In the world of journalism, or should I say entertainment journalism, very few people can be counted as true professionals who know their onions as far as the profession is concerned. Some people have been in the business for many years, and are yet to achieve much or get recognition for work done. To this however, one man is an exception, that man is Ayeni Adekunle Samuel aka “Ayeni The Great.”
For many who may not know, Ayeni Adekunle is a celebrated Publicist, Journalist and Showbiz Consultant. He is the founder of the NET (Nigerian Entertainment Today), an entertainment newspaper and website and also BHM (Black House Media), a Public Relations firm.
Pulse.com.ng had a long chat with him in the comfort of his office, just a few days after The Nigerian Entertainment newspaper celebrated its 2nd year Anniversary. As I wanted to meet this great personality, who is a mentor in this business (Entertainment Journalism) I went prepared. Stepping into his office, he immediately apologized for keeping me waiting as he ushered me in and offered me a seat.
Now I that I was in front of “Ayeni The Great”, I was amazed at the simplicity of the “Great man” dressed simply in a long sleeve shirt, jeans trousers and a pair of snickers to match. Was I expecting some show of importance and all the usual Celebrity style? Maybe, but I was impressed, and thus became pretty comfortable.
He simply would like to be addressed as a Nigerian, state and tribe he considers irrelevant. “I am a Writer and businessman. I am first and foremost a writer, but I have interest in a couple of businesses also related to writing. I own a PR company called Black House Media (BHM), and I am also the founder and publisher of Nigerian Entertainment Today (NET) newspapers Ltd. I trained as a Microbiologist at the University of Ibadan, which really for me wasn't a big deal as there are loads of people who are doing things different from what they studied. I have been writing even before my undergraduate days. We live in a country where it is fashionable to get a university degree, as parents believe that it guarantees future employment. This is probably why you don't see students going off to Film school from secondary school.«
»We live in a country where it is fashionable to get a degree as parents believe that it guarantees future employment. This is why you don't see students going off to Film school from secondary school.«
»While growing up I discovered that I could write, I grew up in a home where there were two keys things; Books and Music. My Mom, even though not very educated, she didnt have a university degree, I am sure she was one of those women who trained to become secretaries, so she did a lot of typing, she understood shorthand and she loved reading. She also had a shop back then, I used to find her reading Chinua Achebe and all those African Writers series. I also had elder ones who read a lot of books, all the the 'Mills & Booms' novels, Pacesetters series and many others. And then my father was a collector of music, and till this day I still have his collections even though he passed away last year, and my mom about 8 years ago.
«So even while studying micro-biology I was reading more on music, literature, media and history and I spent more time gathering information on writing than micro-biology, and by the time I left school it was only natural I will focus more on that, and that is what I have done.»
Living around those two people and my elder ones exposed me to a huge amount of literature and music. I was trying to be an actor at some point, and attended all the auditions that held but never got a role. At the time Zeb Ejiro was the biggest producer, so one day my friend and I decided to write our own script to try and see if we could make our own movie. That was my first experience at writing and I liked it. From then on I began writing poems, started writng and finished my own book that same year. I realized that I liked writing more than anything else, so I stopped wanting to be an actor, because even at some point we were also training to become models. So by the time I was going into the university in 1999, I already knew I was going to be a writer. So even while studying micro-biology I was reading more on music, literature, media and history. So by the time I left school it was only natural I will focus more on that, and that is what I have done.«
Sojourn in the Entertainment Industry
Like Chimamanda Adichie and other writers that write from personal experiences, the natural thing for me to do as a writer, is to write on subjects I am comfortable with. So by the time I started working fully, I was already like an encyclopedia of modern Nigerian music. I could write anything entertainment from the top of my head. If you ask me to do you a two-thousand word article on 2face idibia, I don’t have to consult anything or use Google. I will write from the top of my head with dates and figures. Ask me to write about 9ice, KSA and others I will write it effortlessly, and this is because it was what I spent ten solid years consuming. So when I was going to start writing it was only natural that I write about entertainment and not politics, business or education. It was later on in my career I thought it wise to expand and so I began taking interest in business and other issues. But primarily it was Showbiz.
»By the time I started working fully, I was already like an encyclopedia of modern Nigerian music. I could write from the top of my head, if you ask me to do you a two-thousand word article on 2face idibia, I don’t have to consult anything or use Google«
»I worked with Encomium, Thisday, E-punch, Guardian newspapers. Working for Encomium I knew I wasn't going to be there for too long, I had always wanted to do my own stuff, but needed to gain some experience working for others. But because I wanted to also taste the other side of the print media, I joined Thisday newspaper and finally, Punch. It was after that that I felt it was time for me to started my own newspaper.
NET and BHM
I really don’t work for NET, I am more involved with BHM. I work for BHM which is a PR company, and is run by very smart and young people. NET came along the line at some point, because if BHM had not succeeded, I probably may not have been able to do NET. NET came up just two years ago, BHM is over six years, but because BHM is a service company working for clients, we stay more in the background, most people don’t know us, its NET the newspaper and the website that happens to be more popular. So apart from making inputs from time to time, I really don’t work for NET, it’s the guys over there that do all the work.
We wanted to create the number one media solutions company in Nigeria that can help people understand the media so that they can use it to achieve the best result for their businesses, and also help the media understand our clients.
«Money! Funding continues to be a big issue for every business in this country, even the big ones (before I went to bed I had to deal with the issues of fueling the generator) funding is a key issue and then human capital. So I will say it’s an issue of capital, because finding human capital is also key, finding the right people to help you translate the dreams and ideas into reality. Also doing things the proper way, as we live in a society where people think it is ok to do things shabbily, making the Nigerian factor an excuse. Doing the right things may appear stressful and may take long, but at the end it is worth it. Notwithsatanding, these challenges are what keeps me going, solving one problem and moving on to the next.»
«My personal achievements kick off when I am able to establish these businesses that I have always wanted to. From the day we kicked off NET, I felt happy, when we registered BHM I felt happy too. So for me the big achievement is the newspaper that has been able to survive for two years, two years in the life span of a newpaper is a very long time, and we have not only survived these years we have also thrived, and for me it is a big achievement. However, it is not a personal but a group achievement, the success is for the entire team.
So in two years we have been able to build a website to have the kind of credibility and respect that it has, we have been able to build a newspaper to circulate nationally, first, from a Bi-weekly to a Weekly. One important thing for a newspaper is to be able to command the respect of those you report. Say for example; to report or write on politics people must listen. I am happy that we have been able to achieve this to a large extent. The attendance of our industry night shocked me, so it shows we are being appreciated, even though we have our own shortcomings. Yet in our objectivity, we have earned the love and respect of many.»
«for me the big achievement is the newspaper that has been able to survive for two years, two years in the life span of a newpaper is a very long time, and we have not only survived these years we have also thrived and for me it is a big achievement»
I found this part interesting as The Great Ayeni has no kobo; really? “I do not have a kobo to my name, but I will say the «NET has done well. I was at the British council to share the story of the newspaper with the creative community, and I told them about the business plan I wrote that couldn’t attract an investor. My business plan showed that we will begin to make money three years after we set up, and we will not make profit until after the end of the fourth year. It also showed that for the first two years the business will experience losses! It was a conservative business plan with cash flow analysis and all, but I can tell you that in two years we have broken even, we might not be worth a million dollars and all, but we are doing very good and we growing by the day. We have have been able to secure the trust of our audience which helps advertising. Our website attracts millions of readers per month; we want to attract millions per week if possible. There is still a lot to be done, but based on our set expectations we have surpassed them.»
«My business plan showed that we will begin to make money three years after we set up, and we will not make profit until after the end of the fourth year, it also showed that for the first two years the business will experience losses! »
Watch out for the concluding part of this exclusive interview as Ayeni speaks passionately about the Digital media, the Nigerian entertainment industry and more....