Monday, 9 May 2016

Untold story of my unceremonious sack from PUNCH Newspaper— Kemi Ashefon

By on 11:41
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Kemi Ashefon & The GDA after the encounter

Kemi Ashefon has come a long way in romance and life style reporting business in Nigeria. A gifted and very stylish journalist with over two decades experience on her beat. The first of six lucky kids born to an Ondo State (South Western Nigeria) parent is an accomplished life style journalist in all ramifications. The English-Literature graduate of Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan (UI) was before her unceremonious exit from PUNCH Newspaper (a leading Nigeria’s newspaper) three weeks ago, one of the star Editors who made the newspaper thick with her innovation. She created SPICES, one of the high flying columns in the newspaper.
Her series of columns on beauty tips, lifestyle, relationship and kiddies’ affair are what brought delightful moments to many readers across the world. But being an e-journalism complaint journalist, Kemi opened a blog to her name called which deliberated on issues on romance, love and marital affairs. PUNCH, her employer found such initiative offensive and decided to push her out. 

For years, PUNCH Newspaper is alleged to have an antecedent of sacking hardworking staff with bright prospects over flimsy mistakes. Names abound of top Nigerian journalists who have been sacked or removed under very funny situations. The latest among them is Pa Tunde Fagbenle, a veteran Nigerian columnist who wrote for PUNCH for over 20 years but was recently suspended without any given reason. Pa Fagbenle in a recent interview with leading Nigerian Celebrity Magazine, CITY PEOPLE lamented how sad he felt with the newspaper’s action which didn’t regard his years of meritorious contribution.
 However, Kemi Ashefon’s own fate was dramatic. On May 2nd which is Worker’s day Holiday, your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika cornered the gifted journalist in a 3 star hotel in Lagos as she revealed the unheard story of the unceremonious exit from a medium she served for 16 years. Kemi equally shared the beautiful story of her new blog with us. Enjoy…   
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika...'My sack from PUNCH was not pleasant but i see it as the best thing that ever happened to my life'
Madam, we are happy to meet with you today; can you tell us about Kemi Ashefon?
Well, I am Kemi Ashefon, I have written about relationships for over 16 years now. I think I started with PUNCH that was year 2000. It was the editor of the Saturday Punch, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene who spotted me and said to me ‘I like the way you write, why not start writing this for us?’ I think at the time, PUNCH just sent away some columnists that they were not going to pay them. So, he (Azuh) said ‘if you are an in-house staff and we are paying you salary, why can’t you write?’ and I said ‘Well, I don’t know what to say o’’. Then the famous column in PUNCH was “Dear Nike”, I said, I don’t know what to write about because the author of ‘Dear Nike’ on Saturday Punch then, was an elderly person. Azuh was now like, ‘you can do it, Kemi go and give me four editions’. And that is Azuh Ishiekwene for you, he will just say go and do it, I want result, and you just go and do it. So, I now did one edition and I gave him, I said ‘sir, I am not as matured as Aunty Nike’ he now said ‘It is okay, it is okay, it is nice. Just go and do another edition’. I did another one, he said ‘it is okay’ and it was always ‘ok, ok’ and that was how I started in year 2000. It was end of the year because I joined PUNCH in July 2000.
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika...'Mike Awoyinfa and late Dimgba Igwe discovered me'
The way you write about issues especially relationship is quite inspiring and people do wonder how you do that seamlessly, what is the secret of your writing prowess?
I think it has to do with my growing up. I am the first child of my parent, we are six (4 girls, two boys). But I have always been an M&B freak; I have always read love stories when I was growing up. But beyond my reading proficiency, I think it is just a gift from God because at times I ask ‘how do I get answers to all these questions sent to me?’ and I just write and it clicks. So, I think it is actually God, not because I read M&B or whatever. It is just an inspiration deposited in me by God.
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika...'Running a dating blog is my own way of creating a niche for myself'
“I was born and raised in Lagos. My parents are Catholics, my dad is Pa Emmanuel Owoyemi Ashefon, he is a knight of St. Mulumba, and he is alive and would be 75 in December. My mum is Lady Victoria Ashefon, she is also a knight of the order of St. Mulumba”

Maybe reading also influenced your writing skills because Chimamanda Adichei once said ‘Good reading makes good writing?
Yes, I read a lot of love stories and I equally red Hearts and Hints Magazine that was when Hints was still Hints. I really love to read love stories anyway but I think it is basically God endowing you with the talent.
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika....'I never knew i had such an amazing bank of goodwill until PUNCH sacked me'
Untold Story of my humble beginning…
How was growing up for Kemi Ashefon and how did your environment influenced your writing?
The GDA, Mike Awoyinfa & Late Dimgba Igwe with two of their best selling books'
I think my dad was the biggest influence; he was always like ‘You all must be educated’ and he will not take less for good. We are from Ondo State, Oka Akoko. So, we are very fascinated about education. Even my mum, despite the fact that my mum is not a graduate but she still instilled that discipline in us, everybody must be educated. That is the only legacy they think they can give to their kids and to the glory of God, they ended up producing six graduates and even more than that because we had relatives and acquaintances who lived with my parent and benefitted as well. I think growing up with my parent was quite instructive because my parents are God fearing. My mum preaches contentment to all of us and she will say ‘what is not my own, I don’t take and I don’t envy people’ she will say ‘if you don’t have it, then God doesn’t want it for you’. That has really helped me in my relationship with others, even at work or with friends. If I don’t have it, God doesn’t want me to have it and if I have it, all well and good. We also have this attitude of letting things be, when it happens, just move on and create your own experience.
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika....'No Employer will ever allow you live the kind of life you desire for yourself'
Tell us about your educational background?
I attended Ikeja High School; from there I went to the University Of Ibadan where I read English Literature. After graduation I stayed briefly in Abuja before coming to Lagos and I got a job in Concord Newspaper. Actually, my first job was at Concord Newspaper that is Weekend Concord. I worked with Mike Awoyinfa and the late Dimgba Igwe. I think they are the ones that actually brought me into the world of creativity because I was actually employed by Mr. Dele Alake ( Former Lagos State Commissioner for Information & Strategy) to be a proof reader. He was initially skeptical about employing me; he was like ‘Oh, women, I don’t want a woman as proof reader, they will start telling you, ‘I can’t come because of my baby’ and I said ‘Sir, i am not married, I am single’; of course he employed me but it was not willingly because he taught women will always have excuses.  But along the line I got used to the job, I got fascinated with what I was doing, I was reading and editing for others. I said ‘this people I am reading, I can even write better than them’; one day I just caught up with Mr. Awoyinfa that I want to start writing and he said ‘go and write something’. So, I did a story on mass wedding in the Catholic Church and that was how I became a reporter. I think I learnt so much from them, I learnt so, so, much from them. Mr. Sola Osunkeye (Now Ghana MD of Daily Sun) was my supervisor at the time; he is also one of those who taught me how to write very well. To God be the glory, I have spent many yeas on the trade. I spent two years in Concord, moved to PUNCH and left PUNCH like two weeks ago. 
“Immediately, I left PUNCH, on my way, the calls I had were the calls of supports and encouragement. In fact, someone gave me an office on Opebi (By Allen Avenue) that I wouldn’t have gotten in my life. I don’t know where I would have gotten such money for rent”.

Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika....'Someone gave me a big office to use for free @ Opebi after i was sacked from PUNCH'
How PUNCH fired me…
Yes, I think we should go straight to your exit from PUNCH Newspaper because today is actually Worker’s Day holiday (Monday May 2nd). A lot of people felt you were one of the very few journalists who contributed so much to the uplifting of PUNCH Newspaper as you were the creator of the Spice Celebrity Page and that the way you were asked to go was very un-civilized.  Your sack did not commensurate your contribution. How did the entire episode happen happen?
Really I don’t want to talk about it but if you ask a question I will give you the answer. I think it started with my blog. I have a blog. I actually started one two years ago but recently, I became more aggressive in producing stories (Content) on the blog. On the 21st of April I got a query from my boss Miss Toyosi Ogunseye that said I was posting some of my blog contents, that I was posting the link on Spice Facebook page (Spice Facebook Page was created by her as she is the initiator of the Spice column).
You created Spice, isn’t it?
Yeah, I was Spice Editor for almost 4 years before I was transferred to the Feature’s desk. I replied the query. I said ‘I am sorry’ that I thought the face book page was dormant and I wanted to put my link to make it vibrant’. And immediately I went to the page and I deleted all the posts; I think I had like six posts there and I deleted all; and immediately I sent a mail to them (PUNCH) informing them that I have deleted the stories, ‘I am sorry if I have cause you any form of embarrassment’ and that was the last I heard from them. That day was Thursday 21st of April and by Friday around noon; the Admin people called me and gave me a letter. I was surprised, and that terminated my almost sixteen year’s appointment with PUNCH. Of course it wasn’t pleasant but I thank God I had been very aggressive with my blog. I have actually taught of leaving before then because I knew there would be conflict of interest. So, I was still waiting but I think this incident is just God’s way of bringing me out because I was reluctant. I have gotten that nudge to leave PUNCH over a year ago but I was like ‘let me hold on’. You know that fear of uncertainty that ‘if I resign, oh, my son, my this; my that’ meanwhile God has a plan for you and I know there are millions of my types out there, they are working, they are paid and they don’t want to leave. They are like ‘if I go, if I leave this place because of salary, what would I be eating? You will be shocked that you are even better off.
The Miracle of my exit from PUNCH…
“Immediately, I left PUNCH, on my way, the calls I had were the calls of supports and encouragement. In fact, someone gave me an office on Opebi (By Allen Avenue) that I wouldn’t have gotten in my life. I don’t know where I would have gotten such money for rent. He gave me an office and said ‘don’t worry, come and use that office, I don’t use it. Come and stay there, use all the gadgets there. Use my internet etc’. I was shocked. I have not driven home o. I was on my way and they have heard. And I was like ‘see what God has tried to do in my life for over one year now and I was reluctant, trying to hold unto my salary’. Thank God it happened. In fact, if I see the management and Toyosi  Ogunseye that sacked me, I think I will thank her because she has actually driven me into God’s will and purpose for my life. Because if I had stayed in PUNCH, I wouldn’t be serious with my blog and now I have a website, I have my blog and I have a proposal already for my Radio Program. I wouldn’t have done that in PUNCH. So, I think it is just God’s way of opening me up to His purpose for my life and I am not aggrieved. I am happy, in fact, I am happier than when I was in PUNCH. Immediately I got home, I was actually working on my blog. In fact, it was even the torrent of calls to my phone from people that interrupted my session. They were calling to say ‘oh, we heard you have left PUNCH’ and I said ‘Well, I have moved on, I am busy with my blog’. I knew of course, with time, there would be conflict. There was no way I could have stayed that long with the blog and the level of commitment I brought to it.
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika....'Yes, i red romance literatures but God gave me the talent'
Some industry observers felt PUNCH could still have retained you as what you are doing is actually an addition to their identity. Moreover, PUNCH is alleged to have history of sacking staff over flimsy excuses that are of no judgmental value. For instance, names like Biodun Kuponiyi, Peter Thomas and recently, Uncle Tunde Fagbenle were asked to go over flimsy reasons. In Uncle Tunde Fagbenle’s case, PUNCH just sacked him without a reason after 20 years. Do you think PUNCH has a sadistic tendency of laying up staff without compensation?
The question you asked has to be answered by the management of PUNCH Newspaper. I am not a member of the board, I am not a management staff, and I was just an Assistant Editor before I left. So, I wouldn’t know what led to Mr. Fagbenle’s sack or the stopping of his column but I just know I left after almost sixteen years. I don’t want to say it is the PUNCH’S way. But God wanted mine to happen, it had to happen. In fact my brother has told me for over 3 months that ‘Aunty Kemi, if you don’t leave that place, there will be a day they will lock the gate and tell you not to come in’. In fact when I was leaving the office I drove straight to his house and he was like “I told you. Thank God it has happened”. My parents were thankful, everybody was thanking God for me that God’s will is about to happen.  So, I don’t know about others but mine is actually God driven. So, I think I should thank God first and thank God for whoever pointed me out of PUNCH because that person drove me to my blessing. What I am counting now in goodwill and everything I have never ever had it when I was in PUNCH.
The GDA meets Kemi Ashefon
Why I run a dating blog…
Your blog appears to be gaining so much attention within a very short time. I was looking at your blog and I was quite surprised that within such a short time you have been able to build a formidable readership base. What is the secret of your blog?    
I think I just wanted to carve a niche for myself and I have done that already. I have always written about relationship, talked about love related issues and answered questions on relationship and I said ‘let me do something that is related to what I was doing in PUNCH all my years’. I think I must give credit to Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene because he was the one who actually pushed me to doing it. I never knew I could do that. So, there is no way I would write my story and not write about him that he helped me to do that which I never knew I could do. So, the blog is just about me, what I do. Love, divorce, separation anything relationship, in fact I wrote so much on Tiwa Savage (The Musician) that I said ‘Oh, I will not write again’ (Laughter) but you will be tempted to write when people send in so many facts on what is happening. I think the first story I wrote on separation and divorce was the one on late Funmi Martins’ daughter, Mide Funmi Martins and Hafeez Owoh, I was still in PUNCH then. We were producing and it was a Saturday, immediately I saw her Instagram post, I just started writing, I posted it.  I saw the response that came, and I kept writing and posting new views from it. I think it is a passion. Writing is a passion, you have to be passionate because I have realized that blogging is not as easy as everybody taught or I actually taught because there are nights I will not sleep and the following morning I have to wake up, take care of my child and I will still resume in the office, then I was in PUNCH. So, it was then I decided that I have to do something. I can’t be doing all these and still be going to office, it was so stressful but now I am more relieved. At least I wake up and do my thing, I am not thinking of going to any office. My blog is about love, dating, relationship issues; anything love. Anything you can think about love. I am also planning to do a website that will enable me to do other things.

“In fact, if I see the management and Toyosi  Ogunseye that sacked me, I think I will thank her because she has actually driven me into God’s will and purpose for my life. Because if I had stayed in PUNCH, I wouldn’t be serious with my blog and now I have a website, I have my blog and I have a proposal already for my Radio Program”
The GDA raises a question with Kemi Ashefon
Don’t you think it will be good you just have a strong blog followership that will be a niche market for you instead of expanding your brief with a website?
I want to really expand my tentacles. I will run my blog and nothing will reduce our niche but we want to equally have a second platform where I can write news, place news items and paste other human interest stories. I can’t do that on a dating blog because I just want this one to be exclusively dating blog. I don’t want to add anything to it.
But your industry is huge because we keep having thousands of people with various relationship  problems and it seems Kemi Ashefon is good with her role as a counselor of sort, don’t you think that is your own peculiar niche?
Yeah, yeah, I think so and that is why I am still with the blog. The website is a plus and I already got an administrator for that. I can do that but I think my primary passion is still the blog. That is why I want to hold unto it, some people are like ‘take everything to the website’ but I said ‘no, let me just have my blog because it is a niche platform’. I like the result I get from blogging, the way people respond to it is quite tremendous. In four weeks I have had over thirty thousand hits and I was really shocked. I said ‘is this what humanity expects of me?’ it is actually God. God has wanted me to start this long ago but I was foot dragging on the dream.
The GDA speaks with Madam Kemi Ashefon
Lesson I learnt from my unceremonious exit from PUNCH…
What is the greatest lesson you learnt from the way PUNCH decided to sack you after 16 years without recourse to your commitment and support over the years?
That no employer want an employee…I don’t want to use the word succeed. No employer wants you to live the level you want to be. So, if you are trying to break the glass ceiling, there will be problem. But if you stay in that cage and you dance to their tune, maybe you will still be there. But everybody, and I say it all the time, has something that is in his him or her that God want to use.  So, if you are in one cage and  you say ‘because I want to have my salary I will not move on’; you will be in your employer’s cage and you will just be going round the circle, you are just moving round the circle, a vicious circle, even if you are collecting over a million Naira. I met a woman last week, she told me she used to work with Ericson and she was earning over a million naira every month but she left. In fact when she said it, in my heart I didn’t believe it. Her salary was close to N1.5 Million apart from medicals, housing allowance and the rest but she left. She now has an online shopping company called African Dress Shop or whatever and in fact, she is doing well. I am bringing her on my blog now. In fact, Google is even the one advertising for her; she just decided to leave Ericsson and I said ‘what should I say in this situation?’.  When you build other people’s brand, they are happy but immediately you start your own, there will be tension and there will be conflict of interest. So, it is better you leave in time, just know your passion and I am saying this on worker’s day, what do you want to do? What are you created for? What are your dreams? What makes you happy? Aside from that salary, what makes you happy? If everybody is thinking that way, we would not be stocked in one organization because at times, it is not easy working for people, taking all the insults and embarrassment in the organization. I think it is not the best and you know you have this gift, you can do this thing. I was the one who started SPICE the style pull out in Sunday PUNCH, I did it for almost four years and I was removed just like that. Of course I wasn’t bothered. That was an organizational decision, they wanted someone else. I wasn’t aggrieved because I am still like a mentor to every one working on that desk. I don’t care, if I have ideas I send to them. I call them and motivate them but God has been telling me, immediately I was removed from SPICE I knew my time was up. So, even if they had done worse than sack, I deserve it because I didn’t listen to God when He wanted me out.
Kemi Ashefon to Asabeafrika...'I met a woman who earned N1.5m @ Ericsson but resigned to pursue her dream'
(Read Part 2 of the Kemi Ashefon exclusive titled “3 reasons why many Journalists die in Paid Employment Slavery” on this blog shortly)

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  1. This is revealing, i'm waiting for the part two with anxiety....

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  4. It is well beloved! The Lord is your strength! Kindly keep us posted! Stay blessed

  5. I know Kemi very well, she is v.v.brilliant and a go getter.Hmnn, that is what they do to journalists.It happened to me but it is not yet time fir me to talk.