Some weeks ago, Lagos Big Boy, Femi Aderibigbe, popularly known as Kwame celebrated his 50th birthday. It was at the swimming pool side in his house. As the C.E.O of Virtual Media Network, he has made great impacts with the evolving of his popular Nigezie TV, Orisun TV, and Prime TV. Kwame started off his creative expertise as a rapper and dancer, but in 1995, he joined the media working in OGBC before he moved to Star FM. Last week, he spoke with City People’s Publisher, Seye Kehinde, and Kwame revealed a lot about his life and works. He also talked extensively on the effect of the present generation Z and how his media outlets tend to serve their unending demands. Below are the excerpts of the interview;
How do you feel when you clocked 50?
Well, for me, I think it is just a number like 20, 30, 40, and 50. When we were much younger, we used to look at people who were 40-50 as if they were just a quarter to the grave. We held a lot of respect for them. I thank God for good health and life, I don’t think it is anything special, but I am grateful to have attained it. I woke up that morning and my thought was like, I did not feel any different because I use to think that when you get to 50 you become golden or a lot slower, but I can still move my limbs and move everywhere.
With your experience through the years, what has life taught you?
Most things won’t go as planned, people will disappoint you, there are good and bad days and mostly, the person you can rely on most sometimes is yourself. There are people that can pop into my head at this point and the fact is that persistence is the key. If you keep doing the same thing repeatedly, the universe will rely on it and make a way for you. There are some things I have pushed for 20 years and they are just coming through now. I have learnt not to be in a crazy rush, I have also learnt that life is about phases and processes. Like someone explained, one man can impregnate 9 women and they will give birth after 9 months but 9 women cannot give birth to 1 baby in 1 month. So, it is a process thing, a woman has to spend 9 months incubating a baby before it can come to a full-grown baby. I have learnt to respect and appreciate processes, I used to be very impatient, over passionate, overdriven and I used to push people to the wall because I always wanted things immediately, so I have learnt to take things a bit easier.
Looking back, will you say you have been able to achieve all your set goals with where you are now?
I wouldn’t say I have been able to achieve all that I set out to achieve. The basic reason for that is not lack of effort, but it is because every day when I wake up, I have a whole new set of things I want to achieve. Every information I get about new possibilities, I recalibrate my expectations and visions. Sometimes, I think I have got past something that I thought that I want to achieve and I am still far away from some that I hope to achieve. It is a never-ending journey and we do as much as we can for as long as we can.
Business-wise, how has it been for you?
As I have said, there are good days and bad days, Nigeria will humble you. It humbled a whole Dangote and Otedola and the rest of them. These are super savvy business people who we look up to. They woke up one morning and realised that the money devalued and they were a lot poorer in the committee of nations than when they went to sleep. There are many factors that will humble you no matter your intention, how you plan yourself. There are some external forces such as the exchange rate, government policy and regulations, technology, so many things combined that will sometimes uplift you and sometimes bring you down I think it’s just focus and persistence. We just have to keep moving on no matter what.
Talking about your businesses, tell us how big the empire is now?
I don’t know if it’s an empire because there are investors reading this. It’s not an empire. We are trying our best to grow so we are growing. We have about 4 TV channels and we are hoping to do more, so there is growth in that direction. We also have to understand that Linear TV, which is your Terrestrial TV, NTA, Star Times and DSTV are shrinking every day. The generation Z that is coming up do videos on demand. They are not into live TV that much. My kids don’t watch TV, they are either playing video games or watching a series on Netflix or something on YouTube that’s how they consume their own media, so we have to look for a way to transit beyond where we are.
How do you plan to serve Generation Z?
The first screen for the Generation Z is the mobile phone. When we were growing up, our first screen was the television, so even Netflix, ShowMax and the rest are from the television. These kids want their media on the go, so any serious contender in that space has to look for a way to plug into that vast and ever-expanding territory or else you will be left out. But we are working towards that direction and we are trying to create that atmosphere and brand. It takes you bringing your experience from the past and then working with young people in the present.
How did your nickname ‘’KWAME’’ come in to stay?
It is a Ghanaian name for those born on a Saturday and my 50th birthday fell on a Saturday and I came to understand that every single day from January 1st to December 31st in 1971 was exactly the same date in 2021, so if January 1st was Saturday in 1971, it is the same in 2021. It is as if they just lapped and flipped. I was reading “Children of Ananse’’ back then in Secondary School, I think Kosi was Sunday, Kofi was Friday and Kojo was Thursday. So when I saw it, I picked it. There was also an American rapper called Kwame Romen, we all liked his music and I patterned myself along that. So, it just went from there, I made it represent my creative essence, so I distilled my creative essence and gave it the brand name Kwame so that Femi Aderibigbe can be this quiet unassuming guy that is in one corner.
How have you been able to differentiate between ‘’Kwame’’ and Femi Aderigbe?
It has helped me a lot to a reasonable extent because I don’t think you see me at many parties or events. I live mostly in my head. I am either at home with my kids, watching TV, grading something at the office, or at a meeting. It’s just now that I turned 50 that I may go out more because from 30 I kept working like a mad man, so now except friends take me out, I don’t know where to go.
How did working at the entertainment industry start for you?
Libras are some of the most creative people in the world. The late Abami Ede, DJ Jimmy Jat, MI and so many others, so they are a lot deep in creativity. I started out rapping at an early age; I was the social prefect in my secondary school days. That was Methodist Grammar School in Ibadan. When I got to Ogun State University, I became a rapper, dancer and one of the biggest MCs in school. I went for my NYSC, I came back and started doing adverts for radio presenters and DJ’s at OGBC. I did some section ideas for BCOS, OSRC Akure and after a while, I went on to audition for OGBC, which took me a year and 5 auditions before Busayo Olaifa allowed me do some behind the microphone jobs then I went to Star FM to start something on TV. I was just looking for something to express my creativity.
What is your advice for the young people who aspire to be like Wale and the rest?
It is not all fun and games, they think it’s fun and games because they see the glitz and glam, they see the razzmatazz, red carpet, cars and houses. There is a lot of disappointments, there is a lot of pain, just like any other profession, but this is more amplified because you are in the public eye. Be sure that this is what you want to do because when things don’t work the way you want, you would keep persisting because you know there is no plan B. Be sure that you have the skills and talent because you can know people to get you in because they can get you in, but they cannot keep you in if you want to be an on-air personality. The third one is, always try to build your network of people around you. This will help you along the way. Build strong connections and the rest is that the universe will align to help you. You can only do your own part, but the universe has to do its part to bring people and resources for you to achieve what you want.
With all the challenges you faced in your career, what gave you the inner strength to make you continue?
I think I was one of those voted most unlikely to succeed in my family because I was the unserious one. I was the one with a lot of fears. Being afraid of shadows and the dark had self-esteem issues and all of that. During my service year, I was in Niger state Kagara I think that was where those children were kidnapped eventually. It was there I was alone for the first time in my life, I learnt to face my fears, so I was more like if I can survive in this place, I can survive anywhere. I was in the middle of adversity just leaving the South-West and for the first time and nobody spoke my language and all of that, so when I got back, I put many things I learnt there into practice. As I went along, I discovered that those who really made a difference in life were not those who were jumping from pillar to post, but were, people who kept at doing something and they made something out of it. So, I was determined that this thing I was doing, I was going to keep hitting my head against the wall, it’s either my head breaks or the wall breaks and that has been my focus all these years.
How do you balance work and family?
When I hear that question I feel you can never balance the two. Sometimes, you say to yourself I can’t go out, I need to take my kids out or hang out with the family and you have something out there, so it’s just like that. Earlier in the marriage, there would be fights, but you are a media man and you understand that it is a monster and you need to keep feeding it. Especially when the partner is not within that space in the beginning, they will have issues, but as time unfolds, they become used to it and you would also have some time in your hands because you now have a team and people working for you, so you can delegate some things, so you have more time and it becomes a lot easier. But in the earlier stages, it was more like “gbas gbos’’.