‘I Never Worked For Anybody, Not One Single Person’
In the business of broadcasting in the country, Tajudeen Adepetu is a household name. A graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Jos, the Managing Director of Consolidated Media Associates has been described as the Ted Turner of Nigeria, with eight channels under his group. A respected TV soap executive producer, he has been a top industry player in the entertainment scene for over a decade. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, Adepetu, who is widely regarded as ‘behind the scenes’ man, spoke on his brands and journey into the world of broadcasting.
Could you recall your childhood?
I grew up with my grandmother and I was very close with that woman in Jos; I grew up in Jos, Plateau State, but I’m from Osun State. Now, my grandmother was such a woman that had an effective way of teaching; you will have to do certain things. My grandmother will never raise her hands to beat you if you do any wrong, but I discovered that she had an effective way of teaching; she’s the type that will talk you down until you were able to see reasons. So, for me, being able to point out difference between right and wrong was very important. Her influence in my life defined who I was at one particular point in my life.
How did you get in contact with television?
Well, my sister started working for NTA and when they take us from school, they would go round to NTA to pick her up and I would end up waiting for her to finish work and wander around NTA Jos; that was how I got bitten by the bug. At that time, I was still in primary school, maybe around age 10. So, I had that contact with television very early.
Could you remember your first camera?
Yes, I remember that camera very well, but interestingly, there’s the story of the first still camera and the story of the first video camera. I suspect that while I was growing up, between the age of 10 and 15, my mother had noticed that I liked media. The present I go for one of my birthdays around that time was a Lomo camera; those ones that have one lese up one down. She bought that for me and I would shoot anything that is shoo table and get it developed. Thinking back at it now, that must have exposed me to motion picture photography and telling stories.
And your first video camera?
My first video camera came about a long time into my professional life; that was when I wanted to start the Weekend Television brand and I had to get it. I don’t want to tell the story now because, it annoys me to remember whom I got it from and the fact that the camera never really did an honest day work; it was always failing and I paid for it.
How did it happen?
You know those kinds of things that you buy and you give upfront money and then you start using. From the first day, it doesn’t work well and you tried to return it, the person would not collect it and you are forced to pay the full amount. If I remember that, it pains me, but my consolation is that when the person sees me today, he calls me aburo, trying to be friendly. I don’t keep malice, but there are some things that older people do to you when you are young, which they know that they shouldn’t do, they stick to you. You don’t hate them and not that you’ve forgiven them though; you rather they just let you live your life and not necessarily have to bring themselves around you.
How was your working experience before you started your own?
I never worked for anybody, not one single person. I went to TV College Jos, went to University of Jos to study Theatre Arts. I did film, did some short courses here and there and then launched on my own.
Was it deliberate that you didn’t take up any paid employment?
The only reason why I didn’t work for anybody is not because of any ego, but because there was just nobody thinking the way I was thinking at that time. So, I knew that if I had gone to work for anybody, they wouldn’t understand where I was coming from and where I’m going to and that could create a lot of conflict. So, I decided I was going to do things my way. It has been extremely difficult, but I’ve managed to pull through.
Who funded your education?
There was a father at one particular point before he died and then through the university years, there was occasional entrepreneurial thriving; you do one business here, made some money here and there. I did quite a lot of radio jingles over 25 years ago; I did enormous amount of radio jingles for most of the radio stations up north. So, I made some money there even before I got to Lagos; all of those kinds of small business made me have some money to do one or two things.
How was starting up like?
We started with a general entertainment brand called Weekend Television, where we had blocks of programming on AIT from Monday to Sunday for three hours. In those blocks of programming, we had various kinds of programmes; we had music, series and loads of other kinds of stuffs. This was about 12 years ago, at the beginning of AIT; we started AIT together. The first day AIT launched, it was primarily 40 per cent of our programmes that was running on AIT at that time, so, we’ve been around. We were able to work with them because, they were the only people, at that time, that understood where we want to go as television professionals. Chief Raymond Dokpesi, I would say, is one of the few people that understood television and the type of content you should put on TV to drive the channel.
Could you tell us about Consolidated Media Associates?
CMA is actually a group; we have eight channels. We have the Tribe Movie Channel, Spice Tv fashion channel, we have the ONTV general entertainment channel and we have the ONTV Max focused towards the father of the house. We have Access 24, which is a news channel. By the time people see it, they will understand what we are doing; it’s a channel that the man of the house will feel comfortable watching with his child, being able to talk about the development of the child. We have the Televista Series channel and Urban 96 lifestyle channel. The only difference between Urban 96 and Soundcity Music is that Soundcity is a music channel, while Urban 96 is a lifestyle channel and it’s only available on mobile.
Would you not have accommodated all of these on a 24 hours broadcast station?
I need you to understand broadcasting; broadcasting today is not the broadcasting of yesterday. Broadcasting of yesterday is where you have everything on a general entertainment channel; be it NTA, STV, AIT etc, they are all general entertainment channels. Today’s broadcasting is targeted; there’s nothing like general anymore. You need to meet people at the point of their needs and that’s what we try to do as a company; we try to meet our viewers and listeners at the point of their need.
It seems you saw opportunities where many did not?
Look, I tell you the truth, I really don’t know and I cannot say. From Television College, I knew this was what I was going to do. So, it was very easy for me to focus on that route; I knew for a fact that I wanted to do this. The only part of what I’m doing now that I never thought about when I was at the television college is the fact that I wanted to do a kiddies channel. But I can’t have a kiddies channel now because, we have eight channels that demands too much of our time. As a company, we just can’t expand anymore; we just have to consolidate on what we have and keep improving.
How many staff do you have working in the organisation?
I have 248 people working with me and we are going to take four more people this year and that’s all we are going to take. We are going to have 252 people working for the whole organisation.
Has it been lucrative or is this all about passion?
First, the idea to sustain a company is driven by passion, but there’s a clear economic direction for us that we will not do stuff that will not pay itself to run. So, we will not do a channel that will not run itself; we will always do a channel because we know that channel is sort after.
Do you feel rewarded?
See, everyday, I’m happy. Why am I happy? I’m happy when I see people talk about our brands and what the channels have done to their lives; that’s my reward. My reward is being able to provide; I see myself as a missionary and that’s the gospel truth. I see myself as being able to provide for people; that makes me very happy. When an upcoming artistes is able to record something and I’m able to guide that person verbally or with little money, and they are able to make great videos and I’m able to put it on my platform and people likes it to the extent that the artiste changes from somebody that does not have work to being a millionaire, that’s my happiness.
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