By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, the devil is a liar. Let me confess that everything that could go wrong went wrong and I almost didn’t write this column. In fact, I had sent a message to Yemi Adebowale, the Editor of Thisday on Saturday to that effect. The worst nightmare of any publication is when your writer suddenly goes blank or, worse still, has issues that make it impossible for him to write.
My ordeal started with a frozen shoulder after catching some terrible cold in England. It’s been very inclement weather recently with the rain pouring down as if it is raining the proverbial “cats and dogs”! The pain that regularly shot through my shoulder, as I tried to manage whatever was wrong with me, was of excruciating proportions. I trawled through all available airlines, looking for a seat urgently and at the same time, looking for a bargain. I finally managed to get a flight that would take me to Accra via an indirect route, Amsterdam and then Accra.
It was thus that I found myself in the situation that I had a flight to catch to Amsterdam which I was determined not to miss. From Amsterdam, I had a connection to make. Just imagine a writer and traveller without one of his two arms. My left shoulder was virtually frozen and practically numb. It was as if that part of my body now belonged to someone else, But, thanks to the wonderful KLM crew, they made my journey more bearable.
I had not slept a wink the night before and I was dog-tired. The once seemingly powerful painkillers had been virtually useless and hopeless for my present condition. Oh, how I hate those poisons except on occasions such as this when I’m desperately helpless. But they didn’t work anyway. Mercifully, nature won the battle as a natural tranquilizer. I thank God that I was able to sleep on the flight like a baby, and oftentimes I am asleep even before the aircraft takes off. As soon as we took off yesterday, I was in La-La land. The last thing I remembered was the big bird taking off at such speed that I marvelled in my sleep-induced stupor at how such a gigantic feat of engineering could manage to lift up into the skies with that humongous weight. It reminded me of the Biblical story of Jonah, the world’s greatest sleeper in history, who found himself in the belly of a whale. Here I was in the belly of a bigger whale.
I soon dozed off and must have slept sonorously. I was obviously enjoying my sleep when I felt a tap which I initially ignored. I was enjoying my trance on this astral level. The tap soon became a gentle shove. Reluctantly, I opened my somnambulist eyes and saw the beautiful and affable KLM hostess, Jacqueline staring down at me. I didn’t want to be rude by saying she should just leave me alone.
The fault was mine. I should have warned her earlier not to dare touch a sleeping elephant, an African Chief. That would probably have thrown her into panic and trepidation. And I would have had the skies to myself in peace. Anyway. She woke me up and mumbled something like “it is time for food…” Why not,” I soliloquised? “We paid for the services.” But trust me to always prepare for disappointment, I had branched at the Caviar House inside Heathrow Terminal 4 to pick up some well-packaged salmon. Though I manage to indulge in the acquired taste of caviars, I have never been able to understand the hype behind the funny looking delicatessen. I had scanned the KLM menu and the Lobster caught my attention. So, I told Jacqueline to secure me one.
After my meal, I felt refreshed and rejuvenated. There and then, I challenged the demonic pain that won’t let me interact with my fervent readers this week. I was convinced that I would win. I decided to write and here we are. My next challenge was what topic to treat that would be topical and current?
Then I remembered a message sent to me by my protege, Goke Dokun, a fine and refined gentleman, I’m blessed with many of them. The short info was: “Dele Momodu is the richest Photographer in Nigeria…” according to the ace Photographer, Dayo Adedayo, a very restless, patriotic and ambitious Nigerian who has taken over four million shots of the amazing landscapes of Nigeria, hitherto hidden, for an unaware public to appreciate and bask in.
I promptly claimed Dayo’s title for myself on TVC, one of the biggest television outfits in Africa. Why not? I do not measure success and wealth in terms of Bank balances and statements, but by the Legacy assets acquired and I’m certain no publication in Africa has been able to cover the lifestyle of the rich and famous the way Ovation International has. We were determined from the very beginning to build an enduring legacy and we are proud to have tenaciously maintained our numero uno position in the journalistic lifestyle genre. Without sounding immodest we have built a reservoir of robust history of people and events since 1996 which no other publication has managed to replicate.
This article was also influenced by two speeches of Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, during the Independence festivities this week. The first was the powerful one he delivered at the huge Cathedral in Abuja. He delivered a message of hope quoting copiously from the Holy Bible. As I watched him speak, confidently and effortlessly, I saw a glimpse and glimmer of hope in the horizon. I do not know if Osinbajo is without blemish, and frankly, I think it is a non-starter to look for spots when there are much bigger issues that confront us. The crux of the matter is that none of us is a saint, otherwise we would not have a world as we know it. The important thing is that the Vice President’s speech reasonably reassured me that he is definitely one of the brightest stars of Nigerian and African politics and power today. Why then do we want to humiliate and even possibly destroy such a blessing to Nigeria by circulating unfounded and baseless rumours and stories?
Osinbajo’s second speech that took my fancy was the one at the Independence dinner. Mine oh mine, that was so hilarious. He took us on a tour de force of Nigeria’s positive peculiarities. He wove a story of how united we should, and can be, by picking examples of how special we are, individually and collectively, across party lines. He even showed clips of Senators Ademola Adeleke and Dino Melaye dancing, members of opposition party, PDP. So that the dynamic duo would not take all the plaudits, he displayed former President Olusegun Obasanjo dancing as well. He presented Aliko Dangote. He even showed President Buhari and called him a man of swag. In his own inimitable way, he demonstrated the greatness of Nigerians globally.
I was pleasantly delighted to watch this powerful delivery. No one does it better than Osinbajo. But I must admit how disappointed I was when a foreign magazine was mentioned, gleefully, as promoting our fashion. Had we at Ovation International not laboured to showcase the best of Africa and forced our strides into the consciousness of the foreign media that was rabidly obsessed with famine, wars, diseases and poverty, there would have been nothing to promote today. That is why we are not only recognised in Africa but also the rest of the world. The international awards we have won complement the various local awards lavished on us. The numerous invitations to cover local and international events, in well over 60 countries, and spanning all continents, gives us great pride even as we are humbled by the accolades. We believe that our leaders and our people must continually appreciate the efforts of our own local entrepreneurs who have managed to thrive despite incredible challenges.
This is why I will continue to plead with Africa’s corporate leaders and governments to support homegrown initiatives. Many of our CEOs are happy to appear on the foreign brand names that restrict their success stories to Africa. They rush to advertise in those publications and media platforms. They forget that charity must begin at home.
Every effort should be made to identify those with capacity and capabilities to market Africa to the world and help create opportunities for our youths. You can only best imagine how many fashion designers and tailors, musicians, event planners, make-up artists, beauty therapists, caterers, Deejays, technical crew, equipment rentals, security companies, different suppliers, producers, stage builders, MCs, event centres, and so many others who have emerged and blossomed since we started promoting lifestyle vigorously. Not a few of them have since made it to the global stage and we are proud to be part of their humble beginnings.
Also, we must remember where we were before 2007 when Ovation Red Carol was conceptualised. Leke Alder (aka Professor Socrates) designed the event as a way of catching potential talents and giving them hope to shine and grow bigger. It was planned to be a Christmas event with a difference. The emphasis being not only on a time-worn and time-honoured religious activity, not on an event where love, happiness and a bright future is shared and nurtured. Special thanks must go to the global banker, Mr Tony Elumelu, who bought and invested into the idea immediately and supported us for many years. Trust the Spirit of Africa, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr, whose philosophy is “what is worth doing at all is worth doing well”. He took us beyond our dreams and has enabled us to empower many Africans from all over Africa and beyond who flew to Nigeria for the first time at the invitation of Ovation International. The only woman who has supported the vision of empowering African youths through our medium and other channels that she is constantly evolving and developing, is the world-acclaimed Philanthropist and woman of God, Reverend Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi who has made it possible for more artistes to get the necessary exposure and has additionally supported primary healthcare, Entrepreneurship, education – by awarding scholarships, and so on.
The Christmas season is nigh upon us again and with it comes another season of the Ovation Carol. This year we plan to improve on our best. Our people, our country and our continent continue to grow and develop. In doing these, we can be critical, but must not be malicious. We must stand on fact not fiction. We must recognise what binds and unites us, we must focus more on the positive while not ignoring the negative, we must put our best foot forward. Above all, we must nurture and support our youths because they are the salt of the world and our future assets.
There is much more we can achieve, together…
By Dele Momodu