Last week, I skipped this second part of my serialisation of the events that have shaped the existence of Ovation Magazine since it was published 25 years ago. I did this in order to address matters of serious national importance tearing the polity apart since I believed that addressing the matter could not wait because they go to the very root of our unity and future as a nation. I am therefore happy to be back on the beat today and writing about something equally positive and more pleasant.
Starting Ovation International magazine in the city of London in 1996 was not an easy task but we were determined to give it a powerful and determined shot. It was better to try and fail than fail to try. A man who is down should fear no fall. So, we took a kamikaze jump, a giant leap of faith and waited for God’s miracle to happen as we were sure it would do. And to ensure we attained and achieved our vision and goals we gave it our all and sacrificed as much as we could and more. You cannot expect people to join you in your dream or help as you go along, if you yourself do not make the personal choices and sacrifices that demonstrate that you have total belief and faith in what you ae propagating and pursuing. You cannot and should not expect understanding or assistance of others if you personally do very little in helping yourself. Once again, my biggest thanks to all those who made it happen.
Our mission was to change or, at least, improve the way in which the African man is projected and visualised. We felt that there was a genuine need to change the narrative about Black people and people of African descent because there has always been a tendency to denigrate them. For us, the simple way to do this was by showcasing and celebrating our own success stories, our successful entrepreneurs, businesses, innovators, geniuses, artistes, celebrities and newsmakers.
Our second mission was to resist censorship in every form. This has always been a personal crusade for me, strengthened by my experience over time. It was one of the reasons I found myself in detention in 1993 and why I was forced into exile in 1995. For me, the fundament right of freedom of expression within the acceptable legal boundaries is a sacred and sacrosanct right which must be protected and always espoused. It is salutary that our leaders got it right when they made this right a basic fundamental right in all our constitutions in keeping with international norms and practice. We took the decision that under no circumstance shall we deprive anyone of news coverage or interview. No matter how famous or notorious the personality, news is news, and it is not for us to decide or manipulate the people’s conscience or morality. It is for the reading and viewing public to decide having been provided with all the facts. We have been controversial and stirred up publicity but ultimately, we believe that it has been a positive development for the general good of all.
Our credo is that it is the right of saints and sinners to be able to express themselves without being encumbered except if downright vulgar or libellous. We have adhered strictly to this rule and it has definitely helped us achieve some monumental results. I am only expected and allowed to publish my opinion within my personal column. I cannot muzzle anybody or bowdlerise someone else’s write-up simply because it is different form mine, or I think it does not conform to societal ethos or mores. I am proud to say with all sense of modesty and humility that our decision to practice responsible journalism of this nature has really paid off in terms of credibility and integrity. Everyone knows we are not reckless or vindictive. For example, we continue to publicize the activities of President Muhammadu Buhari more avidly and ceaselessly than most of those paid to do so, despite my sharp disapproval of his colourless and sluggish style of governance!
We promised to make high standards and quality of our publications our favourite mantra. This is why we’ve remained with the same printing press in Enfield, England, for the past 20 years. Our readers and clients already know what to expect from us. It is a covenant that has endured till now, and which we expect to keep forever. It has made us to recalibrate the fact that Nigerians will pay for excellent quality, flair and distinction no matter how expensive it might seem.
Despite making Nigeria and Nigerians in particular, and Africa and Africans in general, our primary focus, we set out to publish a global magazine. Our determination was to ensure that our impact and esteem would reverberate and reach far flung places. Thank God, this goal was also realized by His grace. This has helped us to expand our social, developmental and business image and horizon. We have even experimented with publishing in different world languages, including English, French, Portuguese, German and Hausa to the amazing delight of our fantastic readers and clients.
Our biggest initial challenge was funding. What we had at the beginning was far short of our needs and requirements. We could easily have given up, but we managed to switch on the can-do spirit of Nigerians. We believed so much in the power of possibilities and it is why we can tell a success story today. At different times, we ran into troubled waters, lost our beautiful office Suite in London Docklands, including our archival materials, office equipment and so on. We remained undaunted and unbowed. We simply soldiered on knowing that our success was being forged in the furnace of seeming gloom and disaster. In retrospect, it was good we did not have access to sufficient funding. I’m sure we would have blown and frittered it all and would not have known how to micromanage like we are able to today. It is why we have been able to adapt and cope with the otherwise devastating effect of the pandemic. We trusted in technology and have always thrived on using state of the art equipment and the embrace the latest technologies available in the industry. Practically all our competitors took this fact for granted and soon disappeared into oblivion!
Some words of Advice! Media business is the ultimate casino. You need the spirit of a compulsive gambler to stay afloat. You also need loads of prayers. Hopefully, one or both combinations may rescue you from the perilous business of publishing and the media. Above all, you must be lucky, fortunate and blessed, as we have been these past 25 years to succeed. We give God the glory.