Thursday, 30 April 2015

Part 1: City People Publisher’s 50th birthday Exclusive | Why People don’t believe I am 50 – SK | + Untold story of how he became editor @ 28 | Reveals greatest regret in journalism….

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Dr. SK to Asabeafrika....'City People is an inspiration from God'
When I visited Dr. Seye Kehinde, Publisher/CEO of Nigeria’s largest circulating celebrity magazine CITY PEOPLE on that faithful Monday morning of April 20th (Four clear days to his 50th birthday bash) he was as usual immersed in the heat of work.
For days I have bombarded the publisher with series of text messages informing him of my intention to have an exclusive 50th birthday interview with him which he graciously promised to grant Asabeafrika.
One good thing about this great captain of the Soft Sell media industry is his impeccable humility and conscientious sense of duty. If there is any three names you can call Dr. SK as he is fondly addressed, it is work, work and work. He could be busy transcribing an interview, running an editorial meeting or running a lecture or seminar or better still, organizing an awards or showbiz event. Despite his meekness, this alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife has the capacity to submerged himself in any form of work that is related to his business no matter how tasking. That is how he has been since 2004 when I knew him closely. He was in the same mood on that Monday morning and he pleaded unto me to give him the next three hours to attend his Monday-Monday editorial meeting which I quickly obliged.

In the beginning was the man and the man was SK and SK was City People

 Three hours later I was up with him in his posh but bits and pieces filled office. Across the walls of his office in Gbagada area of Lagos are over twenty plaques of honor with various awards for his diligence at work and humanity; other things that will catch your attention in his office are books, newspapers, framed quotations of leaders like Billionaire Aliko Dangote, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and many others. You will see literary artifacts like an old typewriter given to him by his late dad, Pa Gilbert Ademolu Kehinde and several other things that will make you understand that you are in a book man’s office. That is the stunner   stuff Dr. Seye Kehinde is made of.
The interview didn’t start until an hour later as several people ranging from members of staff, visitors and clients were on him. But when the interview began, it was like a torrent of rainfall that grew bigger and mightier with a heavy down fall. It is one interview you won’t find anywhere except on your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog, Asabeafrika.

I guess it is because I started very early, I started very, very early. I started journalism in my part 2 at the university. I started writing for newspapers in 1982 (At age 17). I guess that is what make people think I have been around for a while”.

So, what happened later?
His 50th birthday happened last Friday April 24th with an event organized in his honor at Times Square Event Center, Ikeja Lagos with the presence of two state executives, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) of Lagos state and His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun state all in South West Nigeria. Captain of industries, clergies, politicians, business men and women, Nollywood actors and actresses, diplomats, media moguls and professionals of all cadre from all walks of life. It was a grand event with Apala music king, Musiliu Haruna Ishola on the band stand.

Dr. Seye Kehinde with lovely wife, Dr. (Mrs.) Funke Kehinde

Do you know SK this much?
Born on April 24th 1965, Dr. Seye Kehinde is the third and last child of his parent’s three kids (2boys and a girl); he had his educational exposure at  various institutions like Mayhill Convent School, Ibadan-Oyo state; Remo Secondary School, Sagamu in Ogun state (South West Nigeria) and Ogun state Polytechnic in Abeokuta. He later graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from the famous Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife in Osun state. At many other times, the publisher of Nigeria’s Most Circulated Celebrity magazine had professional courses at both the national and international school levels. One of such is a Post Graduate Diploma from the Daily Times institute of Journalism in Lagos and a Certificate in Political Reporting and International Journalism from the famous Center for Foreign Journalism, USA
Dr. Seye Kehinde is the Aare Onigege-Ara of Iroko Ekiti a title given to him by His Royal Majesty, Oba Sunday Ekundayo the Oluroye of Iroko Ekiti land Ekiti state, South West Nigeria.
He spoke with your soar away Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika in a no-hold barred encounter you will find very interesting. Enjoy! 

When City People was N150

Clocking 50 must have come to you with lots of expectation, how do you feel arriving the golden jubilee age?
Well, it looks very strange to me because I am not one to feel a particular age. Of course I celebrate every birthday that comes because of the very nature of the kind of person I am but reaching 50 is a milestone. It is a significant age to attain. I guess the only thing I will say it has done to me is that it has made me think back, to look at how far the journey has been and I guess for everybody that hits this milestone you will want to review your life in terms of achievement, in terms of stock taking and so many things. It is a period of great reflection and it also gives you the impression that maybe it just crisp in on you basically because it was not something I was looking at to come so quickly. Of course I have always known I will be 50 but I never taught it was going to be this early. And you know for most of us, turning 50 is always about you seeing a lot of people turning 50 and you think ‘oh, they are old’ and all of that and then you begin to ask yourself ‘are you getting into that league now?’. So, basically, those are the kind of thoughts that will come to mind at a time like this. 

“I can tell people CITY PEOPLE is not my idea, yes we can say it is my idea in practical terms but it is primarily a message from God.  There is a spiritual bend to it that most people don’t understand”

Dr. Seye Kehinde with Asabeafrika's GDA in a picture 10 years ago

Why People think I am above 50
Many people who know you were shocked hearing that you just clocked 50, a lot of people felt your peers like Kunle Bakare of Encomium Magazine & Mayor Akinpelu of Global Excellence magazine are younger in age than you considering your long stay in the industry. Do you think you have indeed stayed too long in the industry to just be clocking 50?
I guess it is because I started very early, I started very, very early. I started journalism in my part 2 at the university. I started writing for newspapers in 1982 (At age 17). I guess that is what make people think I have been around for a while. I am one of those I can define as lucky because I quickly decided on what I wanted to do early in life and I didn’t go experimenting. I knew that journalism was what I am going to do and I stepped out to do it. I set out to do journalism by also being close to journalists and also learning at the feet of masters that I met in the profession and that possibly explains why people feel I am older than my age. I started very, very early and I think even at the time I was the editor of TEMPO I must have been one of the youngest editors in the country at that time. I was editor of TEMPO in 1993 during the post June 12 crisis. If you remove 1993 from 2015 you will see clearly that I was an editor at 28. And for one to have been an editor at 28 it means one started off very, very early. And or me, that was an advantage ahead of others.

When City People was selling for N60

I cried on my first day as an editor
So, what were the challenges of editing a publication at 28, I know it wasn’t a tea party?
The challenge basically was for you to prove that you can do it. I remember the first day Mr. Bayo Onanuga announced to me that I was to take over the editorship of TEMPO I started crying. For me, I was like ‘how can he ever think I could sit and face that kind of challenge?’ because I was a young reporter at the time, I had nothing stopping me from moving around. I was just restless; I was always all over the place. So, when you now ask me to stay back and do some administrative work and all that, I didn’t quite like the whole idea and I was like ‘how would I cope?’ It simply means I will now have to do some administrative work, I have to do some table work and I won’t be able to go out there. I had always enjoyed being on the street, getting stories, nobody boggling me down with any commitment than to go and get stories and I know anytime I entered the newsroom I will always give them stories. I always had stories and for me, that was the ultimate but Mr. Bayo Onanuga said he will face the other challenges that I should now take it upon myself to edit TEMPO. And for me it was like ‘Bad News’ that ‘why would he all of them just leave the entire thing for me to do’ but of course he (Onanuga) also told me that I shouldn’t worry that he will always support me and all that but apparently he was just using that to convince me to take it up and all that. I just found out after I took over that I was on my own, there was nobody assisting me. I had to be the reporter, I had to be the editor and the administrator because we were under pressure at that time and every other person had one thing or the other to do. So, I just had to be in charge and it made me grow up fast because I also knew it was a huge responsibility for me and I didn’t want a situation where it will be said that when they handed it over to me I could not meet up or that I failed and all of that. So, I had to measure up to the responsibility and the expectation that people had on me.

City People Cover @ N200

When City People was N120

I am a solution oriented person
It was clear leadership was thrust on your weak shoulder at 28, did your shoulder break eventually?
The actual challenge was ‘how do you put a magazine out every week?’; a magazine that people have become very used to, it was a firebrand paper and suddenly you now found yourself having to put the magazine out and it is not as if you have a team of your own. Basically you are to draw from the pool of journalists in the organization but as far as they are concerned they needed somebody to take charge of the magazine while they do other things. So, really, you are on your own and of course, it was a big test for me; it was a great leadership test. How do you take up from the point of a roving reporter to that of a sitting editor? How do you run that kind of a publication and of course finding contents; those were the challenges that confronted me at that time and I have never been a failure and I didn’t want to be a failure at that point in time. So, I looked at how does one begin to get that done and of course, maintain the fairy nature of the publication. I had to learn on my feet because there were lots of things that I didn’t know before, that I had to learn on the job, administrative work, paper work and you have to write, edit your stories and follow it to the press. This is a must do, you have to combine so many roles. Of course it helped because it prepared me for greater challenges and it made me know that it was not a tea party; that journalism is not for the lily livered. But I guess what also helped me was the fact that when I was in school I have learnt that lesson, that life itself is not a tea party. You are coming into a world where you have to fight for everything, you have to be serious minded, you have to be focused and all of that. I guess if I didn’t have all of that in me, it would have been a huge disaster because I have always been a serious minded person and a lot of people quarrel with me that I take life too serious and I tell them that my own little lessons are drawn from reading auto-biography and biography of great men. It prepared me and made me know that life is not a tea party; you have to be prepared for it I mean there will be storms, there will be challenges and when some of those challenges and storm came in my life, I could deal with them because I was prepared for them. I knew that yes, it will come and I am always waiting for one. So, any challenge that comes my way I always look for solution. That is why I am somebody who is solution-driven. Once there is a challenge or a problem, I will say ‘gentlemen, what can we do?’ Problems will come, it is normal but it is now for us as managers and human beings to always look for ways to surmount those challenges.

“Being a womanizer does come into it at all, you know one thing you must know about this our job is that people tends to paint you in pictures that you are not; initially it used to worry me but after a while I now realize that maybe that is how people see us and all that”.

Dr. Seye Kehinde in an old pics with famous female broadcaster turned politician, Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa

At the time you took over as the editor of TEMPO, the magazine was having an identity crisis in terms of trying to be soft and hard at the same time, how was you able to strike the balance as the new helmsman?
I think I took over at a time we needed to sustain the publication and a time we also needed to sustain the political content of the publication and it is something I am used to, so it wasn’t a big problem per se but at the same time we also needed to humanize the contents in the publication, we needed to give it a human face. So, I had to balance the two. While not sacrificing the hot nature of the package, we also had to put in some things for women, put in some things for the society readers and that led us to starting the gist column at the back page that became very popular and all of that; again, as we were moving out of the June 12 news season we also realized that we needed to soften the newspaper in such a way that it will have a followership even when politics was no longer in vogue. That is one of the reasons we had to introduce and inject some soft elements into the magazine like the gist column at the back page.

The GDA meets Dr. SK for Asabeafrika

TEMPO Magazine where Dr. Seye Kehinde horned his skills as an editor @ 28

I am sad for TEMPO’s Death
Looking back now and as one of the founding publishers of TEMPO would you say you regretted that the magazine died in the long run?
Well, you will always regret the death of a publication. Like a senior colleague once said, that the death of every publication is like the death of a human being because a publication brings life to society and if that life is now seized, it is like another life is gone. A lot goes with it, as a founding member, I would have loved it to be alive. Anybody that set up a publication does not even set it up for it to die, so, if it dies, it is a sad thing but again in this environment of ours; the survival of a publication is largely dependent on the economic situation at any point in time. So, it was a big battle before the management decided to lay it to rest.

Dr. Seye Kehinde with former boss and The News Publisher, Bayo Onanuga with Colleague, Kunle Bakare, Publisher, Encomium

How I got the inspiration for City People
(Cuts in) Some people said that was the reason why you left the organization?
No, no, no, I have gone before it (TEMPO) died. I have had the CITY PEOPLE vision a long time ago and I am somebody who works with God’s guidance and God’s divine message. I got the message that, that was the time I needed to start it and really, I can tell people CITY PEOPLE is not my idea, yes we can say it is my idea in practical terms but it is primarily a message from God.  There is a spiritual bend to it that most people don’t understand. All the ideas we come up with are not my ideas, they are not ideas that I have drawn up.  I get the inspiration to move and I always wait on the Lord to lead me to do anything that I need to do. Even if I need to go out now, if I don’t get a clear message from God that ‘ok, start going now’, I will not leave. So, at the time I decided to leave TEMPO, there was a divine message that ‘this is the time for you to move’. In fact the period was harsh; it was like the end of the year, it was just a few weeks to Christmas, that is not a time when you give birth to a new publication but that was the time I got the instruction to go and start the publication. Then, I had a friend who was my best friend at that time; he is a finance person, he equally told me to start the publication but I said no. I said I would not start until I have adequate fund to start and of course, the excuse I used to give him at that time was that ‘I don’t have money, I don’t have enough money’ and there was a day he asked me a very cogent question, he said ‘How much do you need to set up City People?’. I said ‘I don’t really know’. He said ‘but you use to say you don’t have money’ and I said ‘Yes, because I believe that setting up a publication is an expensive venture’. He now said ‘How much do you need to set up City People?’; when I couldn’t answer him, he now said ok, we would meet again and he would bring his laptop for us to do a meeting where he can then run the checks and add the figures. 

City People Magazine @ One @ N40 per Copy

Of course by the time we met again, he did the running of figures and all of that and it became clear to me that we needed about ten million naira at that time to start the publication and I said ‘you see now, I don’t have that kind of money’ but he said ‘no’, he said in business you don’t need to have all the money you need, that out of that ten million, do you know that you don’t need to have more than a million or two million. That all you need is an office for it to take place, salaries for six months and by the time he gave me the feasibility study I said ‘ah, ah, this thing is do-able now’. He said you don’t need a delivery van immediately; you don’t need even computers you can go and type stories at a business center. So, I learnt another lesson at that point that if you are starting any business you don’t need all the money that you may need to have at the beginning. All you need to get going is the idea. Once the idea is there, it will attract the money that you need and of course as you go along you begin to add to it. So, that was a big lesson that l learnt and that was how CITY PEOPLE came to be. I didn’t leave TEMPO because of anything, before I left I called my colleagues and I told them that ‘me, I have this idea that I have from my school days, it is a soft sell and stuff like that’ and one of the people I respect so much in the industry, Mr. Bayo Onanuga asked me to give him an idea of what the publication will look like and I said I have not seen a similar publication that looks like it but that, what I know is that it will do this, it will do that, but basically it is going to be a human interest publication that will put people at the center of it and all of that; and he asked further, that would it be colored or black and white I said ‘no, it will be sixteen page black and white’ and he was quite surprised, he said ‘how can you be doing sixteen pages black and white when people are already doing color and I said ‘well, it is because of funds, I don’t have enough funds but I know the funds that I have can still do black and white’ and that was how we started CITY PEOPLE and today, the rest is history.
What happened to you when you saw the first publication of CITY PEOPLE?
I feel elated. I was so happy. It was like a dream come true. It was like something you have been imagining and now you have it coming to live and for me that was very ecstatic and one was very happy.

Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika....'There is no success without trials'

Do you still have that copy with you till date?
Yes, I do. I am even thinking of doing an exhibition of the first set of copies of CITY PEOPLE that were black and white, I kept few copies. I have many stored in the book store and I am thinking that very soon, one will need to do the exhibition of the early editions and let new generation readers see what we looked like then
Could you recall high moments in the profession?
High moment, high moment, high moment, I guess when I was made editor of TEMPO at 28 and maybe when CITY PEEOPLE was born because that was a landmark. There are so many high moments that one cannot recall now and I guess it comes from time to time when one records a major success in ideas and initiatives, you get elated and you get happy.
What about the day you got married?
Yeah, that is also one of it. Marriage is also a landmark event in a way.

Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika....'Age 50 is an age to take stocks'

My greatest regret in journalism /why I don’t flaunt family
In the last couple of years nobody has been able to match you with your marital life, is that deliberate or act of work?
Like I said I am slightly unusual in my way. When I was starting off I knew the area I was going into was going to be a very rough one because I was going to be writing about people’s image, people’s ego and all of that; and there is a likely hood of harm coming from all of that and then, three, I also felt that it will be safe for me if people can know the name but cannot match the face with the name because then, when I started, I will go to a function and sit down with people, eavesdrop, listen to what they are saying and do stories. I used to be everywhere because nobody could put the face to the name; by the time they read the story they will say ‘but he was at that party’ and they will say ‘Ehen, I didn’t know he was there’ and all that; that one went on for four to five years but I lost that anonymity when City People started doing shows. There was a time we needed to strengthen the entertainment arm of the business and we had to start doing shows and at every show I will have to do welcome address and all of that and that was when people started seeing my face and of course some of the shows we do get recorded, they get shown, the CDs get sold and all of that and people started getting to know me and getting to see me and that was how I lost my anonymity. In fact that is one of the biggest regret I think I have in this profession. I mean I could no longer hide and do my job any longer. If I am buying fuel at a petrol station now, people will say ‘oh, I know you I saw you in K1’s video I saw you in somebody’s CD and all that and for me that is not me. It affects my professional competence and flow because now, people know you but before nobody could put a face to who I am and I was enjoying that anonymity and it helped me professionally. I was able to get a lot of things achieved but once you get known and all that, it becomes a problem.

Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika....'My eleevation to the position of editor at 28 made me to grow fast on the job'

So, how does your wife share you with journalism?  
She (Mrs. Funke Kehinde) understands me truly and I am also very faithful to her.
How did you met your wife; was she also a journalist?
Yes she was in Concord Press in those days but she didn’t spend too long before she left the profession because both of us cannot be journalists; she had to leave to become a civil servant; she changed job because we cannot be both journalists and chasing stories around town together, we had to balance it up. She had to change profession and she became a civil servant with Lagos State Government.

When City People was N80

“People have wrong perception about me”
Being a famous pen star there is likely hood that women will run after you, do you womanize?
What you need in this profession is maturity, you handle them with maturity because you need to work with them, and it is a natural thing. Women will always come your way and it now depends on how you handle them; it also depends on what you want to do with them, that is why I said wisdom and maturity must be the hallmark to enable you draw the line beyond profession and emotion.

Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika....'I was the youngest editor when i edited TEMPO, i fell bad the publication died'

But are you a womanizer?
Being a womanizer does come into it at all, you know one thing you must know about this our job is that people tends to paint you in pictures that you are not; initially it used to worry me but after a while I now realize that maybe that is how people see us and all that. Sometimes people even think I know all the rich men in Nigeria, people think I know all the governors in Nigeria but I know that I don’t know all of them and I know that my resources are limited. So, people say all sorts of things about us, about celebrities, about journalists but I don’t really mind because those that are really close to me know that I am deeper than all of that. I am one of the few people that have a clear picture of what I want from life and I don’t miss words in terms of how to go about it and how to get it and of course my orientation is different from all that”.

When City People Cover Price was N100

How City People won the soft sell perception war
“When I went into soft sell a lot of people wondered why I could leave hard journalism for soft sell and I made it clear at that time that I don’t believe that everything was unserious about soft sell. I believe what soft sell is doing is to report the softer side of life because we are reporting the same thing but it is just that you humanize it; instead of talking about figures and all that, you put a face to it, you make it appealing and let people read leisurely and when they saw what City People was able to do, they said ‘Ah, we didn’t actually know you could turn it around like this’. That we could do soft sell and give it a serious attention, I mean we review books; we talk to serious minded people and celebrate issues as well. But then, what I am interested in is the human side of the person, how human or how inhuman or what makes the person thick and all that; those are the kind of things that I go for. And suddenly in my career, I saw all the big publications in Nigeria softening up, I saw the almighty Guardian (Newspaper) softening up, I saw the almighty Punch, Thisday and a lot of people after them humanizing their stories. I remember speaking with Dr. Reuben Abati before he became presidential spokesman and he told me how they had to fight a big battle at The Guardian for them  to soften up the publication by using more photographs, use more color and for me, when all of that happened at The Guardian, I said ‘Well, I have won the battle’. Even Economist of London went colored with few words, more pictures on glossy paper, it simply means that they realized that the consuming public want a soften report. I am very happy that all these have taken place within the confines of my own experience and personal efforts.

Dr. SK with Mum, Madam Ebun Kehinde, wife, Funke, son, Seye Jnr. & Daughter, Dunsin Kehinde with his state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun

So, what is the worst report somebody ever wrote about you and how did you take it?
There is nothing they haven’t written or said but I am not someone who get worked up about that, like I told you earlier, I think the book that I read in school prepared me for the role I had to play because I have become toughened because I have read the biography of someone like Awo, someone like Zik, someone like Mahatma Ghandi and other folk-heroes in history. Their experiences taught me that travails will come your way but your ability to contain it is what matters. There is no success without trials. So, when people pick of their biros and just write all sorts of things I just let it go; my own is once your conscience is clear that you are not the kind of person they say you are, people will know. I have people who come back to me to apologize to say ‘Oh, please o, they didn’t know this thing was true or they didn’t know it was like this or like that’. And I say ‘well, I don’t really mind, I mean you have done what you want to do’. And of course I have this belief and I always tell people that if we believe that we have the right to write about other people, other people too must have a right to say anything weather good or bad because we are in the public space and in the public domain and people are free to express their opinion about us just like journalists too pick their biros and write about people.

City People Cover now @ N300

(Part 2 of the SEYE KEHINDE’s 50th Birthday Exclusive “How I missed Abacha’s bullet 3 times” coming on this blog tomorrow. Kindly revisit)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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