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Monday, August 15, 2016

Watch the Throne: A 5 Year Retrospective

As far as runs go, Kanye Omar West's run from the release of his debut work, The College Dropout culminating in 2011's Watch The Throne was a Lionel Messi esque barn storming one resulting in a chip over the goalie. Brilliant and audacious in equal measure. West had dealt with rejection, first from industry executives when trying to make the transition from Producer to Rapper and then, the universe post "Taylor, Imma let you finish”. The loss of his mother and breakdown of his engagement helped fuel the triumph of possibly his most innovative record, 808s & Heartbreak and the tragedy of the aforementioned Taylor Swift incident. The collaborative album with GOAT rapper and strategist, Shawn Corey Carter marked the full circle moment. The idol became the rival. Then the rival became the tag teammate. After finding a creative rhythm that had been rare since West became a superstar in his own right, in the build up to Blueprint 3 ( Run this Town was the moment Kanye shed his little brother skin) the announcement that an EP would follow was met partially by disbelief and the type of outsized expectations that come with two of the top 5 rappers of the last decade coming together to piece a body of work.

It's January 2011. The Arab Spring is about to start . The body of the legendary Nigerian defender, Uche Okafor has just been found. The story is he's committed suicide. The first single off Watch the Throne, H.A.M drops and the response is lukewarm. The duo who'd ordinarily be described as trend setters were playing catch up in following the orchestral style instrumentation of Lex Luger, the trendy Producer of the time. By all accounts, that response inspired a back to the drawing board moment. Kanye's background as a Producer saw him retain creative control while Jay Z was liberated to focus on his lyrical content which explains his outshining West on the record. (Well, if we're excluding the fact that he's a better rapper.) What followed was an album that sought to please. Instead of honing in on one theme or style, the album was built on diverse leanings reflecting the restless nature of West's mind. Kanye's soul sampling genius was put to good use on New Day (where he sampled Nina Simone and ran it through auto tune just for the hell of it), Primetime and Otis, the Otis Redding sampled cut that saw the two trade boasts and send subliminal shots the way of Drizzy Drake and Consequence. Jay who's normally coy in his lyricism, was open and introspective on Why I Love You while his performance on the dub steppin' Who Gon Stop Me is one of his strongest in recent times. Race was also a strong theme- Jay put in a good word for our Nubian Queens rapping “Why all the pretty icons always all white?/ Put some colored girls in the MoMA”. To reference the vaunted company in the spaces he was seeking to occupy “Only spot a few blacks the higher I go/What’s up to Will, shout-out to O.” Kanye? “We like the promised land of the O.G.’s/In the past if you picture events like a black tie/What’s the last thing you expect to see? Black guys.” There was also a strand of social commentary as exemplified best on Murder To Excellence where they discussed the spate of black on black crime. There were also the "luxury raps"- what Elias Isquith refers to as the “transformation of hip-hop from the self-styled soundtrack of the streets to the soundtrack of today’s bourgeoisie". Its diversification perhaps, the only way the gargantuan demands could be met.

Looking back at its release, Watch the Throne was one of the most stage managed albums of the social media/internet leak era. Recorded in some of the finest cities of the world, the songs were kept on hard drives and an iTunes first release was put in place to ensure by the time it went to the press, it was already out for public consumption. This was before the days of Mr. Carter fronting a streaming platform and Mr. West tweeting “My album will never be on Apple”. Very few of the songs were in public circulation. Otis, the lead single was premiered memorably on Hot 97 by Funkmaster Flex. One of the key legacies of Watch the Throne was the manner in which it allowed us to receive music in a way we were not really used to. The morning of its release was a peak mono cultural moment in the midst of the fragmentation of our interests. My way of receiving the album was to get off social media in the build up to its release- I wasn't into buying music digitally then. I had pre-ordered the CD so when it came a couple of days later, I set up the stereo system and let it blast round the flat while I did some housework. I recall losing my mind upon hearing the madness that was Niggas in Paris. In retaining control of the album and its rollout, there was an onus on the listener to delve into it to figure out the sense of direction. Such releases have been rare since then.

It's also worth looking at the album as marking a point in the way we have viewed its protagonists since then. Watching the Otis video and their performance at the VMA's, it's suggestible that both have not been as happy in the public eye as they were and that with the transition they were about to embark on, it was the perfect album at the perfect time. Mr. West was yet to evolve fully to the polymath that he now is and deal with the exposure that came with dating then starting a family with Kim Kardashian. The change in his mood is best captured by the fieriness of 2013's Yeezus which he has described as a musical sit in. While The Life of Pablo is clearly a sunnier record, there's a palpable feeling that he's dialling it in. He has nothing to prove so the laser focus and detail from the Old Kanye era is missing. To underline this, the last record on which he bore sole production credit was Otis. Mr. Carter on the other hand was on the second peak of his post The Black Album career. His daughter, Blue Ivy was born during the tour and his attention was yet to be commanded by commercial interests like Made in America, Tidal, Roc Nation's management arm and Dusse.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoEKWtgJQAU[/embedyt]

In hindsight, it's fair to say that Watch the Throne aged well. It's forgotten now that upon its release the reaction was mixed. There were accusations of tone deafness. The imagery of the decimated Maybach in the Otis video at the height of a period of economic distress partially inspired this. Lift Off fell flat and betrayed the credibility of the cast behind it. Back to the expectations point, less than 10 months earlier, West had dropped My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy- his most ambitious body of work and one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the last decade. It was unfair and unrealistic to expect him to improve upon that. In dropping one extraordinarily great album and another great album, West led the Grammy nominations that year but failed to get one for the Album of the Year gong that he has coveted all his career.

For me, the abiding memory of Watch the Throne was the tour. I was lucky to go twice in a couple of days and regard it as the best concert experience ever. West's highly theatrical sense of stagemanship did not align with Jay's more traditional sensibilities so some of the polarizing but now pronounced elements of his set up were checked in at the door. Jay has supreme confidence and this is reflected in his highly controlled but laidback style. Kanye on the other hand is an only child whose desire for attention comes through in his more emotional disposition. Being Kanye's first tour since 2008's Glow in the Dark, there was an awkwardness that saw him leaning on Jay's effortless delivery and charisma. In effect, despite his wanting us to think otherwise he was still playing the little brother role. That said, their use of the infectious Niggas in Paris to close the show was brilliant. In choosing to perform it multiple times, it functioned as the money move that created an event out of an event. Jay Z got it right when he closed out saying “I’m sorry if this is your first concert. It’s all downhill from here.” He told no lie.

Originally published by Culture Custodian on the 8th of August 2016.

The Lack of Protest in Nigerian Popular Culture

Since General Buhari became President Buhari, it's fair to say that the times have been tough on the average Nigerian. The exchange rate ballooned making it difficult for people to embark on holidays even when well deserved. Paying school fees for those who have kids abroad has been difficult and there's been an all round spike in the price of goods and services (Hello! 16.5% inflation). The precarious oil situation has resulted in constant fuel queues and elongated trips as a result of the queues spilling on to already overburdened roads. Against this backdrop, there has been a new found appreciation from the western world for Nigerian music. Buoyed by Wizkid's Ojuelegba reaching Drake, an act like Davido has inked a deal with Sony, been on the cover of Fader and performed at SXSW. Drake's second collaboration with Wizkid, One Dance reached #1 on the Bllboard charts while Kah-Lo's appearance on Rinse and Repeat was a win in the Electro- Dance direction. Ayo Jay who had Fetty Wap on the remix to Your Number last year also signed a deal with RCA Records - home to Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Usher and Alicia Keys.

It's mind boggling that with the stimulus package the Nigerian music scene is currently enjoying and the precarious economic situation, there's still a distinct lack of social commentary. Burna Boy's 2015 hit Soke was the last record I recall that even attempted to articulate the plight of the masses. Nigerian music culture is rich with top acts using their music as a protest mechanism. Fela's discography took on so many cadres of the establishment. His son, Femi proved himself to be the true son of his father, particularly with his 2000 smash hit Sorry Sorry. In the early to mid noughties, Eedris Abdulkareem satirized the grades for sex culture prevalent in tertiary institutions with Mr Lecturer. The same artist later went for then President Obasanjo's head with Jaga Jaga. 2face Idibia's For Instance was a rallying cry that captured the heart of the streets.

At present, a list of the biggest acts in the country will include Olamide, Wizkid and Davido- all three have fallen short in this regard. It's more galling considering the fact that if asked, all three would probably riff about how inspirational they find Fela. Wizkid has courted comparisons by dressing like Abami Eda, featuring Femi on Jaiye Jaiye and using the alias FelaBack on Snapchat. When I interviewed Davido in 2014, he had pictures of Fela and Michael Jackson on the walls of his home studio. Perhaps, this is an instance of me projecting an ideal I expect them to conform to but I find it hard to believe that despite every mainstream Nigerian artist holding Fela as a form of inspiration, they have opted to neglect one of the core tenets that made him the finest maker of Nigerian music opting instead to serenade the champagne campaign.

My reading is that the lack of protest and dissent in contemporary Nigerian popular culture is rooted in the need for commercial desirability. As a result of the complete car crash that is the label system, there's pressure on Nigerian acts to find alternative ways to make money. This tends to come through endorsement deals and touring. The high ticket endorsement deals tend to come from the telecommunications companies and soda manufacturers. I have it on good authority that MTN make about 1.5 billion naira every month off CallerTunes. My basic understanding of Intellectual Property Law would suggest that Caller Tunes should be licensed and the artists should get paid from that anyway. Interestingly, the Copyright Society of Nigeria is suing MTN. Then again, because of the structural issues I reference- paying Iyanya 60 million a year is a drop in the sea to effectively buy his music, shoot a couple of adverts and compel some public appearances. That 60 million is a big deal to Iyanya so he's not really going to do anything to mess it up. This mindset gets to acts who whilst lower in the food chain are dependent on music as their bread and butter who then view making pop music or as we derisively say pangolo music as the goal and thus the cycle of weak and unchallenging music is set into motion. Effectively, the price we pay for the deplorable structure of our music scene is crap music.

There's an obvious question as to what is gained from artists getting political. Music is perhaps one of the most engaging forms of mass culture. We listen to it while studying. We listen to it in the clubs. We listen to it when sat in Lagos traffic. To ask that the music we listen to reflect the reality of the people is not unreasonable. Music is supposed to speak to/of the times. There's beauty in admiring the skills employed by an artist in depicting the harsh realities being faced by a listener. Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly being one of the more memorable efforts in that regard. It's what separates the great from the ordinary. Think of the fact that a man now known as the King of Pop made a song like Black and White or that a Beatle coordinated We Are The World. Nina Simone used her music to challenge the social injustice of her age. The full stop that precedes this sentence was where this article stopped for a 14 day period. It's a feeling every writer knows. Just as you feel you're getting somewhere, you realize you don't even have an idea of the route you need. Then Muhammed Ali died and in reflecting upon the great man I knew I had stumbled onto a sense of the direction I was seeking. Ali has been feted as the type of once in a lifetime figure who transcended his day job as a sportsman to become an influential civil rights figure. By opting to take a stance against the dominant rhetoric on race, religion and politics of his day, he inspired a generation and enhanced his legacy. In choosing to speak and live a truth that paid no mind to commercial desirability, Ali toed the path not often taken and laid the gauntlet down for future generations. It'll work wonders if our favorite musicians picked up on that.

Originally published by Culture Custodian on the 28th of July 2016

Heart over Head: Lessons from Brexit and Buhari

Sometimes, I'm reminded of how little I know. Things happen that defy what I feel and see as conventional sense and then I have to embark on a journey that involves me reminding myself that I'm not half as smart as I think. Effectively, these things are a check inspiring me to learn more. This morning was one of such times. I had predicted that there was no way the Leave element of the British referendum could succeed as it was a campaign that flew against logic. It was built on waffle, lies and xenophobia. I assumed that when people saw a campaign being led by the likes of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage they got their cue on which side was worth their support. Considering the respected MP, Jo Cox had basically lost her life for her Remain stance- it seemed a safe bet. But then, the majority went the other way. Election days are always good for reflection so I fell on a theme that presently plagues world politics using contemporary examples. Theme being that emotion and sentiment are taking precedence in influencing decisions made by the electorate.

Last year, President Buhari emerged as the first non PDP President of Nigeria's 4th Republic. For a man who'd lost the same election three time, it suggested that he was doing something different. Or simplistically, the incumbent was just so bad that the people had to go for someone they'd rejected three times. A bit of both. Buhari's campaign slogan of 'Change' was built for the social media age. The campaign imagery also worked a treat. Those pictures of the President in a suit and the traditional outfits of the three main ethnic groups were a hit. Rotimi Amaechi, his Campaign Manager said of that picture of Buhari in a suit "He told me he hadn't worn one in one million years. And he hasn't worn one since". For someone who had been described in certain parts albeit unfairly as a "bigot", it provided a humanity that hadn't been seen before. That said, Buhari's campaign offered nothing in terms of depth. There were no grand ideas to incentivize voting for him. The narratives that were encouraged varied from things like leaving the economy(which was always a point of weakness)to the whims of his carefully curated collective of technocrats to destroying Boko Haram within the first year of his inauguration and finding the Chibok girls. These are things which have been proven wrong and should not even have been taken seriously. Campaign in poetry, govern in prose. Yet, the majority voted for him because there was an emotional appeal. He tugged at our heart strings in a way he hadn't before and we reciprocated the feeling.

The British referendum is an issue of nuanced economic policy. Since the 1975 referendum on Common Market membership – in which British voters chose to remain by 67% to 33% (42% to 58%,this time) – the idea that Britain would be best served staying out of the Union had been banished to obscurity. Then, like with all ideas driven by a romanticized past, one person mentions it and it spreads like wildfire. David Cameron's decision to hold the referendum was borne partially out of hubris and a bid to appease certain elements of his party. He believed, wrongly, that it was a battle a politician of his skill set (a first class in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford) could win. As Adrian Wooldridge points out "His strengths are the PPE-ist’s strengths: he can mug up a subject and deliver a plausible, sometimes sparkling, speech in no time. But his weaknesses are also those of the PPE-ist. His government has been a series of essay crises — policies are dashed off at high speed without any serious thought." That captures the gift and the curse. Cameron trusted himself to deliver an argument good enough to win the referendum. The decision to hold the referendum was not thought through well enough.

Look hard enough and you'll see that this was a campaign won by dishonesty and xenophobia. One only has to have watched UKIP Leader, Nigel Farage squirm on live TV this morning while admitting that one of the key promises of the Leave campaign (spending £350million on the NHS) was a lie. Or Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Justice and one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, suggest as he did a couple of days ago that the ex footballer, John Barnes favoured Brexit- a suggestion met with a bold denial. The older the demographic, the more overwhelming the support for Brexit suggesting that the decision was made by the people most wedded to the past and least likely to be affected by the results. Another win for emotion over logic. There's a reason Michael Gove, remarked that "the people were tired of listening to experts". Gove's quote encapsulates the growing belief that once you find yourself quoting experts and speaking policy, it's a sign of the battle being lost. It was easier to stir sentiment by speaking of "taking the country back". In a country that views itself as self importantly as the British do and its significant immigrant population, it's easy to see why such a campaign gained traction.

As the dust settles, questions must be asked how it is that people knowingly decided to validate the politics of xenophobia. Faced with an important decision, the politics of fear won. What led to this and how can it be halted? Do we as a people have to be more circumspect in dealing with politicians and stop putting sentiment over logic? Do the media owe the public a responsibility to be objective in its analysis and call out boldfaced lies? The image of Nigel Farage speaking of independence and "taking back the country" cannot be seen as having foreshadowed Donald Trump taking an oath of office, in January. It's all on you, America.


Michael Gove: British Tory Politician. Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath. Previously, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Secretary of State for Education. Now, Secretary of State for Justice. Major Campaigner for Leave.

Boris Johnson: British Tory Politician. Born in New York. MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Previously MP for Henley from 2001- 2008. Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. Considers himself a "One-Nation Tory". Major Campaigner for Leave. Front runner to replace Cameron.

Nigel Farage: British Politician. Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) since November 2010, and previously from September 2006 to November 2009. Member of the European Parliament for South East England since 1999. Married to a German. Major Campaigner for Leave.

Rotimi Amaechi: Nigerian Politician. Ex Speaker, Rivers State Assembly. Ex Governor of Rivers State. Previously in the People's Democratic Party, now in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Campaign Director, Buhari Campaign. Currently Minister of Transportation.

Jo Cox: Shot and stabbed to death on 16 June 2016. Labour Party politician. First term Member of Parliament (MP) for Batley and Spen. Worked at Oxfam. Campaigned on Syrian Civil War. Pro Remain.

David Cameron: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of Conservative Party, and Member of Parliament for Witney. Won Conservative Party leadership in 2005. Became Prime Minister as the leader of a coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Re-elected Prime Minister in the 2015 election. First elected as MP in 2001. Major campaigner for Remain. Announced resignation, effective from October today.

John Barnes: Former English footballer, rapper and manager of Jamaican and Trinidadian origin. Works as a commentator and pundit for ESPN and SuperSport. Played for Watford, Liverpool, Newcastle, Charlton Athletic and Celtic.

Donald Trump: American businessman, television personality, author, and politician. Presumptive nominee of the Republican Party in the 2016 presidential election. Leader of Truther campaign- Questioned Obama's eligibility as natural born American. Heavy anti immigration slant. Favoured Brexit.


Brexit: how a fringe idea took hold of the Tory party, Matthew D' Ancona, The Guardian, 15th June 2016

Engineers rule China Lawyers lead the US. We get bluffers and blaggers, Adrian Wooldridge, Sunday Times, 28th December 2014

Originally published on Culture Custodian on the 24th of June 2016.

A Conversation with the WJGB Girls

29th of March 2016

My friend, Temitayo (aka TMT is mad aka TMT is weird) of the Submarine and a Roach parish was making an appearance on the We Just Got Back ( WJGB ) podcast. Somehow, a couple of us end up following him to record the episode. Upon getting there, he introduces me as "Mayowa who runs Culture Custodian." The response? "So you're the he who shaded us?" Thanks Twitter. I find a way of making it clear that while I'm a fan of the pod, I didn't like "the perks of misogyny" episode. More on that, later.

Sometimes, life does that thing where you make your plans and it makes its own plans. Eventually, it all comes together to make sense. The WJGB girls were on my list of prospective interviewees but at the time I wasn't ready to make it happen so I kept it on the backburner. Effectively, the experience provided some access.

27th of May 2016

It's finally time to get the interview done. Upon getting to the office in Lekki where Tam and Cam work, there's a bit of a game that's played to get the other girl in the office to another room. She doesn't agree to leave so Tam takes the law into her hands by dropping her laptop and phone outside and locking the door. Boj shows up, complaining of an arm in a lot of pain. The rest of the girls quiz her on what she's been up to. You should know how that conversation ends.

I turn my audio recorder on;

First of all, I feel like I know you guys from listening to the podcast without actually knowing you. Tell me a bit about yourselves. Like, who's who, what do you guys do, all that stuff.

Boj: Let's start with Cam, since we're in your work place.

Cam: I'm King Cam. I'm 16, 18-21 on weekends. I'm Brand Manager at XYZ.

Tam: Is that your title?

Cam: Yeah! I think. I also do digital marketing on some days.

Boj: What else do we need to know about you?

Cam: Nothing.

Boj: She likes horses. And Aunty Maria's moi moi. My name is Boj and I'm unemployed at the moment. Very sad but I'm trying to start up a couple of things at the moment. What else is there about me? When I'm drunk, I can't speak English.

Tam: She's very short. She's like a little mushroom person. Who am I? I'm Tam. 21 forever. Writer. Screenwriter. I used to freelance, but now.... Probably write a movie some day. That's it.

Boj: Are you freelancing?

Tam: Well, I am. I don't know if I'm legally supposed to say that. I haven't signed a contract yet.

The podcast medium is a growing medium in Nigeria. Why did you guys decide to get into that space?

Cam: We all used to work together and this might sound pompous but we just enjoyed our conversations and thought they were super lit. It started as a joke.

Tam: It didn't start as a joke. One day, Boj was playing a podcast and we thought it was dead and I was like "We're more entertaining than this."

What podcast was it?

Boj: I think it was an episode of The Read.

Tam: No, it wasn't. It was something you just started listening to. I think it was Guy's We've Fucked.

Cam and Boj: Yes, that was it!

I listen to that.

Tam: There was this one particularly boring episode.

Boj: I feel like we sat down and planned a year's worth of episodes.

Tam: We found a studio in like an hour.

Cam: It was one of those things where we had to keep saying "I'm not joking o. I'm not joking o" but then, we were not joking.

Tam: I thought you guys were going to chicken out.

Cam: I thought Boj would.

Tam: Yeah! I thought mainly Boj. I thought you would give me "I'm too busy."

Boj: Why did you think that?

Tam: I thought you'll wake up that morning and be like....

How long did it take you guys after having the first conversation to start?

Cam: Wednesday. Saturday, we were in the studio.

Boj: That night, we went to the The Orchard with Ajebutter and then he was like "I know this guy who has a studio" so we went.

Tam: I called him.

Cam: Then you guys went to see the studio and left me in the office.

What was the first episode?


All: Valen-Times.

Tam: Oh! That was the weekend before Valentine's. That was the weekend I broke my vagina, guys! I just gauged. That was a magical day.

Boj: There were so many things happening.

Cam: I loved how at the end of the day when we recorded the first podcast, everybody started clapping.

Tam: Yeah! So Ajebutter, Mode 9 and one other guy were there.

OH! So they were there when you were recording?

Tam: Yeah!

What did they think?

Cam: They were laughing.

Tam: They liked it. They were giving us life. 'Cos at first we had no idea what we were doing.

Boj: I feel like the thing that made me go "Okay, this is actually viable" was that they were literally, stifling giggles so I thought "Okay, we're actually trying." You know how you think your conversations are actually funny and interesting and other people are like "Bleh"?

When creating the podcast, what was the objective? What was it supposed to mean to people?

Tam: I think we'd been having a conversation about, we were talking about how it is when you move back.

Cam: We were just talking about something and we were like "why don't we start a podcast about moving back?" and then we started playing around with names.

Tam: The aim was to be like, this is what Lagos is like.

The podcast is titled WJGB and it seems to be moving away from the moving back theme- did you realize it'll be this difficult to keep up to that theme?

Boj: I feel like we've left that behind.

Tam: We've very much left it behind.

Boj: This is how I personally feel, I don't know about them. I feel like it gives us a platform to talk about things- some of which there might be stereotypes around. For instance, the Konji & Me episode, there were mixed reactions. Some people loved it. And then people were like "You're talking about sex." You are all knacking in your houses so what's the problem?

Tam: The main question was "What are your parents going to think? What's your boss going to think?" My parents knacked and made me so I think they know what knacking is. And my boss- the job I just got. The babe was talking about a podcast and she was like "there's this one with this pink thing" and I'm like "Oh my God! That's mine". Boom! Job.

Boj: We just use it to express ourselves. I feel like, we're unintentionally trying to break barriers and stereotypes.

Tam: If I think about it, I wish I could change the title.

Cam: When we came out with Konji & Me, someone, Boj was like, "Guys, I'm not sure". I said "We've done it. We knew what we were getting ourselves into." We move.

Tam: Cam is definitely the fuck it, don't think about it person. Boj is always worrying.

What podcasts do you listen to religiously and how have they influenced you?

Cam: The Read, Brilliant Idiots.

Tam: I literally only listen to The Read.

Boj: I'm a fan of the fictional ones. I listen to a lot of Fashion Business podcasts but that's because that's what I'm into.

Tam: I liked Serial.

Cam: Recently, Submarine and a Roach.

Tam: That's the only one apart from us. Is there any way we can get Kojo's number cos his voice does things to me?

You all grew up in Nigeria and went to school/lived in different cities.......

Boj: It's actually interesting. I feel like this is fate 'cos we all went to the same primary school and the same secondary school.

Cam: Stop saying you went to Corona. Stop!

Tam: We went to Corona but at different times.

Boj: That's why it's fate. We all went to Corona at different times.

Tam: She left in Primary 3. And I came in Primary 4.

Boj: Yeah! And then we all went to Lagoon. I only remember your feet- from your waist down. I didn't remember your face. You were so tall. And then we met again when we started working here. You were the one who called me and said "Do you want to come in for an interview?"

Tam: I saw her CV and thought the name sounded familiar. Then Dunni went "It's Bolaji from Lagoon". I didn't even remember Dunni went to Lagoon. I thought I'd probably remember when you got here. When you came in, I thought "I've seen this face before"

Boj: I was done with the interview and just sitting down with the interviewer and then I just saw these two people I hadn't seen in forever.

Tam: Oh! Yeah. We were like "Oh my God! Hi". Do you know what killed me? Your face when I said "Hey Mum". You were like "Ehn".

Cam: I reconnected with these two bitches because of Dunni. We were out. It was the day you (Tam) were telling everyone you're single to stupor. That was the day.

So where did you go to Uni? Boj- America, Tam- Edinburgh. Cam?

Boj: Cam went to Uni everywhere.

Tam: You know your educational status really confuses me. You did like 3 months here, 6 months over there. You have a Law degree over there. Pretty sure you did a year in China.

Cam: If you're reading my résumé, it's actually really confusing.

Tam: Yeah! I saw your résumé and I showed it to my Mum and both of us were like "So what does she do?"

Cam: I started out in England and I didn't really like it. I went to France for 2 years. Then I wanted to go to New York so I found an internship and went there for 6 months.

What do you think that has had on your sensibilities and subsequently, the podcast?

Cam: I feel like if you live in a certain place all your life, when you go outside of the country, you actually have to step out of your comfort zone. I wasn't one of those people that were Oh! Because I live abroad, when I get to the UK, let me be friends with all the Nigerian people. So, I kind of, learnt to enjoy other people's cultures, to be more accepting, handle situations differently. Your mindset changes. In the podcast, we talk about random things. So, in My Konji & Me, we could have been like "Don't have sex. You'll die or go and meet Satan and have 8 kids with him."

Boj: Growing up in Nigeria, I cared a lot about what people thought or said about me. I would be like "I can't do this because this is what they're going to say." You know how there's this Nigerian mentality of If you're a girl you shouldn't go out or go clubbing all the time 'cos no one will want to marry you. When I got to America, it was a massive culture shock. It took a year for the culture shock to hit. The turning point was when I studied abroad- in the Czech Republic and I was meeting people from different cultures and different places and I was just like "You can talk about what the fuck you want to talk about. If you don't, who's going to?" So I moved back to Nigeria and was a bit apprehensive and felt like "Ah! I don't want people to say this about me" and then I met these ones and I just thought "I don't care".

Tam: Is that so? Big, Bad Boj. Boj Released.

Cam: Boj Uncensored.

Boj: Literally, that's what happened. I moved back and thought if I want to talk about sex, that's what I'll talk about. If I want to talk about Feminism, that's what I'll talk about.

Do any of your parents listen to it?

Boj: My mum knows about it. She knows when I go to the studio.

Tam: My mum knows it exists but I told her "For your own good, you might not want to listen to it."

Cam: The first time my Mum heard about it was last week and I guarantee she can't even remember what I said.

Do you guys feel like there's an element of drama to the podcast- like you're playing into characters?

Boj: No. Not really. This is literally us.

Tam: This is our real face.

Boj: Let me tell you something. This one (Tam) this is her real face. I feel like you can see the progression. We started one way and as we've gone on, we've opened up. Whatever comes out, comes out.

Tam: The first episodes when there were people there, we were aware there were people there. But when it's just us. I feel like Frosh Girls was when shit just got real.

Boj: I feel it was My Konji & Me. We just let the shit fly.


Sex- You guys are very open about the sex you're having or lack of it- Nigerian culture would have you believe that women shouldn't be so open- What's the rationale behind this? I get that, obviously it's something we're all doing and talking about but I guess it's different talking about it with your friends as opposed to actually recording it and putting it on the internet for 20 million people to hear.

Tam: You know the thing is, when it comes to talking about sex- I did not even think twice. The whole point of the podcast was to talk about things we do. We have sex.

Boj: And we come to the office and we talk about sex. We have this friend, Ehi. And Ehi would come and we'll just sit down and he'll give us a guy's point of view.

Tam: I'm not even going to lie. I love sex. It's lit. If I could, I'll have a sex podcast but my father will throw me out. I love it. I love talking about it. I love doing it.

Cam: I don't see the point in hiding it.

Boj: Yeah! Your fathers do it. Your mothers do it. They had their own scandals.

Cam: You judging me about it does not make you better than me. I mean, you guys have met my boss. What were we talking about before we came here?


Okay, so let's talk about the Perks of misogyny episode- looking back now, what do you think about it? What would you change and what was the general reception like?

Tam: I don't regret it.

Cam: I don't regret it.

Boj: I don't regret it.

Tam: The only problem I have that they don't is that I know her and I warned her it was coming out but I didn't warn her about the degree. I think what I told her was "We talked about you and we didn't agree with what you said. End of." I didn't paint how negative it was. One day, I want to release the unedited version.

Cam: My thing was.. People don't know this but the day we recorded the episode, we ran into her and we spoke about it. We had a huge debate and it was very heated. The way it ended verbatim was "You guys have your opinion. I have mine." and that's the way we left it. There was a whole bunch of shit she said that I'm not going to say. Up until today, I don't regret it. We saw her after and she said "I think you guys owe me an apology" and I refused.

Boj: I said "You put out your opinion on the internet. We put ours. Why should we apologize?"

Cam: If you feel like me saying you sounded like you failed common entrance- if you didn't fail common entrance- why's it annoying you?

Boj: The thing that pissed me off about this whole thing was she didn't listen to the episode. She doesn't know what was said.

Cam: Why are you forming your opinion on something you didn't even hear?

Tam: I don't think we came for her the way we could have come for her. We were joking. We were laughing.

Boj: We took our time with it. The day we saw the article first, we said what we really felt. By the time we did the podcast, we had kinda scaled it back. Apart from the fact that she was saying those things, the thing that irritated me was that she was saying this is how women are.

Cam: She changed mouth too. When I said her choice of words were poor, she agreed. Then when her friend came, she said she chose it to be controversial.

Boj: The thing I find ironic about the series is that it's called 'Etcetera Woman' and it's supposed to be about women who embody all these qualities. And past women who were featured aren't women you'll expect to say perks of misogyny. And then, she comes talking about perks of misogyny and wanting to be someone's side piece in the club.

Tam: Perks of misogyny rings like STD in my ear. I can't understand it. Where's the perk?

What are the most common criticisms you guys get?

Boj: I don't know about common criticisms.

Tam: I had someone say to me that it seems geared towards people who just got back and it's not fair. What if I've just been here all my life?

I think that's a weird thing to say. If I didn't have a similar background, maybe I'll listen to it and say "These rich kids have come with their rich kid problems". But it's who you are, I don't know how you can help it.

Boj: I find that the experiences we have are common.

Cam: We find that a lot of our listeners are from outside Nigeria.

Boj: Like someone sent us a message talking about how they heard about us from their friend in Kuwait. She left a comment on iTunes.

Tam: I can't really think of any criticisms.

Or is it that people don't tell you? As part of my research, I did a Twitter search and there's nothing bad. And I ask myself: is this really what people feel?

Boj: I think it's cos we're quite new so it's extended to our social circle.

Tam: And the people who can be bothered to tweet anyway, are probably fans. But we got a lot of negative feedback on Perks.

Yeah! I think I tweeted about it.

Tam: Yes! You did!

Boj: I remember. She brought it to the WJGB groupchat and was like "Why did he say this?"

I've had this conversation with you already.

Cam: Yeah! When I attacked him.

I felt it was a bit Mean Girlsy.

Cam: That's 'cos we were 3 vs 1. We had the same view so it felt like we were attacking her.

Boj: It was 4. 'Cos Omono was on.

Cam: But Yeah! Remember when I used to talk about how concerned I was about people outside Nigeria. "Would people listening outside Nigeria get it?" I have a friend, she's Jamaican-American and she listens every week. She said it's very easy to follow.

Tam: That's why I try to explain everything.

Boj: I have a friend who's super hippie. Shout out to her. Her name is Emily. Whitest girl you'll ever meet and she listens consistently and she said she gets what we're talking about.


The latest episode is on Feminism- a cause that should be a no brainer but is fundamentally understood by people. Why do you think this is so and what do you think is at fault for this pattern of thinking?

Tam: Well, Yes!

Boj: Well, not really Feminism.

Well, you guys went for the people tweeting dumb things about Feminism.

Tam: Yes! We didn't want to do a preachey Feminism episode.

Boj: It's been a thing on Twitter where people don't understand the difference between Feminism and misandry. I feel like a lot of people do it for the retweets.

Tam: That's why I said, just tweet "I like Jesus."Don't tweet on things you don't know anything about. It's like me going to tweet about AIDS tomorrow. Why? What do I know? Keep shut!

Boj: Yeah! A lot of people do it for the banter and the retweets but a lot of them really have no clue. A lot of people don't know. Like, I saw a tweet today that said "If you're a feminist and pregnant and you're having a boy- you should have an abortion. #NotAnotherMonster #Feminism". That's Misandry. That's where a lot of this BS comes from. They don't know the difference between Feminism and Misandry. Feminists don't hate men. If you want us to cook for you, we'll cook for you. Our point is that we want equal pay. We want all the same opportunities that you guys get. We haven't gotten that yet. That's it.

Cam: One thing I hate and I make it very clear, anything stupid is a big peeve of mine. Anytime I hear anything stupid.....

Boj: She comes out in a rash.

Cam: It irritates me. When people start tweeting nonsense- not even for just Feminism. General nonsense irritates me. Why would you be talking like you were born upside down? Why would you be talking like they gave birth to your brain after you?

Tam: On a daily basis, I go through our Twitter to delete some of the angrier things Cam tweets.

Cam: It takes nothing, absolutely nothing to Google.

Boj: As Kid Fury said "Google is Free 99".

Cam: Even that 99 is costly. It was a pro feminism but more anti stupid episode.

On a surface level- who do you regard as the quintessential feminists and why do you hold them to that level?

Tam: I literally want to show you the notes I made for that episode. One of the questions was "Who's our ideal Feminists?" and I had to cancel it.

Boj: I feel like you want us to say Beyonce.

That's too predictable.

Tam: Emma Watson, probably. Her speech at the U.N was amazing. It touched my soul.

Cam: That was fucking amazing.

Tam: I'm not going to lie. That "We teach girls" everytime I hear it. Bruh! I want to go out and do some mad shit.

Cam: I was going to say Chimamanda but....

Tam: Same. But I felt like it'll tie back to Beyonce.

Boj: For me, it's elements from different people. I like how this one (Tam) doesn't give a fuck what people think about her. And then my Mum who I wouldn't even say is a Feminist because some of the things she has said are not very Feminist. By her actions though, she's a Feminist. The way she's gone from working at a hospital and leaving her position as the Principal Female Dentist. She left there and started her thing. That whole business angle. And from Cam, when she's like "I don't take bullshit from anybody."

Tam: I would say my Mum too but then, she actively says "I'm not a feminist. I'm not among."

Boj: I feel like that's a lot of Nigerian women.

Tam: Hers is "Don't ask me until I've googled it."But she's so strong and she's drilled it into me.

Last question, what's next?

Cam: We're just taking it one step at a time.

I don't like that answer. Like what do you want to get out of this? Do you want to do a TV show in the future or something ?

Cam: I feel like Nigerian TV is too censored.

Tam: Haay! It's changing.

Boj: Tam is trying to change the industry.

Cam: We'll see.

Tam: We're working on a few things. Per chance, we could come to the screen.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Originally published by Culture Custodian on the 2nd of June 2016.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

March 2nd and 3rd

This time, two years ago- I felt a sense of joy and pride in myself I'd never really felt before. I had just succeeded in doing two things I was passionate about. My parents, who by the way,  are the best supported me in making this happen. My best friends had my back. Some of them still do. I felt fearless- I could achieve anything I set my mind to. I'm more cynical and fearful now so writing this is designed to give myself a nudge. 

You see, cancer had dealt a big blow in the years before. My old classmate, Ebuka passed away eleven months after we graduated. He was a brilliant artist and pleasant person. As time passes, the memories recede. Now and then, I think of him and get sad. He was 17. He should be living his dreams. 

A year before Ebuka, my aunty Yosola went. As a kid, I was really close to her. You know those days when life was just stress free and the greatest worry you had was what Capri Sun flavour you'd ask your Mum to stock. I don't know if any death has affected me like Aunty Yosola's. At least, when my grandmothers passed away, I could at least console myself that they were old. Aunty Yosola was fifty something. And I was in late teenage hood so I was fully aware of its significance.

It was in the summer of 2013 I knew what I wanted to do to honor their memories. I had just gotten over my first heartbreak and was throwing myself into my next big relationship. Kanye West dropped Yeezus. I did Summer School at LSE and interned at a law firm. I was getting my first real taste of adulthood... and enjoying it. I was also experimenting with the gym. I thought to myself " Why not run a marathon or one of those things people do for causes they care about?" So I went and looked up a directory of charities- Cancer Research UK appealed to me and I saw that I could run the adidas Half Marathon to raise funds for cancer research. Perfect! So I started going jogging. I'm shy and hate publicising stuff or doing that thing people do of tagging everyone on Twitter and messaging them to retweet and stuff so I set up the page and left it. Occasionally, I'd tweet a link but you know how people act like they don't see stuff until you actually engage them. For the longest time, it was dead. Luckily, I know people who are so cool that I hit my target without going on a concerted publicity effort. Marathon morning came and I got a coach from Euston to Silverstone (the F1 circuit) where the marathon was taking place. I honestly didn't think I would finish running said marathon. I'm a sprinter. Running 13.1 miles is not my type of thing. And even though I had been doing  6-7 miles in training, I still had doubts. It was freezing! I said I wouldn't walk till I did at least 5 miles which I managed to do in an hour and a bit. After that, I declined rapidly. It started raining and every bone and muscle in my body hurt. But I had to finish. Just so I could feel better about myself and Aunty Yosola and Ebuka could give me a thumbs up from Heaven. And so I ran. And walked. At the second to last mile, I might as well have been crawling when this older man ran up to me and told me I had to get to the finish line before him. I felt compelled to run. I ran the whole thing in just below 4 hours. I think the guy who won did it in less than an hour. AMAZING. 'Cos I turned my phone off, the coach I was supposed to go on left. So I had to wait in the cold for an extra 45 minutes whilst they got an alternative car to come and take me to the nearest Train station, Milton Keynes from where I got a train to London. As soon as I got home, I took a shower, ate and lay on the couch for the next 24 hours. 

The next day, March 3rd- another of my dreams came true. Since I started writing on the internet (2008 by the way), my dream was to develop a platform that was less about me and more in the public interest. That day, Culture Custodian was going to make its debut. By the way, it's the reason this blog functions more as a portfolio now. I'll try to come occasionally to talk about personal stuff.

I had to head back to Uni that evening as I'd already missed a day of school. I hoped that I'd get home in good time before the 8pm launch we'd announced. But there was a train delay so I ended up arriving in Canterbury as it launched. I remember walking home and jumping giddily, not caring if anyone saw me. That was the easy part though.

How did it come about? Tito, who's been my brother since Year 7 (we're 13 years deep yo!) was thinking along the same line of creating a media platform so it made sense that we came together with Aedan who was thinking the same thing. (Tito and Aedan are really good friends). We experimented with names and worked on it for years. I think it took us near 3 years after having the first conversation to actually bring it to life. Nothing could prepare us for what we were about to get into. We just had to throw ourselves in.  We obviously had ideas on how we'd go about it but you know that saying "Campaign in poetry, govern in prose". So we learnt on the job and are still learning on the job. Some days are great, some days are crap but like all slow burners- the crap days are motivation to make every day great. Over Christmas, we pulled off our first major events- 3 Culture Custodian Nights with headliners like Ayo Jay, D.O, Falz and YCee to a modest crowd. That was exciting and fueled us. This year, we have bigger plans. Culture Custodian turns 2 today and I couldn't be prouder of it. It's a reflection of the team and I in not being lazy and taking the path oft taken. Through it, I'm learning what I love and hate. I love Criticism but I hate Free Advice. Sounds confusing, I know. I want your criticism- there's more to be gleaned from it than praise. It's why while I'm happy to hear people say they like it because it soothes my ego and validates our efforts, I care more about hearing what people dislike because it gives me something to actually work on and use to prove a point. On the other hand, I hate free advice- when people who have no idea how things work come with harebrained ideas on how to go about business. And then when you ask them to back their convictions in some way, they start flip flopping. People love to hear the sound of their voices and have fooled themselves into thinking they are authorities (If there's no such thing already as an 'authority complex', don't use it without crediting me. Bless up.) You have to cut through the BS.  

If you have any dreams, just make them happen. Stop overthinking things and worrying about market saturation and all that jazz. Just give yourself the best shot of making it work and see it through. The rest will follow. (Does this count as free advice? You're welcome.)

That said, I want us to do more. I want us to be the go to for millennials for every strand of popular culture. Then to break stories and news. Then to commission the best longform writing around. Then generate the most exciting content this side of the world. We should be at the nucleus of the zeitgeist. I want to put people on like my Uncles, Reuben Abati and Kunle Ajibade did me. Most of all, I want people to support us not because they're our friends or think we're nice and decent people. The product should be so dope that they don't have any other choice. To do all this, I need to rediscover the can do spirit of March 2nd and 3rd 2014.

May all your dreams come true, 

P.S I never closed the Just Giving page because I wanted people to use it anytime they could, to support Cancer Research UK who do an amazing job. If you feel like, head over there and make a donation. Positive vibes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Present and Future of Journalism

The Tabloidisation of the Broadsheet
Earlier this year, Peter Oborne delivered a scathing attack on The Daily Telegraph while tendering his resignation as the paper's Chief Political Commentator. He called out the paper for its silence on the HSBC scandal insinuating that this was linked to the fact that the bank are one of the paper's leading advertisers. He told the story of how the paper had self censored itself by pulling articles partially as a response to falling on the foul side of the bank in the past. That letter could be viewed as a metaphor for the current journalism landscape. A lot of premium ticket names have been let go in favor of younger, more internet savvy replacements as the papers seek to downsize to compensate for their falling revenues.

Simon Barnes, the brilliant writer who graced the Times, was relieved of his duties, as was Tony Gallagher, the Telegraph's last Editor. By all accounts, Henry Winter (the most highly regarded British football journalist - he is the British representative in Ballon D'or voting and has more than 1 million Twitter followers) is off to The Times. Gallagher's exit marked the demise of the Editor title at the Telegraph with an American Head of Content* coming in. This marks an obvious change in strategy from the traditional newspaper model to a more "digital model" in the hope that online revenue can be maximized. In a sense, this is natural in evolution; more people can be reached online as they receive a free service as opposed to opting in by purchasing the paper. This means that the goal then becomes to maximize reach which in the case of The Telegraph involves a switch from the serious journalism normally attributed to broadsheets to stories like that of the woman with the "third breast", a story Oborne suggests was already known to be inaccurate.

Looking at the figures released in June last year by the ABC, the Telegraph stands as the fifth most popular paper in the UK and the highest circulating amongst the broadsheets. Declaring pre-tax profits of £57million falling from £57.2 million the year before, the suggestion was that print advertising revenues had fallen and the compensation for this had come from a "marginal increase in circulation revenues and continued growth in digital revenues". The digital revenue is being honed into more and this explains why the paper owned by the Barclay twins (owners of Littlewoods, the Woolworths and Ladybird brands and the London Ritz) is clearly evolving its strategy. The shame lies in the manner in which it has allowed the revenue drive to distort its editorial coverage.

It's a Daily Mail world
This trend is largely explained by the rise of the Daily Mail and Mail Online. While the paper and the website are separated, the online version has taken prominence as the most visited news site in the world. Identifying the gap for celebrity journalism on the grandest of scales, Mail Online has become a pop culture phenomenon and a truly formidable global media outlet. Its financial results released in August last year puts the advertising revenue the site generated in the leading 11 months at £53million. Note that this is not far off what the entire Telegraph media group generated as profits. Its print operation is second only to the Sun's.
The Mail's model allows the online platform to bolster the print model, the right reward for the credibility and economies of scale provided by the print model during the website's teething stage. As a result, it's been able to make some key recruits. Piers Morgan has come on board as Editor at Large (no pun intended) of its American outpost. Tony Gallagher, the man whose exit from the Telegraph in January 2014 marked the beginning of the end for that paper was given a job as Joint Deputy Editor at the Mail. Paul Dacre who has overseen the Mail's rise is one of the modern day greats. The best paid Editor on Fleet Street, Oborne captures his greatness as lying in the way "he articulates the dreams, fears and hopes of socially insecure members of the suburban middle class" describing it as a "daily performance of genius".

High Standards without Success: The Guardian story
This has been a huge blow to a paper like the Guardian whose strong digital presence is built around a core of strong and diverse range of writers and columnists. Its Comment is Free section particularly stands out. Guardian, who are led by the soon to depart Alan Rusbridger, regarded as the Patron Saint of modern British journalism, have a strong strand of integrity and public interest in their dealings as encapsulated by their investigation and breaking of stories on deplorable media conduct that eventually led to the demise of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World. On a global front, as the paper tries to expand into the lucrative Australian and American markets, the manner in which it broke and navigated the Edward Snowden story via Glenn Greenwald earned it a lot of credit and goodwill. The downside is that this failed to translate to its bottom-line.

Guardian, despite its prestige and high standards continues to hemorrhage money. Of the 12 national dailies, its circulation figures are third from bottom. It doesn't succumb to the type of journalism Mail Online advocates which surely undermines its hits and profits. As a result of the pedestal on which it places itself, it refuses to adopt an outright paywall or metered one like The Times, Telegraph and New York Times do. One belief is that the Guardian's unique model is what has allowed it to take this stance: The paper is owned by the Scott Trust via the Guardian Media Group which holds about £1 billion in assets partially bolstered by the sale of its stake in car site, Auto Trader. It is unlikely that that money would run out anytime soon but there has to be a point at which it stops being used to buttress a failing operation. Doubts also stand about the wisdom of allowing Rusbridger (a personal idol) take such a prominent role on the Scott Trust in his retirement. Will his successor, Katharine Viner (who aims to set up a Nigerian based Guardian bureau!) have the necessary conviction in her ideas when her ex boss who was in office for 20 years is still hovering about?

Nigerian Media: An Interest Economy
Looking at the Nigerian media landscape, one of the first points to note is the benefactor model at work. For instance, Punch is owned by the Aboderin family, Tribune the descendants of Obafemi Awolowo, Guardian by one of the Ibru's, Thisday by Nduka Obaigbena, whilst the likes of Sun and Nation are owned by renowned politicians, Orji Uzor Kalu and Bola Tinubu. Vanguard belongs to veteran journalist and Punch co founder, Sam Amuka Pelu. It is to both papers' (Sun & Nation) credit that their affiliations are not so blatant but the general feeling is that a lot of Nigerian journalism is interest based. Case in point: In 2009, the serving Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi carried out some banking reforms that ousted Bank CEO's like Cecilia Ibru and Erastus Akingbola amongst others. Thisday's coverage was famously muted because it had been guilty of honoring those disgraced bankers. The other case in point coming when Thisday crowned Lagos state Governor, Babatunde Fashola as its Governor of the Year and Fashola felt compelled to reject the award because he saw it as an attempt to compromise his integrity as the paper was in dispute with the state government over the construction of its event centre in Lekki, which had been built without the necessary regulations in a residential area. That centre was eventually demolished. This interest base is further encapsulated by the fact that because of the diversity of the country, popularity is measured in blocs. Punch is the paper of choice in the South West, Vanguard in the South South while Leadership is the most popular  paper in the North.

Punch stands as the strongest Nigerian paper in that they have a cultural ethic based on high standards and a low tolerance for inadequacy. It also helps that it is the most widely circulated paper in the country. Punch have a no credit policy which suggests that they are a very profitable operation. Some other papers are notorious for not paying staff thus serving to encourage brown paper journalism which explains the spate of badly edited, hatchet jobs and puff pieces. Thisday's Nduka Obaigbena is particularly guilty of this as captured by investigative British magazine, Private Eye.

High Standards without Success: The Next story
One paper attempted to redefine Nigerian journalism but ultimately failed. Next, the brain-child of Pullitzer Prize winner Dele Olojede, arrived to much fanfare as it was backed by some financial heavyweights (Fola Adeola, Tunde Folawiyo and Keem Bello Osagie are believed to have made significant investments). It debuted on January 4th 2009 and ran as a weekly publication (going on sale on Sundays). This coming because the paper was printed outside the country. In August of that year, armed with its homemade press, it evolved to a daily. It was presented as a glossy broadsheet (rare in this part of the world). It also recruited some credible writers and columnists in Teju Cole, Tolu Ogunlesi, Kayode Thomas, Niyi Osundare, Molara Wood, Pius Adesanmi, Lola Shoneyin, Ikhide Ikheloa, Lanre Idowu and Kadaria Ahmed to enhance its standing.

At the time, the pay packet Next was offering was dwarfed only by the traditional big 3 of the banks, oil and telecommunications companies. Reporters were handed Blackberry phones to aid strands of on the go and citizen reporting culture. Its neat website became popular with Nigerians in the diaspora as it was presented in fashion that resonated with what they were more used to, the ultimate compliment to what Olojede built. The comment section was one of the more interesting parts of the internet and it was no surprise that certain commenters gained notoriety, even inspiring columns dedicated to them. Coming in the era of social media and virality, it doubled as a chatroom stimulating some interesting debates.

Next broke a lot of stories but its coverage of President Yar' Adua's health, the CBN polymere notes scandal and its publication of secret cables via Wikileaks particularly stood out. It gained credibility. However, the paper ran into problems when columnists who were already nervous about their irregular pay were given the choice of writing for free or terminating their agreements. A couple of them took Olojede and the holding company to court and won. In no time, it went out of print and the website was pulled. The symbolic significance of Next was that it whetted the appetite and created demand for quality journalism operating from a technologically advanced base. It also highlighted the importance of a sensible revenue generation model. Ultimately, Next's demise came because it failed to strike a balance and this resulted in a model that was rich in fizz but lacking in its grasp of reality. It could be suggested that this is the future that faces Rusbridger's Guardian.

The Daily Mail Green and White Edition
The Nigerian media have generally been slow to accept technology. The newspaper websites are pretty poor and this played into the hands of a generation of bloggers who were able to find financial success with little to no overheads. Linda Ikeji is one who would probably not exist if City People had the foresight to venture online. This vacuum helped the likes of Nairaland, Linda Ikeji and Bella Naija to set their stalls. While it is unclear how much they make (short of calling their Bank managers, it's near impossible), one report suggests Ms Ikeji's blog is worth ₦1.1 billion. A look at her ad rate card shows that a background takeover (a package that has proved popular with the political class in election season) costs ₦1.6 million a month. Bella Naija's most expensive ad (its homepage mast head ad) goes for ₦262,500 a week. These websites have aped the Mail Online strategy of easily clickable celebrity stories and articles and reaped the rewards. Platforms such as Sahara Reporters, Premium Times and The Cable have proven popular while offering some serious journalism but there is a lack of clarity to their revenue generation.

What Next?
As technology continues to impact the media industry, the key challenge lies in getting people to pay for what they are now accustomed to receiving for free. Another key challenge stems from the fact that most people today are familiar enough with how the media operates not to accept everything at face value. What happens is that they sample the different platforms and then curate their interests around the ones they find most reliable. For instance, a readermight enjoy the Guardian's political analysis, the Daily Mail's football transfer gossip and the BBC's economic coverage. As all this can be accessed at his pleasure online, it's highly unlikely those outlets would get money off him. The ideal response to this, a Paywall, is a strategy that has worked for those who have adopted it (The Times, The New York Times, The FT, The Wall Street Journal) as they are in good financial nick and have a decent subscriber base.

Were I tasked with devising a solution, I would suggest that a platform like the Newsstand on your iPhone charges a set rate on a weekly/monthly basis and the money is then split to the relevant newspapers whose content you have accessed over said period. This is essentially for the millenials I reference in the earlier paragraph who mix and match for news.

Looking at a paywall in the in the Nigerian context, the first point to make is that because the online market here is filled with so many relatively new players who lack entrenchment with the audience, it's a risky strategy to place a paywall which tends to hinder growth. Most platforms who operate paywalls do so because they know they have an audience for it. The business publication, Business Day is the only publication paywalled on this side. Then again, it caters to a niche audience.
*That American Head of Content, Jason Seiken has recently left the paper.
Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail: The Man who hates Liberal Britain
Why I have resigned from the Telegraph
What Dele Olojede owes us Next 
How Dele Olojede wasted $20million on women and golf
What next for Next? 
Publishing Blues: The Story of Next and Thisday

 Originally published by Stears on July 27 2015

The Power of Opposition

‘With the same sword they knight you, they gon' good night you’ – Shawn Carter (Jay-Z)

Few have captured the perils of success as eloquently as one of the great wordsmiths of the last two decades. Success is two pronged, because in building a reputation for crushing the opposition, it is natural that enemies are created. Success puts a hex on one’s back, a target at which people can fire shots. At its peak, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was an insufferably successful juggernaut. It proclaimed itself the biggest party in Africa and said it would run Nigeria for half a century. Despite its many shortcomings, it swept election after election.

Why did the party fail?
There is no single answer to this question. Perhaps its initial success was a result of the lack of viable opposition or the power of its incumbent Presidents. Yet all good things do come to an end. And the end approaches more quickly if influential supporters and party followers become marginalised. Following Yar’Adua’s death and Goodluck Jonathan’s ascent to power, the party found itself internally conflicted as it was unprepared to handle the rise of the less influential Vice President Jonathan. So when Jonathan’s time came, those who failed to defer to him were left marginalised. One may recall how in the run up to the 2015 elections, former President Obasanjo famously tore his membership card. Although it is argued that for all intents and purposes, he was no longer a party member at that time, leaders of his kind making such gestures precipitated the party’s failure.

It could also be argued that ethnic insecurities played a part in the PDP’s demise. As seen in this election day post mortem, ethnic rivalry had built up in the northern regions of the country. Part of this stemmed from the sense that in seeking to run after Yar’Adua’s death, President Jonathan was breaking an unwritten zoning agreement requiring a northerner to run for office. The opposition countered this with a strategic move that elected President Buhari, a strong northern leader. Additionally, the party’s tenure was also marred by the Boko Haram insurgency which continuously pillaged the north eastern region of the country. His nonchalance, buoyed by his belief that it was a ploy to undermine him, played out badly when the elections came.

The merits of a working opposition party
It is in the best interests of the nation that the party gets used to its role in opposition. For one, a viable opposition is perhaps the greatest check on the majority in any democratic system. This is underlined by the fact that Nigeria effectively has a two-party system surrounded by a league of minor parties.
For example, one key reason the All Progressives Congress (APC) was able to wrest power was because its Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, was consistent in undermining the government of the day. No decision was made by the ruling government without Mohammed finding a way to point out its flaws, dominating media coverage in the process. Although sometimes cynical, setting the agenda like that is one of the more efficient ways of influencing public opinion. Gradually, it became a self fulfilling prophecy. Moreover, as the former opposition party had little political history to be judged on, they were operating from a position of strength.

The first female Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative, famously remarked that her government’s greatest achievement was reflected in Tony Blair and New Labour, because they “forced the opposition to change their minds”. Blair was able to devise a system that married traditional Labour values with a modernist, elite favouring slant, and by doing so, he became a three term winning Prime Minister; the most successful Labour Prime Minister ever. It is not too much to hope that in this period of relative political drought, the PDP finds in itself the decisiveness that could allow it to adapt and evolve to the disadvantage of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

In achieving this, former President Jonathan can be a force for good. His decision not to preserve himself in power when all those around him thought contrary reflects well on him. It is also ironic that his greatest conviction came in his abdication, perhaps validating the theory that politicians tend to be at their best in defeat. It speaks volumes that we resorted to praising him for doing the right thing, but when counterbalanced against the political instability that plagues African politics, he stands out. The task before him is to remain a rallying point for his party by keeping his home region of the South-South and South-East together, before making a concerted effort to infiltrate the governing party’s stronghold in the South-West and the North.

How feasible is this? 
As a former President, there is a level of clout and influence Jonathan will wield in the party. However, in breaking the party’s leadership streak, valid questions must be raised about whether he can serve as an effective party hub. Further doubts exist about whether Jonathan posseses the will to lead the party back into power. The political systems differ but there’s a reason leaders of British political parties resign when they lose. They need to be cut loose from the system and allow the party choose a direction.
Looking at the present People’s Democratic Party, there is a void of leadership. National Chairman, Muazu was forced to step down and the job of railing against the machine has been done solely by Olisa Metuh. The party needs an injection of leadership – someone willing to act as a hub and help in rebuilding the party. Jonathan by default, ought to play such a role. In his absence, the likes of Peter Obi, Osita Chidoka and Donald Duke who possess some gravitas could rebuild a formidable party that would reinvigorate the Nigerian polity. In the absence of that, we run the risk of allowing the All Progessives Congress get too fat in its state of comfort.

Originally published on Stears on  October 19th 2015