•What He Told City People About His Life
Until his death a few days ago, Chief Benson Akindeju was the MD/CEO of AK Media. Before his death, the Igbotako born businessman granted City People an interview about his life.
How did you start AK Media?
I started from Grass-To-Grace. Whenever people talk of Grass-to- Grace stories I should be the one to talk about it, because I know how I first met Wale Adenuga in 1986. Then, I was working with the late Femi Robinson. He is the one who trained me in Media Marketing Communication. After I left school, I did my service and then I met Wale Adenuga in that 1986. I was working on so many things for him as a media consultant. Then later the magazine had a problem of piracy. So, we stopped the magazine around 1993 or thereabout. Then, we lost contact. I ran into problems of survival. It’s like I was nobody again. I began to struggle to take care of children, my wife and so on. I kept struggling to be able to even have a meal a day.
In 1996, he sent someone to me that they were looking for my house and they could not trace it. God somehow made me cross the road that day. I lived in Ketu. I left the house and I decided to cross the road to the other side to go and see one of my friends. That was how I ran into his younger brother, Demola Adenuga. That is the last born of his mother who happens to be my good friend. He started shouting Benson, Benson its you I am looking for. He said brother is looking for you oooo! We call Wale Adenuga brother. He said its very urgent. So, I told him tomorrow I will come to Ejigbo. That was how I met with him. That is the 2nd coming, after leaving him for about 2 to 3 years. I met with him again in 1996. He said he has started Face-To-Face and that he does not know anything about Media Marketing and since that was my area, he thinks we should work together since we have been together for many years. That was how we started.
I started work on Face-To-Face and I promised him that I will take the programme everywhere. Today, it is the most circulated TV drama. We then started Super Story, and others. That was how I started. So, I will say it’s from Grass-To-Grace. But I thank God, he has taken me to where I am today. I left there in 2005 to start AK Media.
How did AK Media start?
We started AK Media in a small place in Ketu. It was a room and a parlour in a shopping complex. After a while, God helped us, we moved to Anthony area into a 4 bedroom flat in Anthony. We were there, then God helped us to move to this area Wasimi in Maryland, where we got a duplex and then we built our place. Thats the growth pattern.
At the time you started Ak Media what was the vision behind it?
It was purely to do comedy programmes because I love comedy. When I was with Wale Adenuga, a lot of people called me Papa Ajasco because he has big tummy and I love the programme so much. I watch comedy a lot because it helps to reduce tension.
So, when I established AK Media somebody came to me to sell an idea of programme to me. Face-To-Face. I now asked him to give me a copy of what he has. When I now looked at it, I discovered that it does not meet the standard of what I am looking for. But the name Face-To-Face is what I just like. I now brought the name and not the concept. But I like the name. I want to do something that will encompass a community, a home community, I paid N1.5 million to buy the name and I paid 3 times. We now established the programme Face-To-Face. Till tomorrow we are still producing Face-To-Face which gave us a lot of name, before others like Family Ties, No Where To be Found and the rest.
How many do you have now?
We have 4 dramas in our stable now. We just came out with Liberty Villa. That is our latest sitcom drama. We have a talk show like Oyinmomo. We are also planning to have AKB Show.
Your area of specialisation in your career has always been Marketing. Why Marketing?
My speciality is Marketing. I read Marketing. At the beginning of my working career, I started as a Marketing person. In those days, when we used to do correspondent courses I did National School Of Salesmanship where you will sit in your office and register for the course. I also graduated with FCCI, its like ICAN. I did that too and I qualified. I have all my papers.
That is what qualified me to work with Volkswagen of Nigeria as a Sales Executive. It was later I left to go back to school. After that, I went into Media. So Marketing, has been my core business.
In those days when we used to sell Volkswagen Beetle I used to be one of the best salesmen. Our slogan then was You can’t Kill The Beetle. At that time, they used to give out car loans. Nigeria was good then. At that time, once you are a graduate you get a car loan after working for 3 to 5 months. We were the vendors then. They called us vendors. We would help you fill your forms and we would convince you to buy the Beetle or Passat. We also had the salesmen for Peugeot at that time competing with us.
We were being encouraged by Volkswagen of Nigeria to really move the product. I happened to be a very strong marketing person as at that time. So, marketing has been my line from the beginning.
When you look at what you have been able to achieve over the years how does it make you feel?
Its just God. I give glory to Almighty God because it’s not just by my making, it’s by Almighty God. Like I explained, I started from a rough background, as somebody who is nobody and here you are today. It gives me a lot of joy because I never expected that I could be what I am today. So, I give glory to Almighty God and I feel on top of the world each time I remember how I started, how I moved around Lagos, even when I was a salesman. How you trek around town and your shoes get condemned within 3 months. The sole of your shoes will wear out. There was a period I didn’t have shoes at all. I was wearing slippers.
So, when not too long ago, I looked at my shelf and I realised that I have over 30 pairs of shoes or more than that, in fact, I had to throw some bad ones away. It was so bad that there was a time when one of my friends wanted to have his wedding and wanted me to be the MC of the event. In those days, I used to do MC, but I didn’t have any shoe to wear. I only had slippers I told him a lot of lies. I could not tell him the truth. He said No you have to come ooo, I am also celebrating my 50th at the same time, its going to be a 2-in-1 event. I was living in Ketu then. I had a bad shoe that I had patched before. I gave shoemaker to repair. On getting there, on that Saturday morning of the event, he did not open. I wanted to faint. I went to the next building to tell the person I saw that I will break down the door of this guy’s shop. I began to cry. I was mad, angry. They said he has not opened since yesterday. I went back home to tell my late wife what had happened. I asked her what I can do. She then suggested to me why don’t you tell the man that you cannot make it because you are not ok. I said No. I can’t tell him that after begging me to come.
So, what did you do?
I got someone in my house who has a car to take me with my slippers. The man wanted to see me because of the love he has for me. So the man took me in his car in Ikotun. I was in slippers, rubber slippers. By the time I got there they had started the programme. They asked me: What is the problem now? Why did you come late. I told them there are so many things I need to tell you that I can’t tell you now. I had to lie to the man that my shoe got bad when we were struggling with somebody on our way there. He said it does not matter come and continue. With my slippers I anchored that programme.
When I look at that kind of life and what I have been through I give glory to God and I have the fear of Almighty God that if God can do it, then there is certainly nothing that God cannot do.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in my home town in Igbotako, Ondo State. When I was in Primary School, I was one of the best students in the class. Then, I started
I came to Lagos when I was 17 years old. My part time course was 3 years. I left home when I was 17 years old and came to Lagos. I worked in the Ministry as a Messenger and we were doing part time courses like National Course in Salesmanship, London Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Those were the professional courses you had at that time like ICAN now. After I finished in secondary, the courses helped me to work as a Marketing person. That is how I started my marketing career.
What’s your plan for AK Media?
My plan for AK Media is to continue to be a Content broadcaster, where I will be producing content for broadcasters use. By the grace of God, we have a landed property in Ikorodu now where we plan to build a film village. Before the end of this year, we would start off properly. We have a hotel in Ikorodu already and the land for the film village is opposite the hotel. The hotel is called Big Soul Hotel and Gardens. We also have it in Ondo State. That is the only hotel in my town Igbotako, in Ondo State. It is very big. The one in Lagos is the one I used as my location because it is important that I must have a location.
Before I built the place, I used to spend about N2 million to get a hotel, for my artistes and crew members. As God will have it, we started a place like that and we completed it. Its almost an acre of land. Our new film village is going to be built on about 3 plots of land.
So, you have a lot of appreciation to make to Mr. Wale Adenuga for giving you a headstart in life…
Oh, yes. Mr Wale Adenuga is my role model. He has impacted in my life. He is time conscious. He is very disciplined when it comes to his work. He used to borrow money at that time to pay salary.
He used to go to his best friend then, one Mr. Tunde Lawal, in V.I. That was before we broke even. I thank Mr. Wale Adenuga for so many things he did in my life. How he changed my life. In our industry Wale Adenuga is still number one. He is a very disciplined person. You have to work. No story. Even if you are sick, he doesn’t want to hear you are sick, you have to work.
Once, he asked me to go to Ghana because I handled all the international businesses. He said our money is in Ghana, go and get it and they were to pay us about 15,000 dollars. He said Benson come and go, you are the only one who can go. That night, I fell seriously sick. I knew I must not tell my Oga that I was sick. They rushed me to the hospital. I had to call one of my boys. He is my P.A.
He went to Metro TV for me, I gave him a note. I called the man there. So, he went and I begged him to be careful. I was in the hospital, I had to put off my phone because I didn’t want him to know I am in Lagos. He must not hear. I was in the hospital for about 3 days.
The guy came back, gave me the money and I took it to my Oga the next day, early in the morning. He didn’t know I was sick. He works hard. That is the secret of his success. I won’t deceive you.
Although, that time that I was sick I managed to go to the office everyday. He has really trained me about so many things. He is somebody who respects Time a lot. When you say 10am it is 10am. He doesn’t procrastinate. If something is for today it is better done today.
What is your succes secret?
I will say its Hardwork. My landmark is there in Wale Adenuga Production. I know what it took me to get Unilever to sponsor Superstory. At that time wherever my Oga calls and I am in the bathroom, I will rush to carry his call. He does not want to hear that I called you and you didn’t pick. Those are the secrets. You must really be proactive in anything you are doing. That is the secret. Whatever you are doing, do it very well and be sincere with it.