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I have no control over the attention I get – Ninalowo Bolanle

Ninalowo Bolanle is a talented and an award-winning Nollywood thespian.  Spotlight Africa Magazine spoke with him about his family, faith, social media marketing, relationship with fans as well as philosophy. 

As an actor in both TVC series and home videos, which do you prefer?

I don’t actually prefer one over the other because they all have their purposes in line with their career.

Why are you more dominant in Yoruba movies, though you started out as an English actor? 

Well, I’m in the business of acting and I’m here for business. Positioning is very key in everything I do. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing. I pretty much market myself and by the grace of God, I see how I can position myself. I still do a lot of English films. I have a lot of English films out there. There’s actually a balance between the two of them. However, my career is driven by faith and God, so whatever you see me doing is what I’m blessed to be doing. I have a blueprint of where I want to be, you know, which has been stated in place to God. And everything He does for me goes in that direction.

You just talked about your faith in God, but I read one of your interviews that you don’t attend church. Why is that? 

I didn’t say I don’t attend church. I said I haven’t been to a church.

Why?

I haven’t had the opportunity to do that.

How? 

There are churches around. Yeah, but I haven’t had the opportunity to say I’m going to church and to pick a church.

Are you that busy?

For me, I’m very spiritual but not religious.  I don’t believe in going to church to get answers to prayer. As prominent as I am in the industry today, I pray in my room.

When it comes to romantic scenes, how far would you go?

I think I’ve gone as far as I can ever go in films.

And that’s what?

Whatever you think you’ve seen. I haven’t seen all your movies so I can’t say what you do I can’t do more than you’ve already seen.

Can you act nude?

No, I cannot.

Do you allow your children to see your movies?

Yeah, they do all the time. They are my biggest fans.

How do they react to your celebrity status?

Well, my kids are very well grounded. So they are comfortable with it. Oh yeah.

Would you allow any of them to act?

Oh absolutely. 

Have you reconciled with your wife? 

Do you think I have?

That’s why I’m asking.

That’s a wrong question. I think you already know the answer to that.

Ok. So have you?

I have reconciled with my wife.

What has your relationship been like after the reconciliation?

I wouldn’t discuss about my wife. That ended at that reconciliation. Whenever you see me talk about my wife on my private page is what you can get, but you wouldn’t get anything about my wife from me.

You are handsome. How do you keep ladies at bay?

I’m a much focused person. I have no control over the attention I get, but I have control over my response to it and my response to it is i just keep doing what i have to do which is work and i don’t pay no attention to that angle of my career. I don’t womanise.

Why the career shift from banking to acting?

Somebody owns the bank; I own Nino.

So you left the bank because you wanted your brand?

Yeah, i had to discover myself and be somebody for me. I wanted to always discover myself which is why i came to Nigeria in the first place. I was in search of the African dream.

Have you found the African dream?

Do you think I have?

I can’t say, that’s why I’m asking. Have you? 

Yes, I have. 

How do you keep in shape?

I work out

What is the greatest thing a fan has ever done for you?

Pray.

They pray for you?

Yes, they pray for me all the time.

On Instagram, social media or physically?

Even face to face, one-on-one when they see me out there

Have you ever been embarrassed by any fan?

No, I don’t think so.

Do you have friends in the Industry?

No, I don’t.

So you are a one-man Mopol?

Well, I have colleagues and associates. Period.

Do you see yourself joining politics?

If God makes it my calling, why not?

Apart from acting, what else do you do? Business? You want to sing soon?

No, I’m not going to sing. 

Apart from acting, any other thing?

No. All I do is act.

Considering your busyness, how do you and your wife keep the romance burning?

I’m not going to answer any question that concerns my wife.

It’s not about your wife.

You just mentioned my wife.

How do you keep the romance burning?

What romance?

Today is February 14. It’s Val’s Day and you are working.

Do you see how much I love my wife? I’m working for her. Valentine’s Day is every day for me and my wife. 

If we want to shoot a movie now, how much should we be looking at to have you on set?

Well, it depends on how I feel.

About the script?

Yeah. It depends on your relationship with me. It depends on the part of the bed I wake up that day. I could shoot a film for you for one naira and i could charge you a million. It depends on how I feel. That’s the reason I left banking to call my own shots.

What do you consider to work on a script?

When I pick a script, first of all, the only reason you see me on a script is my availability. I don’t grant interviews for so many reasons. I’m not practical. I’m beyond practical, but I don’t speak about that practicality. I keep my mood spiritual, so I can’t answer technical question or questions to decipher who I am when everything I do and who I am is about grace. I’ve mentioned before. I don’t believe in hard work; I believe in grace. The hard work is status quo and people have tried to challenge that, saying if you don’t believe in hard work, it’s just grace. People have to work hard. I ask the fool that asked me what I do every day.  I work every day. That’s status quo. I’m not the hardest worker, neither do I put in the most but I’m blessed. I don’t speak of work; I try not to get into the technicality of work because it’s not the work that makes us who we are. I thank God for grace.

Do you belong to any movie faction?

No, I don’t. I’m friends and cool with everybody. I’m good with everybody. 

You are active on Instagram. Has it affected your career positively?

Absolutely. I take a very big advantage of social media – Instagram. I’ve never been on any other social media platform except Instagram. I use Instagram to my advantage, in terms of marketing. It’s a marketing tool for my work. I think that’s the difference or mistake a lot of other people are making in their career. Let me put it this way. You and I are on Instagram. I’m an actor and you probably work for a bank. It’s a disadvantage for me because you get salary and my work is me. If you go through my page, my page is not similar to an ordinary person’s page or the other celebrities’ page. Maybe, lately you will see me post about my wife and my kids to celebrate them because that’s the phase I’m in life. But before now, it was always about my work. I thank God that I don’t have to come and see you one-on-one to market myself. I do have a page that allows me to do that to the world. I do that so that my page becomes the image that I want the world to see. Overtime, my Instagram has been used to connect with my fans to inspire the world about how much we can do and keep working to become, unlike oppressing people to show them what I have or what I don’t. So if you want to talk about Instagram, it has been a very valuable tool for me in terms of how I use it.

You keep talking about marketing. Does your Master’s degree in Marketing have a role in what you are doing presently?

It has more than enough to do with it. I think education is key in all we do. Its lack is evident in the career of a lot of people and where they are. I’m Bolanle Ninalowo. I sell a brand called Nino. Nino is who I put to the world. He is who God put to the world to know who Bolanle is, so I have to create a product out of myself to sell to the world, and in turn will sell me as a person back to the world. Without marketing, you can’t sell anything. I see myself as selling a phone. I don’t treat myself as a star, a celebrity or whatever. At every given time, Nino is a product. I was just sleeping in my car when you guys woke me up for this interview. If it were Bolanle, I wouldn’t probably answer you. But then, here I am with Nino, selling my brand. Bolanle has lost the privilege of that privacy because Nino is a public person and the person you want to see here is Nino who introduces you to Bolanle. For me, how I deal with my brand is kind of systematic.  

Do your fans solicit for assistance on Instagram?

Yeah, people do that all the time. 

What do you do when they do that?

I help those I can help. I don’t put it out there. I do whatever I can to help whoever God sends my way.

How do you handle Instagram bullies?

I block them immediately. One of the things that have made me successful is the understanding of the society and the understanding of Nigerians. What has killed so many people’s career and a lot of businesses is we undervalue Nigeria a lot. We look down on Nigeria because we think it’s Nigeria.  We think we are coming from a better place. But what we forget is that, in a society, there are people and communities that have what they buy. You cannot bring an iPhone to your village in Abeokuta and sell it, but 3310 will sell immediately. Buying an iPhone, you would be thinking it is nice, a lot of people will buy it etc., but you go out there to sell it and end up being broke. The fact is people don’t understand and when people don’t understand, what happens? It’s not that they are not talented, but it’s understanding that’s key. For me, a lot of people are not making the right moves and are placing themselves way beyond what they will ever be or where they will ever get to. I try to be present every day of my life. Every job I do is a provision from God. I don’t see career as a thing or myself as a star. There are missions I have for my wife and kids. That’s to prove that I didn’t mess up, that I didn’t just leave them and that I have a dream for them. Because of that, I keep working every day, and at the end of the day, when you achieve that goal, you realise that you’ve taken over so many places. My goal is not to only be a star, but to do much more.

What do you think about celebrities living fake life on social media?

I don’t think anything about it. Whatever works for them is fine by me. If I break your rules, it’s fine, but if I break my rules, then I’m a fool. If I lie to you, it’s all right, but if I lie to myself, then that’s deficiency or it’s going to lead to deficiency. Whatever works for you, you lie on the bed you lay.

What’s your philosophy about life?

One thing I feel and believe is that if everybody understood it, we would be all right and successful. There is no entitlement. If you can realise that every single thing in life is a privilege, you will be fine. 

How do you relax?

Honestly?

Honestly.

I relax when I look at the pictures of my wife and my kids.

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Exclusive interviews

I learned Night Club business as a customer – Dotun Omoteye

Story by Kemi Okunade

In this exclusive interview with the CEO, Classic Rumour Club, Dotun Omoteye, he brings to light what endears him to nightclub business, challenges he has as a club owner, how his business survives inevitable challenges, family, marital life among others.

Who is Dotun Omoteye?

Well, that boy no dey hear word o! He’s a perfect gentleman who is happily married with 4 children.

What was growing up like for you?

For me, growing up was very interesting, to say the least. I grew up in a Christian home, specifically in a Baptist home. I was a Royal Ambassador. I was in the choir. I had a proper Christian upbringing.

Did anything in your childhood prepare you for the club business?

Basically, let me say my secondary school life was kind of determined, but I will end up doing this. When I say my secondary school life, it may sound vague. Back then, I was the type that loved partying. Being in the boarding house, there was a language we had back then, it was called breaking bounds. When you say breaking bounds, for the people that know, we would leave the school unauthorised to go partying and the likes. This habit continued even when I was in the university. I used to be a night crawler.

What actually led you to the club business?

I’ve expended a lot of time and invested a lot of money in nightlife. Having expended a lot of money, I saw a lot of things I did back then – going around nightclubbing- as an investment. I learnt everything regarding the nightclub industry as a customer going to nightclubs, so the operation just comes to me naturally.

What do you like about being a nightclub owner?

Well, when I started as a nightclub owner, it was a lot of fun back then. They say there’s a price you pay for the life you choose and at my age, it’s no longer fun. It’s beginning to take its toll on me. The older you get, the more changed your values in life tend to be. Nightclubbing has not afforded me the opportunity to spend time with my children. When the children are awake, I’ll be sleeping, because I must have worked all night. I come home in the morning and go to sleep. By the time they are up to play with daddy, he is never available for them.

How would you compare clubbing in Nigeria to the countries you’ve been to?

To be honest, clubbing in Nigeria is incomparable to clubbing elsewhere. I love partying in Nigeria because partying in other parts of the world comes with a lot of restrictions. If you are in a place like Dubai, you will party till 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning, when clubs are already preparing to shut down. You can’t party beyond certain time. You have to come in early and leave when the whole activities end, that’s when they are beginning to shut down. With diverse issues in the UK and the US, Nigeria, or should I say Africa generally is the only place you can party for 24 hours, till the last man drops. I prefer partying in Nigeria to partying in any other country.

How have you managed to survive this long in nightlife business?

Well, surviving in the business has not been easy. But for me as a person, continual personal reinvention myself is what I’ve always done. Seeing the same thing every day easily bores me. That’s why I always ensure customers are not treated the same way or meet the same way of doing things every year. We constantly reinvent the business.

What separates Classic Rumour Nightclub from other clubs in Nigeria?

We have a slogan. Our slogan is “feel free to feel free”. It’s a place you come into and there’s really no segregation. The next person sitting to you is ready to get down with you. Though we have some VIP areas, it boils down to affordability. There are some areas that if you cannot afford what is sold there, you know you don’t belong there. You can feel free to feel free among your peers where you can afford to buy what is offered in that section. Basically, you feel free to feel free. Maybe that differentiates it from some other clubs.

Club ownership is fun but not without challenges. What are the challenges you encounter as a club owner?

The challenges of this business are limitless, but by God’s grace, we’ve been able to at least, surpass them. Is it challenges from government you want to talk about? For night clubs, multiple taxation is rife. I don’t know if we are specifically targeted by the government or sound offensive to them. Entertainment, TV and radio allowance this; it is consumer tax that. If it is not consumer tax, it is VAT. Although, everywhere in the world, taxes are imposed on businesses, and are expected to be paid, but there should be moderation in it. That’s on one side. Is it power we want to talk about? There’s hardly any business, especially, nightclub business you can run with interrupted power supply. You don’t want any interruption once the business kicks off. We rely 100 percent on generator. With the 100 percent reliance on generator, EKEDC officials will still bring their bills at the end of the month. For instance, we actually operate here 3 or 4 times a week and it lasts between 11pm and 6am. Why should I be paying EKEDC one million naira every month? I pay electricity bill of a million naira on the average every month. For my operation, I do not expend up to 100 hours per month. On diesel, the minimum I do in a month is about a million naira, too. So, if you are paying two million naira on only power, what is the profit that you will realise at the end of the day? That on one side, we say in this present Nigeria, especially in Lagos, we live in a cashless society. In Cashless Lagos, every customer coming in is supposed to make their payment with debit card. For some reasons, Nigerian banks just believe some businesses are not supposed to operate at night. I don’t understand how that came be. When people are supposed to start making payment that’s when you get a message from one bank that they are doing system maintenance or system upgrading. Customers will have money to pay, will bring out their cards to swipe and make payments, then it will begin to decline. The challenges are a whole lot, but we still thank God we are able to operate.

How do you handle those challenges?

These are challenges that I don’t see leaving us. We must find a way to manage it. The way we manage things, especially payment, is you find yourself developing some sort of friendship with your customers. The ones you can trust, when that happens, you let them go, believing they will come back to clear the bill. When things like that happen, some people will definitely take advantage of it. If a club in Nigeria opens its book to you and you see what their exposure is in terms of credit, you will be amazed. In all, we still thank God.

Apart from taxation, are there other government restrictions or rules guiding club owners?

A responsible government tries to regulate our operations. When I say regulate, it is only fair when you are running a business that’s a noisy business. Normal people like us. Let me call it what it is. We are no longer normal like the rest of the society. We have turned to vampires, coming out only at night. We should always consider normal people that sleep at night to go to their work the next day. I won’t say because I’m running a business, I will begin to pound and disturb the next door neighbour. Those are the areas government regulates. You know when people come into the club, the moment when one or two pints of alcohol enter into their system, they begin to lose their sense of reasoning. So those are the kind of things government does, which is quite welcome.

Is there anything you wished you had known before you started the club business?

I can’t trade any of my experience in nightclubbing for anything. I have no regrets. If given the chance a thousand times, I will do it again and probably bigger.

Does your partnership with 2face have anything to do with Rumors’ fame?

Without any doubt. In this business, you must constantly be in people’s faces. Big thumbs up to 2Baba, the co-owner of this business. As a matter of fact, he has had an immeasurable impact on the business.

How would you describe your relationship with him?

We started as friends. It’s a friendship that has led to brotherhood. We are quite close and not just with 2face as a person, but from Dotun2face. It has led to a great bound between the two families. Our children and wives carry it on.

Is it expected of club owners to have swaggs, use studs, jewelries etc?

It’s vanity. And like 2face always says, the way you dress is the way they will address you. It’s a blind word; it’s a make-believe world. You want an environment where people will come into and look classy, so if you as the owner of the business do not represent the image of your business well, every Tom, Dick and Harry might just go off the street in tattered dresses and walk into your place because you as the owner have not done anything to portray the image of what you are selling physically.

How has nightclubbing changed your life?

Nightclubbing, to a great extent, has turned me into a vampire. I’m one person that works at night. I hardly sleep. My sleep time has changed completely. I sleep during the day and work at night. Whenever I’m not in club, I’ll probably be at home, watching a movie, rolling around on the bed till about 6, 7 o’clock in the morning, then sleep starts creeping in.

You tend to meet a lot of women in your line of work. How do you keep them at bay?

Those are my people. For those that studied Economics, there’s a term in business when they say for a successful business, there are certain things that are essential. One of those things is location of industry. It means where you are placed, where your business is. Is it positioned in a proper place to attract the proper crowd? There’s another term they call nearness to raw materials. With all respect, that phrase ”nearness to raw materials” is where women come in. Without mincing words, they are the raw materials of my own business. If I’m not near the women or close to them, I may as well be running a gay bar. There are lots of gay bars out there that are successful, too. Everybody has their taste. I can’t imagine myself walking into a place, knowing all the people sitting there are men. The whole thing begins to get too rigid. You need some softness, so women soften the environment. To have a soft environment, you must have them around. To have them around, I as a business owner need to be close to them.

How did you meet your wife, Qween?

Before I begin to recount how I met her, let me give kudos to her first. I met my wife at an event hosted by Nomoreloss. May God bless him. Back then, I used to ride power bikes. For protection against accidents, I used to put on body armour. As I got disinterested in what was going on that extremely cold night, I noticed a beautiful woman who was not far away from I sat, shivering. At that point, I got attracted to her and thought about what to do to get close to her. With my leather jacket which had earlier caused me to be sweating profusely, I scurried to where she sat, introduced myself and asked if she would cover herself with it. She gracefully accepted it. Therefrom, the deal was struck.

What attracted you to her?

It’s not a secret that I had a soft spot for all those fair-complexioned ladies. When I used to be very active, everybody knew my specialty. I couldn’t escape it, especially if they were slim and tall.

Apart from her fairness, was there anything else?

The first attraction was her physical attribute. It was after we got to know each other that we started talking. Not until she told me that I found out she was an artiste. I had no idea she could sing. At a point, her openness and honesty got me irritated. I had to ask myself how somebody could be so naïve. For instance, few days into my meeting her in Lagos, I got a phone call from somebody and had to tell the person I was in Abuja. Right from where we sat together, she rebuked me for lying. I just looked at her and thought if she’s okay. Though she did not know why I lied I was in Abuja, she saw nothing wrong in her challenging me that way. Therefrom, I began to realise there were lots of qualities she had, telling myself to not allow her slip through my fingers. I give glory to God that we are where we are today.

How have you been surviving the marital life?

It has been very blissful to say the least. Unfortunately, Qween’s family – father, mother, brothers, sisters- is based in the UK. People around her are in the UK. She gave birth to all our children in the UK because she needed the support of the family. When they started schooling in the UK, we initially thought that, at a certain age, each of them would be relocated to Nigeria, owing to her music career which she needed to push, but when we discovered how they were getting used to the British education, culture and all that, we had to put the thought on hold. Qween couldn’t be here and the children are over there, you know. She’s with them and I go as often as possible. I go there, spend time with them and, as often as they can, they come to spend their holidays in Nigeria, too. So nothing is amiss.

What else would you have done if you hadn’t been in the club business?

I know I would have never been a 9 to 5 person. I’ve never in my life had a day job. I don’t know what it is like. I’ve never applied for a job before, neither have I had a job. I would still have been an entrepreneur one way or the other.

Apart from clubbing, are you into other things?

I’m into real estate and the present government is doing a lot of encouragement in terms of farming. By God’s grace, I’m also a farmer.

How do you relax?

My relaxation is sleep. That’s the only thing. Once I’m not working, I’m sleeping.

Would you go into politics?

There’s been a lot of call into politics and I’m seriously considering it sooner or later. Democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. People need to come out to take charge. We thank God for the Not-Too-Young-to-Run bill recently signed by the presidency. Politics is knocking and we are going to open that door very soon

Do you like being in the limelight?

Once I’m at work, I allow it. But I’m a different person when I’m off work. I get back into my shell.

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Exclusive interviews

I pressurised myself to excel- Barr. Olabode Olanipekun

interview

Story by Kemi Okunade

Bringing to bear the howness of his astounding legal feat at 40, resilience, childhood memories, experience, family just to mention but a few, the legal practitioner takes us on a journey to his world in this interview. Excerpt:

How does making history as the youngest person to be conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria rank make you feel?

I thank God for it. Like I have always said in all the places this question has popped up, it’s not my doing. It’s the enablement of God the Almighty, who alone has the exclusive capacity to promote and elevate. I feel good about it. I’m very appreciative to God, my family and, most importantly, to all my colleagues with whom I work as a team. They don’t see individual achievements as things ascribed to just the face that attains them. There are lots of work goes on behind the scene that we do as a team, so I have just been fortunate that I’m that face recognised for all the work that my team members at Wole Olanipekun & Co. have put in over the years.

How did you become a SAN at that age?

There’s a very objective procedure for elevation to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I’d always aspired to get that rank. My dad became one in 1991. As of then, he was the youngest holder of the rank. My elder brother had it three years ago, also as the youngest holder of the rank and here I am today privileged to be the youngest holder of the rank, again. To the glory of God, all of us got it before the age of 40. Like I said, it’s something I’d always aspired to attain. There are objective guidelines I’ve worked with, and every new guideline comes after it has been updated periodically. Right from when I was done with my NYSC about 10 years ago, I’d always been working with the guidelines, hoping that one day I would cross that threshold to be able to meet not just the minimum requirement, but exceed the minimum requirement. As God would have it, I was able to do it right after 10 years of legal practice.

Were you a straight A student?

Yes, in secondary school, I was a straight A student. I missed it a little bit in the university. I think some other things got the better of me, but I came back to being kind of a top performer in school in my Masters’ years. I just try to always improve on those standards.

Did your parent being in the profession had any influence in you rising to the top that early?

I’m this kind of person that has never discountenanced relationship I have with people, especially the one I have with my parents, because that’s spiritual. I did not choose my parents, neither did they choose me. They decided to have a child but never knew what the child would turn out to be. The best they could do was to prayerfully raise him, with their human efforts too. The fact that my dad became Senior Advocate of Nigeria at an early age impacted my worldview. I was 8 years old when my dad became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Ever since then, precisely 27 years ago, I have always had that feat to look onto and aspire. Without a shred of doubt, I say it everywhere that my father is the greatest influence on my life. He’s the biggest role model that I have. He’s one of those people that I always want to impress and satisfy. There’s no way you will ever discount his moral, psychological and spiritual influence on my life. We do the same business. We are also business partners. That’s a very dominant influence on my life.

Would you say you had it easy?

Of course not, I did not have it easy. There were a lot of challenges, a lot of fears along the way. It’s a serious learning, more like I’m more reinforced now. Whatever God proposes to do, he will do it. Whatever challenge comes on the way of God’s plans, it’s there just to make you to be further aware of the sovereignty of God. The Bible says that we should commit our ways into God’s hands and not lean on our own understanding. I think in life, one follows the principles of being assured that one really cannot do it on one’s own. That is all in the exclusive preserve of God. You just relax and take things easy as they come. I do not think I had it easy. Was I sure I was going to become a SAN? I think I knew I would be one at some point in my life. Did I know it was going to come this year? I wanted it to come this year. I prayed to God for it to come this year and God was merciful enough to make it happen this year.

How did those challenges shape your person? 

I think those challenges sort of braced me up for future events in my life. At some point, I almost got discouraged. This was because merging demands with work was not a very easy task. It also entailed work engagement across different states in Nigeria. There were days I would leave the court and have to fly to places for work engagements. For instance, there was a day I left Abuja for Lagos, immediately after a court case I was handling, to do some works and right after then jetted out of Lagos for appointments and several other engagements. In all of this, I’m made better and more aware of the responsibilities the rank has bestowed on me.

What attracted you to the legal profession?

Definitely my father.

What was growing up like?

Growing up was very fun. One example was the day my dad became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I think it was sometime in 1991. I remember I was in school with my siblings and he just drove to school and took excuse from my class teacher and my siblings’. My younger sister was about 2 then. He picked us up and took us to a restaurant before breaking the news. Did I know what it meant then? No. I was just excited that my dad was happy and all that. At 9pm on the same day, his name alongside others who were new holders of the rank was beamed live on the televised NTA news. He was the seventh lawyer on the list. Their names were arranged according to their ages and fortunately, he was the youngest elevated lawyer. When I saw this, I concluded it had to be a big deal. It then dawned on me that, as his character was and still is, he had done us proud again. We grew up as a very closely knit family. If any of us got into trouble, it meant trouble for everybody, so there was collective responsibility. If any of us did well, every other person earned the rewards of the success of any of the children. It was just a lot of fun that family was a place of comfort and dispute resolution without biased judgment. Even when we went wrong, yes, there were strictures for doing wrong things. We all appreciated that everybody was altruistic about whatever steps were taken.

Did you feel any pressure to excel? 

I think I pressurised myself to excel. If there were external pressures, i might not know, because internally, I tried to outdo whatever I thought was the best to do. I always hinge on my hope on God for the capacity to continually improve.

Being a young SAN, do you feel intimidated by the seniors in the profession?

No, not at all. The legal profession is a very organised profession, and therefore does not give room for intimidation. Even before I became a SAN, I had appeared with and against SANs, and I don’t recall any incidence of intimidation. Now that God has elevated me to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I don’t even think intimidation will come into play.

Becoming a SAN so young, do you think you’ve missed out on anything?

I’m still myself. I’m still the regular Bode. Being a SAN doesn’t change who I am. There are some things I’m more cautious about, even if I’m not a SAN. Growing up naturally comes with the implication of doing things a little differently. You always introspect and do a lot of assessment and reassessment and decide to or not to do what you used to do before. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything at all. If there are downsides to being a SAN, which I don’t think exist, meeting up with responsibilities actually doesn’t even give you the time to consider that you are missing out on whatever it is might have been missed out on.

Becoming a SAN so young, do you think you’ve missed out on anything?

I’m still myself. I’m still the regular Bode. Being a SAN doesn’t change who I am. There are some things I’m more cautious about, even if I’m not a SAN. Growing up naturally comes with the implication of doing things a little differently. You always introspect and do a lot of assessment and reassessment and decide to or not to do what you used to do before. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything at all. If there are downsides to being a SAN, which I don’t think exist, meeting up with responsibilities actually doesn’t even give you the time to consider that you are missing out on whatever it is might have missed out on.

You must have known and met some of the older Senior Advocates of Nigeria while growing up. How is your relationship with them now?

Very fantastic. I was well received by all my seniors in the inner bar. I’m even very overwhelmed by the reception I receive as a SAN. They are very happy about it. They’ve been very supportive and encouraging. In fact, this started before I took the rank. Almost every SAN I ran into before I became a SAN kept telling me not to worry about time, that it would happen soon. These were people I didn’t discuss my ambition with at all. I just give God all the glory for all these blessings, particularly people he has blessed me with.

How does having all your siblings in the legal profession feel?

It feels great. We actually don’t interact as lawyers. We interact as family, as we have always done for the past 27 years, even when we did not know any of us would become a lawyer. Nothing has really changed. We discuss legal issues, no doubt about it, but in our private interactions, we don’t discuss as lawyers. We discuss more as friends and siblings. In fact, more as siblings.

Have you faced any of them in court before?

No, not yet.

What drives and motivates you?

The urge to satisfy God and the drive to be a mentor to my own immediate family, of which I’m the head and of course, not to disappoint the huge expectations that quite a number of people have of me. Those are very serious drivers that incentivise me, including how I react to things or steps I take or refrain from taking.

How did you get into the areas of life you are known for?

Some were deliberate. Some were by providence. When I say some are deliberate, you look at what you enjoy doing,  take deliberate steps to acquire knowledge in it and get some visibility. By providence, I’m now a member of a business my dad started years. I didn’t start working out from that business. I was working in some other places before I moved to that business. I also had a responsibility to maintain and develop the core area of practice of that business because it would be unfair to come into that business and continue what I enjoyed doing alone to the detriment of the development of the brand. I take the second aspect of what I met on ground when I came into the business and was able to improve as the providential aspect of it. That’s what I mean as the combination of both deliberate development of competence and providence. As a business, from the point of view of business strategy, we also take decisions to expand practice areas. With the same strategy again, you develop competence and try to get some sort of visibility.

If you had your way, what law would you change in Nigeria?

What law would I change if I had my way? If I had my way, I would first make an amendment in the constitution, particularly as regards the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation. I will give a clause that specifically states that the holder of that office must not be a member of any political party. I would also give a clause to protect the holder of that office. For instance, given that the holder is appointed by the president, his removal will not be decided without concurrence by a certain percentage of members of the National Assembly. Also, I will ensure that the identity of whoever will be the Attorney General or Minister of Justice is disclosed prior to ministerial screening, unlike what our presidents have always done: they have always nominated ministers without revealing their portfolios. Thus, not subjecting them to strict questioning and the consciousness of their responsibilities. When there’s security of office, the holder of the office of the Attorney General will not lean in favour of any political considerations. You see, that office is a very powerful office. The Attorney General has the absolute discretion to commence and discontinue criminal prosecution. That’s one of the powers that he holds. Criminal prosecution has the tendency to deprive citizens of one, third liberty, their property or even their lives. Someone that controls that process that can legitimately lead to the death of another citizen must be subjected to higher standards than other office holders. If I had my way, that’s one area I would want out of many others that I would want to change.

What law would you abolish?

I would abolish the exclusive preserve of the president to appoint the Inspector General of Police. Why do I say this? As a country, I don’t think we’ve grown to that level of maturity where the minute you assume office, what you owe the one who appoints you is respect and loyalty to the constitution and the laws of the land. I’m just being generalistic without giving any specific example. At times, we are still mostly tied to the apron strings of the appointor, always doing the bidding of the appointor without filtering it against what the laws of the land says. I would want a stricter procedure for the appointment of whoever heads security agencies.

What law would you create?

If I had my way, one of those laws I would love to create is a law that guarantees people freedom to express their rights and particularly to make employers of labour, including government, which is a major employer of labour to subject themselves to certain undertakings. For instance, not to discriminate against an employee who challenges his employer in court. You see, so many things, absolutely so many things are going wrong. Let’s use workplaces as an example. Employees are afraid to challenge those things because they feel if they charge their bosses to court, they will be sacked. I would want laws created or work towards the creation of laws that allow liberalism in the most generous terms, for people to freely exercise their rights. If I’m exercising my right, I’m doing it not because I have anything personal against you. Recently, the regulator of the telecoms industry in South Africa went dispute resolution way against the Minister of Communications, just as a point of principle. I can’t remember anytime a regulator in Nigeria challenged his political boss. Does it mean they all agree all the time? I don’t think so. These interventions have to be deliberate because if you don’t have a system that allows you freedom to exercise your rights and also a guarantee that you are not going to be victimised for exercising your rights. Most of the time, you will remain silent in pain.

Who is your legal hero?

Of course, my father.

How will you compare today’s legal market to when you started out?

The legal industry is one that keeps evolving with time, even when laws don’t change. One, there’s consistency in the interpretation of laws, but the application also mixes up with the realities of times. There’s a new decision of the Supreme Court that says that if your standard of living exceeds your verifiable means of livelihood, that means you hold the society some explanation. That’s an indirect reaction to the realities that face us as a nation. Would that decision have been given in 1970 for instance? I do not think so because it might have been a strict position of whatever you have against this perso should be brought to the table, whereas the law has not changed from the fact that an accused person is presumed innocent until charged. There’s also a philosophical shift that a person presumed innocent by verifiable sources cannot legitimately account for what you have at least. The least you can demand is how things came about. I just used that as an example. It’s just the microcosm of how laws evolve across all sectors.

If you weren’t in the legal profession, what else would you do?

To be honest, that’s one risk that I took that God has been merciful and gracious enough, of which I’ve never regretted. I really don’t know because I didn’t consider options.

Will you allow any of your children go into the legal profession?

If they want to. I will encourage them to be whatever they think they are good at, but I won’t compel them anyway. 

What advice will you give to young people in the legal profession?

Set high standards and trust in God. If God is merciful enough, it will happen.

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Exclusive interviews

Activism is a Negative Word – Yeni kuti

Yeni Kuti is the daughter of the iconic Afrobeat crooner cum human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. In this interview with KEMI OKUNADE, she shares details of her undying love for fashion, her career as a TV show host, people’s perception of Fela, Fela’s legacy, Felabaration, politics, governance and lots more.

How do you feel to be a grandmother?

It’s a wonderful feeling. I thought you were going to ask the annoying question most people ask me: ‘How does it feel to be Fela’s daughter?’ When you said ‘how does it feel?’, I was waiting for Fela’s daughter before I yab you. It’s a fantastic thing. I love my grandson so much.

Why did you study journalism?

That’s what I wanted to study. I wanted to be reading scripts.

Now that it seems you are more into broadcasting and talk shows, does it compare to what you wanted when you started out?

Being on TV is something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I mean, going on stage, dancing and being in the spotlight. Those are the things I like. Being on TV is like following my dream.  

As an erstwhile fashion designer, what got you interested in fashion?

As you can see, I love clothes. When I was growing up, I had no money to buy clothes. As a result, I always wished I had them whenever I saw them. Though I had a pair of shoes, I still loved clothes. I couldn’t afford them and my father couldn’t afford to have us dressed the way I wanted. So when I started working, I kept buying and making my own clothes. Later, I started a fashion house that used to make nice outfits. I would sell my clothes to different outlets like UTC. I’ve always loved fashion. People who have known me for years know that I love fashion. I have a friend that always says,”YK, you are always well-dressed. You should get your fashion out there.’’ I would say, “I’ve heard you.’’ So when I started doing this TV show, he used to see my sense of style. It was this that he liked and would always talk about, saying that people were seeing it, too, unlike wearing it in the shrine where nobody would see what I was wearing. My father loved clothes and loved to dress, too.

Are you still into fashion designing?

No. I still design my own clothes, but I don’t sell them.

How would you describe your style?

I don’t know. It’s just the way I like to dress. I love to match colours. I love everything to be in sync. If they do not match, I won’t be happy.

It seems you like cats, don’t you? 

I like all animals, not just cats. At home, I have dogs. If I want a monkey, I will have it. I just love animals. Someone gave us these cats and they have continued to multiply. It’s not that I have any special likeness, for them but I love all animals

 I have turtles at home, dogs at home. I just don’t like people being wicked to all animals. Someone brought the cats to shrimp because of rats. Then i started feeding them and they took me as their mother.

Has been Fela’s daughter paved the way for you? 

Not at first. Since his death, maybe yes. You know, people want to meet you. They want to know who you are. But growing up, it was not really like that. That was because they used to look at Fela as a pant-wearing Igbo-smoker. So Nigerians didn’t really respect him, neither did the powers that be. They didn’t listen to him; they just judged him as we judge ourselves in Nigeria. I remember one of my cousins introduced me to a girl when I was much younger. The girl said she didn’t want to meet me. Growing up wasn’t that easy. Parents of my brothers’ girlfriends would always chase them away. 

How do you feel about Fela’s legacy?

I’m very proud of it. I’m very proud to be born into this family. I’m very proud to be associated with this legacy. I’m very happy that I’m able to continue to enhance the legacy.

How has the enhancement of his legacy been?

It hasn’t been easy as I initially it would be. 

Why?

When I started Felabration, I thought it would be easy to get sponsors. But out there, sponsors who claim they want to be associated with him close their doors. I remember going to a big telecommunication company in Nigeria and I told them about Felabration. The man I met there assured me and told me to come back.  After I left, he told one of the employers that he would never associate his brand with Fela, neither would he be a sponsor of Felabration. It was difficult to get a response. I remember when one sponsor took it up and said he would sponsor it, though with a substantial amount of money. He said he would do that because of his friendship with and love for Fela. I was so happy and because of that, I sell his products in the shrine till today. It’s a soft drink and I do it exclusively because when everybody’s door was locked, his door was opened.

Considering Fela’s criticism of government in his songs, do you think much has changed?

Do you enjoy 24/7 power supply? Is your water system working? Are your roads good? Is there access to free healthcare? How improved is education? So tell me what’s different now.

What do you think about the current situation in Nigeria?

Back then, it was better than what it is now. If you were a graduate of any of Nigerian universities, you could work anywhere in the world. Now, no country is ready to employ you. The Nigeria Fela was in then was a far cry to what obtains now. What we see these days are killings, bombings, fights among members of the parliament, fights among politicians and stealing of ballot boxes here and there. The problem in Nigeria is this: everybody wants power, but when they get it, they don’t know what to do with it; they don’t serve the country, neither do they serve the masses. They amass wealth for themselves. Until leaders start to see themselves as servants of the people, not the other way round, things will not move forward.

What is your view on Not too Young to Run?

Obama was only 40-plus when he became the president of America. In as much as you are moving in the right direction. In as much as you are not moving like the old politicians we have today who are only after their pockets. I think so far you are a university graduate and you can think straight, you can run for government. Let’s even try these young people. Let’s see whether or not they will move this country forward.  Gowon became the Head of State at 33, Buhari at 39. How old was Babangida? He was in his 30’s or 40’s. Obasanjo ruled in his 30’s. These are the same people who still want to run for offices in their 80’s. Let’s give young people a chance.

 Are you likely to join politics?

No way. Not the way it is today. It’s not even my calling. I’m not a politician. I’d rather serve my country in a way that I can to the best of my ability. I hate being in this kind of politics in Nigeria. Lawmakers only go to the chambers when they want to pass a law that favours them. Do I wish to be like that? God forbid! I can’t disgrace my family or my heritage. I’ll never disgrace my family or my heritage.

What’s your view about activism?

I don’t like to call it activism. I like to call it the truth. It’s the truth when you criticise government and you say you are an activist. Who is an activist? For me, it is a negative word to describe someone who is criticising government because   of its wrongdoing. So I don’t use that word. I don’t use radical activist either. An activist is a truthful person. 

How have you been able to keep this large Kuti family together?

I try my best.

What do you think of young artistes that see Fela as a role model?

They have to learn more about Fela. Being Fela is more than saying I’m Fela. I cannot be Fela. Fela encompasses many things. He spoke about government, politics; he loves women. It’s an all-encompassing thing. I think everybody should carve their own niche. Nobody can be anybody. These two thumbs are different. If I print them, they are different. Your thumb and my thumb cannot produce the same print. Every individual is different. There’s no replica of any individual personality. You may have a physical double body, but the person won’t be the same as you. Even twins may look the same, but they are different personalities. If you love Fela and you want to emulate him, that’s not a bad thing, but I don’t think anyone should say I’m Fela or a reincarnation of Fela. There’s no reincarnation. Even if the reincarnation is just being born, his personality will be different from Fela’s.  Every artiste should carve their own niche. They are doing well. I know a lot of them reference Fela’s song, which is a good thing. That differentiates Nigerian hip-hop from American hip-hop.  A lot of Nigerian hip-hop artistes who are doing well are influenced by Fela. 

What do you think about their lyrical contents?

I have no comment.

Are we likely to see your TV show soon?

God will provide. I’d love to have one. I’m working towards it and hopefully, it’ll come. 

Is music for you?

No, I’m not a musician, I don’t have a good voice, you know. I remember when I was dancing with my brother’s band, you know. People like to deceive. They would say, ‘’I think you need to go and start your own ‘’ and I would think ‘’How will I start my own band? Will I be singing?’’ No, I don’t play any musical instrument.  People make a mistake when they call artistes musicians. It’s not every artiste that is a musician. How many of them can play a musical instrument? I think maybe Flavour and Majek Fashek, but most of the young people can’t play instruments. They are not musicians. They are entertainers.  A musician must play at least one musical instrument. Music is a science and people do not understand that music is actually hard. Some people always think it’s all about holding a microphone and singing.  Music transcends that. That’s entertainment. A musician must be respected for his work.

How have you been able to achieve this young looks?

I’m happy you think that I look young. I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t think I look young. I’m now wearing makeup too. You may think I look young. If you see me without makeup, can still tell me I look young?

How do you relax?

I like watching films and pay games on my mobile phone, especially Candy Crush. That’s my best way of relaxing. 

How did you feel about Macron’s visit?

I was very happy that he came here. One of the G-7 came to the shrine because a lot of people looked down on it. People actually came out. People were struggling for invitation to come because they heard that one of the world’s presidents was coming to the shrine. Forget about whether or not I agree with his politics or policies. The fact that he came here was one thing. The fact that people like to mess us up was another. Shrine is going to be 19 this year. That day, I saw some people who had never come to the shrine prior to Macron’s visit. It took the whole President Macron to come before they could come here. Then I started judging them. To some of them, I said, ‘’Hey, you came here. You are here.’’ 

Did Macron visit bring more attention?

Yes, it did. People who don’t construct bridges did construct bridges prior to that day and were present during Macron’s visit.  It was then they remembered 3rd Mainland Bridge. People from Ikeja, the place I seldom go to unless I have a flight to catch were also here. It brought the right kind of attention to the shrine. People don’t know he came here for the first time in 2002 when he was just an intern or diplomat at the French embassy.  When he became president, he wanted to come again. People wanted to refurbish this place were put on hold, having been told by the French Embassy that he only wanted to see things as he remembered them.[2:57 PM, 5/18/2019] Anty Kemu Spotlight: Activism is a Negative Word.

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