First of all, what is currently happening at Primetime Entertainment?
We have been producing our radio and TV programmes, but right now we are expanding our network. We are expanding our horizon and at the same time re-branding and repackaging. The evidence is what you have been watching lately on our shows. We still consider our team as the leading team in the business going by what we have been able to offer our viewers and listeners. I have always told people that it is not our practice to say, ‘we are going to do this or do that.’ We just do it and let Nigerians and Africans talk about it.
Looking back, how do you feel about where Primetime is at the moment?
I believe that we have achieved a lot, and only God can rightly take credit for that. Because a man can make his plans, but only God has the power to allow those plans succeed. As it is said, man proposes but God disposes. You can call yourself the smartest person, but if God doesn’t bless that view, you will be struggling for nothing. We thank God that we have been able to get to this point. We have been able to remain visible and vibrant over the years. As I said earlier, we don’t write our own story or extol what we are doing. We keep repackaging, re-branding and reinventing ourselves both internally and externally.
Talking about Nigerians appreciating your efforts, the awards you have received certainly stir up some feelings…
Absolutely. Getting these awards makes me feel warm inside. From the very first one to the most recent awards, they are clear indications that people are recognizing our work, and it creates an excitement in me to do more. They are by all means something unique to me, far more than other things. I accept any award given to me with a lot of humility and gratitude.
How did this unique partnership between you and Keke come to be?
Actually we met in the university. Funny enough the secondary schools we attended were very close to each other, but we never met then. My family had to send me abroad. We met in the university and we were always in the same class. Being two foreign students and thousands of miles from home, you tended to gravitate towards each other for support. And we found we had the same ideas and there was this chemistry between us; we were going towards the same direction, so it was easy for us to hang out, especially when we were in the same class and graduated the same day, both with Master’s degrees. Having the kind of bond between us is easy when you have someone that has the same vision. And when both of you are on the same page, it makes it easier. We support and encourage each other. He can read me and tell when I am not at my best. Both of us cannot be 100 per cent all the time. Sometimes my mood might not just be right and when we are going on air he would fill in the gap. It is good we understand each other and we try to bridge the gap. That’s why it is good to have or be in partnership with someone who is a friend.
In your ride to fame, what has been the guiding principle?
We have been guided by the desire to have impact on the society in whatever we do. I have always believed that whatever I do must be about imparting knowledge to the community and changing lives. I never thought it could bring fame, but I am happy it did because the fame has opened doors and avenues for me to thrive and meet people. Through this business I have met presidents, governors and traditional rulers. I have been all over the world and met people like Nelson Mandela and the late Michael Jackson. The only person I really want to meet and have never met is probably Muhammed Ali. I have met just about everyone I ever wanted to meet in the world. I am happy that what I do has brought me fame and fortune.
Share your thoughts on the Nigerian music scene in the 90s…
At the time we came from back from America to join the pioneer team that started Raypower FM, there was a preference for foreign music and we were part of that mentality. Everyday we played the songs of Notorious BIG, Michael Jackson and Tupac all the time, but we just woke up one day and said, ‘Wait a minute! All these people we play their songs everyday, none has ever called to say thank you. And how would that help our community? How does that help to encourage our musicians here? In those days when you invite them for concerts, they never wanted to come to Nigeria and they would ask, where is Nigeria?’ We thought about this and said we should promote our own culture and music. We are grateful to God that Nigerians embraced this new thinking, and Africans also embraced it. The result is that even Americans are now doing collabo with us. There is nothing like building your own thing. A Yoruba proverb says, “It is what you have that you carry with pride.” It gives me a sense of pride when I see D’Banj and Tuface on the centre stage outside Nigeria. It gives me pleasure, makes me happy and I thank God I am part of that change.
One global entertainment event Primetime Entertainment is associated with is the annual Grammy Awards. Tell me a little bit about your coverage of the Grammy Awards.
As you probably know, the Grammy Awards is an international event. To get the exclusive right to cover it, you bid for it. It is only one company that has won that bid, probably 20 years back, and that is CBS. Therefore, only the cameras of CBS are allowed into the venue of the main event. Everybody else has to stay outside because CBS paid millions of dollars to have the exclusive broadcast rights. It is not like Nigeria, where if such award is going on you will see people putting up cameras and recording anything they want. It is not done like that abroad. However, other broadcast organizations like us (about 300 radio and television stations) can have access to the back stage interviews. We are the only broadcasting organisation from Africa accredited to cover these things. You can`t take a still camera inside the venue of the Grammy Awards because they don’t want anybody to post pictures online before the end of the event. How would they make their money? It is not like Nigeria where anything goes. They do things by law over there. For the coverage of the last event, all we were allowed to record was the red carpet session because we paid accreditation and broadcast fees. We were allowed into the venue four days before the event. They brought the artistes to us to interview.
Now tell me, how did you get into broadcasting?
I did a few other things before getting to where I am. I have always done things that excite me. Like I said earlier, I like to do things that impact on the society. You know, when one is growing up, parents would say they want their child to be a doctor, lawyer or an architect and one does not have a choice in the matter. So to satisfy my parents I read Business Administration, while my other brothers read Medicine and Law. With all due respect to bankers, I couldn’t see myself working behind a desk from 6am to 7pm; whatever I must do must allow me keep moving about. For instance, I was a teacher in the United States as a guest lecturer in some universities. I have always been visiting secondary schools to give speeches, which I do regularly. I do understand I am a role model, because young people look up to me. It is good to encourage them and to make them know they can succeed with perseverance, vision and dedication to achieve their dreams. I am passionate about this. I don’t do it for money. When you are passionate about something the money will come.
You obviously travel a lot. How do you maintain a balance between your job and your family?
That’s why I’m really grateful to God. I have a very understanding wife. My wife and kids are very understanding; they know that this is what ‘Daddy’ does for a living. They know I am doing it to provide daily bread for them. They know that if I have my way I would be with them 24 hours a day. They appreciate what I do. They understand it is not easy for me and work is so tedious. They know that whenever I am around I spend enough time with them as much as I can. I am grateful to God that I have an understanding family.
Have you ever missed any family birthday?
Oh, I try to be around whenever they are marking their birthday. I don’t miss my children’s birthday. I have never missed my wife’s birthday. I make sure whatever event I am attending will not keep me away from their birthday. I leave early and go home early to stay around and watch movies with them or take them out. They know whenever I am around I always spend quality time with them.
What about Valentine’s Day with your wife?
That’s the only day I can’t stay home because Valentine’s Day falls within the period when the Grammy Awards event is held. I don’t think I have taken my wife out for Valentine’s Day in the last 15 years, because I have never been around. I keep telling my wife I would find a way to make it up to her. She understands because the Grammy Awards is a very big event, and I can’t miss it. I send her flowers from wherever I am. I call her, and this year I sent a flower from Los Angeles and she got it. That Valentine’s Day morning we said some sweet things to each other and I sent some champagne. She was really surprised. I always want to do surprising things even when I am not around to keep her in the Valentine mood. I wanted her to know that somebody was thinking about her.
How did High Chief Raymond Dokpesi ‘capture’ you and Keke Ogungbe?
Dr. Dokpesi lured Keke and I back to Nigeria when he came to the US on a visit. He was like, “what are you guys doing here? Why are you guys not coming back to Nigeria? Nigerians are not bad as you think.” And I wondered aloud, ‘why should I leave my good job and run back to Nigeria? He encouraged us to come back home and help build the country, because nobody else would do it for us. But I was like, “Abeg wetin this man dey talk sef?” But he explained how he came back to Nigeria from Poland where he studied. He had an opportunity and was invited back to Nigeria by the government. He even went to the extent of buying our flight tickets and said, “Come and spend three months, if you don’t like it you can go back.” But, of course, we came and we found a different Nigeria. Though it was not easy, but we enjoyed it, home is home. And we decided to stay.
What is your philosophy of life?
Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. But I am not saying that as a cliché, because I believe that whatever you do to people might not be reciprocated to you directly. But your child could run into someone you helped yesterday, and the person would say, “Your father helped me, come; I will see what I can do for you.” That’s the spirit that leads me to do what I do.
What advice would you give a young entrepreneur facing a business challenge?
Any venture you want to embark on in life, money is a big factor. We all have ideas, but money plays a big role, but that notwithstanding, if you believe in your dreams with vigor, if you push it vigorously, the money will come. But you’ve got to believe in yourself. And whatever you do, you have to do it well.