywriting and music.

Music gave him the fame; advertising gave him a career and much more.

Steve Babaeko

Steve Babaeko

But it’s the inspiration – the one that pushes him; the one he gives to others even when he doesn’t try, that gave him a name.

That name may be what his parents gave him. But it’s no longer a basic nomenclature for a random guy from Kabba in Kogi state. That name now belongs to a trusted brand that’s fulfilling a promise: that Nigerian advertising can be great again; that copy writers and creative directors can build a business too; that you can make it if you dare. That an agency CEO can sag his pants and wear Giuseppe Zanotti . The promise (and message) that everything you want is chilling on the other side of fear.

The full story of Steve Babaeko will be told someday soon.

Happy anniversary, boss.

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Toni Kan

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Toni Kan

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Ayo Animashaun

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Ayo Animashaun

Ayeni Adekunle with Yetunde Babaeko

With Yetunde Babaeko

Modenine with Steve Babaeko & Yetunde Babaeko

Jonah the Monarch, Modenine with Yetunde & Steve Babaeko

Steve Babaeko,  Ayo Animashaun & Ayeni Adekunle

With Steve Babaeko & Ayo Animashaun

Ayeni Adekunle & TEE A

With Tee A

Chris Ihidero

Chris Ihidero

Ayeni Adekunle, Ayo Animashaun, Steve Babaeko

 

How I fell in love with Beer

Star Radler

My friend, Ita Bassey is an interesting man.

You know those kind of people who love to enjoy life: food connoisseur, boyish dresser, good talker, football lover and sweet drinker.

One day, it was a Sunday I think, we met up at Regent Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos to have drinks.

‘Give me a chilled bottle of Star please’, he told the bar man as we settled into cane chairs by the poolside.

‘Let me have one Star too. And a bottle of Fanta’

The way he looked at me, I told myself ‘Ita is going to be mixing his Star with orange again tonight.’

Few weeks earlier, at the Sheraton Hotel, we sat by the lobby bar, in the company of Precious Nwachukwu (who worked for BHM at the time) and had plenty of Star and Fanta as we waited for call time to set up for the launch of Star Lite. The bar man was kind enough to give us an endless supply of popcorn.

I’ve never really been an alcohol person. I had a bit of beer when I was much younger, before going off completely. But since meeting the likes of Howie T, Steve Ayorinde, Abisoye Fagade, Kingsley James, Layinka Oyedeji and Kunle Afolayan, I have become a consumer again. But it was wines and spirit I returned to.

It was not until our agency began working for Nigerian Breweries that I tasted beer again. Because I hadn’t acquired the taste for it, I admit I didn’t enjoy it at first so when our in house connoisseur Anita Aiyudu suggested I mix Star or Heineken with Fanta or Fayrouz or sprite, I was more than glad.

I stayed with the mix, for as long as I had to – until I realized one weekend, that I may have developed a taste for beer. For the first time in forever, a cold glass of beer didn’t taste ‘bitter’.

That’s when I started to drink my beer ‘straight.’

But a few months ago, Tokunbo Adodo called to have a chat. He wanted to know how I like my beer and why? I explained the mixtures that made it easier for me when I first tried to drink beer, out of loyalty to the brands I work for. I explained how even my female friends who didn’t like beer would ask for extra servings any time I mixed Star with Fanta, or Heineken with Fayrouz. I told him of how it helped us introduce BHM ladies to beer.

Apparently Ita and Biyi Fagade had briefed Tokunbo on this consumer habit. I’m sure they spoke with several other consumers – he told me it was a survey.

I soon forgot about that discussion.
Until I visited a friend and saw a bottle of Star Radler: Beer and Juice in a can. This one is a special present for me, I told my wife. I asked for a cold can, opened it and gulped everything. My wife, who cannot stand alcohol and who may never have tasted beer, did same. And we fell in love immediately.

I’m now a hundred percent beer boy. Apart from my favourite cognac, Hennessy, my friends know a cold glass of Star or Heineken will make my evening.

But although I no longer need to mix my beer with orange, there are still many learners who will find Radler a good way to begin drinking ‘beer.’

At this time when beer markets are dwindling and many young people are made to think – erroneously – that spirit, wine and RTDs are healthier and cooler than beer, I consider Radler a good move by a company that gave Nigeria her first beer.

This one is for me, and for everyone that needs to join #TeamBeer!

I Still Hate Awards. But I Love Toni Kan

Toni Kan, Peju Akande, Ayeni Adekunle & Azu Arinze

I’ve been turning down awards for as long as I can remember.

I have nothing against celebrations and decorations. But I am of the opinion that Nigerians celebrate a lot of what would ordinarily pass as mediocrity.

I hold a belief: Too many awards and medals have ruined several brands and careers that otherwise may still have been around today. Think of the 90s and 2000s super banks. Think of the stars of yesteryears. Think of all the big brands and their MDs and all the accolades – then think of the crumbling that followed.

So while one is still dreaming and building, it has been my way to avoid any event that suggests ‘washing’. I’ve not come all the way from Okokomaiko, working since 1995, only to get here and be distracted by some plaques and praises suggesting I’m close to being the best in my field – when I’ve not even started!

But, Just as my friends, Abisoye Fagade, Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi and co embarrassed me with a surprise birthday gig three years ago, Toni Kan and his team set a trap for me last week and I walked into it.

Managing Partner, SabiNews, Toni Kan & CEO, BHM Group, Ayeni Adekunle

Managing Partner, SabiNews, Toni Kan & CEO, BHM Group, Ayeni Adekunle

I became a writer by reading. And Toni Kan was one of those who shaped my early writing. It’s possible I’ve read everything he’s ever written, but we didn’t become friends until recently. I can’t even remember how it happened.

But I remember clearly now, how he offered to postpone the anniversary celebration for SabiNews because I was away in London. I remember how he called to request I attend the event with my wife. I remember how he asked – almost frantically – if I was cancelling, when I called hours to the dinner on Friday May 22.

How come it didn’t occur to me that maybe this man was up to no good?

You can’t imagine how much I wanted to disappear from that room when he and his partner Peju Akande sandwiched me and opened a plaque with my name on it. ‘SabiNews Man of the year‘.

Of course I don’t think it’s a honour well deserved. And I am, of course, still embarrassed!

(L-R) Chairman of SabiNews, Niran Adedokun; Managing Partner SabiNews, Toni Kan; Managing Editor SabiNews, Peju Akande & Publisher Yes! magazine Azu Arinze at the presentation of Sabinews 'Man of the year' plaque to Ayeni Adekunle.

(L-R) Chairman of SabiNews, Niran Adedokun; Managing Partner SabiNews, Toni Kan; Managing Editor SabiNews, Peju Akande & Publisher YES! Magazine Azu Arinze at the presentation of Sabinews ‘Man of the year’ plaque to Ayeni Adekunle.

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Grand Art Exhibition – Against All Odds – Set To Hold In Lagos

INVITE

In celebration of Adaora-Zinno Orara who’s down with stage 7 cancer

 

Blackhouse Media and Mydrim Gallery  today announced a one of a kind art exhibition titled Against All Odds.

 

The exhibition will be showcasing the works of one of Nigeria’s most celebrated painters, Zinno Orara, in dedication to his Wife, Adaora-Zinno Orara, who is battling breast cancer against all odds.

 

Billed to take place from Friday 5 – Friday 12 December 2014 at Mydrim Gallery, 74B Norman Williams St. South West Ikoyi Lagos, the art exhibition promises to be one of the classiest the country has ever seen.

 

Born in 1965 in Benin City, the Artist Zinno Orara attended Government College, Ughelli and The school of Arts and Design, Auchi. He graduated in 1988 with a Distinction in Painting and Illustration. He also holds a masters degree in Philosophy.

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