+Talks about his new magazine
A couple of days back, ENCOMIUM Weekly visited the chairman of Wale Adenuga Production (WAP), Wale Adenuga (MFR) in his Ajao Estate, Lagos office where he granted us an interview on the new baby of the company, Nnena and Friends cartoon magazine which was unveiled recently. He also spoke on his 40 years in business and much more.
A couple of days back, you unveiled Nnena and Friends cartoon magazine as pledged the last time we had a chat with you. How do you feel about that?
I feel very excited. Publishing remains my first love. It’s something that gives me great joy. I just enjoy putting stories together in print form and see people enjoy the stories. I love seeing the smile on their faces as they read the stories. So, it’s a personal fulfillment for me. I feel happy that the journey we started about three years has started materializing. As a matter of fact, we started putting all these together about three years ago, putting the team of cartoons together, defining the distribution channels and trying to cross the advertising hurdles. So, it gives me great joy that we have realized our objectives. We thank God for that.
What informed cartoon magazine?
Having published serious magazines for about 20 years, the urge is always there. It’s in the blood really. And this urge is fired by the existence of a vacuum in this line of business. It pains me each time I see vendors carrying magazines without any cartoon magazine. It pains my heart. And as a lover of cartoons, I just felt, “What is really happening? How come there is not even a single cartoon magazine as large as the industry is?” May be if we have at least six cartoon magazines in the market as at today, I might not have reconsidered coming back. But I will feel fulfilled that our people are being entertained with cartoon magazines. But in the absence of cartoon magazines it’s something I can’t forgive myself for being someone who has done it successfully for 20 to 30 years. It’s like God was telling me, “Wale, you have done this thing before, you can do it again”. I remember the first time I got that message, I told God I know I can do it but I am pre-occupied and very busy with television production. And God said, no, ‘Don’t personalize it. Why not institutionalize it? Teach your people, your children, your workers and directors the way to do it. And by so doing, you can take the work load off your shoulder and then everybody will be happy. I now thought about it and said okay. So, three years ago, I involved my children, all the workers in the children department called Nnena and Friends.
We started collecting stories. And we looked at the old stories in Ikebe Super and Binta magazines. We looked at the stories, sanitized them, we selected those we liked and dusted everything and added new ones. So, that’s how Wale Adenuga gave birth to the first edition of Nnena and Friends cartoon magazine which has now been unveiled.
Who’re your target audience?
Over the years, and to the glory of God and service to humanity, we have remained in business for 40 years, entertaining Nigerians with stories in all forms. We had been on print before, then the electronic. Now, we’re adding print again. So, we have entertained people in various forms. Then, who are our target audience? I call them my people. My people are the masses. In a marketing terminology, we call them the CDE classes. Imagine A and B belonging to Victoria Island, Lekki. Then C should be Surulere, D and E are for Isolo, Mushin Olosa, Ajegunle, Agege, Iyana Ipaja and more. These are my people. Even, you can notice from our TV channel, WAP TV, it’s for the people. That’s why we speak pidgin on WAP TV. All my life, all my businesses have always been directed towards my people, the masses who I classified as CDE, and they have never let me down. So, I know their taste, I know their hope and aspiration, and I am trying to give everything to them in my products.
Don’t you consider the challenge and the turbulence the print media is facing at the moment, especially with the harsh economy the country is experiencing?
I am quite aware of the turbulence publishing is going through. Now, all the newspapers had increased their cover prices. I know it’s a very hard time for print media now. But at the same time, I am still optimistic that somehow, we will find a way. I believe where there is a will, there is a way. Our objective is to entertain people with cartoons. Then, whichever is going to go, we’re going to be giving them. Look at the format we started with, beautiful hard cover paper, beautiful inner pages and all. Let the worse come to the worse, we will only change the format. We can use cheaper paper, we can use cheaper this and that and even reduce pages as time goes on. But we will ensure we will continue to give them maximum satisfaction at affordable price. The turbulence is for real, and is very overwhelming but then, I believe God will see us through.
40 years in the business is not a joke, what have been the challenges so far?
The journey started in 1976, and it’s exactly 40 years this year. We can’t but thank God because when we started the journey, we were full of optimism but we never knew we will come this far. We give glory to God for the journey so far. We also face the normal challenges of running business in Nigeria, including problem of capital from time to time, problem of human capital, problem of the market and all that. At times, the economy becomes so turbulent just like we’re facing now in the industry. As we all know, our economy is tied to import. So, each time the dollar goes up, prices of printing materials also go up. That’s what we’re facing at the moment. That’s the major problem of publishing really, the materials keep going up, the printing cost also keeps going up, and the publisher has to keep adjusting his prices upward all the time to the detriment of sales volume. It’s very rough but the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. Apart from that, when the battle gets tough; the tough gets going like it’s rightly said. So, we keep talking. To be honest, it has been rough because we never had enough capital to work with. And the market has been very precarious. But at the same time, we thank God for the success achieved so far. Every day, we try to do things better. That’s the only way one can remain in business. You just have to keep devising ways of doing things better. And that’s what we keep doing. And this new magazine, a lot of energy has been put into it, and I believe with providence on our side, we’re going to survive the tide.
Throughout the 40 years of being in business, success has always been your second name, what’s the secret?
My brother, it is God and nothing else. God has always been with us. He has always been directing us on what to do, how, where and when to do it. Everything we have laid our hands since the establishment of this organization, from publishing to electronic, to PEFTTI, Binta School and WAP, I always wait for God’s directive in everything I do. I see all these things as divine assignments. That’s the truth. Even this magazine we just unveiled. God knows, it’s not about money, but the urge to entertain. And that’s what makes it a divine assignment. It’s like God just said, “Wale, go and entertain my people. People need to be entertained. There’s so much hardship in the country, people need to laugh. Just go and give them a cartoon magazine. Don’t worry, in the future, I will bless you.” And truly, I know God will bless me. So, there is no secret about it. It’s God. And I have a formidable team. From my children, I have two of them as managing directors. They work day and night. The other thing was that, my first one, I personalized the publishing. I was doing everything myself, drawing most of the cartoons. Later, I employed cartoonists. But now, I have learnt to institutionalize, to divide the labour among the people in more or less mentoring them on how to have a successful publishing business. I can’t thank God enough for giving me the opportunity to impact all the experience into the younger ones to ensure continuity. A lot of people die with their experience. But as for me, I have impacted the young ones. I thank God for them.