You have probably seen or heard of Good Morning Africa, the popular flagship morning TV show on African Magic; but not the brains behind it. Oyo State indigene, 41-year-old married father of two sons whose family and business interests are all based in Johannesburg, South Africa, gentleman Wale Akinlabi. This first child of a middle-class family of seven left home at 19, struggling hard since then for his survival and success and for his younger siblings and the young generation at large. Recently, ENCOMIUM Weekly’s SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN caught up with the President of Planet Image Productions and Managing Director of Planet TV in his new studio at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos for a bit of his inspiring story..
Why berth your popular South Africa-based content, Good Morning Africa, in Nigeria?
We started GMA (Good Morning Africa) in 2010. Over the years, the content has been 50 per cent Nigerian-sourced while other African countries provide the remaining 50. However, we found that Nigerians consume the show the most. We felt it’s time we brought the show back home because our findings revealed that the content Africans want the most to watch are Nigerian contents.
Apart from that, we own a TV channel called Planet TV. Its viewers are also mostly Nigerian. So, we decided to build a studio here in Lagos for the Nigerian content only.
What really inspired the Good Morning Africa?
It just occurred to me that we could have a show to unify Africa. Then the name just dropped in my mind. I didn’t even pay much attention to it then until about six months later when I realized its power. That name is what gave me everything I have become today.
Who are the very influential people that GMA has hosted?
Several high profile celebrities in Nigeria: Ramsey Nouah, Kate Henshaw, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Jim Iyke, D’banj, Olamide, Kaycee, a lot of ambassadors from different countries, several state governors in Nigeria including Akwa Ibom, Delta and Lagos; the President of Equitorial Guinea. We even ran a 30-day series on that country as well as Akwa Ibom, Delta and Lagos states in Nigeria. We did same for the Kenya Tourism sector, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and even in Mozambique and faraway Thailand out of Africa.
Really? What major challenges do you often encounter ?
People’s initial disbelief in you because you don’t have a rich or popular background. So we had to struggle to realize our dream. Another major challenge was the oppressive tendencies by fellow Africans and Nigerians who don’t want you to get better than them. That jealousy, hostility, hate against you because you’re an emerging brand they don’t want to see grow. But God has been helping us to deal with them. You have to rely on God; be prayerful; be very patient and also persistent. I totally rely on God. At several occasions even when I had not much, I invested my last in God.
Besides GMA, what other contents are there on your Planet TV for us to look out for?
GMA is just one of the contents by Planet Image Productions, the holding company. Planet TV is also a product of Planet Image Productions. GMA is only a 1-hour content on Planet TV and Planet TV is on GOtv Channel 73 which does music and lifestyle. Our only contents on Africa Magic now are Good Morning Africa and Weekend Plus. GMA runs only on Africa Magic and our own channel, Planet TV. In addition to GMA, we also have What’s On, Consumers’ Choice and Planet Power. Right from your seat in your home or office, you tweet or text your wish songs and music videos to us, and we play them for you, right away. No other channel does that. We also have Twittersphere which hosts celebrities out there for their fans to ask them questions about a pre-chosen topic of the day. We also have As E Dey Hot which is pidgin, where we tackle issues like “Should the Nigerian governments support graduates until they get jobs?” There is also Planet Now, and the Daily Planet which is our daily morning live show. Actually, on Planet TV, we do 12 hours of live interactive shows every day. The channel is basically music and lifestyle for ages 18 to 35 and adults that are young at heart.
What differentiates your two morning programmes, the GMA and the Daily Planet?
On Planet TV, GMA runs from 7am to 8am while Daily Planet is from 8am to 10am. GMA hosts more adult guests on germane issues like the economy, politics, business, and technology as they relate to music and lifestyle for youth. But Daily Planet discusses less germane issues engaging the youth themselves. For example, “How soon should you start having sex in a new relationship?”
Why are you returning home at a time that many Nigerians are worried about the rising frustration level in the country?
First, I’m a Nigerian. Nigeria has taught me to be very hardworking; to do six jobs in a day; to struggle; to work for free, that is, without salary for months, without pay but only with faith. Those things which we believe are bad are actually useful when we leave the country for another where everything seems to work fine. You quickly see the opportunities that they don’t see and use them to your advantage. Most of them are lazy; they are used to most things working well. Besides, despite all the problems we have here, Nigeria is the biggest place to make money in Africa because of our population.
Having seen both worlds here and in South Africa, what is your comparative view of the average Nigerian youth?
Very intelligent. At South Africa, we work with the best of the best: facilities and personnel. But if you give the Nigerian youth the same opportunity, they will do more than that. Right now, most of our graphics still come from Nigeria. For the guys in SA, most things work well. So they are laid back and lazy. But Nigerians there are not so; they go the extra mile. You can even see it in our music too. Nigeria now exports high quality music across Africa, and all over the world.
Share with us the key points in your evolution from a cameraman to an entrepreneur.
I saw a Galaxy TV ad and joined them back in the years. Without much experience, I was employed as an editor. May God always bless Steve Ojo (owner of Galaxy TV)! He trained me vigorously in audio management, lighting, set up and everything about production which all became of great value to me in SA. For one year, I single-handedly planned, directed and produced the major early morning content for Africa Magic; the only thing I didn’t do was presenting. Everybody said Steve Ojo was using me back then but if I didn’t endure his driving me so hard, I would not have had the competence to seize the African Magic opportunity when it came.
What actually took you out to South Africa in 2002?
In 2001 I went for Sithengi Films Festival. I saw the highly advanced state of their technologies. It all attracted me to explore opportunities there. I saw real life there for the first time, real happiness and contentment for the first time. So in 2002 when I went again for Sithengi, I formed a partnership with a company there called Ministry of Illusion, representing them here in Nigeria. I’d get TV commercial production jobs here in Nigeria and take them down there for them to do. But in 2007, I left them permanently.
How really lucrative have you found this business?
No one can boast of making money now. Everybody is just working to prepare for taking advantages that will come.
How much have you personally invested in the business?
I’m not an accountant. Okay, maybe I’ll be able to tell only when I see the books.
What fun and excitement do you derive personally from this entire business?
That will be the excitement you get from seeing in real life and reality what started in your mind in your little corner as a little idea. As it makes the viewers happy, it makes me happier that they are happy with it.