Friday, 13 November 2015

Celebrity Journalist, Babs Adegbenjo (Babbi) Breaks Silence! | Says “Mum’s Death Turned My Life Around” + Untold Story of his runaway success in the UK

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Babs Adegbenjo aka The Babbi the Cat with Nine Lives
Babs Adegbenjo can be described as the proverbial cat with nine lives and this can only be confirmed from the story you are to read about this Ibadan, Oyo state, south western Nigeria born media guru of over two decades. In the last 5 years, not much has been heard about Babs an effervescent personality who is generally known to be a Jolly good Fellow. With Babbi, there was never a dull moment hence, curiously, your Africa s number 1 Encounter Blog Asabeafrika went after this amiable ex-Vintage People, ex-Hints Magazine, ex-City People, ex-FAME Weekly, ex-Global Excellence and Publisher/CEO of the London based Crystals Magazine especially following conflicting stories about the loveable gentleman, who was known to be fun loving and a happy go fellow as to why he has suddenly went private and silent.

Getting Babbi to open up to any media platform is the worst form of adventure any journalist or blogger can come across. It is worse than sorting water from the rock. It is as crazy as trying to seek free breadth in a deep pool of water but our over six month journey paid off last Tuesday November 10 when Babbi added a year and celebrated his birthday in the city of London . His Facebook page boomed with greetings and well-wishes from far and near and so we seized the opportunity to track him again for a chat by putting a call to him through Facebook Messenger .At first, he nearly denied us again but for God grace which made him see the reason to talk to us after turning us down for six months, he agreed to speak  after much persuasion and clarifying certain private issues which he insist he would not discuss for personal reasons and so, we agreed to play by his rule and here we are. Sit, relax and read the inspirational story of Babs Adegbenjo the cat with nine lives….only on your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog, Asabeafrika. Enjoy! 

Babbi @ World's 6th best University, London School of Economics and Political Science

Sir, you had your birthday on the 10th of November, can you tell us how you marked the day. Was there a party?
(Laughs) No there was no party and there was nothing much to it. First it was a week day and secondly I just turned only a year older. I prayed, worked, read a bit and had dinner in the evening with few special people in my life. That was all. Secondly, I am not a party freak, I don’t like parties, though I sometime do host modest events when necessary and that is the honest truth about me.
(Cuts in) But you were one of Nigeria’s most successful Society writers in your hey days .You were always seen at high profile parties and events, so how come you saying you aren’t a party freak?
You are very correct but that is where it ends. The parties I used to attend in those days were strictly because of my work as a society writer. For me, attending parties was more of work. I wrote about famous people and that was why. That saw me covering parties of the high and mighty, from the Babangidas, Abachas,Folawiyos, Awolowos,Okoyas,the Ibrus,Igbenedion and the Odogwus of this world. I think that really got boring to me at some point. I began to think that I could do better with my brain than just writing about Champagnes and glamour , or about whose wedding gown was more expensive or  who’ s got the latest Bentley. However, it is understandable if many use that experience to conclude that I must be a go-go fellow or a party animal, but I’m very far from that. 
 Gbenga, would you believe that in the last five years, I‘d only attended three parties? One was the 50thbirthday party of my boss, brother and mentor; Mr. Mayor Akinpelu in Lagos-Nigeria in April 2010, the second was actually my own party which was the burial of my dad in Ibadan in 2012 while the last one was the wedding ceremony of a relation in Barking here in the UK.
That is to show you the real me, outside media. I don’t miss parties, I have attended too many, especially due to my work as publisher of a Celebrity News Magazine ,as  Society Editor and Deputy editor at FAME magazine and other outfits where I had worked. Today, inviting me to a party is like placing a very heavy burden on me. I can’t continue that way as I was not brought up that way.

“I grew up in a home where dad would drive us to school with his Peugeot 504 on his way to work while our Mum would pick us in the afternoon with her Peugeot 404 pick -up or sometimes dropped and picked up by the driver”

Babs Adegbenjo to Asabeafrika...'My Dad inspired my book reading habit from age 10'

That is quite surprising; can we say Babs Adegbenjo is an introvert?
I am not an introvert. Very far from that.  I love life and those who know me know that I am always lively and jovial, but yet a very private person. I am not that guy that brings in every Tom, Dick and Harry to his home. No! To come to my house, either in Lagos or UK, we must be very close. I have learnt a lot, and I do not go about visiting friends at home like most people do. I visit only close friends. This might not be the best, but that is just who I am and how I was raised.
 However, I do unwind and catch up with friends. We go out to bars, lounges or at sports clubs .I go to Cinemas occasionally and dine out at choice restaurants but the best place to chill for me is my home, and that is why I always make my home very comfortable because I am a very homely person and it baffles me seeing how restless some people can be, and I wonder if they don’t love their homes or something and I had been like that even since my days as a society writer. When not at work, I love being home or just hang out.
What influenced your sense of living?
I was brought up in a Seventh Day Adventist family and that really helped to shape my thinking and modest lifestyle from childhood.

Babs Adegbenjo aka Babbi breaks Silence for Asabeafrika

What was growing up like for you?
My parent had 6 children (3 boys and 3 girls) and I am the 4th child. In our household we attended Alafia Nursery and Primary School, which was one of the best in Ibadan at that time. I grew up in a home where dad would drive us to school with his Peugeot 504 on his way to work while our Mum would pick us in the afternoon with her Peugeot 404 pick -up or sometimes dropped and picked up by the driver. Once we got home, there was absolutely no room for roaming the streets as we would resume at mum’s shop downstairs where we would do our homework while she was at her other shops. However as a rule for us, my Dad made it mandatory every night in those days for us to watch NTA News at 9pm and then for us, it was always like a kind of punishment, as typically we would have preferred to watch our Theatre Yoruba’ or Kootu- Asipa’ ,by Late  Oyin Adejobi, Dramas by Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Ajimajasan ( Ola Omonitan) Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irumole ,the famous book by D.O Fagunwa and  adapted on Television then by Late Duro Ladipo or soaps like Cock Crow at Dawn, Why Worry where Akin Lewis played a lead role,  or Wale Ogunyemi’s Bello ‘s Way which was written by Uncle Wole Oyelese or Laolu Oguniyi ‘s Winds Against My Soul  though not all of these were shown at nights, and very much later Arelu by Jimoh Aliyu produced by Yemi Farounbi’s Labs Deroy Center. For us then, we also enjoyed watching Lere Paimo’ s Ogbori Elemosho,and Ishola Ogunshola’ s dramas such as the popular Iyawo Alalubosa’ and ‘Aja lo leru then.. At weekends we would be taken to Kingsway’s at Dugbe or Leventis in Mokola mostly on our ways back from church on Saturdays, remember it was an Adventist home. It was really fun in those days’ .Good old memories, not this age of social media and 247 games.

“He had two Master’s degrees and was always reading till he died. He had a library in the house. When I celebrated my 10th birthday as a kid, my present from him was’ The Complete Work of Williams Shakespeare’. It was a voluminous book with all the literary works of Williams Shakespeare .Can you imagine that type of present for a 10 year old?” .

You mentioned earlier that you do read .What influence that?
First I will say my Dad because he loved reading and he instilled that in me. He had two Master’s degrees and was always reading till he died. He had a library in the house. When I celebrated my 10th birthday as a kid, my present from him was’ The Complete Work of Williams Shakespeare’. It was a voluminous book with all the literary works of Williams Shakespeare .Can you imagine that type of present for a 10 year old? For my 11th year birthday, he gave me a book, the auto biography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and when I clocked 12 my birthday present was a book called “Aminu Kano: The African Revolutionary” and that went on and on and  on my 15th year birthday, it was yet another book, ‘The Biography of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana’.

Babs Adegbenjo with Leadership Lecturer @ University of East London, Dr. Sue

Would you say reading of those books influenced your decision to become a journalist later in life?
Certainly it did, and beyond that, I think reading about great people like Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano,Kwame Nkrumah and the rest fueled my interest in leadership. These people had different styles and I saw the challenges of each and how they overcame and went on to becoming great in life.
However, I lost track about reading and interest in education at a time, especially due to work and lifestyle of a society writer. It was impossible for me, though for some, they could cope, but I thank God, I’m back to my reading habit and studying. These days, hardly will you find me without a book.
What kind of books do you read?
I read all sorts of books. I read on Policy and welfare and I read inspirational books a lot. For instance, some of my best authors are Napoleon Hill and Bob Proctor.I have read some of Bob Proctor books such as “You were Born Rich “and Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and “How to sell your way through life” with Donald Trump University‘s Real Estate 101: Building Wealth With Real Estate Investments by Gary Eldred over and over among other books. These are simple but very great and valuable books among the lot.
Apart from reading of great books, is there any other situation of life that has changed your perception?
I think my mum’s death in 2009 changed my perception of life and it is one of the main reasons responsible for my 360 degree re-discovery of myself. It was a turnaround completely. You see, I was very close to my mum while alive; she was like everything to me. Her death made me realize that life is vanity, and that life is short, hence, do not leave whatever you can do today till tomorrow. Thirdly it made me see the rot in the Nigerian health system clearer. While alive, my mum did practically everything for me including helping me in building of my very first property in Lagos. She did not only do a good job, but also got the street in my name.
What do you mean by rot in our health system?
My mum had diabetes and had only fever and that was it. She was only ill for a few days with series of test done, but she died at one of the best hospitals in the state. Since then I have been asking questions about diabetes and how it can kill so suddenly, but I found out many just like my mum don’t even know if their diabetes is Type 1 or Type 2. So if you don’t know this basic fact, how do you manage your condition? Or if its hypo or hyper. When I ask people in Nigeria, what type they have most of them don’t even know, including educated individuals. So there should be better awareness about conditions like this and also educating the patient more on how to manage it, than just telling them about change of lifestyle and diet alone, but deeper information.
It is sad to see how the hospitals are filled with patients who queue up only for simple test such as blood sugar level, while there are simple, portable and cheap machines they can put in their bags and test themselves regularly with daily.

The Babbi as a World Class Graduate

What is the different between Hypo and Hyper?
For instance if a patient is hypo, that means the person’s insulin level is low and such a patient  needs a bit of sugar consumption like taking glucose or Chocolate.  But if it is hyper; that means it is high, and shouldn’t take sugary stuffs.

“A fool will always remain a fool. One thing I have learnt in life is to be real and never to pretend to be what you are not. Be real. Integrity is a very important quality that we were taught at LSE. Your yes must be yes and no must be no”

So, how did you know all these?
Thank you, like I said, my mum’s death opened my eyes to so many things especially in healthcare, coupled with my experience in the sector. I am not a clinician and you don’t have to be one to know. It’s all about seeking knowledge. These are basic facts everyone should know.
At what point did you then decide to go back to school in UK?
You see in life, assess yourself .Like when you stand in front of the mirror, you see yourself and tell yourself the basic truth. I got to a stage that I was no longer comfortable with just stopping and ending with just a diploma in journalism. I felt with all my intellect, I could do more .For several years, I had tried doing this, but it wasn’t easy for me combining work or business with schooling, so in 2010, about 18 years after I left the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, where I was the Student Union president 1991/92, I decided to take the bold step to return to school.
So which school and did you go to study more about media?
After my mum’s death and not wanting to wait without studying till my university admission gets through, I first enrolled for the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) program at Lewisham College for 18 weeks, and it was towards the end of this course that I got admission to the University of East London .I chose not to study any media course for the simple fact that I wanted something different from what I had been doing all my life. I wanted diversification and wanted to explore new terrains and I chose to do a course which will not only be beneficial to me alone, to my people at large in the area of health and welfare. A course where I can positively make a change and that was how after so much research I came across the Health Services Management programme at UEL. I fell in love with it immediately and also having been recommended for me by an Uncle who was a Consultant to one of the state owned healthcare facilities in Nigeria I just went for the course.

The Babbi with a Classmate on Graduation Day @ University of East London

What is the concept of Health Services Management?
To a layman, it is another Health care course or career or how to run a hospital, but it is far much more than that. It is broad and depends on how one wants to apply it and at what level. But that is not the case. Health Care Services Management is about effective management of resources and how to achieve high standard service delivery in the sector. How best you can manage the available resources you have and yet getting the best result. For instance, if a state has a budget of 2 billion naira for health, how best can they utilize it? Which service or areas gets what and why? Don’t forget, health is broad .It covers primary health care, state owned facilities, mental health services, Drugs and alcohol and rehabilitation centers, and can also be applied to environmental management, waste and pollution etc, Emergency services and social services.
Apart from government, there are international organizations such as the WHO, United Nations and several NGOs making use of consultants of project managers from the field.
So at what point did you move to the London School of Economics?
I graduated from the University of East London with a First class Hons. My initial plan was to stop but something propelled me to go further in my studies. Having studied Health Services Management which is about how to effectively manage resources and budget in the health sector, and how to run effective service with the best service delivery, service quality and how to redesign or transform a non- performing service or in fact how to create a completely new service to address a particular issue, it therefore became important to also have a deep understanding of how policies are formulated, planned and implemented.
As a result, for my Master’s programme, I decided to take the MSC Social Policy and Planning programme at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. (LSE)
What do you think are the biggest problems in the Nigerian Health sector?
Well, if you look at the health sector in Nigeria, the challenge is not really funding, unlike other countries faced with funding problems. If you look at the budget of most State governments and even the Federal government, health is usually within the top five sectors with the highest allocation, yet the impact of the billions spent is not felt by the citizenry. Our own challenge are many, first, corruption and bad management, secondly, lack of clear purpose and policies, thirdly, misplaced priorities, and lack of training and non-motivation of health professionals. You see, Doctors and health workers going on strike being owed salaries or not well remunerated. These are just few of the problems.
Why did you choose LSE because we have heard names of many great Africans like Otunba Subomi Balogun who attended LSE?
First I thank God for giving me the privilege to attend the LSE. It’s been a school I had loved over the years while I met and read about outstanding people. A lot of great men and women have attended this school .Just as you have rightly said, Otunba Subomi Balogun attended the school;  he read law while his son, Bolaji studied Economics there as well. Human Rights lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba SAN, and former National Party of Nigeria (NPN) chairman, Chief Adisa Akinloye to mention a few. Former Labor Leader here in the UK, Ed Miliband also had his masters there.
Secondly, the school is one of the best schools in the UK, added with that is the fact that  the school’s Social Policy Department  is  one of the best in the world while the Social Science Department is ranked second best in the world .According to the latest QS World University Rankings 2015/16, LSE has ranked ahead of Oxford and Cambridge and just behind Harvard in its 'social sciences while the latest overall rankings  rated LSE as the sixth best university in the world for employer reputation and the seventh best University  for the size of its international student .It’s such a great school with very high  standards.
Though expensive, but it’s such an investment worth the while and a lifetime opportunity for anyone.

At a time there was noise about you going into politics in Oyo state; do you still nurse that ambition?
My focus right now is in international development. I presently work in the UK on projects in the field of healthcare and social policy. I am very passionate with the improvement of the Health Systems in Africa, Poverty alleviation and how we can also have good social policy initiatives in Nigeria which will guarantee better living for all. The inequalities in our society must be addressed and to achieve these, one does not necessarily need to be a politician. Our thinking must change that we can all contribute our quota with contesting elections. All over the world, there are NGOs touching lives, while there are companies also helping out by bringing multi nationals and international organizations to help our communities and the poor. Efforts like these will therefore complement that of the government, so we can make changes without being in government or in politics. However, that does not mean I won’t participate in politics. We are all political animals; maybe at the right time, but not desperate.

Babbi @ University of East London

Why I rested Crystal Magazine
Let’s talk about Crystal magazine. Any plans to continue the publication as it really made so much waves at a time?
Well for now the answer is no, I want to concentrate on other areas. I decided to suspend publishing so as to allow me acquire knowledge. I realized I wasn’t well equipped enough to face the challenges of the future. I knew little or nothing in the areas I have mentioned earlier to you. Today I know a lot in the areas of poverty alienation, education policy, health, social policy, international development and empowerment, and I am still constantly learning. Besides that, I also have my hands in other aspects, one of which is real estates.
Because, I know your blog is reputable, I will share this with you; in 2006; my foray into real estate began when I met Oba Dayo Shylon,the Oba of Agbado. Through him, I got 15 plots of land in Ajah,(two and half acres) of swampy land. We sand filled the land and later re sold. That project, called Buckingham Gardens was the beginning of my journey into property business, which I had been doing quietly without noise. I had since acquired and done other projects thereafter, even though, I also got my fingers burnt on some. Today, we thank God; each project or experience comes with its own challenges and lessons. I had bought parcels of land which turned out to fall in government acquired areas(Acquisitions) You can imagine buying a piece of land in Lekki and then after discovering it was government acquired areas, and then being offered Ofada or Sango Otta as compensation. Isn’t that terrible? That has actually happened to me before, but rather than being discouraged, I became more determined and thank God, my present project, nearing completion is also on that axis. It’s a small commercial project but I am very excited about it. It’s not by might. It’s by grace and calculated risks and focus. So let anyone say what they like. The end they say justifies the means

With all your achievements in Europe, why have you remained so silent and elusive in the last 5 years despite the noise about you in certain quarters?
Gbenga, empty barrels make the loudest noise. I do not need to respond to everything anyone says. People are entitled to their opinions and you do not need to try change opinions of foolish and biased people. A fool will always remain a fool. One thing I have learnt in life is to be real and never to pretend to be what you are not. Be real. Integrity is a very important quality that we were taught at LSE. Your yes must be yes and no must be no. Humility is also very important in one’s life and this I learnt early in life.  My focus is where I am going and what I am working on or doing does not need any publicity. I have grown and much matured .I am today more closer to God, wiser and much more educated and experienced. I have been betrayed by many, hence my decision to keep some friends at distance even though I have forgiven all that offended me, and while I am always quick to apologize to anyone I could have offended too. Life is too short.

Who are your mentors?
In the media, Mr. Mayor Akinpelu and Mr. Muyiwa Adetiba; I love and learnt a lot from these two men and I will always be grateful to them for believing in me too. Aside these two, I have also worked with great men that I will always appreciate such as Mr. Kayode Ajala gave me a job at Hints Magazine, Mr. Niyi Akinsiju, Mr Gboyega Okegbenro, Alhaji Billy Adedamola and Mr. Muka Popoola,Mr Dayo Olomu  and my good boss ,Yinka Oyekan for their support and love over the years.

(Read Part 2 of the Babs Adegbenjo’s exclusive from London titled “Day I broke Kola Abiola’s Heart” on Asabeafrika tomorrow hot & Sizzling)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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