Let’s see, where do I start? I am a writer and a communications leader with around 20 years of experience in various fields. I was born and raised in Kaduna, so I speak Hausa and Yoruba fluently. I also speak the Owe language, a variant of Yoruba spoken in Kogi State where I am from. I am also a husband and the father of three wonderful children. I had a solid upbringing, with varied experiences and early exposure to the arts.
I think my path was clear from the start. I knew I could write from age 10, or so, and even though I initially wanted to be a lawyer, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to Ilorin or Ado Ekiti, so I picked Lagos. Then, right out of Unilag, I had two options: journalism or acting. Neither was well-paying in the early 2000s, but I wanted to try journalism. My uncle, Kola Ologbondiyan (former PDP spokesman) was an editor at THISDAY and took me to see the publisher for my NYSC. The publisher saw what I had written and asked me to start the next day. At this time, I was acting on the side, to pay bills. At Thisday, I met Niran Adedokun, another editor, who mentored me and, in 2004, took me along with him when he was appointed Chief Press Secretary to the First Lady of Kwara State (at this time, I had left THISDAY and taken a job in a PR firm after my NYSC). Around 2006, I became a press secretary at the office, while Mr. Adedokun became an SA, but when I turned 30 the next year, I became restless and decided it was time to pivot to something else – television. Over the next decade, I wrote and hosted several shows, started my own PR firm (IDM Lagos), got an Msc. at the SMC and estabished nxtgen, a youth platform.
My time at SMC was significant because of the relationships I built there. The courses that impacted me most had to do with leadership in the media and entrepreneurship. I am always drawn to changemakers and anything that has to do with making an impact, so the practical nature of those courses were very important to me. There is nothing quite as important as applying what you have learnt in the real world, and SMC encouraged me to do that. PT3, my class group, also boasted of a lot of senior industry colleagues whose mentorship made all the difference at critical times. I am a better leader, policy analyst and strategist because of my time at SMC. Not sure you can quantify that in naira and kobo.
Oh, this is easy. One day out of the blue, I decided to start a debate society and approached the Dean about my plans. Once I got the go ahead from him, I addressed all the classes separately, full time and part time, letting them know what I was trying to do. I’m not sure that they all understood at the time until the first debate, which took place between PT3 and PT4 and was judged by a few of our lecturers. It was quite fulfilling and helped to create connections between different sets at the school. Several months and debates later, I was given a Student Innovation Award, the first of its kind at SMC and a huge surprise to me, since I was just doing what I do best – connecting people. The second thing I would say I am proud of would be when I started a yearly conference called Women in Journalism. I received a lot of encouragement from the SMC, and the institution offered its platform for developing our ideas and establishing it into something quite powerful. We’ve had two Deans of the SMC deliver addresses at our WiJ Africa Conferences. One of the outcomes of this partnership was when I made the preliminary introduction of Google West Africa to the SMC in 2014, creating a pathway for many journalists to receive much needed training.
I started the job of SSA as a consultant in 2019. Before this time, I had consulted widely for several campaigns in Lagos, Kwara and nationally. The core of what I do is communications strategy, from the profile and image of the candidate, to how they speak, field questions from the press, engage with young people, what they say, how they say it, body language, hand gestures, eye contact, everything. I was officially appointed to the role of SSA 2021, working at the grassroots and handling the policies and programs for the first lady. Ninety percent of the work is writing for different audiences, understanding what people require and being careful to connect with them in a language they understand, whether its Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Pidgin or English. Having handled multi-language communications for the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) and the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), along with a presidential campaign, it helps to bring some of this experience to Ogun State.
In January 2010, I got a call from Mo Abudu, who urgently needed a writer for Season 8 of her show. She had flown in Nnegest Likke, an American director, who had rejected scripts from two writers, and they were then in a bind. Now, I had never written a talk show before. In fact, the only show I’d ever written at this time was the Debaters, so it was quite confusing that she wanted to hire me. Anyway, I met with Nnegest, and the first script I wrote was a disaster! Mo called me at past midnight expressing her disappointment that they would have to find another writer yet again. But I said, to her, “give me another chance, let me write one more episode.” She agreed. Then for the next 14 hours or so, I wrote a whole episode; I can’t recall the theme. I do recall Nnegest saying, “This is perfect. I don’t have any amendments to make.” And so, over the next month (while holding down a job as the host of the morning show on Superscreen), I churned out 22 episodes of Season 8 of Moments with Mo, and became the show’s official writer. Within one year of writing, I became producer and script supervisor, writing 28 episodes of Season 9. Next Titan was a different story. By this time, I was an established TV writer and went in to negotiate my contract, only for me to run into my former producer who convinced the executive producer to listen to my voice. 30 minutes later, I was signing a contract to write the show and a separate contract to be the voice of the show. I did this for 3 seasons, until things really picked up at IDM, and I had to focus exclusively on that.
Only ten years ago, it was easy to define what a communications specialist was. Today, things are more dynamic while being complicated at the same time. However, at the core of what it is means to be a communicator is understanding your audience and laying out a plan for how to reach them. If you’re really going to stand out and be noticed, your main job will be to help someone else – a brand or a company to connect with their audience and deliver their message effectively. Every other thing is just hype: trend today, gone tomorrow. Question is, beyond all the noise of influencers and the vibrancy of the Tik Tok video, who remembers the name of the product, and who is willing to pay for it? More important, in a year from now, are people still buying, or is the hype over? The communications leader of the future is the one who can think and plan long term, by asking where they want the company to be in 24 months’ time, and not whether Toke Makinwa will accept 1 million per Instagram post tomorrow. Drill down, establish some rigour and ask the question: after all the puffery, what’s next?
Life is in phases, I think. In your 20s, you should probably try everything until you find what you really want to do. I thought I wanted to be an actor until halfway into filming my third movie and I thought, this is not for me. Now in my 40s, life’s balance comes from knowing exactly what I want and saying a clear NO to what I don’t want. Having a greater control of one’s time also helps, even though when it’s time to roll up my sleeve and do the work, there’s no escaping it. Finally, having a great network of people to call on when needed is critical: you cannnot do everything and when you need help, ask for it.
A balanced world view and global mindset is critical. It’s important to know what’s going on in the world. I can build up and train an average writer to be a good writer, but if you find it hard to express yourself beyond, “what’s up? and “how far?” then, we might have an issue. Above all else, your willingness to apply yourself, being helpful, taking the initiative, treating people with dignity and respect will take you to the very top of any industry.
There’s a book I picked up on a recent trip, Karlgaard’s Late Bloomers; it is a must read! Two other books you will find are Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth at Dawn and Obama’s The Promised Land.