Sunday, 21 June 2015

Why I stopped publishing Entertainment Express – Mike Awoyinfa | Says “Nigerian entertainers are hustlers”


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Mike Awoyinfa, the tabloid man who loves to exercise his muscles

Today, we present you the concluding part of the exclusive interview with tabloid icon, Mike Awoyinfa on life without best friend, Dimgba Igwe, his new book projects and why he closed down Entertainment Express Newspaper which he jointly published with the late Dimgba Igwe after their exit from The Sun Publishing Ltd in 2010.
On this note, the tabloid veteran came hard on practitioners in Nollywood, describing them as hustlers and people who cannot pull weight in any venture, citing their unimpressive pedigree as major reason for closing down Entertainment Express Newspaper which was largely an entertainment journal.
Read everything only on your Africa’s number 1 celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika. Enjoy!

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'Putting all your eggs in the basket of entertainment can make break the entire crate of egg'

Your newspaper project, Entertainment Express stopped immediately after Uncle Dimgba Igwe’s death and a lot of people felt you had to close down the newspaper because you couldn’t just face the reality of not having your friend around as Co-pilot?
That one is a long story. You see newspaper business, when you want to go into it you need something, something financially big. Big, big, big money. And the kind of money that is required for us to sustain that kind of project, we don’t have it, don’t let us fool ourselves. It is a project that requires nothing less than five hundred million or one billion Naira because it is not just about pushing the product into the market that matters. You need a mix of other supports like branding, jingles, television and making a whole lot of noise. You need an advert support; I mean for a paper of that small budget, we tried in the market. We got adverts but it wasn’t enough to carry it and we started on a very, very pocket friendly level. We were selling for N50 per copy and for me, N50 naira is not a business, it is too ridiculous. There was a time we went for N100 per copy, and because people were used to N50, they were saying ‘how can I suddenly be paying N100? So, it affected us in a way and that in itself was a reason to look into the whole idea and make a change.
“I tell you, entertainers don’t pull weight.  They don’t, they only collect your money. I don’t hate them but I am telling you that you can’t put all your eggs in the entertainment basket; you can’t put all your eggs there. Your eggs would break.  And they are too full of themselves….ah, ah!”

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'Publishing a newspaper is capital intensive'

So, how profitable was the business?
To me, entertainment is not a business that I will encourage anybody to go into.
Nigerian entertainers are hustlers
Why sir, because a lot of people say there is money in entertainment business?
Let me tell you the truth, entertainment is not a profitable venture. I don’t think our market here is ready for that kind of specialized genre of journalism. I don’t regret going into it, it is a lesson but if I have to start all over again, I won’t go into specializing in entertainment journalism. It can’t work. Let us face reality, it can’t work. It requires so much of an effort. Entertainers….you know…. (Laughs) they don’t pull the weight in terms of newspaper patronage. People who want to advertise want a paper that is strong on politics. You will not expect a bank to want to put its money on such a project. A lot of people were saying even for me and Dimgba to be going into entertainment, we were cheapening our brand. They said ‘no, no, no, no; you people are bigger than this or is this the paper before the big one that is coming?’ people expected that having done The Sun, having done The Weekend Concord, they were expecting us to do mighty things not to go into small boys market. A minute market, for entertainers, well, they are there but I tell you they don’t pull weight. If they pull weight, I tell you, Jonathan would have won this election. (Laughter)Look at Mercy Johnson, everybody campaigning for Jonathan and you taught he was going to win the election. I tell you, entertainers don’t pull weight.  They don’t, they only collect your money. I don’t hate them but I am telling you that you can’t put all your eggs in the entertainment basket; you can’t put all your eggs there. Your eggs would break.  And they are too full of themselves….ah, ah! You go and you will be begging them for interview, you want to do this and they are asking you, how much would you pay me? They want money. You want to write a book about them and they are telling you ‘what is inside it for me, what is coming in for me?’ They want to promote you and you are saying ‘what is inside it for me?’ They are too much hustling, they are hustlers. I don’t think I will ever go into entertainment journalism again and I mean it, nothing will make me go into it. If I do a newspaper again, it will be a tabloid not for one entertainment stuff. I am too big for that now; I am too big for that. Let my children be doing that at their own level. But I don’t regret ever going into it. I don’t regret it, the paper is now online.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika...'I had to wind up Entertainment Express because the business was not giving value for investment'

But are you still promoting the publication?
Yes, we are still pushing it; if you go to www.expressng.com. It is a well designed online medium and we have good hands running it but you know this online business I don’t understand it because I am an old school.
“So, there is a spiritual dimension, there is this physical dimension and there is an intellectual dimension to jogging. I recommend it to everyone. And ever since I started jogging, sickness banished; I have no form of sickness and I don’t fall sick…..I am the one that know what I am gaining and people who don’t jog, I pity them. They are not physically born again; I think that is the analogy”.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'I think i am done with Entertainment Journalism. It is for the small boys'
But do you share the fear that the future of conventional journalism is at stake with the birth of e-journalism. I mean when people like Linda Ikeji started nobody gave her a chance but today she is making more money in terms of advert generation than some newspaper house?
It is good for people who don’t have the capital to do newspaper business; I mean it is a forum for them and easy way for them to reach a broader market. I like what Linda Ikeji is doing, I am very, very happy for her. Yes, it is highly competitive and if we say it hasn’t eaten into the market, we are deceiving ourselves because a lot of people now go online to read their stories. So, it is giving us a stiff competition. It is really, really, really eating into the market but there is nothing we can do. It is the trend all over the world; people don’t want to buy newspaper again when they can just go online and read everything, why should you be looking for vendor again? It is the same thing in music too, not just in journalism.  Why should I have to go and buy CD when I could just go to Youtube, Pan-pan-pan and listen to the entire music or even download; I download o, I download I cant lie now! Why would I go and start looking for CD? I sit down downloading music, downloading everything. Why will i go out and be looking for CD in the market place? It is the same mentality in newspapering business. Why would I be going into the street looking for vendor and be clustering my house with newspapers while I can just go online and read whatever I want to read, so, that is the challenge of modern day journalism.
Mike and late Dimgba inside one of their libraries in Lagos

Digital media can’t kill hard copy
Most publications in the USA like Newsweek and others stopped their hard copy sales and promoted their online platform; do you see such a thing happening in Nigeria in the nearest time?
No, I don’t think the hard copy would die. For our kind of culture, for our kind of politics, no. people still want to hold a newspaper and feel it with their hands. There is joy in somebody putting his advert in a newspaper and holding a newspaper like this (Held some newspaper brought by his vendor) we want to feel the newspaper in our hands and read either the story or the advert. Two of them will live side by side. They will compliment each other. I don’t think E-journalism will kill conventional journalism; they will live side by side.  I don’t pray it kills the conventional newspaper business because newspaper is our world. It is our baby and we don’t pray it dies. It is newspaper that made us; we made our name with newspaper business. We cannot just allow it go like that.
“He is one man I cannot hurt; he is one man I cannot disappoint. He is one man I love; he is one man I fear. I thank God for making me to know that kind of man in my lifetime. There can never be any friend like that again, never, never, never, never”.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika...'I think most Nigerian entertainers are too full of themselves'
After the death of your friend, Dimgba Igwe, there was a promise by government to repair Dele Orisabiyi street and re-name the street after Dimgba Igwe but on arriving here today, the road has gotten worse than before. What happened to that government promise?
Well, I did everything I can do to campaign for that road to be re-named Dimgba Igwe Street, for it to be tarred so that wherever he is, he will be happy. So that people even living on the street will even be remembering him and say ‘thank God we had a man like this’. Something to immortalize him, I told (Governor) Fashola and he gave his own explanation on why this place cannot be singled out. He gave all kinds of explanations and what do I do now? He is the governor and I don’t blame him. If his hands are tight there is nothing I can do than to pray that at the right time, the street will be tarred. I don’t know what else I can do again, I have written about it, I have lobbied for it but it is not over, maybe (Governor) Ambode will do it, maybe when I get to know him, I will still carry the battle to him and to see weather Dimgba Igwe street dream can become a reality. I pray it will be and it is not just this street alone, all the streets in Okota. I am praying that development will touch every part of Okota because to say that I only want my street, that will be an act of selfishness.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'I think i am done with Entertainment Journalism. It is for the small boys'
(Cuts in) But that will not be too much to honor the memory of a great media icon like Uncle Dimgba Igwe?
Well, I am not government and I cannot force government to break their rules. I can only do what is within my own limitation. We would continue to pressurize them to do it.
Why I can never stop jogging
Recently I read in Sunday punch Newspaper where one of your twins son, Taiwo Awoyinfa claimed you have stopped jogging since you lost your brother-friend, Dimgba Igwe to early morning hit and run driver while jogging? Why did you stop jogging?
Ah, no; stop jogging ke!
The GDA meets the tabloid king inside his private gym during a session. He also loves jogging with a passion second to none
Yes, that Uncle Dimgba’s death created a phobia…
(Cuts in) No, I don’t want to jog in our neighborhood. The routes I used to take I stopped using them because I don’t want anybody to be pointing fingers at me and be telling me ‘Pele, Pele’ and be pitying me or anything and be invoking all kinds of sympathy. I don’t want all that to happen to me but I do my jogging within my yard now. If you go round now, you will see that I have a compound that is big enough to do my running around. I have to re-strategize.
The King of Tabloid Journalism, Mike Awoyinfa introduce a copy of the unpublished Journalism Bible to the GDA
How comfortable is it for you to be jogging inside your compound?
I do my jogging every one hour and I have music fastened to my ears which plays for one hour. With the aide of the music I am able to overlook all the inconveniences. It is the same thing I do when I go out and I attach my ear-phone to my head and the music plays on. So, I apply the same strategy in my compound and before you know it, it is already one hour. I don’t even feel the difference. Yes, my exercise regime is even more strenuous and because I am inside my yard I can do things I don’t do outside. As I am jogging I carry weight; I have this 5-litre engine oil empty can and I will fill it with water, I fill the second one with water and I will lock it; so, I will be carrying it and I will be jogging and at the same time listening to my music. I mean, building my muscles as if I have a boxing fight to go fight with Mayweather. 
The King of Tabloid, Mike Awoyinfa invited the GDA into his private Gym
So, what does that do to you, is it a must to jog?
You see, I have to train. The biggest wealth God can give you is good health. Good health, you need to be very, very strong to break stress and live happily. It is not just running o, it is not just about running around. As I am running I am praying too. I meditate and pray to God and say ‘God of Dimgba Igwe, wherever you are o, I greet you this morning and I bless you. I say my prayers when I am jogging. Of course I would have said my prayers at home with my wife o, you know my wife will never let me go out without praying every morning but that is family prayer. It is different from my own individual prayer; that one is between me and my God, I pray to my God; it is also while jogging that I think of the things I am writing, if there is a chapter I want to write I  think it out as I jog. The best way to think is to think on your feet while running; I mean you are focused without thinking of anything and you say ‘ah, this chapter I wrote or the next chapter I am going to write, how am I approaching it? What are the ingredients? What do I bring in? How do I present it? Even my column, I think of my column while jogging. What do I write, what is the headline? Bla-bla-bla, you know it is a kind of self editorial or editorial meeting with yourself. In doing that, some of the best ideas come, that is the way I think but people think ah, it is just a lunatic jogging. I mean, it is good for people to exercise because you are also exercising the brain. A sound mind and a sound body go together. You now add that to the spiritual exercise, you become a perfect man. So, there is a spiritual dimension, there is this physical dimension and there is an intellectual dimension to jogging. I recommend it to everyone. And ever since I started jogging, sickness banished; I have no form of sickness and I don’t fall sick. The only problem with carrying weight is that at times, you may have dislocation of your waist or you break your waist but it is the same jogging (exercise) that will regulate it. So, if you are not jogging, you are not born again. No, it is true. It is like you are not physically born again. I mean, I am the one that know what I am gaining and people who don’t jog, I pity them. They are not physically born again; I think that is the analogy. It is we the people that are jogging, when we see people that don’t jog, we will say ‘oh, this is unbelievable. You see them as physical unbelievers. Jogging is therapeutic, it is medicinal it is everything. You sweat out the entire bad toxin in your body; so, I recommend it to everyone that is reading this interview.
The Late Dimgba Igwe & Mike Awoyinfa; Friend in literary matters
Things I lost with Dimgba’s death
Let me ask you this question, what are those things that Uncle Dimgba Igwe used to do for you before his demise that you can’t find anybody to do for you again?
Without Dimgba, I don’t have an editor. I am my own editor, nobody edits me. I write and it goes like that. nobody to say ‘Well-done’, ‘Excellent’, ‘Fantastic’ or somebody to just say ‘This is rubbish, this is nonsense’. What is it, abeg! At times I might write something that is excellent o but he will start abusing me ‘What is this rubbish you have written?’ ‘Nonsense’, ‘Stupid’ and he will turn around and say “No, I am just joking! You have just written a master piece; go ahead with it”. Dimgba is that kind of person; and without him I have a kind of freedom that I don’t like. I mean nobody to discipline me. To live a life without a restriction is a dangerous life, you know. I will be going out and my phone would ring and the receiver will say ‘Mike, where are you going? Turn back! Turn back! He is that kind of person. And again, freedom is a problem. I need somebody that will discipline me. That will check my excesses and he was the one. I still discipline myself, right? Now, I have a feeling that he (Dimgba) is somewhere watching me and I don’t want to disappoint him. So, I internally discipline myself. He is not a man that can leave me alone or that I can live without. He always inspires me in the hard work ethics and in the quest for excellence.
King of Tabloid Jouurnalism, Mike Awoyinfa gives the GDA one of their best selling books
The other day, you attended City People publisher’s 50th birthday with Mrs. Chioma Igwe, how is your relationship with Dimgba’s wife?
Yes, it is my wife that dragged her out and I like the way she is bonding with my wife and I can say she is my “second wife” (Laughter); so, my wife is always trying to be with her. You know she is a very quite, reserved woman who doesn’t want trouble and who always want to be in her cocoon. Her happiest moment was the last time when we went to South Africa together, we visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and other lovely places. That was the first time the whole family will travel together because the women actually revolted and said ‘no, no, no, you people always travel together. Today, we are going with you and you know my wife is the ring leader; she is the trouble maker and she insisted we must take them along and I said ‘ok, let the women join us now’ and for me it was a good decision that we all went and we were able to bond together as two families and to know each other more. When we were returning from Robben Island, there was this very, very big storm. It was just like Jesus in the boat. The storm was huge and everybody was afraid, and I said ‘how I wish Jesus was around to say ‘storm, be still’. My friend was afraid, my wife was so scared. All of us were afraid and it was there he (Dimgba) said ‘Mike, never, never, never, I am not coming here again, ah! This kind of journey, no, no, no, no, i am not coming again. That is the kind of intuition and prophecy. He was a great man of God and a saint in my book.
King of Tabloid Journalism, Mike Awoyinfa with his twins, Taiye & Kehinde Awoyinfa shared a picture with late friend, Dimgba Igwe
When you clocked 60 in 2012, he threw a big party for you and people said you were likely to do same for him when he clocks 60? How do you feel now with his demise?
I was planning to “revenge”. I can never forget that event because he pulled everything and he said profound things that day that ‘Mike is the only person I can do business with and I can go to sleep with my eyes fully closed, knowing that when I am not there, he will be there for me’. (Kept silent for some seconds) He is one man I cannot hurt; he is one man I cannot disappoint. He is one man I love; he is one man I fear. I thank God for making me to know that kind of man in my lifetime. There can never be any friend like that again, never, never, never, never. I don’t think I can ever get close to anybody to the point where I can even surrender my life or my trust or my privacy. This house, Dimgba built it, this house I am living in, he built it. I didn’t move a block or anything, even after he has finished building this house, he was begging me and said ‘Mike, I built house for you, move in you don’t want to move in’; three months after moving into his own house I was still in Akowonjo. You know me I hate change, once I get used to a particular location; it is very difficult for me to move. When I get used to a room, you can’t even move me to say I should change my room and move. I am that kind of a conventional person but eventually we moved in here and I started getting used to the place and thanking him, praying for him but here we are.
The Tabloid Legend sharing a joke with the GDA
How do you think Dimgba Igwe can be immortalized?
Dimgba Igwe is already immortalized. I mean Dimgba Igwe is as great as Dele Giwa now if not greater. His name can never perish in Nigerian journalism. The books we have written together, those are the things that will immortalize him. Particularly this last book we are going to launch, 50 World Editors; Conversation with Journalism Masters on trends and Best Practices: What else is immortalization? Come Tuesday September 8th, we will launch the book at the National Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island-Lagos. 
The New book that will shake and change Nigerian Journalism sector

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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