Kenny Osude is the owner of Broadway, a one-stop event planning outfit that handled Chief (Mrs.) H. I. D. Awolowo’s 11-day carnival-like burial.
Though Mr. Osude refused to tell ENCOMIUM Weekly the precise amount spent in planning the extensive and elaborate event, he said he gave Mama the best money can buy.
Tell us who is behind Broadway Funeral?
My name is Kenny Osude. I am from Ijebu Remo, Ogun State.
How did you win this HID Awolowo burial contract?
I have been the Awolowo’s official event planner probably in the last five years. When I started this business in 2009, my father introduced me to Mama HID. From there, she took interest in me. That was how the whole relationship started. We covered her 95th or 96th birthday..
What were you doing before then?
I was in the UK. I relocated to the country in 2009. That was when I started the business.
Is that what you were doing in UK? I mean, funeral service.
No, no, no, I was into real estate in the UK.
How then did you come into funeral business?
This is my calling. I was tired of living in the UK and I wanted to come back to Nigeria but to do what? I found out there were very few companies in Nigeria doing a one-stop event shop, where you make it easy for your client to come into one building to do the whole transaction covering all aspects of the event. That’s where the idea came from.
You can come in here (his office at Maryland, Lagos) and leave all your problems as it concerns the event, for us to solve and you go back home to relax. That is exactly what we did in the case of Mama HID Awolowo burial.
Was Mama’s burial the biggest event you ever handled?
Oh yes. Like I said, we handled some of her birthday. We’ve handled a whole lot of jobs. I think we are the first company to introduce the horse carriage to this business.
What would you say informed such an idea?
When I started this business, I introduced a whole lot of things. When I came in, there were the likes of Ebony, MIC. They were the big boys in the business. I thought to myself if I was going to come into this business, I don’t want to be down there for so long before I get the recognition. I tried to introduce the waoh! factor, where people say waoh! Who are these people? That was why we introduced a whole lot of new things.
To God be the glory that is exactly what has been happening. We’ve handled jobs for the Sonariwos, the Awujales, Baba Ijebu (Chief Kessingon Adebutu).
Were you the one that handled his 80th birthday?
No. We handled some burial for him in the past. We worked a lot in the South East of Nigeria. We also handled part of Yar’Adua’s daughter’s wedding to Yuguda, former governor of Bauchi State. We worked a lot in the Presidency as well. We’ve done quite a lot of big jobs. We just decided to do our own thing without making any noise. I prefer my job to speak for me. I was very close to Mama.
(Cuts in) Were you also part of the planning committee of her centenary birthday anniversary?
Oh yes, I was part of the planning committee. That was the last meeting we had.
So, you were at Ikenne that Sunday when Mama died?
Oh yes, I was at the meeting. Actually, her daughter, Rev. Oyediran asked me if I had gotten my own Ankara for the centenary celebration. I said no, that I would dash down to the ATM to get some money to buy my own aso ebi.
On getting back to the house (Awolowo house, Ikenne), Mrs. Oyediran told me to quickly get an ambulance that Mama is gone. I said Mama, gone where? She said Mama is dead. So, the centenary preparation now turned to funeral preparation. So, it was easy for me to be incorporated into the funeral planning committee. I also became a member of the burial committee as well and everything started happening.
Anytime I visited Mama, she would ask me, do you have any job in Ikenne this weekend? I would tell her, we are burying this person or that person. She would jokingly say make sure you plan my own (funeral) very well. And I would reply, Olorun a tubo je ke pe fun wa (God would prolong your life). Usually, she would say Amen. But on one occasion, she didn’t say Amen to that prayer. I repeated that prayer, she said people of her age don’t say Amen to that prayer anymore.
For me, I went all out to give Mama the best because I believed that is what she deserved. I saw it as a privilege working for Mama. It wasn’t about the monetary aspect of it. I adored her a lot because the first time my father introduced me to her, she took me like a son. Sometimes she would personally call me.
People believe that you must have been paid millions for what you have done. Are you now saying you were not paid at all?
Put it this way, I would be lying to say I didn’t get paid for what I did. I got paid for it. The money wasn’t the driving force for giving Mama the best. I would tell you authoritatively, if I was to handle this project for somebody else, I would have charged between N50m to N100m considering all that was involved. We covered the whole event starting from Lagos, Ibadan to Ikenne. I handled not just the burial, I did all the decorations. I supplied all the tents, all the marquees.
Did you supply the coffin too?
Yeah. I awarded the contract for the coffin. Somebody got the coffin for me.
Certainly, that coffin did not come from Nigeria?
No. It came from USA.
Is it made of gold as some people claimed?
It is 24-karat gold plated. When Mama died, I quickly went on internet knowing full well and having spoken to her daughters they expressively gave me their approval.
How much did it cost to bring the coffin to Nigeria?
I think it would not be right for me to disclose the cost of the coffin. I don’t want to do that. I gave it to a funeral home. That is where the TOS Funeral came in. I gave Mrs. Ogunsola (TOS Funeral owner) the contract to get the casket and she did.
Aside getting the casket, did she also participate in the burial arrangement?
Because I don’t want to be seen as a greedy person, I decided to bring in some of my colleagues. She (Mrs. Ogunsola of TOS) covered the first day from her facility to the Awolowos home in Apapa and also to Ibadan. She handed over to me in Sagamu and I handled the rest of the event.
How much did it take you to handle the whole thing now?
In monetary terms?
I would leave that to TOS to tell the whole world what she collected. It would not be nice to say how much she collected. Two, the Awolowo family too might not want to tell the whole world how much it cost them to organize the burial. It might not be nice to them. All I can say is that, I gave Mama the best money can buy. We didn’t cut corners in anyway. We went for the best of the best.
All the expensive lace she wore lying in state, were they supplied by your company too?
They were hers. I am sure she picked them out by herself for that purpose.
Mama being a good planner that she was had actually planned her own funeral for sometime. She had planned all these. She even told the children that her burial is not just for them. It is for the whole Yoruba race. It was all well planned out.
The horse carriage you used in carrying Mama’s coffin was very unique. Is it part of your regular burial arrangement or it was just done for Mama alone?
It is part of the new ideas that I introduced into the business. It is something that is often used in the UK and USA. I decided to come up with the idea of doing this same thing in Nigeria.
Are you the one that is maintaining those horses?
Yes, it is part of what we have too. Initially, we were taking horses from Polo Club, Ikoyi, Lagos, until we decided to get our own horses.
Averagely, how much would it cost to do funeral alone with your organization?
We are one of the best right now but we are also the most affordable. With me right now, it is not really about making a lot of money but getting people to appreciate what we do and the way we do it. Like I said, we want to create that waoh factor. Whatever we do we want people to say waoh!
Even with the waoh factor, what is the average cost of doing funeral business with you?
Averagely, in Lagos where they do one day service, it’s less than in other states where they spend two or more days before the final burial. In such states, the average cost is N350,000.
When you combine the funeral with other things like the tents, etc., what would be the average cost?
Anything between N5 million upward if it is to be a well planned top event. Really, it depends on what he client or customer wants.
Which event would you say is the biggest that you’ve handled so far?
This one Mama HID Awolowo.
And probably the longest?
Yes, the biggest and the longest. It took me 11 days of hard work. Because I was really out to give Mama the best.
What exactly did you study?
Here in Nigeria or abroad?
Here and abroad.
Where did you study in Nigeria?
Yaba College of Technology.
Where did you study abroad?
How old are you?
I am approaching 50 next year.