Print media can never die, he assures
Ovation International started its journey 20 years ago. They are proud to celebrate two decades of robust journalism and still relevant in the market.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with the publisher, Chief Dele Momodu on their 20th anniversary, state of the nation and sundry issues.
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Ovation International?
I must say, if it will not sound like a cliché, that God has been very kind to us. You are in the media business and you know how very difficult it is globally. For various reasons, one of them attributed to the advent and majestic domination of the environment by the social media. Now, it is news on the go. The idea of journalism was history on the run. So, history, you have to wait for many years.
Journalism came to counter that. Journalism made history on the run. The traditional media will have to struggle to catch up with the socio-media. As such, any media organization that wants to remain relevant must quickly and urgently embrace the socio-media.
We also tried to reinvent ourselves all the time, make sure that it is a magazine that you cannot ignore. We also succeeded in building a global brand. When we started, we were in exile and at that time politics was all over the air but it metamorphosed into a lifestyle magazine, mirroring the lifestyle of the rich and famous achievers. People were comfortable with us. We were the lifestyle magazine for President Jonathan daughter’s wedding. We had a special edition for them. It was a result of our credibility. The former president and I were not best of friends, we were not enemies either. Everyone is comfortable to talk to me. When Diezani wanted to talk, people criticized me but that is my job. I thank God that we are 20 years old I believe we are just starting. We have not gone up to 30 percent of what I dreamt of. We are just starting. The first 20 years was for us to build a brand that will outlive us.
Can you tell us some of your achievement in 20 years?
The first is that, before Ovation, the narrative about Africa used to be totally negative. If you pick up any magazine about Africa, Africa was still the Dark Continent. I remember when I got to Ghana, the impression was Nigerians were drug barons, fraudsters. There was not a single Nigerian bank doing business in Ghana. Everything was local and localized.
When Ovation came, we changed that. We told them we had the likes of Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Jm Ovia, Hakeem Bello and so many of them doing great things. We have many medical doctors doing well abroad. We were able to showcase their success stories. We reported Africa to Africans. We were uniting Africans. Now, if Asuma Banda comes to Lagos, people will recognize him. That was a major achievement.
We were able to promote the business of fashion to a different level and dimension. Before Ovation, people who wanted to marry will have to travel to London or Paris to buy wedding gowns, but when Ovation started writing about the Ade Bakares, Adebayo Jones, Koshiba Creation and all of them, Nigerians began to believe in our indigenous designers. We brought Senegalese fashion here.
Then, the local tailors, Ovation became their catalogue. People were able to take a copy of Ovation to their tailors to make clothes for them.
We went beyond that and became a magazine people consulted. When Dubai was to be marketed to Nigeria, the British trade partners sponsored Ovation to go to Dubai. We took some of the most incredible pictures ever and changed See Paris and Die to see Dubai and Die that caused a revolution. There was boom in tourism to Dubai through Ovation. We were also going all over Africa. It was an interesting trip for us. We spoke with rebel leaders in Sierra Leone. I became a Chief in Liberia because of my promotion of peace in that troubled spot.
Can you recollect the greatest challenge you have had to combat in your 20 years of existence?
It is funding. I will call the media the ultimate casino (kalo kalo). A media project is not something you can do your projection for well. Media is sustained by advert. In Nigeria, getting advert is not about how successful you are but the people you know.
Do you have people you groomed in the last 20 years that you are proud of?
Yes, definitely. I always say that a successful man without a successor is a useless man. There are many people out there who can proudly say I once worked with this man. I have a lot of them.
Since Ovation is already international, what is the next step?
I hope that we can make it stronger. One of my dreams was to have Ovation America. We had started experimenting with it but immediately the man behind the project and one of the people I will say we groomed, Tosan Aduaye is doing his own thing now. We have not been able to get someone who is that passionate. We had Laolu Akande but he is now working with the Vice President.
Our French version which we started 10 years ago is not strong enough. I hope we will be able to develop it. It is all about funding and getting the right people.
What inspired The Boss?
I conceptualized The Boss long ago. I have always wanted to do a newspaper but unfortunately, the media started nose-diving. I couldn’t find the courage or money to do it.
A lot of people criticized the Diezani story, they saw her response as an avenue for people to sympathize with her. What can you say about it?
The work of a journalist is to speak to news makers, Diezani today is one of the biggest news makers in Nigeria. When I heard she was arrested in London, I made a few contacts and was able to speak to her.
The Diezani’s story was a fantastic story. I had to use my iPhone to take her picture. They said I did photoshop, such insult. If you know your onion, you will never mind the crowd in the market place. You will concentrate on what you have to do. That is what I did.
Have you heard from her since then?
No! The only time we spoke was when Sahara Reporters wrote that her family was fighting me. She called to apologize that there was nothing of sort. She said, there were things I wrote that she was not comfortable about though.
It seems as if the print media will go into extinction. Do you see that happening?
I personally don’t’ think the print media will die. It is just that media houses should be more creative. Those of us into entertainment are lucky because we are largely pictorial. Pictures don’t go stale. If you are creative and you get very good stories, you will move forward.
Immediately we attend event, we post it online. Once people see it on my instagram page, they are looking forward to buying the print when it comes out. For Ovation, I don’t see it going into oblivion.
Are you still nursing a political ambition?
Every human being must aspire. One thing I know for sure is ambition never dies. Otherwise a resilient Buhari wouldn’t be President today. He nursed his ambition, started contesting for years and today he is president. From my own experience, I am very doubtful. Nigeria is too complex and complicated.
I don’t have money to spend. The other thing is the ethnicity of politics in Nigeria. Everything is tribal. Another thing I have discovered is that you need to be in a mainstream party and I am not. It is almost impossible to run as an independent candidate. When Buhari was elected into office, what were your expectations from him?
What I expected from him immediately was for him to see how he could unify the country. Without peace, there can be no progress. I expected that he will fight corruption but institutionally, I expected him to draw the line and punish whoever. I expected that he would try to trace all the stolen funds wherever they are hidden. Trace, locate and confiscate.
Do it without a lot of noise making. The most important responsibility of a leader is to build a solid economy, then a solid structure.
My advice to the President is, fight corruption, institutionally; strengthen the police, the judiciary; make sure people cannot accuse you of being one-sided. Set some set of rules for all Nigerians whether they are in your party or in opposition. If you do that, it will be difficult for people to accuse him of witch hunting them.
Security too needs attention. He is an expert in that area. He is trying his best. We can see that Boko Haram has gone down. If he can do some of these things, he will be one of the greatest presidents of his time. By the time he is celebrating his first anniversary, he will have a stock taking and will work on other areas too. He just needs the will to resist those who lie to government because there are liars everywhere. If he can find out the true situation of things, he would be able to work on other areas.
Do you support deregulation and removal of fuel subsidy?
Nigeria is in a mess. The reality and the truth is that, if you are broke, you are broke. The country is broke. What I expect from the government is that they should come clean, tell Nigerians, sorry we are broke. We have to go through some sufferings in the next few years. We are going to hands off the issue of petrol and deregulate. Two things will be achieved. There will be competition. Some will sell higher and lower. It will bring some pain but the dust will settle eventually.
How long will it take for Nigeria to get there?
It will not be too long. It is about the will for the government to do what they ought to do. It is about the will of the President. Ghana is developing every day. It will not take forever. Ghana went through serious electricity crisis and they are fixing it. It can be done, but do we want to do it? It can be done.